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Cocktails—a new frontier

I’ve been busy.

First of all, you may recall that I blogged about re-jiggering [see what I did there?] the recipe for a margarita calling for árbol chile tincture, among other twee ingredients.  I am now calling it “Dale’s Magic Margarita” and it’s still tasty.  I double-checked it yesterday.  Okay, I triple-checked it.  It was delicious.

I have planted an árbol chile plant in my herb garden, and it’s started producing.  The internet says that the eftest way to dry the chiles is to put them in your fridge, so I’m trying that experiment.  When the summer is over, I shall have enough chiles to make a lot of the tincture, so…

Guess what everyone’s getting for Christmas?

Side note: I ordered a dozen of the 5 oz bottles.  They’re called “woozy bottles” from the what-else-should-we-call-it cap insert, that little plastic thing with a hole in it that you squirt bitters out of.  However, I just discovered yesterday that these are just the bottles, sans woozies.  I found the woozies at, where I can see that I will be spending more money in the future as I pursue my new interest in tinctures, syrups, infusions, and bitters.

Today, I set about making a dandelion & burdock syrup.   D&B, as it is not called in Great Britain, is a soda flavor, and I found a recipe for the syrup.  Easy-peasy, and it’s done.

The reason I wanted to make this stuff is to recreate the Root Daiquiri, an especially delicious cocktail from my favorite bar anywhere, Sovereign Remedies in Asheville, NC.  Their recipe also includes sarsaparilla, but oddly that is not immediately available in Newnan, GA, so my first attempt is without it.  More work is required.

It is nonetheless quite tasty.

Root Daiquiri

  • 1.5 oz rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .5-.75 dandelion & burdock syrup

Shake, pour, and serve.

(By the way, the D&B bottle has chalkboard tape on it you guys!  You can find it—along with whiteboard tape—at Office Depot.  Besides being just cool as beans, it’s also temporary: you can remove it from most surfaces.  In the photo above, I’ve trimmed the edges with deckle-edge scissors because hipster.)

My next venture will be to create a tincture of lovage, a cool herb that is kind of a peppery/celery flavor, from which I will make a lovage bitters.  Don’t ask me how I will use it.

3 Old Men: an update and an upgrade

It occurs to me that I have not kept everyone up to date on the goings-on of the 3 Old Men, the ritual troupe to which I belong.

First, I have to say that this year has not gone according to my plan, which was to attend beaucoups regional Burns and gather experiential data, then present my findings at The Labyrinth Society’s Annual Gathering in October.  I had planned to get to Euphoria, Apogaea, Transformus, Burning Man itself, and Alchemy again.  Hey, I’m retired.

Tickets can be hard to come by, but for some reason I am an ace at snagging them.  (Yesterday, for example, I snagged four more tickets to Alchemy even though I put in my credit card’s CVC number after I hit submit.)  I got tickets for Euphoria, Apogaea, and Burning Man, and the only reason I didn’t get tickets to Transformus is that it was my birthday and I didn’t hear my phone reminding me to stop partying and go sit in front of the computer.

However.  I was cast in Born Yesterday at the Springer Opera House and had to miss Euphoria.  (3 Old Men went without me.) Apogaea was cancelled after the organization couldn’t work out the permit situation.  Finances prevent me from heading to the Playa in August.  And of course, the whole project is moot since my seminar proposal for the TLS Gathering was not accepted.  Do they not know who I am??

So Alchemy it is, and I’m not unhappy about that at all.

As successful as the labyrinth was at Alchemy and Euphoria, there was one thing about it that bothered me and did from the very beginning: it wasn’t pretty.

If you will recall, its design was influenced by a couple of Burning Man considerations, since the original plan was to schlep it out to Black Rock Desert and back.  It had to be portable and Leave No Trace, and it had to be visible in the dark so that the hippies wouldn’t trip over it and kill themselves.

Hence, the tent stakes and rope construction:

In terms of meditative space, this is not optimal.  The colors are awful: fluorescent orange and yellow are not conducive to inner peace.  Visually, it’s confusing; it looks more like a spider web than anything, and people wandering by were often confused about what it was.  It was hard to get people interested in it unless they walked up and asked.

So one morning as I was waking up, a scathingly brilliant idea formed itself in my mind: sew little “walls” of muslin to fit over the stakes.  Ditch the rope entirely, and cover the orange stakes with fabric.  Genius!!

With my usual fervor for scathingly brilliant ideas, I set to work and mocked up the idea:

Simplicity itself.  Naturally, I’ve complicated it a bit since then: the stake pockets will have a kind of flat-fell seam on either side for additional sturdiness, and the stitching will stop short two inches from the top.  That’s so we can insert light wire into the tops at some point soon, which will be awesome.

Here’s the artist’s conception:

I mocked up several versions that included colors/shades.  Each one was striking in its own way, but it didn’t take long for the group to state their preference for the plain white muslin—which was a relief to those of me who will have to construct it.

We then presented the concept for funding from Alchemy.  (Full disclosure: I served as the web content person for the fundraiser team.  That’s actually what gave me the idea to submit our project.)

Here’s how the Alchemy fundraiser works: artists present their ideas for funding, are vetted for budget, scope, etc., and then everyone shows up at some venue with their trifold boards to tout their projects.  Hippies pay admission to the event and purchase “schwag” (cups, t-shirts, etc.), and all their dollars count as votes to be assigned as they see fit.

The event itself was actually exhilarating.  I knew all 49 projects, having created the online fundraiser webpages for each of them, but being there and feeling the energy, the dedication, the expertise of all my fellow hippies was stunning.

Of course, it looked like some demented middle school science fair:

There were food projects, light projects, sculptures, fire projects.  (I’m working on getting all the funded projects up on the Alchemy website—I’ll let you know when it’s up.)

Here’s our little backboard, with our official 3 Old Men photographer, Roger:

We spent the evening explaining the project to passersby.  You can see, right behind Roger, the mock-up I did of the fabric wall; that helped explain what we were funding.

The really great thing about the event was the number of people—nearly all of them—who knew who we were.  They’d seen us at Alchemy and Euphoria and thought we were cool.  The best was a story that I heard from three separate people, all of whom had camped across from us at Euphoria: they (Camp Business Casual) were chilling in camp one evening when Craig and Michael began the ritual.  They said they began to watch the ritual, and the conversation went along the lines of “Hey, look at those guys—they’re doing something—they’re doing something—that’s not just hippies [screwing] around, that looks important!

It warmed the cockles of my heart.  It would have warmed them further if they had felt impelled to rise from their camp chairs and go across the road to participate, but that’s another problem for another day.  (I was also told by one young lady that she was fascinated but found the Old Men scary.)

Enough people cast votes for us that we’re fully funded for this visual upgrade to the labyrinth, so yea hippies!  There’s paperwork to fill out, and then I get a check and can get started on washing, ironing, cutting, and stitching those walls.  All straight seams, but mercy—it’s thousands of yards of stitching between now and September.

Step One: go out to Craig’s tomorrow and set up the labyrinth so I can measure the walls.  Stay tuned.

3 Old Men: a new bowl

As part of the ritual that the 3 Old Men perform in their labyrinth (at regional Burns here and there), we apply liquid kaolin as body paint before walking the labyrinth and assuming our posts as officiants.  We have the kaolin in a bowl on a plant stand at the north entrance; the officiants are at the other entrances to the labyrinth.

We used a stainless steel bowl that I had picked up at a discount store—my impulse was to use a nice piece of pottery, but I was afraid that it might get knocked over and break.  The plant stand is placed on uneven ground, after all.

At any rate, the stainless steel bowl vanished sometime after Alchemy last fall and I haven’t seen it since.  Not a problem: it was cheap, and there were plenty more where that came from.

But last week in Fernandina Beach we were in Hunt’s Art & Artifact Gallery, one of our favorite stores there—my quartz singing bowl came from there—and I found this:

I was immediately taken with it.  It’s not too large, easily fits into one’s outstretched hands (we hold the bowl for each other), and will be easily cleaned from all that white clay.  I think, too, that if it were to fall to the ground it would easily survive the fall.

It’s made of stone from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and the white bits are actually fossilized Orthoceras, little squids from 450 million years ago.  Pretty cool, actually.  (Even cooler, part of the Atlas Mountains were formed when North America and Africa collided at one point—and the remains of that can be found in the Appalachians and the Fall Line!)

And since we’re dealing with hippies, I will quote what I found in my search for nice photos, found on a site with healing crystals and such:

Fossils are believed to increase life span, reduce toxins, anxiety, stress, balance the emotions, make one more confident. Containing supernatural and physical healing powers. They promote a sense of pride and success in business. Healers use fossils to enhance telepathy and stimulate the mind. Traditionally, fossils have been used to aid in  reducing tiredness, fatigue, digestive disorders, and rheumatism.

Sure.  I think that about covers it.

Anyway, we have a new bowl, and I’m thinking we need a new stand for it.  Stand by for details later.

Dear Diary!

My middle-schoolers have been working on their monologs for tomorrow’s performance, using the concept of the “unreliable narrator,” as exemplified by Greg, the narrator of Jeff Kinney’s fun series The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The opening number, “Dear Diary,” is going to be adorable, you guys.  The kids have been pros at making the lyrics their own, and I think you should all show up at Newnan Theatre Company tomorrow, Friday, June 26, at 4:30, to see the results.

There have been changes, of course, since I first posted this last week.  I lowered the entire piece a whole step so my singers weren’t as uncomfortable (although they were quite capable of hitting the notes); I added a measure at the opening for choreography purposes; and I adapted the accompaniment at the end to give the cast a stronger cue for the ending.

Here you go: score [pdf] | mp3

As we worked on projection and focus, I gave my students someone to whom they could sing: Cthulhu.  The concept is that if you sing well, the mighty Cthulhu will eat you first when he arises, sparing you the ignominy and pain of the inevitable suffering accompanying his arising.

I’ve decided that next summer’s workshop will be “The Call of Cthulhu,” and we’ll adapt one of H. P. Lovecraft’s stories to a Story Theatre version, making all the sound effects and theatre effects with minimal props, ending with an enormous puppet of the Great Old One rising from the rear of the stage amidst fog and dreary lights.

Meanwhile, in the labyrinth…


Another cute one

So here’s a first draft completed of “Dear Diary: a song for hapless liars,” the opening number for the middle school theatre workshop I’m teaching next week.

The theme of the camp is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, playing off Jeff Kinney’s delightful book, but that’s just a hook.  The actual purpose of the workshop is character development, and as I said in the previous post we’ll be creating unreliable narrators who believe they’re telling us one thing but whom we see straight through.

“Dear Diary” | score (pdf) | mp3

Process thoughts…

Last summer I was asked to teach a middle school theatre workshop at Newnan Theatre Company.  The topic was character development, and its theme was “Villains.”  I don’t know what I was expected to do, but what I did was lead the kids through developing and writing their own villain monologues and scenes, which they performed before adoring relatives at the end of the week.

One of the really cool things that happened was that I came home from a meeting about the workshop and was inspired to write an opening number, “Not Really Bad,” which was a hit: the kids loved doing it and the audience went wild.

And so this summer, the workshop’s theme is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  We’re going to work on the concept of the unreliable narrator: in the books, the main character Greg tells his diary more or less what happens, but the reader sees that Greg is the main cause of all the troubles he gets into—and then others are punished for it!  Greg never shows the slightest remorse or even self-knowledge—that’s what we’re going to work on.

Of course I thought right away of writing another opening number, “My Diary,” and so yesterday I pulled out one of my trusty Field Notes notebooks and got to work.

Click to see the full-size image

I finished all but the D2 block yesterday and just ran out of brain.  But it all came together smoothly today.

Here’s what I wanted to talk about:

As I worked, I became aware that my brain was thinking along many pathways simultaneously, juggling as each came to the forefront of the problem-solving process.  For instance, I kept in mind that I’m writing for middle school voices and that the piece has to be learned in four days—and that everyone needs a share in the proceedings.  So I was structuring it so that it’s a collection of solo lines all contributing to the same idea, and the words flow smoothly and cleanly.  The eventual melody will be catchy and simple.

I also kept in mind that I’m trying to get across to the audience the theme of the performance: the characters they will be seeing are not to be trusted in their narratives.

Rhythms were constantly in my mind, mostly because the verse is severely metrical.  You’ll notice that I’ve notated some in the margins so I don’t forget the barely perceptible finished product that was floating in my mind when I wrote the words.

I also found myself playing with structural elements, starting with the “Dear Diary” refrain that recurs, plus sections of the singers repeating and overlapping “Dear Diary” at junctures in the piece.   There’s the opening (A), a steady sequence of phrases the last notes of which the singers will hold to build a chord—which then launches into an allegro ditty (B & C) in which our cast members step up and have their moment in the spotlight.  We then get the patter song middle part (D1 & D2), a love song to the Diary and  how much it means to the singer to have one friend who will never let him down.

Here’s a thing: right off the bat in the writing of D1, you’ll see the phrase “I can tell you all,” and I’ve notated a non-patter rhythm next to it.  I finished more of the verse, knowing that the break needed to come later.  In fact, while the photo shows it ending up after the first quatrain, it will actually go at the end of the second, after “…or my mother!”

So that element, the “I can tell you all” break, became a signpost for me as I tackled (D2), i.e., I needed two more quatrains, continuing to develop the self-serving nature of the narrator, yet building up to a phrase to rhyme with “I can tell you all.”  What this resulted in was breaking the patter rhythm for the end of the verse (“…calling out my name”) and leading to a secondary break which leads our focus back to the Diary, another -ame rhyme, and then the boffo repeat of the break and the rhyming phrase.

I will probably go back to the overlapping “Dear Diary” idea, and then lead us back to the chipper, chirping opening phrase (E)—oh yeah, I’m all about that da capo—which itself loops back through the layered “Dear Diary” motif to end with a big finish, “It’s not my fault!”

All of these things were circling in my head as I mapped out possible rhymes (you can see a list of -ault/aught rhymes in the margin) and forged ahead.

You can see some erasures on the page.  Most were revisions of meter and rhyme, but a couple were structural: the “Dear Diary” motif in (B, C & E) for example, replaced a simple iambic dimeter phrase—which then got shoved out to star in its own quatrain.

All in all, the thing grew organically on its own, practically, almost as smoothly and efficiently as “Not Really Bad” did last year.  No, I don’t have any real melody waiting in the wings here; it’s all I can do to keep from stealing “The Reckoning” from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

A meditation of sorts

You will be astonished to learn that in the two years since I left the job at GHP, I have at times been feeling adrift. No, really, it’s true.

Some of that stems from learning to deal with the fact that the job I thought I would retire from—and yes, I wanted a party—just vanished without warning. Life goes on and all that.

But there’s more to it than that, and a recent meditation along with my adventure at the Springer Opera House (State Theatre of Georgia) led me to a new understanding of why I sometimes have felt a bit on the lost side. Simply put, my life used to be governed by cycles, and now it’s as open-ended as you can get.

Before, I positioned my “self” according to where I was in the various cycles around me: the school year, NCTC’s season, shows within that season, the church calendar when I was a choir director, and most recently, the GHP nomination/interview/program cycle.

One thing ended, the next began, or began again. That’s what my entire professional life has been like, after all: school, theatre, GHP. That’s 40 years of knowing where I was going to be and what I was going to be doing a year (or more) in advance.

Now? I have no “profession,” no job, and that’s fine. My self-worth is certainly not contingent on where I’m working. But it also means that I don’t know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in the future. This is not a complaint, it’s just a statement of facts new to me.

This was driven home one night in Columbus when I was having a drink with Mike Accardo, the Equity actor from Chicago who was so brilliant as Harry Brock, and he commented about jobs coming up and possible jobs after that. He was always looking for the next job, he said; that’s what it meant to be a professional actor.

I allowed as how that was a major reason I never pursued acting as a career; I don’t have what it takes to always be on the hunt—or starve.

And yet that’s exactly where I am now, although without the nerve-wracking pressure of starving if I don’t get out there and hunt. For me, it’s been an existential matter. (Crisis is way too strong a term for my situation.) Before, I cocooned in the eternal circles of my life. Now, it’s a straight path and I am more responsible than not to know where I’m going and where I want to end up.

This situation is probably one reason I’ve started getting more involved in the Burner community here in Georgia: it gives me one cycle that I can depend on and help bring to fruition. I know where I’ll be the first weekend in October and the first weekend in May—and if I go completely nuts, the week before Labor Day, the second week in June, the third week of July, etc., etc.

Anyway, this was not meant to be a cri de coeur. Once it dawned on me the nature of the source of some of my (minor) anxiety, I adapted almost immediately by letting go that habitual expectation of some cycle or other coming to my rescue. It’s all on me now, and that’s a good thing to know.

New labyrinth project, pt. 2

So I went shopping for ideas for materials from which to make the symbols of the four elements on the surface of my new endpoints.

The first idea:

We could set glass beads into the concrete in either the circular or triangular patterns, or…

…since it’s unlikely we’re going to be able to see the colors at night anyway, just use black glass, or…

…just plain black stone.

Next idea:

A 7-inch mirror, which I’d trim to fit the top.  I’m thinking we’d want to use the surface to etch or otherwise attach the symbol, then pour…

…a clear resin on top.

If we want metal, we could use…

…aluminum channel.  It would hold its place and be weather resistant.  With this option, we’d be looking at the triangular symbols only, of course.  (If I chose to go to Hobby Lobby, I think they carry metal sheets; we could cut the symbols out of brass or copper.)

Next idea:

Oven-baked clay—we could make any of the shapes, any color we wanted, including…

…glow-in-the-dark!  There’s something weirdly appealing about making the symbols out of this stuff, then putting them on the mirror and covering them with a clear resin.

Next idea:

The simple, classic mosaic.

And finally for now:

This could be exciting.  This is the stuff that I used on my 3 Old Men staff for my lizard’s eyes, and there are many more options here than just that one product.  Have a look here.


Clear resin, and…

…some other stuff.  Who even knows?

So if we used this, we could have several objects of interest embedded in the labyrinth itself.  Hm.

New labyrinth project, pt. 1

You would think after eight years I would be done with the basic structure of the labyrinth.  You are wrong, of course.  It’s never done.  The trick is not to overload the space.

You already know that the classic seven-circuit labyrinth is basically four lines, each of which curves its way around the center and then ends, forming a turn in the path.


Until recently, I capped each endstone with a small wooden block that was painted to look like stone and which had a circle cut into it—I sometimes would place cans of Sterno in those endpoints as little lamps along the way.

However, people kept tripping over them, particularly the southeast one by the firepit, mainly because I had drilled holes in the stones and staked them to the ground with rebar.  So I got rid all of them earlier this year and life has gone on.

I kept thinking, though, that the endpoints needed to be more pleasing visually, and that’s what I’m working on now.

Basic idea: replace the square paving stone at the endpoint with a round paving stone.  Naturally, no one manufactures a round paving stone, at least not in the size that I needed, and so I am casting my own.

Here are my alternate designs:

Pro tip: in Pages, create a layout document, then a circle and a square with white fill.  You can control the size of the circle in the Inspector, and Pages is very helpful about showing you when you have things centered, both on the page and with each other.  Above you can see my templates for circles of 6″, 7″, 7.5″, and 8″.  I decided to go with the 7-inch circle.

Here’s what it looks like in situ:

And from another angle:

Just big enough to tie off the end without being too much big.

Now let me introduce you to a fabulous material:

RAM BOARD!  It’s rough, it’s tough, it’s a huge role of heavy duty cardboard for about $30.  I think builders use it to protect floors as they truck stuff in and out of a site.  I bought it to use in art projects.

Cut out the base of the mold:

Use your handy flexible ruler to measure the length of the arc:

Measure strips for the sides of the mold, remembering to add a one-inch tab at the end:

Use your painters tape to form the sides, then attach to the straight edge of the bottom:


All four of them:

And here we pause.  It’s begun to rain, and I have some æsthetics to work on.

The simplest plan is simply to insert these into the ground and fill them with concrete.  The cardboard may or may not disintegrate—who cares?

But wouldn’t it be neat if I embedded something in the surface?  I’m thinking the symbols of the four classical elements: fire/water/earth/air, just like the sculptures at the four points of the compass are now.

Here are two versions of the symbols:

One choice to make is between the triangular and the circular versions.  The problem with the triangular ones is that they are reversible—the seeker would never be quite sure if the turn he is making is around fire or water. That is a problem, right?  The circular ones at least remain the same no matter which direction you’re approaching them from.

However, depending on what materials I find when I hit Jo-Ann’s, the triangular ones might be easier to make.  (My original thoughts were to use brass or some metal items.)

Also however too, it occurs to me that it might be the best thing ever if I were to make the circular ones out of resin of some kind, glass even, and let those be the absolute top of the endpoint stones, i.e., you wouldn’t see concrete, just the glass symbol.