Mystery Trip: Day 1, part 2

And we’re off!

The Pendry is located in the Gaslamp District:

No, I don’t know why it’s called the Gaslamp District, nor has anyone offered an explanation. It certainly gives off that aura of being a tourist center, does it not? And given our stated preference for fine dining, craft cocktails, and artsy stuff, we set off to explore the neighborhood to find these things and start mapping out our dining plans, etc.

Oddly, there did not seem to be many especially fine dining places, nor craft cocktail bars. There were plenty of restaurants, but most of them were solid but basic kinds of places, and most places seemed to be beer kinds of places rather than great cocktails. It was a puzzlement, until we saw…

Petco Park. Home of the Padres. Who have never won a national championship (I learned from our handout; no team from San Diego ever has). The Gaslamp District is a sportsball district.

And artsy stuff? Nada.

Not a problem. We know how to find what we want. We retired to the Pendry’s Fifth & Rose bar, which does serve craft cocktails, for a mid-afternoon tipple and a chat with the bartender, Cody.

I had the Smoke & Mirrors (by Shane, who joined us anon): mezcal, Amaro Montenegro, sweet vermouth, and a house blended smoke and salt bitters. It was very tasty.

I’ve learned by now that if you’re unfamiliar with the city and want to know where the most interesting cocktails are, all you have to do is find a bar that serves those kinds of things and you ask the bartender where the other great bars are.

So of course Cody was able to give us a quick list of places to check out. I’ll report back.

The good folk at Pack Up & Go had scheduled us for a neat little pasta-making class for dinner, but while we rested back in the room — all right, we took a nap — I did some checking about and discovered that the Old Globe Theatre had a show that night: The Notebooks of Leonardo daVinci, conceived and constructed by Mary Zimmerman.

Mary Zimmerman, you may recall, was the deviser of Metamorphoses, a kaleidoscopic adaptation of Ovid’s masterpiece, performed in a shallow pool. Half dance, half spectacle, all amazing — we saw it at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater — and so our evening plans did not involve making pasta, which we already know how to do anyway.

I found us a restaurant near the theatre, Parc Bistro-Brasserie, called the pasta place to let them know we weren’t coming, and off we went. (Another factor in our decision was that we already know how to make our own pasta. As one does.)

Parc is a first-rate French restaurant. Our waiter was in fact a rather handsome Frenchman, charming and personable, and the food was excellent. No, I didn’t take photos. (Their barrel-aged Manhattan was also excellent.)

Our travel package included a $50 gift card for Uber, so we snagged a driver to get us to the theatre, which is in Balboa Park, a vast complex of museums.

The Old Globe:

The poster:

The show:

photo from the Chicago Daily Herald

The entire show is simply the words of da Vinci as he scribbled them down in the thousands and thousands of pages he left behind. It is mind-boggling in its construction and staging. See all those filing cabinet drawers that make up the walls of the set? They were ladders, drawers, display cabinets, set pieces. (More photos here.)

Da Vinci’s work and insatiable curiosity were on full display, as was his sometime pettiness: the sequence where he disses sculptors (i.e., Michelangelo, whom we’ve just heard two women drooling over as a bella uomo) was hysterical.

We left the theatre flabbergasted. I was sincerely moved by the man’s insights and humanity. “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” So say we all.

We snagged another Uber home and went straight to bed like any elderly couple up way past their bedtime.

Mystery Trip: Day 1, part 1

And we’re off!

It’s already been an adventure: we had only gotten to the corner before we had to turn around to go fetch someone’s science magic watch, the one that tells her how many steps to take or something, that we had forgotten somehow.

Where are we going, you ask?

I had suspected that we might be headed there, but the revised forecast for the weekend seemed very cold for San Diego. (Hold that thought.) The irony is that we already planned to come here next year for The Great Cut 2024, so this will serve as a scouting mission.

The packet from packupgo.com is pretty nifty: It includes our hotel reservation, reservations at a couple of restaurants, a food tour, and a reservation at the hotel spa. There are also lists of things to do and places to eat, all within walking distance. (The Pendry San Diego is in the Gaslamp District.)

The flight was miserable — as is always the case these days — but uneventful. We snagged a cab and headed into town, where our room was ready. We ditched our stuff and headed out to get lunch, which we did at The Melt, a good little burger joint around the corner.

We have now retreated to the hotel to plan out our weekend. (My Lovely First Wife [pictured above] has been frustrated that she has no Top 10 book on which to rely; she’s had to meander, you guys.)

More later. The main thing you need to know is that I’m wearing pants because it was supposed to be cold, and it is not.

Mystery Trip!

At 6:42 a.m. tomorrow (Fri) morning, my Lovely First Wife and I will be at Hartsfield-Jackson International Spaceport and Hair Salon. Where are we off to this time, you might ask?

We have no idea.

This is the envelope we got last week. We are not to open it until we’re headed to the airport, where we will have to print out boarding passes, etc., all on the fly.

It’s from a company called Pack Up + Go, which I learned about when a Facebook friend posted that they had signed up for a trip. It’s pretty simple: you select the category of trip you want to go on, your dates, your budget, and where you’re traveling from.

You also tell them where you’ve traveled recently, places you’d like to go, places you never want to go, and the activities you like. You can also opt for warmer weather, which of course I did.

Then you hand over your credit card and hope for the best.

I gave this to my Lovely First Wife as a Christmas present, because she loves to travel. (I hate to travel. I like being there, but getting there is invariably a pain in the butt.)

I was semi-inspired by New Yorker cartoon (that I cannot find at the moment) that featured a couple, presumably married, and the woman is saying, “I’ve prepared a PowerPoint slide show of all the ways I’d like you to surprise me.” We’ll just say that it resonated with me.

Further, as is well-known in our circles, my Lovely First Wife is an obsessive PLANNER. We joke about her travel books and her lists (while acknowledging that with her along, we don’t have to do anything), so this seemed like an awesome way to practice a little malicious compliance: I’ve given you a trip — but you can’t plan for it.

Bwahahaha, as we say in the supervillain biz.

The company sends you an email the week before, letting you know what the weather is going to be like (highs upper 50s, lows mid-40s, no rain) and what you will want to pack (nothing untoward other than a bathing suit for the spa, but it’s not a beach). I just a moment ago got an email update on the weather, and now I suppose we pack.

Follow along for what I am sure will be a very entertaining long weekend.

New Cocktail: No Name Nixta

You know how when you’re in the liquor store and there’s a bottle of something that is just so off-the-wall that you have to buy it to see what it tastes like?

No? Just me, then? Okay.

The bottle in question is a concoction called Nixta, made in Mexico from an ancient strain of maize.

It does in fact taste like corn. It’s not too sweet, and as another reviewer has said, you also get notes of vanilla and something vaguely chocolate.

How to use, though? The bottle is not a lot of help, just suggesting you can add it to “your favorite cocktails.” Honey, please.

I pulled out all the Central American bottles — Ancho Reyes liqueur, Cocalero, tequila, blood orange liqueur — and started playing. I started with cognac as a base, but it didn’t quite work, so I switched to Calvados, figuring the sweetness of the apple brandy would complement that of the Nixta.

I was correct; it worked.

No name yet, but try this:

No Name Nixta

  • 1.5 oz Calvados
  • .75 oz Nixtos
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .25 oz simple syrup

Shake with ice, strain into a Nick & Nora glass.

It ‘s simple, not too sweet, and refreshing. You can also use tequila instead of Calvados and it’s equally delicious.

The Savoy Variations: Young Man Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Young Man Cocktail

[p. 180]

I flipped to the back of Savoy and found the Zed Cocktail:

But the mythical substance the Elders knew as “Hercules” remains beyond our grasp.

So I backed up a bit and went with the Young Man Cocktail.

[I heard that.]

 

It was good. It was okay good, though I doubt I shall ever make it again. But it was good enough that I didn’t need to fix it.

Another point to Savoy.

SAVOY VARIATIONS SCORECARD:

  • Savoy: 4
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3

MINIONS! Why does it always have to be Minions?

Bear with me — I am unused to writing fanfic.

A little while ago, during The Decoratoring™, I had a holiday Pandora station playing because I am a good husband like that, and at some point I apparently snapped because I suddenly started singing along to “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” — in the voice of Gru, from Despicable Me.

It made sense at the time.

Suddenly I thought how wonderful it would be to release a holiday album of Gru singing Christmas classics. Imagine it — I know you’re smiling right now just thinking of it.

And then I thought, we could probably get Steve Carrell and Julie Andrews to pull together something like this for charity. THE MINIONS SINGING THE CHIPMUNK SONG, YOU GUYS! Turn turn kick turn, YES, IT WILL WORK!

But what charity, you ask? I thought about leaving that to our artists, but the problem of homelessness weighs on my mind a lot, so let’s make it contributions to organizations that are working to end or at least reduce our houseless population.

Then it hit me: A MINIONS HOLIDAY SPECIAL that ties into the charity fundraising CD.

You can see where this is going, and so here you go, a half-baked treatment for The Minions Do Christmas: Homeless for the Holidays. (We can negotiate the title.)


[SCENE: GRU’S HOUSE, CHRISTMAS EVE.]

Chaos: the GIRLS [MARGO, EDITH, and AGNES] are hyper, squealing, writing enormous wish lists, play-acting the toys they hope to get, etc. GRU waits patiently, gleefully, to fulfill their wishes.

GRU’S MOM[1] is grumpy. “You’re spoiling these girls. When I was little girl, I was lucky to get turnip for Christmas.”

GRU: “Yes, yes, we know, but things are different now. Look how happy they are.” The girls are oblivious and clearly adore MOM (and she them, though she tries to conceal it — can’t spoil them, with love and all that business, you know).

The GIRLS finally finish their lists and hand them over. GRU distributes the lists to the MINIONS to buy everything, but AGNES’s list is too long, so he tears it in half and takes half for himself.

GRU forces his MOM to go with him to buy all the toys, leaving the GIRLS to decorate the house with NEFARIOUS.

(As GRU and MOM drive through the streets, we see in the background, among the holiday hustle & bustle, homeless families.)

As GRU’s car fills with packages, MOM gets testier and testier until she finally pitches a fit and leaves the car. GRU, in a snit, drives off, figuring either he’ll come back to get her later or she’ll get a cab and come home by herself.

In a rage, MOM flings her purse to the ground/street, where it is promptly run over by a bus and destroyed, so she’s without ID or money. She begins to walk.

Meanwhile, MINION shenanigans as they shop, maybe some GIRL antics as they decorate. (It is important to note that because of the GIRLS’ varied personalities and interests, the MINIONS are loading up on all kinds of toys, not just “girl” toys.)

GRU pulls into his driveway, goes in, discovers MOM is missing. The GIRLS panic, but GRU tries to remain calm. They pile into the car to go look for her.

MOM is becoming disoriented, not sure which way is the way home. Her confusion is noted by a boy who asks if he can help her. She grumpily replies that she’s not even sure if she has a home (or words to that effect). He interprets her dilemma as one of houselessness, so he tells her to come with him — he takes her to the homeless shelter where he lives with his mother. It begins to snow.

The homeless shelter is clean and well-lit, but it is filled with families with children who have nowhere else to go. MOM is nonplussed, but she is polite enough with the people whom she meets and is soon enjoying interacting with the children there.

GRU radios the MINIONS to let them know of the problem and in true MINION fashion they swing into berserk helpful mode. Hilarity ensues.

Back at the shelter, one of the workers approaches MOM and asks if there’s anyone they should call. Sure, she says, and scribbles down GRU’s home phone number. She goes back to enjoying herself.

NEFARIOUS, home alone, is working on a MOM Tracking Device (with a helpful MINION of course who finds himself tagged in hilariously uncomfortable ways). The phone rings, he answers it and learns that MOM is at the shelter. He springs into full alert and radios GRU and the MINIONS.

General screeching of tires and traffic shenanigans, until GRU and the GIRLS pull up at the shelter and dash inside, where they discover MOM safe and sound and having a good time with her new friends. They are introduced, and it slowly dawns on them where they are and who these people are.

EDITH and MARGO come up to GRU, distressed: None of these kids are going to have any Christmas. GRU is likewise upset [and maybe something happens here…]

Suddenly the MINIONS burst into the shelter, squealing and bringing all the presents they’ve spent the day shopping for. GRU and the GIRLS and MOM all look at each other and make the unspoken decision. They turn to the families and shout, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Party time as the children receive gifts from the MINIONS and unwrap them. Pizza is delivered (we see GRU paying for it). Merriment abounds.

Segue into the low energy of a party winding down. One of the MINIONS begins to sing “Silent Night,” and soon he is joined by MOM. A chorus of MINIONS takes over as she goes to GRU and tells him she is proud of him, etc.

AGNES and the GIRLS come over to GRU. AGNES tells GRU she wants to go home.

Home.

They all realize what that means in this context. They all are trying to think of a way to help, but MARGO quietly says, “There’s nothing we can really do, is there?”

GRU is forced to admit that they cannot solve the problem themselves. EDITH is angry; there must be something they can DO!

Wait, GRU says slowly, I think I may have an idea…

[CUT TO LIVE ACTION STEVE CARRELL, JULIE ANDREWS, maybe some animated MINIONS]

They make a pitch for homeless action groups [TBD] and promote the CD as a means for the audience to contribute to these groups…

[BACK TO ANIMATION]

GRU, MOM, and GIRLS are walking in the front door of home, to the unfinished decorations. NEFARIOUS greets them with hot chocolate, and they decorate the tree together. GRU is suddenly stricken that he has given away all the GIRLS’ Christmas presents, but they tell him they’ve already had Christmas.

Not to worry, though, KEVIN comes in with three presents, one for each of the GIRLS, and they declare them the best Christmas they’ve ever had.

Swell gemütlichkeit, begin to roll credits. NEFARIOUS tells MOM he has a way to keep her from getting lost again, if she will just step over here out of camera range — we hear the distinctive thnk of the tagging machine and her scream.

FINIS

—————

[1] That’s her name. Even after three movies, GRU’S MOM’s official name is GRU’S MOM.

The Savoy Variations: White Lily Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

White Lily Cocktail

[p. 176]

I opened the Savoy Cocktail Book randomly and there was the White Lily Cocktail. Wow, I thought, there is no way that this is going to be palatable. Rum + gin? And a dash of absinthe?

So I mixed up a small one, only 1/2 oz of each, so as not to waste the booze before tossing it into the sink.

In anticipation of having to do some radical revision of the recipe, I taste-tested the mixture even before adding ice (and stirring, not shaking — sorry, Savoy, we’re more civilized now).

Well.

It was delicious.

I was shocked. I chilled it, poured it, added a lemon twist to it. It was still delicious, bright and clear and tasty.

I offered it to my Lovely First Wife, who despises gin and boozy cocktails in general. She liked it.

How could this be? It should have been a boozy slug, yet here was this stupid recipe knocking it out of the ballpark.

I attempted a variation with a darker rum and Empress 1908 gin, but it was not better. (I shall continue exploring gin/rum combos, though.)

Next time I will try using the absinthe as a rinse so as to lower its bully quotient, but otherwise this one goes in my bar book.

Point to Savoy!

SAVOY VARIATIONS SCORECARD:

  • Savoy: 3
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3

OMG KENNETH FAILING SCHOOLS (Covid edition)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] is often called the “nation’s report card,” and I have thoughts about that to begin with, but today we are looking at the handwringing that has begun over the release of the most recent scores.

You will be shocked to learn that SCORES HAVE DIPPED, KENNETH, after two years of chaos in our schools. Did I call it or what?

So now all the editorial boards and educational poobahs and conservative anti-public-school vampires have started the weeping and the wailing over the LEARNING LOSS KENNETH and how we as a nation are on the precipice.

We’ve seen all of this before, in 1983, with the panic over A Nation at Risk: our schools were FAILING KENNETH and nothing would do but we must TOUGHEN THE STANDARDS and TEST THE CHILDREN UNTIL THEIR EARS BLEED. Nation at Risk led eventually to No Child Left Behind (NCLB, or as we called it in my school, Every Child Dragged Along), which imposed draconian “goals” on our schools and punished us as “failing schools” if we didn’t meet them by 2014.

(At the faculty meeting where we went over the new law, teachers were freaking out over the “goals.” I calmly pointed out that this would only last until the law had to be reauthorized (i.e., re-funded) in 2007.)

So did we achieve all those goals? Pfft. NCLB did nothing to actually solve the problems the law “identified.” Every child reading by 3rd grade? We could have done it, but we didn’t, because NO ONE ASKED US HOW TO EFFECT THAT CHANGE. If what we were already doing was sufficient, wouldn’t every 3rd grader already be reading? But we changed nothing, nor were we allowed to change anything.

No, the nation never actually committed to any of the “goals,” and 2014 came and went without our having met any of them. The only thing NCLB accomplished was to cement the role of standardized tests in assessing student “achievement” and “school success.” It was all “research-based,” you see. (What’s that you say? Standardized tests are a scam to suction off tax dollars for testing corporations? Wherever did you get that idea?)

Sidenote: At Newnan Crossing, we were doing actual research on whether our year-round calendar — 45 days on, 15 days off —was benefiting our Title I students. I was charged with aggregating the test scores for the cohort of students who had been with us since kindergarten, and the only thing the data actually showed was that if kids had a teacher who was not very good, their test scores would go down. Having a good teacher was not a predictor of improved test scores; those were essentially random. Test scores = “achievement”? Pfft.

So here we are, panicking about LEARNING LOSS after two years of predictable “learning loss” and reaching for the smelling salts once again.

The solution? The children must LEARN FASTER AND HARDER. To “catch up.” Once again.

Here’s the deal: Teachers have always dealt with students who were not where they were “spozed to be,” and now is no different other than we have an entire school population who are not where they’re spozed to be. It’s not a “crisis,” just time to roll up our sleeves and start teaching again. (Even so, schools are not back to what passes for normal, nor will they be for the foreseeable future.)

My advice? Take any moneys appropriated for this CRISIS KENNETH and spend it on teachers: salaries, supplies, smaller classrooms. Do not spend it on packaged CURRICULUM SOLUTIONS KENNETH. Do not spend it on suddenly available TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS. Do not allow LEGISLATORS TO HAVE ANY SAY on how we do our jobs.

Finally, acknowledge the drop in test scores as an inevitable record of the chaos, and then BY CTHULHU CELEBRATE THE GAINS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

Dishevelment Update, 10/02/2022

It’s been a year since I’ve posted about my dishevelment, mostly because once you get past a certain point, it’s just pictures of my messy hair.

But here I am in 2022:

Do not be deceived: this photo was taken after wearing my hair up in a bun all day, so that when I finally loose it it falls in glorious tumbles of luscious locks.

But lest we forget, this is where we started:

I was originally thinking about getting it cut after Alchemy this year, but then the guys at The Longhairs announced their support of and participation in The Great Cut 2024, and I thought, you know, we’ve never been to San Diego. That could be fun.

So I bought the t-shirt and will be uncutting my hair for another year and a half. Then we’ll take a vote on how we want me to look.

GUVCH: Salers

Last spring, as I played with the Savoy Cocktail variations, I used the Savoy’s Fernet Branca Cocktail as the starting point. It’s simple recipe: 1.5 oz gin, .75 oz each of Fernet Branca and sweet vermouth.

It was, as I expected, not at all to my taste, but it spawned a whole new zone of experimentation, which I am calling the Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Theory, in which you use the proportions of the recipe for the Fernet Branca cocktail and substitute another amaro.

Here’s where it got interesting:

Gin— Even if we ignore the subtle differences in different brands of gin, differences that I am too lazy to learn to distinguish with any refinement, we still have the different types of gin that we can play with:

  • London dry gin
  • old tom gin
  • Genever
  • botanical gin
  • barrel-aged gin

These different types involve dryness/sweetness, more or less juniper, added flavorings. Within those categories, of course, are scads of different brands of gin, of which I have about 30.

Sweet vermouth— Lots of these available, but I decided on three:

  • Carpano Antica
  • Cocchi di Torino
  • Punt e Mes

Again, the differences are in the herbals used.

Amari— Where do we begin? Whole books have been written about this category of herbal distillations. Suffice it to say that I have more than two dozen amari and have barely scratched the surface.

If we do the math, we have 5 [kinds] of gin x 3 vermouths x ≈24 amari, which gives us 360 possible combinations. The gin-loving soul thrills to the very idea.

I’ve had a blast testing out my Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Hypothesis [GUVCH], and the results are very promising. Here’s my most recent one.

Salers Cocktail

Salers is an aperitif, gentian-based, bitter and vegetal, with some citrus notes. I bought it recently because it was mentioned in a couple of recipes, and I decided to plug it into the GUVCH. The results were quite pleasing.

a cocktail coupe with a drink in it, backed by the bottles of the ingredients used: Salers Aperitif, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, and Hayman's Old Tom ginSalers is unusual for the GUVCH since it is a clear aperitif, while most amari that I have are darker.

  • 1.5 oz gin, in this case an Old Tom gin
  • .75 oz Cocchi di Torino vermouth
  • .75 oz Salers Aperitif

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe. Garnish with lemon zest.

It is light and refreshing. You’ll want more than one.