Grand Canyon 2024

Yes, we traveled once again to Grand Canyon. It was our fifth trip to our favorite place, and this time we started out with a two-night stay at the North Rim, a 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas.

And yes, I usually live-blog our travels. But how many photos of the Canyon do you need to see? You can always use the dropdown menu of categories over there on the left to find our previous Canyon jaunts.

I do have some thoughts, and with that…


  • If you’re going to the North Rim, fly to Vegas. If you’re going to the South Rim, fly to Phoenix.
    • If you have the time and money, spend a night in St. George, UT, on the way to the North Rim, and in Flagstaff, AZ, on the way to the South Rim.
  • If you have a SoLight or two, bring them with you to light your way back to your cabin/campsite.
  • Do you have dirty shoes from hiking/tripping over elk? Bring some cheap shower caps to put them in!
  • North Rim Lodge: Try to get in one of the cabins numbered 300 or 400. They are a little more modern and a little more spacious than the originals.
  • The restaurants claim to expect “business casual” attire. Pfft. I saw no one turned away for shorts and t-shirts.
  • Pack your jigger and your bitters, then buy a small bottle of gin, either on the way out of Vegas or Phoenix or at the General Store in the park. Presto: your first pre-dinner cocktail is now a lot cheaper than the one in the restaurant. (I snagged a 750ml bottle of Bombay Sapphire our second day there, and even though I left half the bottle for the cleaning staff it was still cheaper than my having the same cocktail up at El Tovar or Bright Angel.)
    • Empty your ice bucket somewhere it can pool so the chipmunks and ravens have a little water in that heat.
  • Stick to the speed limit. Wildlife will be right there in the road when you least expect it.
  • Watch for stopped traffic, too: It usually means there are elk or deer or something to look at. Similarly, in the Village, if you see a bunch of tourists facing away from the Canyon, they’re more than likely watching a wild animal or two.
  • “Where are you from?” always works as a conversation starter, followed by “Is this your first time at the Canyon?”



  • The North Rim is very much more wilderness than the South Rim, a lot less accommodating to the casual tourist. The ponderosa forests, flecked here and there with stands of aspen, are gorgeous, and even the fallen giants are beautiful, serving their cyclical purpose in death.
  • Reservations are required at the North Rim Lodge restaurant. It’s the only restaurant there (with a small deli and one coffee shop) and seating is tight.
  • The elk on the South Rim are quite habituated to humans, but are nonetheless wild animals. After all, they’ve had us around for over 100 years now, and the three babies we saw — like their mothers — have never known a landscape without those weird human things in the way.
    • As a comparison, the only elk we saw at the North Rim was on our way out,  a youngish male who was thinking about crossing the road but when he saw our car went sproinging away into the woods. At the South Rim, they just stroll on out across the road.
    • In the same vein, we watched two baby elk play-fight in front of us, then race each other up and down the “revegetation area” there at the rim. No adults in sight. A third baby, smaller, chirped at being left alone.
  • Spanish and Eastern Asian languages were the predominant languages I heard there. English was maybe 30% of what I heard.
  • We went into Tusayan to check out the pizza place (right there at the roundabout), and it was good! As we left the park, we realized there was a very very long line of cars waiting to get through the gate, so I did a little map quest and discovered that there is indeed an “authorized vehicles only” road that zips around the gate and deposits you right there in the Village. So, shouldn’t guests at the Lodges, who hold senior citizen National Parks passes and who are sustaining members of the Grand Canyon Conservancy, be authorized to skip the line??
  • We had literally cloudless skies the entire week we were there. For the past five years we’ve tried to catch a summer lightning storm over the Canyon, and every single trip, the weather has been flawless. I registered a complaint at the front desk and was told with a laugh that I should have been there the week before. Hrmph.
  • We saw our first Tesla Cybertruck in the wild, and yes, it’s as ugly as you think. I now describe them as looking like a police artist sketch of a Rivian.
  • I had a Scathingly Brilliant Idea for a t-shirt, which seemed to tickle the folk at the Grand Canyon Conservancy when I emailed them about it, but I doubt they’ll have the courage to produce it:

What’s not to like? They’d sell a million of them.

American Thoughts from an American

I and my Lovely First Wife are at Grand Canyon for the week. This afternoon we will motor into Tusayan, the little village right outside the south gate to the park, for a quintessentially American 4th of July parade, the kind you can only get in a village of a couple hundred people. There will be a about a dozen kids with their decorated bicycles, couple of floats, and an ambulance, and horseback riders, and of course Smoky the Bear, and it will be glorious.

(They also have a kick-ass party afterwards, culminating this year in a drone show!)

Click to embiggen.


As we’ve explored the now-familiar haunts — this is our fifth trip to the Canyon — we have as usual enjoyed all the people watching, and I have some thoughts. We see, in no particular order, …

  • young families corralling their rambunctious offspring, coaxing the toddlers back into their strollers
  • Harley-Davidson types, bushy white beards + branded t-shirts + big bellies
  • tattooed, nose-ringed young persons, smiling as they serve you breakfast
  • a not-small Hispanic family, women with children, illegally “camping” in a rented RV in the parking lot
  • a busload’s worth of teenage girls, all uniformly dressed in their religious sect’s idea of modest clothing, chittering like a flock of magpies like teenage girls do, later praying at the rim, davening over their prayer books
  • completely Caucasian families from the Midwest, slowly turning pink in the southwestern sun
  • the taut, fit hikers, tall and sleek
  • sullen, disaffected teenagers, immune to the awe of their surroundings, glued to their phones
  • Native-American silversmiths and artists selling their crafts
  • a Pakistani businessman conducting his business, loudly, on his phone
  • dyed-in-the-wool southwestern cowboy/farmer types, knives + phones + tools strapped to their belts
  • the older gay couple, pushing their elderly chihuahua in its stroller
  • the young man, Tongan perhaps, with a glorious crown of thick curls, excited to show his African-American girlfriend her first view of the Canyon
  • the middle-European college students, here on J-1 visas, working for the summer at the lodges and restaurants
  • the elderly couples able to travel at leisure, even if they won’t be hiking the Bright Angel rim-to-rim trail (which is closed for repairs on the north end in any case and that’s our excuse)
  • the aging hippie in his Utilikilt and his tolerant Lovely First Wife
  • the developmentally challenged adult who, perhaps astonished at my kilt, impulsively told me “hello” (and whom I greeted in return, but now wish I had stopped in my trek to chat with him)
  • mixed-race families, showing in the best possible way that “race” is a spurious concept
  • pretty young Asians, doggedly fashionable even as the general American public dresses down
  • burly, bald, bearded guys, intently helping their little girls select their Grand Canyon t-shirts
  • bus drivers, from crusty retirees with their dad jokes to young Micah giving off  “Chris in the Morning” (from Northern Exposure) vibes (we half expected him to launch into a trademark “As Kierkegaard mused…” meditation as we approached the next stop)
  • the constant ear-soup of accents and languages from around the world, people who have traveled to our country to see this unique wonder
  • even the middle-aged lady wearing a Trump 2020 t-shirt, to whom I wanted to say, “Isn’t this amazing? I’m so glad we got to see it before the corporations tear it up looking for uranium, aren’t you?” [viz: the recent Supreme Court decision reversing the Chevron ruling]

My point — and I do have one — is that this is what the United States is and should be, and to those who would turn WE THE PEOPLE into a crabbed, restrictive shibboleth embodying violence and exclusion, I’d just like to say: FUPP YOUR FOURTH, you Christofascist, racist, nationalist thugs.

Cocktails on The Moon

3 Old Men’s labyrinth with full moon

Last week I headed up to Tennessee to To The Moon, the regional burn there. It’s a long drive, longer if the driver’s side window of your 15′ rental truck explodes for no reason, necessitating a five-hour delay while the repair guy shows up to replace it.

Anyway, I promised a few hippies that I would post the recipes of the cocktails my camp (3 Old Men) served, so here we go. (I don’t have time to make each of these and take a photo, but I promise I’ll get around to each of them after I get back from Grand Canyon next week.)

Blandings In Cold Blood

First, an explanation/apology. I felt last week that I was a bit discombobulated in getting my act together to make it to the burn, and if we needed any proof, here it is. The cocktail I served at the burn was not the Blandings, but one called In Cold Blood. I have no idea why I thought it was a Blandings.

  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth, Carpano Antica preferred
  • 1 oz Cynar (bitter artichoke amaro)
  • lemon peel
  • pinch of salt

It’s rich and bitter, one of my favorites — which makes not getting the name right even weirder.

Rose-Colored G

One  of mine. Takes a little prep, but worth it.

  • 1 1/2 oz gin, preferably an old tom
  • tonic water
  • hibiscus-infused dry gin
  • allspice/tiki bitters
  • lime slice

Soak a couple of tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers in a pint or more of dry gin. It should be a rich ruby color and should take about 45 minutes – an hour. Strain and store.

Make a gin & tonic, leaving room at the top of the glass. Drop in the lime slice. Carefully pour a little hibiscus infusion on top of the ice, forming a pretty layer of red floating on top of the G&T. Dribble 4–5 drops of the tiki bitters on top of that.

This is a spectacular cocktail, especially effective at Christmas. Tart and spicy.

Smoking Hot Molly

I invented this one at the behest of one Molly Honea for her 25th birthday.

  • 2 oz bourbon, preferably rooibos-infused
  • 3/4 oz Ancho Reyes liqueur
  • 1/2 oz creme de cacao
  • cherry wood smoke

Infuse 750ml of bourbon with 3 tablespoons of loose rooibos tea for about an hour. Strain and store. (While not strictly necessary, the rooibos will add a smoky note to the drink.) Likewise, smoking the cocktail with cherry wood is not required but boy will it bump the cocktail up several notches!

The chocolate of the creme de cacao comes through first, and then the ancho chile pepper takes over on the finish. A very fine cocktail, if I do say so myself.

Semele’s Flame

Yes, I just invented this one last month.

  • 2 oz (60ml) Metaxa (I used the 12-star)
  • ¾ oz (25ml) lemon juice
  • ½ oz (15ml) honey
  • ⅛ oz (5ml) mezcal
  • honey/sea salt rim (mixture of granulated honey and sea salt)

Smear honey around 1/4 of the rim of a martini glass. Dip it in the honey/sea salt mixture.

Add the 1/2 oz of honey to a shaker. (Instead of trying to scoop the honey out of your jigger, use a tablespoon and scrape it from there. 1 tbsp = 1/2 oz)

Add the other ingredients and then stir to dissolve the honey. Add ice, shake, and strain into the martini glass.

Besides being a showstopper in its preparation, this drink is one of the best I’ve ever invented. Without the honey/sea salt rim, it’s a little too sweet, but that rim really makes it work.


My fellow Lichtenbergian (and Old Man) Turff sent me this recipe several years ago, and I thought what you’re thinking now: banana liqueur? What the fupp? Trust me.

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz banana liqueur
  • 1 dash Jack Rudy bitters
  • orange peel

This drink goes down easy, and the banana flavor is actually tasty and not gimmicky. Try it — you’ll like it.

Thyme & Tonic

Another one with an involved prep, but worth it.

  • 1 1/2 oz thyme liqueur
  • tonic water
  • sprig of fresh thyme

Infuse 3–4 tablespoons of fresh thyme sprigs in a 750 ml of neutral spirit, like vodka, for three weeks until it’s a rich olive green. Strain and set aside. Make a cup of simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves. (You might try experimenting with brown sugar, etc.) Mix simple syrup into the thyme until it’s just sweet enough. Don’t oversweeten it!

If you’re going to be making a lot of infusions, you will appreciate the simplicity of an infuser like the Alkemista Alcohol Infuser: It’s expensive, but there’s no easier way to infuse and then strain your stuff. No more cheesecloth or coffee filters! Also, it holds 950ml, which, if you’re batching a lot of cocktails, is a good size. Other available infusers with the same design are smaller and less expensive, so if you don’t need 750ml of an infusion, one of those will work just fine.

Otherwise, the cocktail is simply a gin & tonic with thyme instead of gin. I took this to the burn thinking I’d get some reactions and suggestions on how to improve it, but everyone who had it remarked on how refreshing it was, so I suppose its very simplicity is a bonus.

Have fun!

All the angry little nutjobs…

This popped up on an associate’s feed[1] on the FaceTubes today:

I don’t have many rightwing nutjobs on my feed these days; I suspect they’ve weeded themselves out because of my relentlessly liberal posting of facts (which have a liberal bias, alas). It’s always a bit of a shock, therefore, when I see stuff like this.

This particular blob is of the sneering-at-POLITICALLY CORRECT/WOKE variety, and it’s a particularly stupid one. Let’s see if we can follow its logic.

  • Bald people don’t need to use shampoo.
  • People with hair do need to use shampoo.
  • Bald people are offended if people who do need to use shampoo, use shampoo.


This is what passes for snark on the other side of the aisle.

(I am also perturbed by “At the rate we’re going” and “they’re,” implying that the whole PC/woke thing is an organized conspiracy against the Righteous, but we’ll let that pass for now.)

The problem with this blob is not its logical shambles. The problem is that the speaker/poster chooses to embrace the fact that it is not kind, it is not generous, it is not — dare I say — Christian to use terminology that demeans a marginalized person. It’s essentially a really dumb way to say, “We can’t even say n****r or f****t any more!” They’re mean, and they mean it, and they’re genuinely angry that the rest of us think they’re shitheads just because they’re mean to people.

I felt like replying with something like:

At least my snark punches up, even if it’s no more true than my “associate’s” snark.


[1] I can’t bring myself to refer to these people as “friends.”

New Cocktail: Semele’s Flame

Youssef, if you’re reading this, this one’s for you, kiddo. (Youssef is the charming young waiter/bartender we met at the Semeli Hotel on Mykonos last month. He and I had a great chat one afternoon about cocktails; he, like me, is self-taught, and like me he has invented cocktails. To my shame I have forgotten the name of the cocktail he made for me, but it made me forget I don’t like ouzo or grapefruit juice. Well done, Youssef!)

My traveling party thought it was a no-brainer for the hotel to have a cocktail on its menu that referenced the myth of Semele and Zeus: Zeus got her pregnant, and when Hera found out she disguised herself as a crone and visited Semele. She expressed doubt that the girl’s lover was actually the king of the gods, prompting Semele to beg Zeus to reveal himself in his full glory to her. He refused at first, but eventually he decided to show her just a small portion of his divinity. Unfortunately, even that was too much for the mortal Semele, and she perished in a burst of flame.

(Zeus rescued the unborn child and sewed it up in his thigh; the baby was born from his thigh — Dionysus, who then rescued his mother from Hades and installed her on Olympus. She was in charge of whipping up the Bacchantes into their frenzies.)

So after mulling over the possibilities, here’s what I came up with.

Semele’s Flame

First off, using Metaxa was a no-brainer: It’s a quintessential Greek brandy-based liquor, and it’s quite tasty. I decided to start with a Metaxa version of the Bee’s Knees. (Honey is also a Greek specialty.) It was okay but lacked the punch of the original gin-based cocktail.

Perhaps some herbal notes would help? I experimented with adding a bit of Faccio Bruto Centerbe, a passable substitute for the increasingly rare Green Chartreuse, and it wasn’t bad. I even made a version using actual Green Chartreuse, but thankfully (for my cabinet) the Centerbe was better.

However, it still wasn’t a great cocktail. My next thought was to add some smoke; I settled on mezcal, although I could have gone with a smoky scotch or scotch blend. Much better.

And then, on a whim, I smeared some honey on the rim and rimmed it with a honey/sea salt mixture. (The sea is yet another Greek thing.)



  • 2 oz (60ml) Metaxa (I used the 12-star)
  • ¾ oz (25ml) lemon juice
  • ½ oz (15ml) honey
  • ⅛ oz (5ml) mezcal
  • honey/sea salt* rim

Smear honey around 1/4 of the rim of a martini glass. Dip it in the honey/sea salt mixture.

Add the 1/2 oz of honey to a shaker. (Instead of trying to scoop the honey out of your jigger, use a tablespoon and scrape it from there. 1 tbsp = 1/2 oz)

Add the other ingredients and then stir to dissolve the honey. Add ice, shake, and strain into the martini glass.

*I happened to have a tin of honey/sea salt, but you can make your own by combining granulated honey and fine sea salt, probably in a 1:1 ratio. Experiment.

Pro tip: If you’re going to be making a lot of these, batch the honey and lemon juice mixture (2:3 ratio) so that you don’t have to dissolve the honey each and every time.

Also, it might be interesting to float the mezcal rather than adding it to the shaker. And maybe try barrel-aged honey… More work is required.

update, 5/13/24: Having run out of Metaxa at my birthday gathering last night — Semele’s Flame was very popular — I made one tonight with brandy and am happy to report that it works nearly as well. You could add a dash of rose water for that floral aspect that Metaxa brings. I first tried a peaty scotch, but it vanished in the citrus/honey, so stick to mezcal.

Yes, Republicans, that’s how it works.

Here’s a story I didn’t expect to see:

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $7 Billion Solar for All Grants to Deliver Residential Solar, Saving Low-Income Americans $350 Million Annually and Advancing Environmental Justice Across America

We can now expect to see Republicans melting down over what is clearly an unmitigated good not only for the low-income citizens it affects directly but also for the nation (and the planet) as a whole.

And why would they go all splodey with fake rage over this? For the same reason they always go splodey with rage when a Democratic administration does anything that benefits average Americans: “THEY’RE JUST DOING IT TO BUY VOTES!!!!”

So, Republicans, let me see if I’ve got this straight. If the government does something that benefits the average citizen, and said average citizen thinks, “Hey, you know what, this is a good thing, I think I’ll vote for these guys” — as opposed to the government doing things like banning water or rest breaks in the summer heat for outdoor workers or lowering tax rates on the richest people at the expense of the poorest or driving OB/GYNs from the state because of vague laws criminalizing healthcare, or… — then that’s “buying votes.” Got it.

Have you guys ever thought about doing that, just going with policies and laws that protect and enhance the lives of most of us rather than the corporations and the ultra-rich who are currently — quite frankly — buying your votes?

I guess not. Carry on.

See you at the polls.

update: More of the same at Wonkette.

The Savoy Variations: The Hanky Panky

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.

The Hanky Panky

[p. 80]

I will admit to some embarrassment about this one. The Hanky Panky is not an obscure cocktail at all, but I am not a fan of the distinctive profile — if I may call it that — of Fernet Branca. And so I’ve never made it. It came up in my reading through the Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails in the H section — y’all should go look up hogo — and I decided to try the thing.


  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 tsp Fernet Branca
  • orange peel
  • stirred, not shaken

It’s pretty amazing. I had two and neglected to get a photo either time. It got added to the bar book on the spot.


  • Savoy: 7
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 4

(It might appear that the Savoy is easily winning this game, but I will remind you that most of the recipes are so gross that I’m not wasting my booze on them just to declare victory. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

The Parable of the Mud

Once a man had a vision as he was meditating. He told his friends:

As you know, my practice is to meditate on the four elements — Fire, Water, Earth, Air — and express my gratitude to the spirit of each for what it has granted me in my life.

Last night, as I meditated, I gave thanks to Air for my breath, my mind, for inspiration. In return, Air gave me inspiration and creative breakthroughs.

I thanked Fire for my will, my blood, my passions. Fire gifted me courage and transformation.

With Water I was grateful for my emotions, my unconscious, even my aging and death. Water gave me love, hope, compassion, and dreams.

To Earth I gave thanks for my body and for the earth’s great riches.

But the spirit of Earth in return mocked me: “You presume to thank us, but your pride in your spirit is misplaced. Soon enough you will die and will be nothing more than mud.”


I sat quietly with this thought. I brought to mind the gifts of all four elements, Air, Fire, Water, even Earth — all part of me and the sum of me.

I spoke to Earth. “It is true that I will become mud. But I am not mud now, nor will I become mud until I am Earth again, when I am no longer One of Us.”

Earth was silent.

“And even then, O Earth, I shall be Earth and Air and Water and Fire — I shall be All of Us once again.”

Earth listened.

“And why do you scoff at my mortality, Earth, when you know that soon enough we will all combine again to become a new spirit, a new being, and we will once again be One of Us. You will be One with Us.”

Earth was still silent, but I knew the Earth had blessed me.

“Thank you for this blessing, Earth, for without your harsh truth I might not have found this comfort.”

And his friends marveled.

The Highlights Reel: Part 1

When you transition into the Hoarding Lifestyle — as we have been doing recently — you may uncover a great deal of flotsam.

Did I say ‘may’ uncover? Honey please. It is a dead certainty that you are going to end up with a whole room full of stuff that you have no memory of wanting to keep around.

Behold, Highlights for Children, April 1962. I’ll save you the mental math: that was 62 years ago. I was eight years old, or about to be.

I have no clue as to why I would have saved this particular issue.

I thumbed through it yesterday and was struck by a bunch of things, which I think I shall discuss over a few blog posts.

First of all, it is a product of its time, so occasionally you will find terminology that we would no longer use. (One story is about the main character bringing a baby rabbit to cheer up a “crippled” boy at the “Crippled Children’s Home”; the boy had had polio. Another includes the “fact” that Brazil was “discovered” by Pedro Alvarez Cabral.)

On the whole, however, it is astonishingly inclusive. There are stories/articles about:

  • A Burmese family farming rice
  • A Jewish family celebrating Passover
  • An American boy in a fishing contest
  • The Bible story of Gideon and his soldiers
  • A Iroquois legend about how Native Americans began to fletch their arrows, illustrated by the Chief of the Iroquois
  • The Couperin family of composers/musicians from the 17th century
  • Drawings by children of Tunisia

The texts range from “Preparation for Reading” through “Easy Reading” to “More Advanced Reading,” and there is a chart in the front, a Guide for Parents and Teachers, that lists every item in the issue and has check marks in those columns. (Other columns include “Manners, Conduct, Living with Others”; “Nature and Science”; “Stimulation to Think and Reason”; “Stimulation to Create,” et al.)

At the bottom of many pages is a black star — ★ — indicating a footnote for parents about the thrust of the item:

  • Learning to be kind to trees
  • For arousing kindly feelings towards a boy in Burma
  • For the child when he is ready to have phonics practice
  • Being a selfish or unselfish playmate (yes, this is Goofus and Gallant)

On the whole, I am rather impressed at the magazine’s organization and commitment to reading and learning. (Its founders were both well-known educators.)

And there’s more to discuss! Stay tuned.

The Savoy Variations: Doctor 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.

Doctor Cocktail


This one surprised me a bit, for two reasons: 1) with only two ingredients, this cocktail is far simpler than most in the Savoy; and 2) seeing Swedish Punsch as an ingredient — it’s a bit of a niche liqueur.

Easy enough: 1.5 oz of Kronan Swedish Punsch, .75 oz of lemon juice, et voilá:

It was delicious, hands-down: sweet and tart, very sippable. I made a scaled-down second one using lime juice — equally delicious. I added it to my bar book.


  • Savoy: 6
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 4