They’re still wrong.

I just finished reading James Shapiro’s The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, and I highly recommend it, especially if you are like me a huge fan of Lear.

A passage near the end jumped out at me:

[discussing the declining fortunes of the boy companies of London at the time] Another and now nearly fatal blow to [the Children of the Revels’] fortune came in November 1606, when they were ordered to stop recruiting boy players from among the ranks of child choristers, since “it was not fit or decent that such as should sing the praises of God Almighty should be trained up or employed in such lascivious or profane exercises.”


Here are some modern day choristers of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the same group that fed into the theatre company Paul’s Boys back in the day.

Who could possibly want to train up or employ these precious innocents in lascivious or profane exercises? Everyone’s moral alarms should be blaring CODE RED at such an idea.

Why, it’s outrageous — it’s disgusting — it’s… GROOMING, KENNETH!

Dale, I hear you ask, are you claiming that today’s handwringers and Moms for “Liberty” and rightwing screechers are pulling the same stunt as the god-bothering Puritans from 400 years ago?

Yes, yes I am.

That is a link to coverage of the high school in Fort Wayne, IN, that had its production of Maid Marian canceled because the god-bothering Puritans of that fair city objected to its LGBQT characters. LASCIVIOUS AND PROFANE, KENNETH! (The kids are all right: They rallied support and $84,000 to put on the play independently. The house was packed.)

I get it. The god-botherers have sincere religiousy beliefs about what is LASCIVIOUS AND PROFANE, KENNETH,[1] and they are determined that the rest of us are not going to celebrate Christmas be anything but righteous, upstanding Puritans ourselves. Because otherwise… well, I’m not sure what they think is going to happen, other than that great fear of Puritans everywhere, that someone, somewhere, might be happy.

At any rate, they’re still wrong.

Happy Pride Month!


[1] I do not include the scum and villainy now known as the Republican Party as having sincere religiousy beliefs. Those people do not believe in anything except using divisive topics to scare the amygdala-based lifeforms into voting them into power.

Rhine River Cruise: Swag & Pro Tips

This trip I have only two pro tips, one of which is so amazing that I hate I didn’t discover it years ago.

First, if you’re of a mind to go to Amsterdam’s infamous “coffee shops,” be advised: cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands, it’s just tolerated (albeit regulated, and no, I don’t know how that works). Also, despite what you might have been led to believe, the offerings in coffee shops are limited to either smokable weed (onsite) or cannabis edibles. You probably have more effective (and legal) ways to explore that part of your consciousness at home.

Second — and this is the big tip — on the iPhone Maps app, did you know you can create Guides? I didn’t; I discovered this by accident when looking for the top craft cocktail bars in Amsterdam. If you search for a specific place, a guide pops up below the map, including the ever-mystical MORE…:

The MORE menu gives you…

…which gives you…

So what you end up with…

…is a handy map that you can whip out at any point in your trek around the city and immediately see if one of your sightseeing goals is nearby! How cool is that?


So what all did I come home with?

Some local gins…

The unlabeled bottle is from a small distillery in Cologne; the scribbling on the bottle says ‘Longwood 17.” It’s very herbal. The dry gin is a bright, aggressive gin, and the barrel-aged genever is a lovely variation on Holland’s traditional precursor to gin.

I picked up some sample bottles here and there…

Of course I picked up ink for my fountain pen and some blank books…

…and the ink, when I finally unboxed it, was a surprise:

The bottle is as askew as a house in Amsterdam.

After the exhibit on Ursula at Cologne’s Museum Ludwig, I had to have the exhibit catalog…

…if only so that I could catch up on all the pieces I had to zip past while my fellow travelers were waiting for me…

…and while there I saw and could not resist this replica of Hilma af Klint‘s automatic/seance sketchbooks…

…which are full of peculiar energy.

The biggest purchase, though, was not technically mine. Decades ago we were invited to a Christmas party at the home of one of my Lovely First Wife’s coworkers, where we were served a German tradition called Asbachskaffee, i.e., Asbach coffee. This concoction consists of Asbach brandy, flamed with brown sugar; coffee; and a huge gob of vanilla whipped cream and chocolate shavings. What’s not to like?

The important thing is that this nectar is served in a very specific cup/mug, and we — for differing values of “we” — have been in search of these things for a Very. Long. Time. Because otherwise, it’s just spiked coffee in a Lenox china Christmas mug, right?

So you may imagine our (“our”) excitement when one of the onboard entertainments was the making of Rudesheimskaffee, as it is known in Germany, since Asbach brandy is distilled in Rudesheim, where we would be docking that afternoon. (We will skip over the excitement of my being volunteered to be our bar chef’s assistant in making a cup, which started with chugging a snifter of Asbach, a “tradition” I suspect my friendly bartender made up for the amusement of the other guests.)

My Lovely First Wife sprang into action. First, to the bar to ask if those mugs were available in Rudesheim. Of course, he said, at the Asbach distillery. Then it was off to find Maria at the front desk, who called us a cab with the advisory that we wouldn’t dock until after 4:00 and the distillery would close at 5:00. As it happened, she let us off the ship before the crew even had the gangway up — and away we went in the cab. It was all very exciting, and I really hated that we didn’t have internet for the laptop that day.

Anyway, we ended up with…

…a bottle of 15 year old Asbach — I eschewed the 50 year old bottle (for €138) — six mugs (and saucers) and spoons. At long last our life is complete.

The story doesn’t really end there. Maria told us that we could hit DHL in Cologne the next day, where they would pack and ship our increasingly heavy haul. Alas, DHL does not pack, and they didn’t have a box big enough for our stuff, so we fell back on our tried-and-true solution: Head into the TK Maxx [sic], buy a small rolling suitcase, and just check that sucker at the airport. We now have a nearly complete set of small rolling suitcases. I think for our Christmas Market tour in December we’re just going to fly over there with an empty bag. Or, knowing my Lovely First Wife’s penchant for Christmas decorations, probably two.

Rhine River Cruise: a synopsis

The wifi onboard a Viking River Cruise is always iffy, and this time my laptop couldn’t even see the wifi server to try to log on. (This was in addition to the new restriction of one device per passenger logged in.) So I was forced to enjoy this trip without the pleasure of sharing my acerbic commentary with everyone at home.

Consequently, this post is just a random collection of thoughts or highlights or snarky comments; there won’t be nearly the number of photos as in my usual posts. I’ll do a separate post for swag and pro tips.

First of all, the shipboard experience was as usual: luxurious and comfortable. The staff was friendly and helpful, the food was great, and the cocktails were life-giving. The Rhine River as a whole, though, suffers in comparison to the Danube cruise — in the latter we were sailing through the heart of Empire, while on the Rhine we were sailing through the robber barons’ constantly shifting fiefdoms. Still, we saw and did quite a few wonderful things.

Our cabin, like last time, was below the water:

It was always a little thrilling to open those curtains every morning and see what the view might be. For example:

Stanley Tucci tended bar:

He was very good, remembering everyone’s preferences and stateroom numbers after two days. (There were about 170 passengers on the cruise.)

I did my usual Eurotrash look:

As you can imagine, I was a bit of a rara avis on the ship. I was the only guy with long hair, of course, and I actually dressed a little better than most.

The ship stopped in Breisach (the Black Forest); Strasbourg, France,where we had to delay the shore excursion due to manifestations in town over the retirement age issue, complete with tear gas; Speyer; Koblenz; Cologne; Kinderdijk, Netherlands; and finally, Amsterdam. We felt that the tour really picked up once we reached Speyer; the first two stops felt like time-fillers.

As on the Danube, one day was given to sailing through the Rhine Gorge, which is where all the “castles on the Rhine” are.

Many are restored; some are actually hotels these days. Back when they were built, they were the centers of power for squabbling noblemen, and they were peppered seemingly every half mile along the river. That’s a lot of labor and materials dedicated to beating up on your neighbor, and it’s not even your labor if you were the “king” of the castle. (It was never satisfactorily explained how the residents of the castles got their food or water every day.)

The high point of most stops was the churches. Here’s a cathedral in Koblenz:

I was impressed by the ribbed vault:

The most spectacular of the churches was of course the Cologne Cathedral, a hallucinogenic über-Gothic pile, which ironically wasn’t finished until the 19th century. The stained glass windows in the nave, for example, are clearly Romantic era.

Look at the very top of the towers — see the tiny little finials up there? Here’s one up close:

Inside, it’s a lot more sedate:

Cologne also has a major art museum, the Museum Ludwig, whose collection focuses on 20th-c. and contemporary art.

I liked this piece:

This is “A Possible System” by A. R. Penck, oil on canvas, 1965.

This is KP Brehmer’s “Correction of the national colors measured by distribution of wealth,” 1972. In it, the three equally distributed colors of the German flag are remeasured for the percentage of wealth owned by, respectively, the middle class, other households, and “Big Capital.”

But the highlight for me was the huge exhibit on the ground floor of an artist I had never heard of: Ursula. The actual back end of the exhibit was in an atrium open to the other floors, so when I looked down I saw:

It looks like nothing so much as the Temple from the recent Emergence burn:

I was intrigued. I finished up the main galleries and headed down to this strange artist’s realm.

“Wilder Mann.” Of course. It’s actually two-sided, and the two sides are not the same.

I’ll have a lot more to say about Ursula’s work over on next week — it was a thrilling universe of obsessive exuberance.

The hut, from eye level:

Random bit of fun: At some point in the past, two green-headed parakeets escaped from a zoo somewhere in Germany, and now in Koblenz and Cologne there are flocks of them. Here’s a shot of a treeful of them as they came home to roost at dusk, right outside the ship:

Beautiful plumage.

We started in Basel, Switzerland, and we ended in Amsterdam. Our next-to-last stop was Kinderdijk, a national monument with 17 windmills, still maintained by people who live in them. Two are museums; we explored one of them, and I have to say that I would need to see a photo of the others, which we were assured had been modernized, because the interior was so cramped that I cannot imagine a 21st-c. human wanting to live in them. (Statistically, the Dutch are the tallest nation on earth.) But there’s a five-year waiting list to get in to one of them — plus some pretty serious windmill technology training — so go figure.

Amsterdam is a lovely city, and of course, like all cities built on pilings driven into swampland (viz., Venice or Mexico City), buildings there have a tendency to settle out of plumb:

We were in Amsterdam on Sat, May 6, which was World Labyrinth Day. I had scoped out a labyrinth in the Vondelpark, so we set off to “walk as one at one,” though we didn’t really get there until after 2:00. On the way, I was once again reminded of the burn:

(More than a couple of camps at Alchemy have aerial rigs.)

In searching for the labyrinth I walked right past it twice, since the World Labyrinth Locator described it as being made of “rock or garden,” but in actuality it was a hedge labyrinth:

It’s not as well-kept at the photo makes it appear. It needs a garden club to get it back in shape. But I got to walk it while my companions rested, and it was good.

Our main goal in Amsterdam was the Rijksmuseum, the repository of Rembrandt and Hals and all those glorious icons of the Netherlands’ past. The museum’s special exhibit was the Vermeer exhibit, in which most of his surviving paintings have been pulled together from collections all over the world. (Of the 27 works, we had seen seven of them in Washington and New York.) Of course it was sold out.

But the concierge at our hotel told us to get timed tickets for the museum at 9:00 a.m., and then head straight to the ticket desk to see if they actually had tickets left. And they did, so we palled around with Rembrandt until 10:30, and then we bathed in the perfection that is Vermeer. It was a good day. (Ironically, his most famous painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” was not in the exhibit; we don’t know why The Hague didn’t loan it.)

Other high points of the trip include a phenomenal dinner in Rudesheim, a tiny riverside town (more about which in the swag post); our tour guide singing “Alleluia” in the cathedral in Koblenz; teaching the waltz to three or four fun couples on board; cocktails at the Super Lyan bar, one of Amsterdam’s finest, which happened to be in our hotel; watching the full moon rise above the river as we sailed along at night.

Next up: all the stuff I bought, and a couple of pro tips.

Rhine River: Day 1, part 1, probably

That’s right, boys and girls, we’re heading off for another Grand Adventure, this time to sail the Rhine River with Viking River Cruises.

Already the adventure is fraught: my Lovely First Wife has received emails that we can’t check in with Delta because they’re still monkeying with our flight. My TripIt Pro, on the other hand, says IT’S TIME TO CHECK IN, YOU DOLTS!

So just now I went to do that and was told that I cannot be “validated” and therefore checked-in. I was able to check my Lovely First Wife in, so this might be a lonely eleven days for me… Be right back, I have to call a number.

Sidebar: Technology has been inimical to me all week. I will not bore you with the details, but major corporations’ websites and apps have malfunctioned every day. At the moment I’m looking at my phone’s Delta app just twirling and twirling as it “loads”… whatever it’s trying to load. All I’m looking for is the phone number for my “local reservation office,” and the link from that text on the laptop just goes to a general info page with nary a phone number in sight. And no matter where I start from, logged in or not, the path always leads back to this general info page. It’s like the thing on Wikipedia: If you go to any article and click on the first link in the article, eventually you end up at Philosophy.

After much clicking, I found a number, the bot at which then tried to understand the human language we call English, and it foisted me off onto a messaging system, which I actually prefer. I am now chatting with Tyrece and hoping that he actually has a ready solution to this stonewall.

While I’m waiting for Tyrece to reply, this is as good a time as any to remind both of my readers that should you give in to your larcenous impulses we have an actual adult living our house while we’re gone, plus Cecil the Pest™ is pretty cranky.

Tyrece “adjusted” my ticket — who knows? — and I’ve been validated, thank you very much. Now to figure out how to backtrack and get my Lovely First Wife’s boarding pass…

Follow me for more travel tips.



New Cocktail: the Sweet Sweet Schadenfreude

Yesterday, on Mastodon, I was startled to see myself tagged in a ‘toot’ from Gregory Hays, the estimable UVA professor whose translation of the Marcus Aurelius Meditations I prefer. It said:

Wait, what? When I went to check, it seems he had asked whether a cocktail existed called the Indictment. A friend replied that he hadn’t been able to find one, but had a witty list of existing alternates:

All of which are witty indeed!

I answered that I would tackle the problem, wondering whether the cocktail needed to be bitter and dark or sweet sweet schadenfreude, and after only a little thought on a Friday afternoon, I thought, why not both:

The Sweet Sweet Schadenfreude (or, The Indictment)

First of all, it should clearly be a Manhattan in a nod to the present indictment, and let’s add to that a praline liqueur both as a sweetener and as a nod to a possible future indictment, let’s say in Atlanta. A dash of black walnut bitters and a square of bourbon dark chocolate on the side pairs well as the dark and bitter theme, and we have a tasty tasty refreshment with which to end the week.

For extra cheekiness, let’s serve it in an Art Deco Nick & Nora glass with a naked lady stem.


  • 2 oz rye
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz praline liqueur
  • 2–3 dashes black walnut bitters
  • optional dark chocolate on the side

The stupid is strong…

Here, have a stupid: Bill Would Ban the Teaching of Scientific Theories in Montana Schools

You should go read the article — it’s not long — but you can probably guess what it says without clicking through. Some idiot in the Montana legislature has taken it into his head that we should not be infecting our children with mere theories about how the universe works.

No, insists our Big Sky State Gradgrind, away with these so-called theories; what we want is facts.


It’s pretty clear from the article that this nonsense isn’t going to make it out of committee, much less pass on the floor — opposition from teachers and students has been fierce, and I have to think that there are saner heads in charge. (I know, but let me have this fantasy.)

The sponsor of this bill is one Daniel Emrich:

He just got elected last November, and that is basically all that I can find about him on the intertubes. His campaign (barely) had a Facebook page last year, and it’s about as gooberish as you might think. I find it very weird that there’s nothing anywhere about his background, education, experience, or even just his marital status. It’s almost as if he’s trying to evade detection or something.

So it’s no surprise that this person is under the impression that a mere theory in science is just, you know, like, your opinion, man, and ought not to be taught in the Montanan schools as if it were anything close to being true. You know, like the theory of gravity or cell theory or germ theory. All just wild guesses.

From the article: “If we operate on the assumption that a theory is fact, unfortunately, it leads us to asking questions that may be potentially based on false assumptions,” Emrich said.

My wild guess is that Emrich is a christofascist who is by G-d going to make sure that the boys and girls in his state are not led away from the One True Biblical Truthiness by these radical liberal teachers who think that “asking questions” is a good thing. Why, it’s practically grooming!

Jebus, what an idiot. There is no common ground with this ilk. Their blinkered worldview will never allow them to see beyond the walls they’ve constructed around themselves, whether it’s scientific theories or LGBQT issues or social justice or universal healthcare or even the homeless in their community. They fear the world — they’ve been taught to fear the world — and their amygdala-based lifeform brains thrive on that fear.

Just the facts, ma’am.

Mystery Trip: Day 4 & Pro Tips

We didn’t have to be at the airport until 12:30, so I had goals for the morning:

  • coffee and a croissant or perhaps a donut
  • selfie in front of the Longhairs‘ place of business
  • buy a couple of bottles

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one simply does not set out for any destination with the Lovely First Wife without double-checking 1) the address; and 2) the directions. I foolishly failed to do so as we set out for the Donut Bar, “only seven blocks away.” (That sounds like a hike, but San Diego’s blocks are only 1/4 the size of New York’s by design.)

Therefore, when we had gone the required distance and not only was there no Donut Bar but no shops of any kind, I double-checked on my phone. The Donut Bar was nowhere close. We had gone the distance on J Street; the Donut Bar was up Sixth Ave. We ended up back at Achilles Coffee, which has only food food, not croissants or donuts.

I double-checked the Longhairs’ address, and it occurred to me to look at the street view — there was no indication that the Longhairs were in that building. They just moved there this past fall so perhaps the street view was not up to date, but we decided not to make the trek just to take a photo in front a nondescript industrial building. Sorry, my dudes, I’ll catch up with you next year.

Back on my phone, I found that Skinflint’s Wine & Spirits Shop was right there on Fifth Avenue, across from our hotel, and it was already open at 10:00 a.m. Awesome!

Except that it wasn’t. The map led us to a door on J Street, with no indication there was anything there but office-type businesses. Around the corner was the Wine Bank, but it didn’t open until noon, plus it advertised itself as a tequila shop. Even now, Google Maps will tell you it’s at 363 Fifth Avenue, but it appears to be in the middle of the building. The photo is of the Wine Bank, which was actually padlocked. Is Skinflint’s inside the Wine Bank, like a speakeasy? It occurs to me that this might be the case, but if so, why it claim to be open at 10:00 a.m. when the front door is padlocked until noon?

Not a problem. Perhaps the shops at the airport would have what I wanted? Nope. The bottles there were nothing but big name bottles that you can buy anywhere. Come on, San Diego (and every major airport, for that matter), stock your local distilleries! Represent!

Thus defeated, we flew home, the end.


Pro tips

First of all, Pack Up & Go is a good thing. The excitement of not knowing where you’re going — only that it’s not somewhere you’ve been recently — is fun, and the events they scheduled for us were solid (although we blew off two of them). If you’re an experienced/savvy traveler, filling in the gaps once you find out where you’re going is not a problem. If you’re not, then head straight to the concierge at the front desk of your hotel and make them your best friend.

I must also note that Pack Up & Go put us up at the Pendry at their corporate rate, which is about half of the regular rate. I just checked to see how much rooms regularly go for, and it is a pretty pricey joint.

San Diego is lovely! Normally much warmer than it was this time, it’s probably tops on my list of where I’d flee if Georgia becomes a Nazi state like Florida. (This would be right after I won the PowerBall: like most of California, San Diego is crazy expensive.)

Double-check the dates of Comic-Con before you schedule your trip. That’s an extra 300,000 people you don’t want to have to deal with. Plus they’re dressed like Storm Troopers.

Old Town is a thumbs-up, particularly if you like Mexican food. We were not there when the Old Town Park village shops were open, but we’ll be there next year.

The hop-on/hop-off trolley is a good overview of the city.

We were constantly amazed at the fact that pedestrians literally have the right of way. Most of the intersections where we were are four-way stops, and drivers who pulled up even a fraction of a second before us would wave us on. We saw people just walk out into the street without looking, confident that cars would stop. And they do.

You can probably skip Coronado Island. It’s a lovely enclave, but it’s essentially shopping, and mostly shops that you have in your own area. I think we will go out to the Hotel Del Coronado just for the ambience, but the isle itself is skippable.

Little Italy is jam-packed with fine dining.

Uber is a great way to get around town. We never had to wait more than five minutes for a ride, and the drivers out there seem to have nicer cars than you. (Twice our Uber was a Tesla.)

The WNDR Museum is really cool!

The SAN DIEGO ZOO is reason enough to go to San Diego. It is probably one of our top ten places ever to have visited, and we will go back there next year.

Things we didn’t get to do this time that we’ll check out next time: Old Town Park village; the Museum of Art (and the other museums in Balboa Park); You & Yours Distilling; cocktail bars that we just didn’t get to; maybe Kansas City Barbeque, which we laughed at when we drove into town but which is the bar from the original Top Gun; the city’s trolley routes.

Go to Fifth & Rose for a cocktail and say hi to Cody for us.

Mystery Trip: Day 3

After a rather better breakfast (at Achilles Coffee), we found ourselves at yet another street festival, the Chinese New Year celebration, complete with lion dancers…

…and a rather listless dragon. Come on kids, commit to the bit!

One feeds the lions with little red envelopes into which one has placed a little cash. The lion will then guarantee good luck for the coming year.

Here’s my Lovely First Wife feeding the purple lion.

In a fullscale parade, you can also feed the lions cabbage, which they will chew into little shreds and then spit back out onto you. This is also good luck. (They did this onstage.)

From there we went to the zoo.

The zoo. The San Diego Zoo. The world-famous San Diego Zoo. People, this place is worth the entire trip. It is absolutely amazing.

If you go to San Diego and do not go to the zoo, then you’ve done it wrong. You’ve wasted your whole trip.

Our plan had been to do the zoo then walk over to the Museum of Art. This was naive — we spent the whole day there and did not see all of it.

It is gorgeously designed.

It has kitties.

Several times we saw a big cat wake up or stop pacing and walk over to a specific spot — and a tour guide with a group would appear. Our guess is that like Abigail the Assistive Feline™ and Cecil the Pest™, they knew the schedule and perhaps had been coaxed there previously with treats.

Pro tip: Go down the Tiger Trail, wend your way about, and when you come to the large food court at station 13, under the Skyfari, head over to the tower, take the elevator up to the bridge, and cross over. We lucked into that path and were almost always walking downhill.

Ah, the bridge.

Remember my phobia of such things? Nope — that’s just over water. This thing didn’t bother me at all. (Coronado Bridge is also three or four times taller.)

The ring-tailed lemurs don’t live so much in family groups as in bundles:

It was chilly, so they huddled for warmth. But then the sun came out from behind a cloud, and sproing!

They literally snapped into little Buddhas to warm their tummies. We saw them do this a couple of times, and it was hysterical.

Here, have a cheetah doing a little blep with his tongue.

From the zoo we Ubered over to Old Town for a walking food tour, and it was a lot of fun after I figured out I had typed in the wrong address and we tracked the group down at the correct restaurant. Led by Dillon, it featured tacos, tequila, and history, including the second oldest graveyard in San Diego.

When they restored the place in the 1930s, the streets and sidewalks of course had claimed some of the area, so on the sidewalk you can see these:

Most of the grave markers are reconstructions, memorials of the person buried in that spot. This stone, however, is original:

A young wife who died at 21. I was struck by the verse, translated on a sign: “One and twenty times I saw the fields planted in flowers, I was young. I was called to God. Do not cry for me.”

We ended up in the Old Town Park, a kind of touristy reconstruction of what San Diego would have been like in the early days. We exited through the Fiesta del Reyes, where this lovely construction greeted us:

I took a photo to share with the hippies who participate in my March from the Dark Side at the burn.

We tried to eat lightly on this food tour, because we had reservations at Bencotto in Little Italy. There we failed to eat even half of the delicious pasta we were served, so we got to-go boxes and gave it to our Uber driver when we got back to the hotel.

Then we had fun. We went to the bar so I could have a farewell cocktail from bartender Cody, and there we met Juan. We had found Cody and the barstaff to be a warm and familial team, so it was unsurprising that other hospitality workers would gather there on a Sunday night for drinks and conviviality.

Juan was a waiter at Provisions, the hotel’s restaurant, and Juan was trying to figure out some things, namely how he was going to win the girl he liked, a fellow waiter. Juan had just broken up with his previous girlfriend (for the second and final time) and was agonizing over the situation. I and my Lovely First Wife then spent the next hour advising him.

We were joined by Niko from Greece, a guy from Spain whose name I didn’t catch, and finally a tall gentleman from Hamburg, who when we told him our son had studied in Munich gave the standard German response: Bavaria’s not really German. All of these guys were hospitality workers, and they clearly loved Juan and cared for him, eventually dragging him away to their next stop to start sobering him up.  (Juan had shown his gratitude for our kindness by gifting me not one but two shots of Monkey 47 gin, and he had been drinking before we got there.)

Juan claimed me as his grandfather — although he’s not that young and I’m not that old — and asked for my contact info. We told him we’d be back next year to check on him. Niko invited us to his grandmother’s house on an island in Greece, where she would make us fantastic seafood. When he said he had a 17-year-old daughter, I inquired about her college plans, and he practically exploded with pride: she wants to be a museum curator and has been accepted into three schools, including a full ride at Duquesne. The other guys agreed she was stellar. It was all extremely gemütlich. I loved it.

They left for more of their evening, and we said good-bye to Cody and headed up to bed.

It was a great day.

Mystery Trip: Day 2

Is it only day two?

After breakfast at an establishment I will not name because it was amazingly lackluster, we headed to the first planned event of the day: a couples “romantic retreat” at the hotel’s spa. The spa itself was luxe, and the massage was welcome.

We headed out for lunch, but when we walked out of the hotel all of Fifth Ave was blocked off for a street fair.

Well, of course we had to shop. Earrings were bought. Lovely wooden sunglasses were bought.

I’ll try not to break these.

Next up, the hop-on-hop-off trolley that seems to infect major tourist cities. It took a while for us to connect: there’s the commercial trolley, and then there are multiple city-run trolleys, and when we checked at the front desk to find out where the trolley stop was, we decided we weren’t sure which one we had hooked up with.

So that took a while to sort out, and then we had to wait for a trolley, and that one was full, and we had to wait for the next one, and then we rode all around San Diego — downtown, Coronado Island, Little Italy, Old Town — which gave us a great overview for when we return next year. Because it was at the end of the trolley run’s day, we didn’t hop off, just stuck with it until we were deposited back at our stop.

You may not know this about me, but I have an irrational fear of heights over water. Heights? No problem; I can scamper out onto the promontories of Grand Canyon without missing a heartbeat. Water’s not a problem. But a tall bridge over water? I can’t breathe.

So you will appreciate the strength of will it took to take this photo:

I think that’s the Pacific Fleet. I couldn’t really pay attention.

Before the trolley, we had spent some time figuring out what to do for dinner. Pack Up & Go had booked us at a very nice (and very expensive) steak place that everyone raved about, but we were not in the mood for very expensive steaks, so eventually we opted just to go to the bar downstairs and have barfood with cocktails.

Our new best friend Cody was there. He made me a Bijou with barrel-aged gin, and then I asked him to make me something he had been working on for the menu. He lit up and presented me with a delicious drink, unnamed, containing tequila (San Diego is keen on tequila), Amaro Montenegro, and the secret ingredient of coconut — which I generally do not care for, but this drink was lovely.

Our new best friend Cody and his new delicious cocktail


SIDENOTE: You may recall that in the Bright Angel Lounge at Grand Canyon, we were treated to some ridiculous sportsball simulacra on the bar TVs. This time it was spikeball, and all I could think was, somewhere there are a couple of dudes who didn’t finish their degrees. Finally someone won that competition and ESPN switched over — and think about this carefully — the National Cornhole Championship JUNIOR, where definitely unathletic-looking young teens named Nick and Zackary and Noah tossed beanbags with fierce concentration.

We had no firm plans for the rest of the evening. The trolley driver had pointed out a dueling piano bar near us, but the Lovely First Wife was not in the mood, so we just strolled up Fifth Ave. The place was hopping with partying young persons, as is right and proper.

Then I saw these two windows that were alive with what appeared to be computer-generated lights floating about — and then it dawned on me that they were responding to us, the passersby. We had discovered the WNDR museum.

The first thing we thought of was that it was a kind of Meow Wolf, but it’s not quite. Meow Wolf is an immersive experience done by teams of largely anonymous artists. WNDR is an actual museum of individual artists’ work, mostly computer-visuals and mostly interactive.

For example, here’s a video of us experiencing two of the pieces, the entrance hall and Quantum Mirror (by Adrian Stein).


One exhibit allowed you to type in AI prompts, and five screens then displayed the results. When we walked in, the work on display was “Bob Ross boxing.”

I gave it the prompt “Yoda at Burning Man,” and the results were a bit lackluster.

Still, A for effort.

Another favorite was Inside Out, by Studio Leigh Sachwitz. From the website’s description: “An immersive 360° video, light, and sound experience based on childhood memories of artist Leigh Sachwitz, who often experienced thunderstorms in a Glasgow garden shed. Leigh was inspired by those moments in Scottish weather where even phases of rain and sunshine can be experienced together within 20 minutes.”

Up to four people could sit in the garden chair inside the shed during the light/sound show. There was a line to get in, but the experience was just as lovely from the outside as it was inside. I particularly liked the ending sequence, where the stark black-and-white geometric patterns gave way to dawn-like colors that gently spread and faded.

One simple exhibit — the name of which I did not record and the website does not have, was a spare room with some designs on the wall and a small pattern on the floor that clearly invited you to stand on. The wall had a prominent light switch: ON/OFF. This is what happened when you flipped the switch:

This photo is not filtered. We were suddenly in a black-and-white/sepia-toned universe.

There was a lot more of course, but that’s the gist of it. Fun place, highly recommended.

After that, we stopped by the creperie for a late meal, and then to bed.

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.