::sigh:: Yes, yes, we were just in Germany last spring, but this is different.
When our son was studying in Munich seventeen years ago, we went to visit for Thanksgiving. We had a lovely time, but we had to leave the day before the Christmas market opened. This has rankled my Lovely First Wife for a while now, and so for Christmas I have given her a tour of Christmas markets in Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt.
Because, if you know my Lovely First Wife, you know that there is no such thing as TOO MANY CHRISTMAS.
Follow along as I freeze my ass off all across Germany.
A young person journeyed far, on a pilgrimage to gain wisdom from those who possessed it.
One night, as she walked along the road, marveling at the stars above and the earth around her, she saw many people seated in a meadow, all facing the same direction. All were weeping and beating their chests. Some threw themselves prostrate upon the ground in their grief. Their clamor was heartrending.
She approached one and asked, “Who are you? Why do you weep? What great tragedy has befallen you?”
The man replied, “We are the ones who have seen the day and mourn its passing. We sit facing west, mourning the setting of the sun, our grief overwhelming us.” He paused. “This is our wisdom. It brings us no joy.”
“But…” the young person began, but the man was no longer listening. With a loud cry he rejoined his fellows in their clamor.
She stood silently for a moment, observing their pain, and then walked away, toward the east, where the sun was already rising.
I announce — with some astonishment — that I have perfected the Rose-Colored G.
But Dale, I hear you exclaim, what is there to perfect? It’s just a gin and tonic with a float of hibiscus-infused gin on top.
Ah, I reply smugly, but you have not considered the variability of the main ingredient: gin. Normally I use the house gin, which is Bombay Sapphire, but yesterday I decided to use Gray Whale, for no real reason other than I like that gin and have been drinking it more often recently.
The results were a revelation.
I will also say that the hibiscus-infused gin was a little different this time. In getting ready for Alchemy — we always serve the Rose-Colored G at the bar — I was loath to use my dwindling supply of Bombay Sapphire to make a fresh supply of the hibiscus gin, so I bought a small bottle of Beefeater gin and used that. When I had to make another batch upon returning to the default world, I used the rest of the Beefeater. It is now my preferred gin for the hibiscus infusion. (But otherwise I’m not a fan.)
sidebar: At the burn, the 3 Old Men craft cocktail bar served the Smoked Smoky Manhattan, the Smoking Hot Molly, the Rose-Colored G, and the Grassy Knoll. All are my inventions, and we ran out of booze on Friday night. The word had gotten out that 3 Old Men was serving actual craft cocktails and we were swarmed. A proud moment, to be sure.
Whenever I see recipes that call for a specific brand of gin or rye or rum, I usually roll my eyes and just make it with whatever I have in stock, so it’s very weird for me to be doing the same thing here, but I get it: The salinity of the Gray Whale and the cleanness of the Beefeater were amazing together.
The Rose-Colored G
1.5 oz Gray Whale gin
Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters
optional lime slice
To make the hibiscus-infused gin, pour Beefeater gin into a glass container and add two or three tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers. Let it sit for about an hour, swirling it every now and then. You want a bright ruby color. (The infusion in the photo is a little too dark.) Strain and bottle.
To make the drink, make a regular gin and tonic, then gently pour the hibiscus infusion onto the ice so that it spreads out and floats. Dribble 5–7 drops of the bitters onto the ice.
(Note well that if you don’t have Gray Whale, the drink is still delicious with your preferred gin!)
Today in 1659, Massachusetts Bay Colony executed two Quakers. For being Quaker.
Let that sink in.
This is the framework for those who screech that the United States was FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION, KENNETH: The Puritans were not seeking religious liberty when they came to this continent — they were seeking a place where they could establish their own theocratic state. They had no intention of allowing anyone else to exist who did not follow their restrictive, mean-spirited dogma.
And this is what those who screech that the United States was FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION, KENNETH actually want. They want to be able to tell everyone how to believe, how to live, how to exist. And they mean to expunge anyone who doesn’t believe as they do.
When I was a wee child, it was drummed into my head that Baptists had their beginning in revolting against this theocracy. Roger Williams established Providence Plantations (now Rhode Island) as a haven for actual religious freedom, allowing all faiths to operate freely. We Baptists didn’t want to be allied with the government, because we had seen the evil that came from that arrangement. “Be not of this world” etc etc. (It was also drummed into me that the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the establishment of a state religion because we didn’t want a situation like the Church of England — but I’m thinking it was just as much in response to the Puritans as the Anglicans.)
Baptists now? Not so much. Separation of church and state? BuT wE wErE fOuNdEd As A cHrIsTiAn NaTiOn, KENNETH!
Hi, all! Sorry it’s taken me all week to get around to this final post, but the brain took a break after all that driving around. (We could have driven home from Arches National Park, that’s how far we drove.)
So what pro tips did we discover this time?
This tip is from Ranesha, the Avis rental agent at the Four Queens Hotel & Casino in Vegas: Check to see if your hotel has a car rental desk. If so, then take a cab or Uber from the airport and rent your car at the hotel. (She didn’t say, but I imagine it would be a good idea to do that over the phone before you start traveling.) No lines, personal service, and no trudging through a giant parking deck. Also, sometimes you get a better deal.
Ask park rangers for advice on how to get from there to the next place. This is how we were able to see more than just the five national parks. However, remember that it is also how we got to experience Hwy 12.
As always, in a park with one main artery in and out, drive to the end and then stop on all the overlooks on the way back, unless the overlooks are on the right. Mostly they’re on the left, though.
Especially in Arches National Park, if your timed ticket is after twelve noon, go straight to Delicate Arch. If you don’t, you’ll end up like us, too tired to make the 40-minute hike to see it up close.
In Vegas… I don’t know. I have no affection for the place. Cirque du Soleil is fabulous and I would advise you not to miss Meow Wolf’s OmegaMart, but otherwise the city is not my kind of place. YMMV, of course. You might check hotel prices out near Hoover Dam to see if they’re cheaper; it’s a 30-minute drive, but the savings may make it preferable.
No pro tip here, but a caution: We like to travel without firm plans on where to stay, using the app Hotel Tonight to book hotels on the fly and at reduced rates. The one night we had planned to use Hotel Tonight, though, I was shocked to find that no rooms were available in St. George, UT. When I went to Expedia, I found plenty of rooms, so the lesson is that if business is booming, hotels have no reason to push reduced-rate rooms via Hotel Tonight.
As always, be aware of altitude sickness. It’s real and it will lay you low. Just take it easy, drink lots of water, and make sure you pack your lip balm — when they say it’s a “dry heat” you’re probably focused on the “heat” part of that, but the “dry” is equally as problematic.
Not wanting another gin & tonic, not even with my new Beehive Jack Rabbit gin (Utah, delicious), I decided to experiment.
Backstory: A couple of years ago I came across a sunflower spirit called Taza Ray, distilled right here in Georgia in Dalton. There were two versions, plain Taza Ray and Taza Ray Red, which had been aged in barrels. They were yummy (and gluten free!).
Alas, when I went back to the store to get more, it had vanished. This past spring, my Lovely First Wife and I went to Dalton specifically to buy some more. This involved more emails and texts than you might imagine. But the guys there were personable and helpful. They even — upon hearing of my interest in the Taza Ray Red, which they no longer bottled — decanted me my own bottle of fresh-from-the-barrel Taza Ray, which they blend with their regular stuff to make Taza Ray.
So my eye fell on my bottle of Taza Ray. The mental slot machine clicked around, and came up with…
1.5 oz Taza Ray
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz barrel-aged maple syrup
It is quite tasty. I’ve had two. (A second one using Taza Ray Red was not good, so I made the original just to confirm.)
I decided to buy socks at each park; here are three of the five or six I got. (The others are in the wash at the moment, but you get the idea.)
I also decided to buy stickers for the car. I’m sure I’m missing at least one, but maybe they’ll turn up. I knew when I bought them that I should develop an organized method of keeping them safe.
I bought a few lizards. I have a thing for lizards.
Plus a lizard mug.
Okay, and a piece of lizard art for the labyrinth. So I bought more than a few lizards. I have a thing for lizards.
Petroglyphs are fascinating to me, so at Valley of the Sun I bought a book about them. Did you know there are petroglyphs in Georgia? The little metal guys came with a greeting card and a little hook for hanging. They’ll just sit on my desk. Next to the lizards.
This handmade ceramic ornament appealed to me, mostly for the Greek key design.
A couple of tasty things…
…and GIN! I had some really good southwestern gins, but was prevented from acquiring more than these two either by our schedule or Utah’s screwy liquor laws. The Pipistrelle, from Etta Place, is a pommeau: a mixture of apple juice and apple brandy.
I bought the Beehive gins without having tasted them, so I had to wait until we got home to know if they were any good. I am happy to report that the Jack Rabbit gin — notes of juniper and rose — is a light, lovely gin. I’ll report later on the barrel-aged.
There were also a few gifts, but of course I’m not going to show those.
Next: PRO TIPS
 Exempted are jewelry, art, and gin. Especially gin.
Before we left St. George, we went back to Ancestor Square, where we dined last night. I wanted photos of the place in daylight. Newnan City Council, this is what the Brown Steel Property could be. Restaurants, shops, offices, all in a pleasant setting.
Public spaces. Green spaces.
Here, have a panoramic view.
Or you could, you know, build a convention center and hotel that offers nothing to those of us who live there.
Then it was time to head back to Nevada, this time on the interstate. The geology was impressive, as usual.
We arrived way before check-in at the Four Queens, so everyone else went to see the Princess Diana exhibit; I wandered lonely as the cloudage just to kill the time.
After we got into our room and rested up a bit, we had a very good — but extremely expensive — dinner at the hotel’s upscale Hugo’s Cellar.
And then: Meow Wolf, in Area 15.
You may recall that my Lovely First Wife and I encountered Meow Wolf’s original installation in Santa Fe during last year’s trip to Grand Canyon. It was such an amazing experience that we were eager to go to OmegaMart, their Las Vegas installation.
Area 15 is more than just Meow Wolf; it’s a huge space with bars and nightspots.
Here’s what greets you when you enter the warehouse.
And we’re off. After clearing security, we entered OmegaMart.
Y’all. You cannot imagine this place. And yet — this is what boggles my mind — someone did imagine this place, and not only imagined it, produced everything you see.
The whole thing is a relentless parody of American consumer capitalism. Your brain just goes sproing as it recognizes all the pieces it sees, but can’t quite put together into a coherent whole.
Did you notice the visual glitch with FRESH DAILY?
The products are almost real.
What are NEG-PLANTS?
You can’t tell, but this thing is the size of a volleyball.
Remember, not only did someone have the idea, they had to make everything you see.
Even without the rest of the installation, the Mart left me breathless with laughter.
Harvesting the zalg. Don’t ask.
DramCorp’s sinister backstory sucked up my Lovely First Wife and Mary Frances fairly soon after we started shopping, but I resisted the urge to (for example) open this freezer case, because I knew what lay beyond. Well, I didn’t know exactly what lay beyond, but I knew that Marc and I had to diligently examine the entire Mart before we… well, you’ll see.
Superpower supplies. (The Schadenfreude is “German-engineered.”)
Health and beauty.
The thing about Meow Wolf’s thing is that the front is just a facade, if you’ll pardon the pun. In Santa Fe, in what seemed a normal-seeming suburban home, you opened the refrigerator and found a portal into a bizarre multiverse. In OmegaMart, there were any number of innocent-looking paths: behind the meat counter, stairs to the employee lounge, the freezer cabinet, and suddenly…
There’s always some sinister backstage story to what’s going on, and the more driven among you may want to find all the clues and put all the pieces of the storyline together. I was just there for the art, but essentially DramCorp’s family owners had a dispute about their research into aliens/alternate realities/leveling humanity up — or something like that.
The space is huge and chaotic and multilevel. OmegaMart is much more high-tech/electronic than Santa Fe; both are amazing.
It’s clear that whatever they were doing, something went wrong.
Have a panorama from the second level.
Some staggering beauty. This room was all windows like this. (It’s made of layers of engraved plexiglass, with each layer lit in turn.)
Simple yet compelling.
In a glass case, geometric solids extend into infinity.
There was a room with lasers, which if you blocked with your hand, created music. There was another room with a machine that allowed you to create music with beats and tones. The rooms and art pieces went on and on. DramCorp employees were on hand to offer answers or suggestions — or warnings.
The main big room had a 15–20 minute video playing over the entire surface of the undulating walls, with a kind of record of DramCorp’s research, from math/geometrics to single cells to Alex Grey-style faces to star people. Who needs hallucinogens when Meow Wolf has done the work for you?
On the road to Canyonlands National Park, our final destination.
The usual diary of our planet’s checkered past…
The La Sal Mountains being a bit ominous.
The drive into the park only hinted at the nature of the place.
Across the street from the visitors center, large expanses of bare rock…
…huge tracts of land. Note the humans for scale.
And then you’re at the rim.
You will have noticed the segment of road on the right. Most of the park is inaccessible to mortals without 4-wheel drive or who are not dedicated hikers. In fact, several of the regions aren’t even accessible from the main entrance. You have to go all the way back to Moab and start over in a different direction to reach the southern regions. Welcome to Canyonlands.
Driving out to the first viewpoint. You’re on a plateau, and it all looks normal.
On the path out to the viewpoint. Aren’t these lovely?
A close-up. I have no idea what they are, but if I lived out here they’d be in my front yard.
And there it is.
We have our very own Half Dome here. And see that big boulder in the lower left? Remember: It was not always there.
On the way to the next viewpoint. The cloudage was doing its thing, this time with downpours in the distance.
Just when you think you’ve seen all the erosion…
This here is what we call a “vista.”
You could clamber down some stairs and stroll along the rim for a bit. I opted not to…
… but my Lovely First Wife took the chance.
I think the thing that amazes me about this landscape is that it’s like recursive canyons. You’re standing at the rim of a 1,000-foot drop, looking down at another rim of another canyon.
This park was created in the 1960s. Part of the Johnson administration was thinking about damming the Colorado here, but wiser minds claimed it as a national park. (You can see bits of the Colorado, but these photos aren’t that detailed.)
I try to remember to look close by as well. The infinite forms erosion gives us is mindbending.
Piñon, I think?
Another conifer, not a bristlecone, but isn’t it lovely?
Finally, we hit the road to St. George, a five-hour drive. Cloudage was magnificent…
… or weird…
… or adorable.
We dined at the Spotted Pony, which is located in this really cool complex of shops and restaurants. Newnan City Council, this is what the Brown Steel property should be. I know you want a convention center, but how about something that we citizens can use on a regular basis?
In that same complex was Spiritual, a craft cocktail bar recommended to me by Goat, a dear burner friend. And when I say “craft,” I mean craft cocktails. It was late, so I had only one (a cedar-smoked Old-Fashioned). Pity.