Undocumented Travels with a surprisingly happy ending

This past week my Lovely First Wife and I took off on a trip. Normally I blog our travels, but since this trip was mostly my Lovely First Wife’s pilgrimage and I didn’t anticipate anything actually exciting, I decided against it.

But now the truth can be told.

We were headed first to Wetumpka, AL, and then to Laurel, MS. The more discerning among you are nodding your heads sagely in recognition of the Lovely First Wife’s fangirling of Hometown and Hometown Makeover, HGTV’s charming shows hosted by Ben and Erin Napier, an adorable young couple who have made bank by first renovating homes in their hometown of Laurel and then the downtown area of Wetumpka, revitalizing tourism in both.

How can I put this? The real masters of those two shows are the cinematographer and editor: when you’re actually in those two lovely towns you realize how much was just off-camera. Like, a lot.

Laurel, for example, is not this quaint little town. It’s big, really big, and just out of shot of the quaint main street area on the show are concrete and glass office buildings. Wetumpka has a lot going for it and really does seem to be leaning in on its artsy persona, but again, there’s a lot you didn’t see on the teevee.

(Fun fact: the Chamber of Commerce lady featured in Hometown Makeover is a bundle of energy and used to teach art at Poplar Road Elementary here in Coweta County. Also, in both towns, the food was very good, so if you decide to go we have recommendations.)

For its part, Laurel has a whole district of stunning 19th-century homes that are not in need of Ben and Erin’s help.

And both have torn up the very streets we were there to see.

To be clear, I am denigrating neither the towns nor HGTV’s artful presentation of them, but I would advise anyone thinking it would be fun to make the pilgrimage to consider that perhaps since the reality has been transmogrified into entertainment, being content with the entertainment rather than the reality is a choice they might want to make.

Particularly since the drive is mind-numbingly, butt-numbingly boring. We’re talking two of the poorest states in the nation, and some of the poorest areas in each, so the charms of Wetumpka/Laurel are more than counterbalanced by the shuttered main streets we passed. I was angrier than I needed to be on a pleasure jaunt.

But let that pass. Part of the plan was that once we got to Laurel we would decide whether or not we would press on to New Orleans, which we did. Here’s where the hilarity sets in.

My brain was fried from driving through Alabama and Mississippi, folks, so it should not have been a surprise when we arrived at Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery on Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans on Wednesday that I had made reservations via Hotel Tonight for Thursday. It took a while, but Roberto at Hotel Tonight finally straightened it out. (It just now occurs to me that all I had to do was make an additional reservation on the spot for Wednesday night. As I said, my brain was fried.)

How fried was my brain? At 4:30 in the morning, I awoke, suddenly concerned that I had misremembered my license plate number on the parking form. Was it 3441 or 1134? Even more suddenly I realized that it didn’t matter because we weren’t in my car. I had filled out the form for the wrong vehicle.

I slipped on my kilt and some shoes and went down to the front desk, where the desk clerk actually giggled at my dilemma. I didn’t blame her.

Needless to say, my Lovely First Wife’s car was already booted.

The desk clerk sent emails to correct my mistake, and I returned to the room, where my Lovely First Wife also giggled at me. ::sigh::

ANYWAY.

Here’s the point. We had a great time in New Orleans: fantastic food, phenomenal cocktails, and I bought a new hat that does not make me look like Kid Rock.

I also bought a Picasso.

It’s Woman and Clown, a lithograph, about 12”x9”, and so enamored was I that this is all I know about it. (It’s being shipped, so I’ll have more details once I can really give it my full attention.) I bought it because the figure of the old man resonates with my whole 3 Old Men burn theme camp thing, and that is dear to me.

But first I bought this:

We were on Royal Street, stopping in galleries that had stuff that appealed to us, and at Elliott Gallery there was a stairway over on the side, kind of hidden around a corner, and on the wall of the stairway was this piece, about 3’x2’, unlabeled and unpriced. I had been looking at a Miró lithograph, but this piece struck me. I inquired the price, and — this was before I had bought the Picasso — it was affordable. I bought it.

Here’s the brilliant part. I had assumed the scrawl in the lower left was the artist’s signature, but his name is actually Thomas Hamann. The title of the work I had just bought was IKARUS: Icarus.

And yes, I decided on the spot to splurge and return to Windsor Fine Art Gallery to buy the Picasso as well.

So this has been a very exciting trip after all. Now we’re heading home. Via interstate, thank you.

Random postscript: I have received more compliments on my kilt everywhere we’ve been than ever in my fifteen years of wearing one. Thanks, Utilikilt!

Cocktails with friends

This past weekend I was invited to attend a fully-vaccinated, outdoor event by Camp Shameless, a burn theme camp who pretty much lives up to their charming name. I took cocktails for the happy hour before dinner on Saturday night, and they were a hit. Here, for those who are interested, are the recipes, with advice.

(Note: I served these on the rocks at the burn, but the first three are usually served without ice.)

No photos, alas.

Naked & Famous

  • ¾ oz mezcal
  • ¾ oz Aperol
  • ¾ oz yellow Chartreuse
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • garnish lime slice

Shake with ice; pour into glass. Adorn with lime slice.

Thunderer

This one is a little complicated, but worth it. The Honey Arbol Ginger Syrup is an extra step, but not hard.

  • 1 ½ oz bourbon (or gin/tequila/rum)
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz Honey Arbol Ginger Syrup
  • garnish: slice of arbol chile

Shake with ice; pour into glass. Adorn with the slice of arbol.

Honey Arbol Ginger Syrup

  • ¾ c orange blossom honey
  • ¼ c boiling water
  • 2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ½-inch piece chile de árbol (I use dried)

Directions

Put the honey and water in a blender and stir until the honey dissolves. Add the ginger and chile and blend on high speed until the ginger is pulverized. Strain through a chinois or cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Let the syrup cool to room temperature. Transfer to a small jar or bottle and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Charlie Chaplin

  • 1 oz apricot liqueur
  • 1 oz sloe gin
  • 1 oz lime juice

Shake with ice; pour into glass.

Cedar & Sorghum

(This is one of my inventions, essentially a Manhattan with stuff in it.)

  • 2 oz rye
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 barspoon cedar tincture*
  • 1 barspoon bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup
  • 2 dashes Woodford Reserve Sassafras & Sorghum bitters
  • garnish: orange peel

*To make the cedar tincture, char cedar wrap/paper (the kind you use for grilling) with your flame, then soak it in vodka/Everclear until it is a dark amber.

Stir with ice; pour over ice. Express the orange peel over the drink, toss it in.

[notes: When do you shake vs. stir? Cocktails with citrus juices, milk, and/or egg whites are shaken; otherwise stir. James Bond was asking for a more-diluted martini when he asked for his “shaken, not stirred.” To “express” a citrus peel, simply hold it over the drink and squish it suddenly. You’ll be surprised and delighted at the oils that spurt out. Finally, I tend to add the bitters after the pour so that the aromas are foremost, but feel free to add them to the mixing.]

Rose-Colored G

(This is another invention of mine.)

Again, an extra step, but this one is so easy that it hardly counts.

  • 1 ½ oz gin
  • tonic water
  • hibiscus-infused gin floated*
  • allspice bitters floated*

*For the hibiscus-infused gin, soak a handful of dried hibiscus blossoms in gin for 2–4 hours. Strain, store. For the bitters, I’ve used both Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters and Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters. Other bitters with predominant allspice notes would also work. Or play with other bitters — that’s the fun of cocktails.

Make yourself a gin & tonic, leaving room in the glass. Carefully pour the hibiscus-infused gin on top. Add 3–5 drops of bitters on top of that. You may add a lime slice if you wish.

New-Fashioned

An Old-Fashioned is one of the granddaddies of cocktails: bourbon with simple syrup and bitters. This is a twist on that.

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz banana liqueur
  • 1 dash Jack Rudy bitters (or other aromatic bitters, like Angostura)
  • garnish: orange peel or cherry

Stir with ice; pour over ice. Garnish at will.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Dishevelment update, 4/15/21

What can I say? I’m loving my dishevelment. After more than a year without a haircut, I’ve become that long-haired guy. I have product, and I’m not afraid to use it. My manbun is unsexy, but otherwise I’m happy with the look.

Having said all that, in rereading some of my blog I have been struck by several haircuts that I wouldn’t mind having again, so I’m also comfortable going back to what passes for normal when the time comes.

New (unnamed) cocktail (but now named)

I’d like to name this one Upside-Down New York Sour, because that’s what it is, but that’s just unwieldy.

A New York Sour is as follows:

New York Sour

  • 2 oz rye or bourbon
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz red wine

Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a highball glass. Float the red wine on top.

It’s a tasty, elegant cocktail; it served as the inspiration for my Rose-Colored G.

Now it has inspired this:

New York Sunset (formerly known as Inverse Sour)

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1-¾ oz oleo saccharum (recipe to follow)
  • ½ oz Barolo Chinato Cocchi

One is supposed to shake any admixture containing citrus juices, but I must admit I just poured the bourbon and oleo saccharum straight into the glass. More work is required. It probably could benefit from a lemon peel garnish as well.

So mix the first two ingredients, and then add the Barolo Chinato Cocchi. I had not considered that this fortified wine might have a different specific gravity than regular red wine, so I was a little disappointed when it didn’t float but rather sank to the bottom. (It occurs to me that this is more like a Tequila Sunrise in looks…)

No matter: It is a very tasty, sophisticated drink.

Note: It is also a fairly expensive drink, given the cost of the Barolo. But if you can swing it, it’s worth it.

Oleo Saccharum Sour Mix

There are multiple versions of this recipe online. This is the one I’ve settled on, but you can do all lemons, or any variety of orange instead of grapefruit.

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 large lemon
  • .4–.5 cup sugar
  • .5 cup lemon juice

Peel the grapefruit and the lemon. Place the peels in a medium bowl; add the sugar.  Muddle the peels with the sugar about a minute.

Leave for 4–6 hours.  The oils from the peels will puddle at the bottom of the bowl.

Add the lemon juice and stir to dissolve all the sugar.

Strain into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Now to name it. Sour Sunrise? Barolo Sunrise? Barolo Sunset? Bloody-Bottomed Sour? Or how about plain old Newnan Sour?

UPDATE: Alan Brown on Facebook has suggested New York Sunset, which I think is perfectly cromulent. I’ll see if it sticks.

UPDATE 2: Having checked to see if such a cocktail with that name already existed — it does not — I am claiming the name for this drink.

Dishevelment update, 1/11/21

No, I still have not gotten a haircut.

It’s been a full year, and I’m rather enjoying my long, luscious locks, actually. They’re long enough to hit my shoulders now; when I pull it back with my Longhair Guys‘ hair ties, it now forms a man-bun rather than a stumpy little ponytail.

Yeah, I’m cool. Especially now that I have cut off the weird strands at my temples that looked more like a Seuss character’s sideburns than not. (Sorry, no photo of that phenomenon.)

Now I’m in the phase of figuring out what most women and dedicated longhair guys already know: how to maintain it so that it doesn’t always look like the mugshot of someone who believes Trump won the election.

The problem is that my hair has always been superfine, and it’s only since I’ve gone gray that it has had any body at all. If I had done this when I was younger, I’d be on my way to pulling off Jared Leto or Elrond at this point. But as you can see, it tends to wave, so I’m having to explore that delicate balance between the RIGHT SHAMPOO, KENNETH, conditioner, and frequency. NOT TO MENTION PRODUCT, KENNETH. Ugh. Too much work.

With vaccines here — I’ve had my first dose — it will eventually be safe enough to get a haircut, and then I will have to face the question: do I want to keep the long hair?

I don’t know. Probably not. It’s a lot to deal with, and I’m really over having to keep it out of my eyes. But I have enjoyed it; it’s been a great way to recognize the disruptive nature of the pandemic. If you can’t break down societal expectations during the plague, when can you?

Onward!

 

What does it MEEEEEAN???

I don’t think I’ve blogged specifically about this, but, you guys, I seem to have a cosmic connection with the New York Times crossword puzzle. Multiple times in a week, either in the daily puzzle or the mega-collection of Sunday puzzles I amuse myself with of an evening (I’m on my second book, thank you very much), something will evince itself in my life that is a direct reference to a clue/answer in the very puzzle I am working on.

It’s bizarre. My Lovely First Wife  is the TV watcher in the family,  and as we sit watching The Crown or The Good Place or whatever hellish Hallmark holiday movie she’s binging, I’ll be working on  a puzzle in my recliner, and pop! as I work on a clue, it’s referenced in Holiday Princess or whatever the hell we’re watching.

Don’t believe me? This just happened and I came upstairs to blog about it.

This morning, a former neighbor dropped by with some fresh-baked bread and a few other things. One of the items in the bag, which she oddly did not mention, was this:

This is a dragon fruit. I knew what it was, but what I didn’t know is what to do with it.

So off I go to the intertubes to find out. First stop, Wikipedia, which alas was all scientific without any regard to those of us who had to consume the thing.

The only thing Wikipedia had to say was this:

Dragon fruit is used to flavor and color juices and alcoholic beverages, such as ‘Dragon’s Blood Punch’ and the ‘Dragotini.’

Alcoholic beverage, you say? Show me that footnote.

Small, Ernest (2011). Top 100 Exotic Food Plants. CRC Press. p. 105. ISBN 9781439856888. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.

I followed the link, which led to:

Did you get that?

An Ivan Dragotini.

Yes.

Well.

Today’s (Nov 25, 2020) New York Times crossword:

THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME TO ME.

What does it meeean???

Dishevelment Update, 11/04/20

For those who are just joining us, I have not had a haircut since Jan 2020 because of THE PANDEMIC, KENNETH, and it doesn’t look as if I’m going to be able to get one any time soon, either. Yes, I know the salons are open, and I see guys every day who clearly have had their locks shorn professionally, but it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m going to be stubborn about this.

I last updated you five months ago, and since then I have moved past hairbands into hair ties, starting with a couple that my Lovely First Wife loaned me and then moving into actual boy hair ties, you guys. I came across the Longhairs last month, and I fell for their charming shtick and their cool products, plus their support of Children with Hair Loss. (I don’t think my hair will get that long, and I’m not sure how many kids want distinguished salt & pepper tresses.) Cool guys.

Here I was last month, with a hair tie.

And here I am yesterday, with my now-leonine dishevelment.

I have to say that this is pretty rakish. I like it. Took me eleven months to get here, but now it’s good.

Pro tip: last month a random encounter with another couple whose male half was also disheveling led me to the use of simple pomade to help control the hair and make it more styled. I bought two pomades to try, one with medium hold/matte finish and the other with light hold/sheen finish. Both work.

And as rakish as I look in selfies, the hair still bothers me if I have work in the labyrinth to do or supper to cook; on goes the hairband. And I have taken to wearing one of the Longhairs hair ties on my wrist like a bracelet so that I can whip that distinguished mane back into a ponytail if necessary.

Because I’m now one of those guys.

More useless

I received an email this morning that wanted me to know that a link on a post I wrote six years ago linked to a Flash game and, in the interest of staying ahead of the Great Flash Doom of December 2020, gave me the link to a safe HTML5 version.

I had no memory of the post or the game — I was still in a post-GHP haze when I wrote it — but thanks, person!

Of course I had to try all the links in the post, and the first one goes to the source: The Useless Web.

Buckle up, because I’m going to waste time this morning.