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Springtime in the Rockies

I think the song “When it’s Springtime in the Rockies” was written by the cousin of a friend of mine.  It was written for a movie soundtrack in the 1930s.  There is nothing quite like driving up to 10,000 feet in May and seeing the Quaking Aspen clothed in the most delicate of greens that you can imagine.  The most dynamic example of that green is in the Manti La Sal Mountain Range, just East of Moab, Utah.  Think about coming up from the red rock desert to the alpine green of the forest.  I drove up that way one May a long time ago with a friend of mine in a VW Bus.  He had quit drinking and was using pills to get through the days and nights.The peacefulness of the mountains was calming to both of us.  I was living in Anchorage, Alaska and had come down to Southern Utah to warm up and visit old friends.  The side trip up to the mountains was a spur of the moment decision and one we were both happy we made.  We only stayed up in the mountains for two days but the memory has not faded with time.

Just crusin’ along listening to Leon Russell

Bill and Nada’s

Every town has an iconic restaurant, bar, music venue or some other memorable hangout.  The city I grew up in had more than one.  One of my favorites was the original Ruth’s; up Emigraton Canyon.  Ruth held forth in an old train car and like many women today –  Ruth showed her guns every day.  No matter how cold or blustery the weather, Ruth would stand behind the counter in a flowery sundress.  Ruth would grill you a hamburger in an electric frying pan and serve it up on round Wonder Bread.  Ruth was never shy in expressing her opinion regarding your opinion, dress or manners.

If you needed a 24 hour joint then Bill and Nada’s was just the ticket.  Specials on the menu included “Brains and Eggs” and the always popular “Pan Fried Rabbit”.  By the time I started to go to Bill and Nada’s, Nada was already gone and Bill was a frisky widower.  There was one waitress who had worked there for a very long time.  We used to joke that she and Bill had something going on.  The story goes that one night the waitress’s husband came into Bill and Nada’s and shot Bill seven times.  Of course, Bill lived to tell the tale.  Bill always served Del Monte Catsup made with pineapple vinegar and you could get anything in a paper bag to-go.

Bill and Nada’s is long gone now, Ruth’s has been gentrified and enlarged, Snappy Service no longer sits on Social Hall Avenue but many of the hidden gems do exist.  Try to search one out for yourself and experience the joy of a varied and surprising menu and the unique personalities behind the marquee.

Shortest Day vs Longest Night

The Northern Lights are probably the most impressive astronomical event I have ever seen.  The only things that come close are the comets Halle Bop and Kahoutek.  The Aurora Borealis crackle across the sky.  They shimmer and wave with green, red and yellow colors.  We don’t see them here in Prescott but I still imagine them.  On a walk, on a cold, clear night it seems like they may be possible.  The Solstice in on my mind. It seems to be little understood these days. When I was eighteen I worked in a new planetarium in Salt Lake City and we gave tours to school children and the general public every day. We had “moon rocks” which were a real novelty; since we hadn’t been to the moon yet. We would explain the solstices and the equinoxes, Northern Lights, nebulae, and the new concept of black holes. When you would get a group of kids in the star chamber, explain pitch and roll, and give one of them the joystick, hold on to your lunch. http://Northern Lights

 

When I was 18 I worked in a new planetarium in Salt Lake City.  One of the best star shows that the engineers produced was the one about the Winter Solstice.  Sometimes I think about living in the far North, seeing that low winter sun slide across the Southern horizon in midday, and I understand the fear that the sun won’t return to warm you.  So, the celebration of the Winter Solstice ensures that the days will get longer again and crops can be planted and that they will grow.  Perhaps the Solstice is the reason for the season.  There was a rough cop show on TV a few seasons ago called “Low Winter Sun”.  It was set in Detroit, in the winter, with very little light.  The cops were crooked and brutal with each other and with the criminal class.  There was little light or warmth and the story line seemed only too true.  I miss that show.

HOT BUTTERED RUM

This cold weather makes me think of things that warm me up.  There is always the wool long underwear that is something of an anti-fashion statement and the lovely, internally warming Hot Buttered Rum.  That is also the name of a charming winter song by Rosalie Sorrels.

The first time I had a Hot Buttered Rum was in Alaska during the pipeline construction in 1975.  We were at the ski resort Alyeska for the day and then went to the Double Musky to warm up.  Those warm rum drinks did the trick.

The other songs that remind me of winter are Johnny Mathis singing “The Christmas Song” and for some strange reason Lenny Welch singing”You Made Me Leave my Happy Home”.  It probably has to do with making out in a cold car with the radio on.  One of my boyfriends had a TR3 and the side curtains would get fogged up but if you wiped them from the inside if would leave permanent marks.  That was one cold little English car.

All of this musing about the cold winters of the past has inspired me to create a warm drink for all of you.  During December we are serving our house made Hot Buttered Rum.  Our version is made with our Pear Spiced Rum, butter, brown sugar and a blend of freshly ground spices.  Warm up your tummy.

Dead Horse Point

I remember the first trip I made to Dead Horse Point.  It was in 1972, more or less, one of my friends was doing his conscientious objector assignment in Moab.  I believe he was doing general psychiatric work and running the first drug crisis center.

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We drove down to Moab in a big maroon Buick, the Riviera with the pointed back.  My friend had just won $20,000 in Las Vegas, at the Sands, playing 21 on acid and he traded his VW Bus for the Buick.  It was more suitable for a successful gambler than a hippie in coveralls.  We picked up the wife of our CO friend, loaded the cooler with cold Coors, and headed out to the point.

The view was really amazing and we sat and talked, walked the trails, watched lizards and tossed small rocks over the edge.  During the day one of the first motorhomes pulled up, really strange looking people, and their dog was even stranger – the first real Boston Terrier we had ever seen.  This was decades before Spuds McKenzie. After an amazing day we climbed back into the huge Buick and headed East.  It was hot, I open a cold Coors and it sprayed on me.  It felt so good that I poured the rest of the can over my head and popped another.  On the cassette was the new release Abraxas by Santana – perfect.  When we got back to Moab we listened to Leon Russell – Shelter People in tow – and finished our beer.

The have been many trips to Dead Horse Point since that day but none had quite the symmetry of that drive in the Buick in altered states with the great music and good friends.

This is one memory of you Brucikins.

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Fear, Loathing, Wishing & Hoping

Baring acts of God and any other imaginary beings we should have our tasting room open in about three weeks.  We have plenty of shot glasses – we ordered our own and we also purchased, at an antique store, some old guy’s collection.  It is worth perusing.

I went “marketing” on Thursday.  This involved visiting each bar on Whiskey Row, talking up the distillery, and personally demonstrating my ability to appreciate a good cocktail.  We left coasters and shot glasses and a plethora of good cheer and good will.

When we first started the conceptual part of this enterprise I was opposed to the manufacture of rum.  I couldn’t find a way, with my limited knowledge of Western history, to tie rum to our particular part of the terra.  But one day I found myself rereading the Dominguez-Escalante Journal.  These two intrepid explorers, Frey Dominquez and Frey Escalante, basically circumnavigated our part of the West.  Those of us from these parts tend to always refer to Escalante first but actually Dominguez was the leader of the expedition.  The Department of the Interior Grand Staircase National Monument was named after Frey Escalante.  Of course they had Rum!  They came up through Central America and Mexico and by the end of a dry, salty, parching day a draw of smooth, dark, soothing, relaxing rum was just the thing to wash down a strip of jerky or a scrawny jackrabbit at the end of a long day.  While our culinary options here in Prescott are usually a step or two above the fare described above , we still need a cocktail with bitters or a shot of high proof bourbon to insure the health of our digestive system.

I recently dined at a local restaurant called BIGA here in Prescott and the food was fresh well prepared and presented.  They also have a full bar and the camaraderie at the bar was in full swing.  While Jackrabbit was not on the menu the salmon and the ribeye were great.  Biga is an Italian word that describes the starter you make a day ahead for light, crispy Italian breads such as Ciabatta or Fougasse.  Support your local culinary literati and visit Biga.

Life After Death

Have you ever noticed how individuals continue to evolve after they die?  Maybe it doesn’t happen in every family but it does in mine. One of my uncles, who we will call Cal for convenience, led a life after death that was completely different than the one he had lived as a mortal.  He achieved personal and professional successes that were unprecedented in his life and he became one of the greatest lovers of the twentieth century.  He continued to change and make brilliant comments on contemporary issues until thirty years after his death.  Once his wife passed away, early in 2013, he became silent.  I remember him most for his untied shoes, Olympic class smoking and his great idea to blast all our nuclear waste into space.  He also made a great Silver Fizz.  I can only hope that our Gurley Street Gin will end up in a Gin Fizz as good as Uncle Cal’s.

 

I have been thinking about death a lot lately and wondering if it’s not just the good that die young but also just the beautiful.  Whenever people present a photo of a relative or friend who died young the viewer invariably comments on how beautiful they were.  I’m wondering if it is less of a loss if they weren’t beautiful or if everyone who dies young is indeed beautiful. One of my friends tells me that I am too cynical and that youth always has its own beauty.  I’m not sure.  There were several girls in junior high that would have been distasteful even in death.  Perhaps it is just the Dorian Gray effect captured in digital eternity.  At any rate, according to a note in a well respected medical journal, alcohol consumption is good for your autoimmune system, and at the very least you look a lot better when I drink.

Worries and Foxes

I guess we all need things to worry about.  Space junk, meteorites, foreigners and now the evidence that mule meat sold by Walmart in China contains fox meat.  Hard to believe, I know.  One comment that I read queried, “isn’t fox meat more expensive than mule meat?”.  Undoubtedly so, but is it better in a burger?

Walmart grosses only 1 Trillion dollars in sales in China right now and has plans to add 100 new outlets.  That’s a lot of foxes.Here at Thumb Butte we are worried about the color of our FRP (fiberglass reinforced panels) and how deep the trenches need to be for our new waste lines.  Mundane little issues but close to our heart.We are really focusing on the mash bill for our single malt whiskey and the herbs that will come through the infuser in our Western Gin.  The British actor, that portrayed the marine who became a terrorist on Homeland stated that he believed the citizens of the USA were motivated and controlled by fear.  While there are many real things that cause fear, including Mothra and Rodan, who are actually Japanese, you will not fear the authenticity of our products.We are really in the trenches now, literally and figuratively.  Bottles ordered, labels confirmed, sign to go up next week.

Here is a New Year’s photo from my little road-trip.

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Watching the River Flow

I am sitting here, East of Moab, watching the Colorado River flow. On the far shore there is a family of river otters playing and diving for fish.  It is cold and clear and the red cliffs, with their desert varnish, are topped with white white snow like giant red cream puffs.  Yummo

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I have an old friend who lives just over the hill in Castle Valley – a little slice of heaven.  I claim that I taught him to make-out and French kiss.  This was when I was 16 and he was 14.  We were at the drive-in movie watching “The Longest Day”.  He now claims that he was scared and it was one of the longest nights of his life.  I think that he should own up to the fact that it was probably one of the best nights of his life.

We are talking about our decisions for the distillery regarding bottles, labels, etc. Last Friday we visited The Arizona Distilling Company in Tempe.  They opened their doors last April.  They are making a Bourbon and a wheat whiskey.  We also tasted a gin that they had just made that was fragrant with lavender.  They are the second distillery to open in Arizona since prohibition and we plan to be the third.  We have all of our licenses now and are ready to start producing.

I will keep you posted on the progress.

Waiting

It almost has the same feeling as being pregnant, everything is in suspension.  We are “expecting” our TTB license by next week and our building permits, for the remodeling, by Monday.

Bids for concrete, bids on plumbing, bids for the huge new fort that will surround our dumpster.  This will make the dumpster cosmetically acceptable.  Is this even possible?  And what is wrong with cracks in concrete anyway?  Isn’t that where the “light gets in” according to Leonard Cohen?
bear arriving by truck to the delight of 3 men

I could use a little light today.  Feeling buried in credit applications from wholesalers, decisions about bottles – China or Canada- decisions about corks, labels, logo, merchandise, etc.

I just reread Duane’s Depressed by Larry McMurtry. This book is a sequel to The Last Picture Show by about 45 years.  The protagonist is now 62 and disappointed in general about life.  He has done what was expected, done the right thing, but feels personally disappointed.  How do you justify life in your 60’s and 70’s.  Do you still need to learn and grow and contribute or is golf, TV, shopping and trips in motor homes enough?  I think that by the end of the book Duane figures it out and gives hope to the rest of us.

Making vodka, gin and whiskey may get us over this hump of questioning for awhile but hopefully we will feel the challenge every day of making the best product and being fully engaged with the world.  That may be too much to ask from a bottle of spirits but just maybe they didn’t start calling it spirits by chance.

This is our bear arriving at the distillery.  He will be our mascot.  We will keep you posted on his movements.

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