All posts by Keith

I consider it a good day if you find yourself in a torn Army green t-shirt, using a badly notched machete to split open a coconut and hand half of it to the scantily clad woman sitting on the beach next to you as you stare out at the waves and listen intently for the sound of war drums drifting from the dense foliage of the jungle behind you.
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Breakneck Ridge, New York

There are a lot of pluses and a good number of minuses to living in a place like New York City. Among the pluses is that, if you time it so as to miss the traffic and drive in the right direction, it doesn’t take long for the city itself and its surrounding sprawl to melt away and be replaced by the forested peaks and craggy ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains, or whatever it is that the yankees up here have named them. Ninety minutes can put you anywhere from the Delaware Water Gap along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border to Bear Mountain along the Hudson River, or maybe the Shawagunks in New Paltz, home to some of the best climbing on the east coast.

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Canoes on the Gowanus Canal

“Hold on, hold on!” I shouted into the cell phone pressed against my ear in a vain and laughable attempt to seal out the cacophony of a passing delivery truck with a faulty muffler as it scurried out of the way of a fire engine.

“I can’t hear a damn thing,” I said, more to myself than to the distant, tinny voice trickling forth from the phone and struggling to be heard over the din with a determined might (or is it desperation?) not unlike that exhibited by those baby sea turtles who plunge for the first time into the unforgiving sea and must paddle wildly in flight from the myriad predators lined up to gobble them whole. I did my best to pin the phone between my shoulder and head so I could free my hands for scrawling down the directions on the rare event that I was able to hear them. Let’s see. Downtown F train at West 4th. Take that to the Carroll Street stop in Brooklyn. Leave the subway station and look for 2nd Street…

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Meramec Caverns

I am a sucker for a lot of things. A pretty smile, a nice pair of legs, a bottle of bourbon. I’m also a sucker for a good cave tour, or even a bad cave tour, and if you want to read some horrifying Freudian meaning into that, be my guest. It won’t affect my enjoyment of women, liquor, or cave tours in the slightest. A grew up an easy day trip to Mammoth Cave, the biggest cave system in the world, or at least that’s the record as I remember it. And my grandfather’s farm was pock-marked with caves, many of which were large enough for a kid high on Mark Twain adventures to explore, provided they weren’t staked out by a pack of wild dogs. That I have never outgrown my fascination with caves means that, even at my more advanced age, I rarely pass up a cave tour.

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A Limited Cocktail

When America jumped headfirst into the ocean of folly that was the Volstead Act and Prohibition, the dedicated drinkers of the United States found any number of ways to respond to the madness. Over in Paris, ex-patriots drinking at the epicenter of the modern cocktail scene, Harry’s New York Bar, lifted their glasses in salute to their luckless countrymen who were forced underground and, in some cases, out beyond the three-mile limit that marked the offshore end of the US border. Three miles out, you entered international waters, and the powers of the US government to take your drink away vanished. So enterprising imbibers took to the high seas to enjoy their libations. Over in France, it seemed only appropriate to commemorate this new breed of seafarin’ revelers.

And so Harry’s bartender Chips Brighton paid tribute to Prohibition in the most fitting way he could: by creating a cocktail called The Three-Mile Limit.

Three-Mile Limit

  • 1 tsp Grenadine
  • 1 dash lemon juice
  • 2/3 Brandy
  • 1/3 Bacardi Rum
  • Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

When the US government got tired of people hopping on boats and sailing three miles off the coast to legally booze it up, they responded by passing a law that extended the border to twelve miles off the coast — which, I guess, means determined nautical drinkers had to invest in slightly more gasoline, or you had to find yourself a slightly more accomplished captain. The cocktail world responded by beefing up the Three-Mile Limit in similar fashion, giving birth to both the Twelve Miles Out, which appeared in the essential Savoy Cocktail Book by legendary bartender Harry Craddock (who himself relocated to London during Prohibition), and the better known (relatively speaking) Twelve-Mile Limit, reportedly created by journalist Tommy Millard. Despite both saluting the limits of the reaches of Prohibition, the two drinks are fairly different:

Twelve Miles Out

  • 1/3 Bacardi Rum
  • 1/3 Swedish Punch
  • 1/3 Calvados
  • Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

Twelve-Mile Limit

  • 1 oz White Rum
  • 1/2 oz Rye
  • 1/2 oz Brandy
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Where the agents of Prohibition pushed the limit by tacking on nine more miles (interestingly, that limit was only a threat — albeit an enforced one — until 1988, when Ronald Reagan made it official law), cocktail creators pushed the limit by adding rye whiskey to the mix. This being a Prohibition era cocktail, the rye would have been Canadian. However, I don’t think anyone will fault you for substituting a superior American rye these days, just as I don’t think anyone will tsk you for choosing a rum other than Bacardi. For your rye, try Sazerac Rye or Bulleit Rye.

In general, the Twelve-Mile Limit is considered the the stronger and better balanced of the cocktails, relatively speaking. I’ve tried the Twelve-Mile Limit as mixed by bartender Vince at Ward III. Prohibition era cocktails are not for everyone, mind you, and what’s one drinker’s pleasure is another’s horror. A friend with exquisite taste in cocktails found the Twelve-Mile Limit to be utterly dreadful. I love it, likely because the lemon juice pushes the flavor toward another personal favorite, the French 75. It is very lemony, though, and very sweet, so if you don’t favor drinking a highly alcoholic Lemonhead, you’re probably going to be chalking this one up to historical experience. I’d say any good Repeal Day celebration (December 5) calls for sampling both the Three- and Twelve-Mile Limits, and you might as well have yourself a Twelve Miles Out as well, just to be safe.

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Moonraker

Casino Royale, the story of high-stakes, espionage-infused gambling that introduced the world to James Bond. Fearing that the book might not be a success, Fleming’s friends urged him to begin work on a second novel even before the verdict came back on his first, figuring that after two novels, you’re in the professional writing groove, where as waiting around to have your first novel fail is going to take you out of the game pretty quickly. Fleming and his chums needn’t have worried. Casino Royale did quite well, but the follow-up, the voodoo-tinged spy thriller Live and Let Die, did even better, and was a much better book to boot.

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Laura La Plante

Laura La Plante was one of the luminaries of silent era cinema, making a name for herself when she was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, a promotional stunt arranged by the United States Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers to promote up and coming new actresses. During the 1920s, she appeared in more than sixty films, including one of our personal favorites, 1928’s The Cat and the Canary. Like many, her career did not survive the transition to talkies, and though she was the lead candidate to replace Myrna Loy in the Thin Man series when that star was mulling over the notion of leaving the films, Loy ultimately decided to stay and that was about it for La Planta, who moved to London, worked occasionally, but more or less went into retirement, emerging in the 1950s to do a turn on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life and, later in life, at a Night of a 100 Stars event during the 1980s.

But we love her for her role as a plucky heiress surrounded by sinister events in The Cat and the Canary — and we love her for the free spirit that sometimes led her to have a problem keeping her clothes on, including a stint as a nude model.

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Arashiyama & The Iwatayama Monkey Park

When one visits Kyoto, Japan, one expects to spend the bulk of the time there visiting a long parade of temples. And that’s exactly what we did, and for the most part, it was time well spent. However, there comes a time in every unwashed heathen’s life when he simply needs a break from serene Buddhas and hordes of schoolkids, and in those times, a man is well served by hopping the train to the small town of Arashiyama in order to hike Mt. Arashiyama and, if all goes well, see one of his friends attacked by an irritable monkey.

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Live & Let Die

When Casino Royale proved to be a major success for first-time author Ian Fleming, the call went out for a continuation of the adventures of Commander James Bond. Luckily, Fleming was ahead of the game and had already started working on a follow-up. Because, they reasoned, if Casino Royale bombs, you won’t be in the mood to write another book. Live and Let Die pits Bond against Harlem-based SMERSH operative Mr. Big, who is using a curtain of superstition and voodoo to mask a treasure smuggling operation funding Russian spy hijinks. Live and Let Die finds the franchise on ground more familiar to Bond movie fans, who maybe found the last book confronted them with a sort of proto-Bond, an emotional and sometimes petulant agent who was far less ruthless and efficient than one might expect — at least until the final sentence, when we witness the birth of James Bond as popular culture would come to know him.

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The Sound of Spying

“My dear girl there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.” — James Bond, Goldfinger

When you think spies, chances are you think of James Bond. Unless, that is, you happen to be looking at deported Russian spy Anna Chapman’s photo spread for the Russian edition of Maxim (there’s a 99% chance that any article about these photos will be titled “The Cold War Heats Up”). There are plenty of elements that go into making and so have become defining factors of the Bond films. The clothes, the cars, the exotic locations, the women, the booze — and of course, the music.

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Biking Hither Hills State Park

One fine July day, while better cyclists were battling for a yellow jersey in France, we drove up to Montauk on the far tip of Long Island for a day of trail and mountain biking in Hither Hills state park. It was a gorgeous day, and despite getting caught in crawling parade of Hamptons traffic on our way up and the sundry tailgating, over-aggressive at 10mph assholes those towns seem to attract, there was nothing that could dim our spirits on such a beautifully hot, sunny July day.

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