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Slippin’ On Your Travelling Shoes

th-15Travel…   I like to travel. Usually it’s a place with a great beach (Hawaii, Mexico) where my only decisions are whether to go into warm water or have another cocktail (usually the arrow points to the latter).  This is a very narrow view of the world, but has afforded me wonderful conversations with alleged heretics, blockade runners, utopian community leaders, scary men with dark initiatives, victims of shipwrecks, seedsmen, and midnight ramblers. Some of which I call my friends.

The word travel derives from the French word travail, meaning toil. Only in recent centuries has traveling come to be regarded as a recreational pursuit.  I don’t like to ” toil” and I don’t like to “pursue” unless it is for

a warm water beach and an excellent cocktail – so maybe a traveller I am not, but these following fellows surely are: John Ledyard, Richard Halliburton, and Duncan Hines (yeah, that Duncan Hines).  All three have travelled different paths, some with larger legacies than the others.

thJohn Ledyard was born in Connecticut in 1751.  Quit Dartmouth so he could “ramble more”.  Joined up with Capt. James Cook in the British Navy and saw the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, was the 1st US citizen to touch the western shores of the United States, toured Alaska, then the Bering Sea, back to Hawaii where Cook ran a foul with some of the natives and was stabbed to death, then all the way back to England.  Then on to Paris, where he conceived a bold scheme of exploration with the then American Ambassador to France, Tommy Jefferson, and was backed with dough from the Marquis de Lafayette, on a mission to explore the American continent by proceeding overland through Russia, crossing the Bering Strait, head south through Alaska, then across the American west to eventually Virginia. That is a lot of walking especially on a solo.  Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my chair and walking to the bar.

Well, Johnny didn’t make it. Went as far as eastern Siberia where he was arrested as a suspected spy on orders from  Cathy the Great and sent back to Poland, then eventually to London where he decided to walk from the Red Sea to the Atlantic ocean. Things don’t always work so well for some of those ramblin types and it didn’t work out so well for Johnny. While in Cairo, he accidentally chugged some sulfuric acid and did the big burnout from within (never a good way to go).  John Ledyard was buried in the shifting sand dunes lining the Nile, the location of his grave unknown today. Ledyard was described as a “mad, dreaming romantic” who in his day travelled to five different continents under the “common flag of humanity “.  This guy went the road less travelled and might have gone further if he laid off the sulfuric acid cocktails.th-2

Richard Halliburton was of the dashing sort. Very famous during his days, Richie made travel writing exciting with his globe trotting antics and dare devil deeds.  Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1900, a well bred upbringing and the soft comforts of home could not contain him. “Youth– nothing else worth having in the world…and I have youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what am I going to do with it?  Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideas. Let those who wish have their respectability – I want freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice strikes my fancy, freedom to search in the furthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” And Indulge he did.

th-7Halliburton rode an elephant over the Alps (he named her Miss Elysabethe Dalrymple), flew a crimson red bi-plane upside down over the Taj Mahal (he called his plane the Magic Carpet), dove into the cursed Mayan Well of Death in the Yucatan, swam the length of the Panama Canal (was charged a $0.36 fee), lived on Devils Island, enlisted in the French Foreign legion, took the chief of Dyak headhunters for a ride in his plane and received a gift of 100 shrunken heads for his effort, was the first to climb Mount Fujiyama in midwinter, had a long affair with screen idol Ramon Novarro, built a glass and concrete house above Laguna Beach called ” the Hangover house” in the 1930s which is stillth-5 there today, climbed the Matterhorn, and wrote about all his exploits in travel books and magazines which made him quite wealthy.

On March 3rd 1939 Halliburton began to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. The Sea Dragon was a th-8gaudily decorated 75 ft.ship that looked better than it floated, and was more properly suited for a ride at Disneyland than challenging the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Hong Kong in route to San Francisco with a crew of 7, the “Dragon” ran into a typhoon. ” Southernly Gales…Rain Squalls…Leeward Rail Under Water…Wet Bunks…Hardtack Bully Beef…Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here Instead Of Me.” were the last words coming from the  Sea Dragon. The search turned up nothing. Richard Halliburton and crew had disappeared under the waves.  He was 39 years old.

Duncan Hines was a road weary traveling salesman who worked for a Chicago printer. By 1935 and at the age of 55 th-13Duncan had eaten a lot of good and bad grub across the US of A. Old Dunc and his wife Flo began assembling a list for friends of good restaurants around the country which became so popular he put the recommendations in a paperback and called it ” Adventures in Good Eating”. One such listing in 1939 read: Corbin, KY, Court and Cafe, open all year except Xmas 24 hr. service Sizzling Steaks, fried chicken, country ham Lunch $.50-$1.00 Dinner $.60 -$1.00  Good Eats ! Duncan claims he traveled 2 million miles across this great land and the phrase ” Recommended by Duncan Hines” became something to strive for. He started a newspaper article called ” Adventures in Good Eating at Home” with recipes acquired from the best restaurants he enjoyed. He even introduced Duncan Hines Bread to the world through the Durkee’s Bakery. Hines sold the rights to his name which was eventually bought by Proctor and Gamble. He never pretended to be a cake dude , but enjoyed the accolades of the most moistness of all the cakes. Big D died of the Big C at the age of 71.

th-18Moist cakes, shrunken heads, and sulfuric acid cocktails are all a big reach for me.  Now a traveller maybe I’m not, but I like three limes with my Anejo Rum and soda, warm water at my feet, and a good sunset. I sit having the docility of an old Springer Spaniel and in these days I am less excitable just more preoccupied. In  my tiny narrow view of the world – the world for the most part, is a beautiful place.  For me, these days, it’s perhaps more appreciated than trampled upon.  Groove.

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The Man Who Would Be King…of Abalonia

whiskey-on-the-rocksI think having a drink with someone is important and should be done frequently.  Sometimes you need to have 3 (I haven’t forgotten you Nelson), but the number is only important when you consider who is across the table from you.  Good stories usually dribble out – sometimes tales of bad behavior, sometimes delicate dreams that held sway in longing hearts that were then torn asunder.  Perhaps a combination of truth and lies from the hidden caves of misery or the joyful fountains of happiness.  Or it could mean being drowned in a torrent of repeated endless jabber by one who is over-served and your only wish is for some terrible medical emergency to envelope this person or at worst, envelope yourself.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood, Jr.  Not because Joe and his Dad (Joe Sr.) became the first father / son to make the cut at the US

Open Golf Championship in 1948.  Not because Joe starred in eleven “Joe Palooka” films and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood because he tried to build his own country on top of a shallow seamount  100 miles directly west of San Diego called Cortes Bank.  The Bank rises from a depth of more

Joe Palooka

Joe Palooka

than a mile, up to the shallowest peak, called Bishop Rock, a mere 3-6 feet from the surface depending on the tide.  It is here where some of the biggest waves on earth, some 60′, 70′, 100′ high, rise from the depths and it is here where Joe wanted to sink a 334 ft. concrete ship weighing five thousand tons, surround it with huge boulders from a quarry in Ensenada, and become King of the country of Abalonia.  Joe and his pals were nation builders and what is amazing is not that these Founding Fathers of Abalonia failed, but how close they came to succeeding.  Sit down Joe, I’m buying.

Joe and his confederates assembled at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach on Nov.13th, 1966 and were ready to shove off.  Joe showed up in pressed pleated khaki trousers, a cashmere sweater, and a pair of fur apres-ski boots. Perfect wear for sinking a ship, placing boulders in the middle of the ocean, and declaring your throne.  There were 3 ships involved: the concrete 334 ft. Jalisco which was being towed by tug to Cortes Bank from San Francisco after being purchased for $80,000, the Rainbow’s End which was the center of communication control, and the Polaris which was given the job of coordinating the five barges of large boulders being brought up from Ensenada.  The general plan was to scuttle the Jalisco atop Bishops Rock in shallow water and surround the ship with ever expanding rings of boulders so she could be used as a seafood processing factory.  Joe and his crew figured that international maritime law would allow them to become the rulers of their own nation because Cortes Bank was in international waters.

As the strange flotilla was trying to gather, Kirkwood’s plan hit the news and drew the attention of the city San Diego, the U.S. Army Corpsth-9 of Engineers, and U.S. Attorney Edwin Miller.  Was Joe a commie sympathizer who wanted to set up his own private Cuba with missiles pointed at the Hotel Del Coronado?  What if the Abalonians decided to restrict fishing in their newly claimed territorial waters? What if Joe got together with the Mob Guys in Vegas and set up a casino?  Many questions and no answers.  It was calm as a pond, glassy, with no swell as the boys started to move the Jalisco in position on Bishops Rock.  No one seemed to notice that the horizon to the west had started a see-saw motion very slow and at a great distance.

Surfer at Cortes Bank

Surfer at Cortes Bank

A marine layer now encircled the process adding a ghostly pale to the proceedings. The Jalisco was in position and the sinking had started. What had also started was that the Jalisco was being enveloped by long, low-frequency forerunners that formed the leading edge of a huge North Pacific swell.  As the outer edge of the swell swept past the Jalisco the waves encountered something they hadn’t encountered since they felt Hawaii – an immovable object that is Cortes Bank. The wave’s energy now was compressed and could go nowhere but up.  The Jalisco now climbed and sharply dropped with her hull banging like a deafening gong. The sets continued with the waves increasing in size.  The men on the Jalisco had to leave and they had to leave now. Their only hope would be a lull in the giant sets. The men dove overboard and were yanked out of the water by the crew of the Rainbow’s End. Everyone left the Jalisco, that is, everyone except Joe Kirkwood who clutched the forward mast. The men on the Rainbow’s End watched as the water below the bow of the stricken Jalisco was drawn down and then gathered into a beautiful blue green nightmare that loomed above the Jalisco some 50 feet in the air with fish inside

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

the wave plainly visible.  It exploded on the Jalisco and sent poor Joe flying off the ship still wearing his fur after-ski boots.  Kirkwood tumbled some 200 yards down the trough of the wave and miraculously ended up just feet from the tug boat and was successfully plucked from the sea.  After more waves, the entire superstructure was torn completely off the Jalisco with a mingling of water and steel.  The Jalisco was gone and so were the dreams of the Nation of Abalonia.

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco split into 3 pieces of sharp jagged steel which makes surfing this inhospitable place that much more dangerous. Surfer Mike Parsons in January 2008 caught a documented 80 foot wave at Cortes Bank with the skeleton of the Jalisco below him.  In 1985 the gigantic aircraft carrier USS Enterprise wandered to close to

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Cortes Bank putting a 60 foot gash in her outer hull, ripped-off her port keel, and

severely deformed her outboard port propellers.  She continued operations and her captain was relieved of his duties.

By my calculations Joe Kirkwood Jr., whose whereabouts are unknown, is about 93 years old.  But Joe, if you are out there, let me buy you a couple and you can tell me about being the King of Abalonia. Do you still have those boots?

If you get a chance please read the book “Ghost Wave” by  Chris Dixon. A wonderful book about Cortes Bank which I borrowed and stole from. Thanks Chris.   Groove.

Go to Heaven for the Climate. Go to Hell for the Company

It was 1861 and the Civil War was beginning it’s bloody boil.  Because of the conflict, Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was forced to give up his life as a steamboat Captain seeing how the Mississippi was closed to peace time traffic.  In New Orleans, when Louisiana seceded Sam returned to Hannibal, Missouri where he joined a local group of Confederate militia.  Two weeks of running around the woods of Missouri were more than enough for Second Lieutenant Clemens, whose commitment to the cause was less than noble, but honest to himself.  “I was incapacitated by fatigue through persistent retreating” he later joked. For the rest of the war he was far away from any fighting which suited Sam just fine.

Hangovers are rough stuff and we all have different methods for their demise.  Some prefer saunas or

Montgomery Block steam bath

Montgomery Block

steam baths, some choose rigorous labor or exercise, while I prefer to consume deep fried foods, more alcohol and to move as little as possible for fear of upsetting my delicate composition and balance.  On a rainy San Francisco day in June 1863 halfway through a 2 month stay in San Francisco that stretched into 3 years, Sam chose to battle his heavy hangover at  the steam rooms of the fashionable Montgomery Block, also known as the Monkey Block. When built in 1853 the four story structure was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and was the home and work place for hundreds of writers, lawyers and painters for over 100 years.  Those who spent time there include Jack London, George Sterling, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling,  Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte, Dorothea Lange, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo. The building bested the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, but couldn’t stop the bulldozers which toppled it in 1959 and is now home to the Transamerica Pyramid.

So anyway, there is Mark Twain with a mountainous hangover in the steam room, overhearing a conversation from a gentleman covered in soot.  Turns out that the  stout round faced gent was a customs inspector, volunteer The Real Tom Sawyerfireman, special policeman and bona fide hero by the name of Tom Sawyer.  Tom and Mark soon became great friends and patrolled the bars and gambling joints of San Francisco acquiring the best of hangovers and losing copious amounts of money, but having the time of their lives.  Sawyer remembered  “He beat the record for lyin’ — nobody was in a race with him there.  He never had a cent.  His clothes were always ragged and he never had his hair cut or a shave since ’60. I used to give him half my wages and then he borrow from the other half, but a jollier companion and a better mate I would never want. He was a prince among men, you can bet, though I allow he was the homeliest man I ever set eyes on, Sam was.”  Throughout 1863 and into 1864 Mark Twain published unsigned stories in the “Call” newspaper. ”  They’d send him out down at the paper to write something up, Sawyer remembers, ” and he’d go up to the Blue Wing Saloon and sit around telling stories and drink

Tom Sawyer (left) at the Gotham saloon

Tom Sawyer (left) at the Gotham saloon

all day then go back to the office and write something up. Most of the times he’d get it all wrong, but it was mighty entertaining.”   Twain used to loathe working at the “Call”.   “It was awful drudgery for a lazy man and I was born lazy.  I raked the town from end to end and if there weren’t no fires to report I’d start one.” Twain said.

Tom Sawyer earned his hero status not only for being an excellent fireman but for gallantry when a steamer “The Independence” blew it’s boilers off the Baja coast and Tom was credited with saving 90 lives at sea, 26 singlehandedly.

On September 28th, Sawyer and Twain hit the town hard.  “Mark was as sprung as I was and in a short time we owned the City,

cobblestones and all.”  Sawyer recalled. “Toward the morning Mark sobered up a bit and we got to telling yarns. The next day Mark walks up to me and puts both hands on my shoulders.  Tom, he says, I’m gonna write a book about a boy and the kind I have in mind was just about the toughest boy in the world. Tom, he was just such a boy as you must of been….How many copies will you take, Tom, half up front? ”

San Francisco

San Francisco

Mark Twain started a lecture tour which was a big deal back then, just telling stories and make people laugh. Tom sat in the front row at one of the lectures in San Francisco and his hearty laugh could be heard at all the bars on Montgomery Street.  Afterwards, Twain decided to take his leave of San Francisco and at the age of 31 he leapt into a most glorious writing and lecturing career that arguably made him the most famous American of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Tom Sawyer hugged his friend and said goodbye and despite Tom Sawyer’s wishes that his friend would come join him at his own saloon ” The Gotham,” which he owned for 21 years, they would never see each other again.

The non fictional Tom Sawyer died in 1906 – 3 1/2 years before Twain.  “Tom Sawyer, Whose Name Inspired Twain Dies at Great Age,” read the headlines of the local paper.  Sawyer’s saloon was destroyed by fire that same year.

So just think about all the authors, painters, and song writers who at this moment article-2211439-154BC992000005DC-720_306x482are creating something beautiful, sad, dangerous, ridiculous, and deeply moving about the times they have spent drinking massive amounts of alcohol with you.  Perhaps it is time for a steam bath.  Groove.

Quizmasters & Booze for the People

All right Cool Cats and Kittens, you steel souled gatherers of groove, you lusters of the crooked smile, the neon spandex jacket, and the all messy, dirty thoughts that cannot be helped by prayer.  It is time to put on your metallic colored caps of thinking and squeeze out the delicious strains of useless knowledge like the yellow matter custard that John spoke of.  Here’s the Daddy:  First two people who answer all eleven questions correctly will have 3 cocktails purchased for them at one of my favorite bars.  This deal is “on the belly” – so step up and be counted.  The questions, like my blog, mean nothing and everything, so pour yourself  a tall cool one and tax those dark shadows in your brain.  “Luck is the residue of design” the Old Branch said, so let’s start crackin.

Hoff crab

1.   The Hoff crab is a type of yeti crab discovered in 2010 on the Southern Ocean floor near Antarctica. It is named after:

A) Abbie Hoffman , political and social activist who co-founded the Yippies and was thrown off the stage at Woodstock in 1969 by Pete Townsend when he tried to interrupt  The Who’s performance.

B) David “the Hoff” Hasselhoff  because the crab has many hairs on its abdomen and it reminded the scientists of the strapping hairy chested actor.

C) The great relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, one time save leader in the MLB.

D) For  Helsinki, Finland –  home  of crab discoverer Vaanta Kaajanokka.

2.  Lew Wallace  was a Civil War general and Governor of the New Mexico territory.  He broke his promise to pardon Billy the Kid after the Lincoln County Wars in 1879.  He is also famous for :

Lew Wallace

A) inventing the Graham Cracker

B) making the first baseball glove

C) writing the religious classic Ben-Hur

D) is distantly related to Frankie Valle of the Four Seasons

3.  We all love that wacky yet pleasantly attractive Gilligan from ” Gilligan’s Island”. What was his first name on the show?

A) Willie

B) Gill as in Gill Egan

C) Buddy

D) Ezra

4.  Rockstar Warren Zevon ‘s (“Werewolves of London”, “Poor,Poor,Pitiful Me” ) father was:

A) A minor league catcher in the Los Angeles Dodger organization

B) Part of L.A. Gangster Mickey Cohen’s gang

C) Invented a life saving tool used today by lifeguards in Santa Monica

D) Invented the Pez dispenser

Warren Z

5.  If the amount of soldiers who died in the American Civil War were to be computed to the current population of the United States population there would be

A) 700,000 – 1,000,000 dead

B) 2,000,000 – 3,000,000 dead

C) 4 ,000,000 – 5 ,000,000 dead

D) 6,000,000-7,000,000 dead

6.  The Powers that Be took over Bob Lee’s pad during the Civil War and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery.  (Bob’s estate sued and it was returned to his family, then they sold it back to the Government).  Besides JFK, only one other President is buried there.  Which one ?

A) Ike Eisenhower

B) Andy Jackson

C) Billy Taft

D) Ted Roosevelt

7.  Charlie Lindberg was known for being the first to fly across the Atlantic on a solo.  He was also known to have spread his seed counting 12 children he called his own.  How many of those were illegitimate (conceived outside of his marriage to Anne Morrow)?

A) all 12

B) 23

C) 7

D) 4

Fred

8. The word is that Sasha Baron Cohen is going to play Fred Mercury of the rock group Queen in a up and coming movie bio.  Who didn’t dig that stick microphone and his huge overbite ?  Fred is from what descendants ?

A) English

B) Indian

C) French

D) Brazilian

9. Wilshire Blvd is named after Gaylord Wilshire, the socialist millionaire, who made and lost a number of fortunes and had even less respect for the mighty dollar than I do.  How much of this famed street did he actually own?

A) 16 miles

B) 7 miles

C) 1 mile

D) 4 blocks

10.  Los Angeles was a delicious cesspool of corruption and vice until the new police chief  Bill Parker (Parker Center) took over in 1950.   Sure, he cleaned up Los Angeles, but don’t we all miss the days when the L.A. Vice squad ran their own prostitution ring and the coppers were extorting dough from the local hoodlums?   Chief Bill had his issues : “After trying to absorb Parker’s brilliance by day,  I would, too often by night, drive him home drunk.  And I mean loaded.  He drank until words slurred and stairs became a hazard.  He would repeat the same thought over and over until he became a terrible bore.”  Who said this about the Chief ?

A) Future L.A. mayor Sam Yorty

B) Jack Webb of Dragnet fame

C) Future Police chief Darrell Gates

D) L.A. Ram Quarterback Roman Gabriel

11.   In 1928 Walt Disney lost one of his cartoon characters to Universal Pictures.  78 years later the Walt Disney Company through a trade with NBC Universal got the characters back when NBC got the rights to sportscaster supreme Al Michaels.  What cartoon character did the Disney Company get back?

A) Mickey Mouse

B) Arnold Schwarzenegger

C) Donald Duck

D) Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

So there you have it. Enter as many times as you like.  Free booze is in the future of the 2 winners.  Good luck and cocktails are on me. Groove.

Vicious Combo

 A gun, a prayer-book, and a lot of booze. Though we have all faced these non-grooves at one time or another, the facts are that together they will possibly ruin your evening (not always…but that is another story). Christina Griffith was confronted with this combo and it was none of her doing, but the doings of her loathsome scoundrel of a husband Griffith Griffith. Religion, a firearm, and enough alcohol to kill a Clydesdale was about to bring a big hurt on Mrs. Griffith Griffith.

It was the sultry evening of September 3rd, 1903 in Suite 104-5 of the fabulous Hotel Arcadia, the grand dame of Santa Monica. Built in 1887 it was named for Arcadia Bandini De Baker, who was the wife of the co-founder of Santa Monica, R.S. Baker (also where the name Bakersfield comes from). Located where the Loews Hotel is today, the narrow Arcadia steps with a gold painted archway  is all that is left of the original hotel. The Colonel, as he called himself (I have tried for years to be called the Chieftain or the Commodore but as of yet none of these names have stuck) though he never was in any country’s service, made his money when, as a reporter for mining stocks, he used inside information to amass millions. A tiny gent he made up for his lack of stature by carrying a gold-headed cane and was described as a “midget egomaniac” who had the exaggerated strut of a turkey gobbler. To endear himself to society he gave the city of Los Angeles 3015 acres – creating the largest municipal park in the world, Griffith Park. He was also one of those crazy hidden boozers who publicly aligned himself with the temperance movement all the while slurping down copious amounts of brown booze.

Any semblance of respectability and social groove came to a screeching halt that night at the Arcadia.  G.G., out of his head on booze, carrying a pistol in one hand and a prayer-book in the other, demanded that his wife kneel before him. Muttering something along the lines that she was aligned with the Pope to kill him he fires a shot point-blank into Christina’s skull, the bullet hitting her left eye socket and careening away. She staggers to her feet and leaps out the nearest window, falling two stories on to the veranda roof of the Arcadia. Not what one usually sees falling on a beautiful night in Santa Monica.

A sensational trial follows, with Griffith hiring the famous mouthpiece Earl P. Rodgers and the one-eyed Christina the ex-governor of California, Henry Gage. Rodgers puts up the “alcohol insanity” excuse (who hasn’t used that one before), but G.G. is found guilty only to serve two years in the Big House.

After prison Griffith offered the city $100,000 to build a popular observatory atop Mt. Hollywood (formerly Mt. Griffith, but had been renamed while in prison). He also offered $50,000 for a Greek Theater. Though the City of Los Angeles refused all offers because of his past, G.G. would not be denied setting up a trust fund providing for the two facilities after he was gone.

Well, the Colonel died rich, but unloved…and it shows one must consider all options and combinations before they step out into the evening.

Uplifters

So there I am – flaming west on  Sunset Blvd in my convertible Ford. Going too fast, but that’s ok. It is 1927 and the country is being constricted by that huge Anaconda: Prohibition.  It’s night, my throat is as dry as the Gobi, and here come those Santa Ana Winds again. You know those nights. Marlowe said it best : “It was one of those hot, dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair. make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends up in a fight. And meek little housewives feel the edge of a carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen when the Santa Ana blows in from  the desert.”  I need and want a drink.

I turn left on Rustic Canyon in the Pacific Palisades and head down to The Uplifters Ranch. I pass eighty year old Redwoods and one of the last natural creeks in Los Angeles that isn’t covered in concrete. I had remembered that big galoot Harry Haldeman tossed me a pass last time I saw him at Musso and Frank’s. Harry is a big, jovial Chicagoan who likes to light the Good Time lamp and is one of the founders of the Uplifters Ranch. Too bad his Grandson H.R. Haldeman turned out so creepy. He was one of the muscle lugs for Nixon’s regime. Got caught in the Watergate caper and did an eighteen month stretch in the Big House. Deserved more.

In 1922, Harry and his buddies bought 120 acres, built a clubhouse with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and   amphitheater, most of which are still there. Many members began to build summer and weekend cottages and lodges on land leased from the club. The homes are situated in a lush, dreamy landscape close enough to the ocean to get the gentle breeze. Many contain huge ballrooms, fanciful card parlors , prohibition style basement bars, and log cabins hauled over from silent movie sets.

The Sign ” Uplifters” hangs over Latimer road. Their creed: ” To uplift art and promote good fellowship”. Please – it’s just a place where the wealthy and the powerful can throw back a dozen or so drinks and not get busted by the  chief of Police because he is sitting next to them. Actors, politicians, sports heroes, they are all there. Over in the corner is L. Frank Baum, one of the founders of the Uplifters along with Haldeman, who of course wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” After he throws down a few scotches he is known to babble on about forcing the extinction of the American Indian. ” Having wronged them for centuries we had better, to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the Earth.” I just wish he felt that way about those annoying Munchkins and made them disappear. Sitting on a bar stool like he is sitting on a flagpole, is that loud mouth lout Ernie Ball , who wrote ” When Irish Eyes are Smiling” although he never laid his bloodshot eyes on the Emerald Island. Of course there are good guys who are members: Will Rodgers, Harold Lloyd, Leo Carillo, Walt Disney, Edgar Rice Burroughs ( Tarzan’s guy) and many more. Over the years a lot of well knowns have lived  close to the Uplifters Ranch: Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Lansbury, Aldous Huxley, Earl Warren, Randy Newman, Lee Marvin, , John Densmore, and at different times Meryl Streep and Wilt Chamberlain rented the same cottage though there is no way  Meryl was one of Wilt’s 10,000.

So next time you are in the area swing on down to ” The Uplifters Ranch” and ask for a drink ( the clubs demise came in 1947 so really don’t do that) for the ghosts are there. You just have to shut your eyes and look for them.

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