Highway to the Dead Zone

tiki
Enough rum to preserve Admiral Nelson’s body

Halloween came and went, the veil between worlds is returning to its usual opacity. That’s just fine by most people, I mean many of us wish to know that there is more out there, and something that happens after death, and that’s about as much of the ‘dead’ as we like around us. We like to hear that Grandma and Pappy are happy together on a cloud somewhere, or that they’re watching out for us. That’s why ‘spirit boards’ are still on sale nearly everywhere board games are sold. We light candles as kids, we accuse each other of moving the widget, we get spooked, or nothing happens, and either way we put the board back in the closet (or the fireplace, or the trash).

Depending on the tradition one is working through, rum is pretty popular as an offering for spirits of the crossroads and the underworld. Back in my college days I dabbled with a spirit or two that seemed to enjoy it.. well since I was a complete newbie with no actual teacher in the systems I was messing with it was probably just the rum in my system making me think I was in touch with anything at all. These days I tend to let the dead lie, besides.. you never really know who is on the other end of that planchette.

In honor of the (just ended!) Mercury retrograde I rewatched a few movies from my childhood. While “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” probably doesn’t have much to add to this subject, “The Dead Zone” does, at least in an oblique way. Besides, I can’t resist an opportunity to reference Christopher Walken. The “dead zone” in the title of the movie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, refers to the blind spot in our perception, and for those of us who try and scry a little knowledge from the misty void that is a very real thing. I am actually glad that is the case. A pre-written, already known world (while very possibly the case) is a bit depressing to me. So here’s to the fog on the road, even if we don’t always know where we’re going.

Now on to the drink. Naturally I had to enjoy a ‘Dead Zone”, the ‘barrel cocktail’ on the current Bootlegger Tiki (Palm Springs, CA) menu. Both for the name and the warning of ‘One max per customer!’, and also since it was created by my coworker at Truss and Twine, Jesse.

yeah, rum! um uh oh..

He was a little tight-lipped about the exact ingredients but disclosed that it was a variation on a Zombie (also appropriate for this time of year) and that it had baking spices, a little citrus, and three over-proof rums- including the delicious and deadly OFTD from Plantation! It definitely drinks like a Zombie, but with more complexity in the spice profile and also from the richness of the OFTD. I can say that I certainly wasn’t clairvoyant before I drank it, but I was definitely in the ‘dead zone’ afterwards. Just make sure to leave the car at home, nobody wants to be in the actual dead zone.

The Dark Watchers..

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Ever feel like you’re being watched? Well you are, but let’s leave the NSA, Russia, Amazon, Facebook, etc, out of it for awhile (hi guys!). If you find yourself in the Santa Lucia Mountains of coastal California, perhaps in search of a nice Pinot Noir, you may end up with some company. According to Jason Offutt in his book Chasing American Monsters, the Chumash Indians were the first to see mysterious silhouettes standing on the mountain ridges, silently staring. Spanish settlers recorded seeing these vigilantes oscuros, and a quick search online (specifically the comments section of the Weird California page on the subject [unsecure link, not sharing it]) shows that these things are still being seen regularly today. Back to Offutt, “Legend has it these humanoid creatures rarely appear to anyone who is carrying a gun, or is dressed in weatherproof clothing; they only reveal the themselves to people who wander the mountains in more old-fashioned garb.”

Pepé, the protagonist of the John Steinbeck short story ‘flight’ had a gun, and little good it did him shortly after seeing the Dark Watchers.

Once, on a white barren spur, he saw a black figure for a moment, but he looked quickly away, for it was one of the dark watchers. No one knew who the watchers were, nor where they lived, but it was better to ignore them and never to show any interest in them. They did not bother one who stayed on the trail and and minded his own business.

Pepe looked up to the top of the next dry withered ridge. He saw a dark form against the sky, a man’s figure standing on top of a rock, and he glanced away quickly not to appear curious. When a moment later he looked up again, the figure was gone.

John Steinbeck, ‘Flight’

Steinbeck was interested enough in these mysterious beings that his son, Thomas, collaborated on a book (In Search of the Dark Watchers) about the subject with artist Benjamin Brode. Apparently lore of the Watchers was deeply ingrained in his upbringing, his grandmother even claiming to have traded with them- which is lore altering if true.

Poet Robinson Jeffers, in his poem ‘Such Counsels You Gave to Me’ also mentioned “the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast range, forms that look human to human eyes, but certainly are not human. They come from behind ridges to watch.”

So, what are these ethereal observers? Are they like the ‘shadow people’ many observe in their bedrooms at night? Are they ghosts, or the remaining vibrations of a people long passed on? Perhaps it is a form of alien intelligence, curious about our hiking habits? Whatever they are, I thought they deserved a cocktail of their own. Luckily the boys at Bootlegger Tiki were up to the task and helped me whip up “The Dark Watcher aka the Poor Pepé”.

old-fashioned garb and all

1 1/2 oz Singani 63

1/2 Demerara syrup

1/2 lime juice

1/4 oz fallernum

barspoon grenadine

barspoon açaí pureé

shake with crushed ice, Collins glass, garnish with edible flowers to accentuate the floral aspects

It’s refreshing and dangerous, and just dark enough to add a sense of mystery. If you ask the bartenders at Bootlegger nicely, I am sure you could get them to make you one.

It’s watching me..

..and if you see something dark watching you on the horizon, just leave it be.