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The Quest to the West

Dylan Regan

Regan and his beloved saddle.   

LATEST INSTALLMENT:
 

Los Angeles Dreams Come True

The next morning came slowly. Matt and I spent the morning riding down the Sunset strip and along the Malibu coastline, meandering around on our motorcycles and taking in the sights.

Joe Pro and Lauren Wells gave us a call in the early afternoon and hoped to meet up for a late lunch in Venice Beach. As we veered our bikes back into the city, we found that traffic was thick, especially for a Sunday afternoon. Once we made our last inch onto the Venice boardwalk we were greeted by a crowd of blonde-hair, bikinis and short-shorts. Would-be musicians sang their tunes in between cool little curio shops, bars and independent coffeehouses.



Matt and I were greeted by Lauren and Joe in front of Hal's Bar and Grill on Abbott Kinney Boulevard as most of the bar locals stayed glued to the football game while we licked our wounds from the night before. The Roosevelt proved to be great, but offered little rest and we surely felt the repercussions of the festivities from the night before.  The slow redemption continued on through most of our lunch until conversation of the night ahead began to come together. We headed across the street for a cappuccino and haphazardly discussed our plan of action. 

We were expected at Neat Bar in Glendale for its first anniversary party. The event was to start at 5 pm, and it was nearly 4:00 when we realized the day has gotten away from us. Quickly, we motivated ourselves back to Hollywood for a quick cleanup and another night on the town.

We reached the party fashionably late and it was already packed to the door's edge.  The owner, Aidan Demarest, is behind the bar jumping around and dancing, throwing booze in a blender and having an all around good time. He had good reason to celebrate after a successful year with his stripped down concept bar.  In a time when the cocktail is king, Neat generally focuses on straight spirits paired with fresh juice chasers. There is no cocktail menu in order for guests to focus on the unadulterated spirit in it's true form.  At the other end of the narrow bar was a four-piece Jazz band plucking out some Jammin' Bluegrass that I am unable to make my way to experience in its full glory, as I stand stuck halfway in the front door.

Though Neat is known for straight spirits, this party was sponsored by Sailor Jerry Rum, so the Pina Coladas were flowing. I ran into my friends John Lermayer and Simon Ford who had traveled from across the country to guest bartend for the evening. After a few minutes they jumped behind the bar and started slinging cocktails. The crowd loves the scene and the bar staff was happy to have some help. Aidan was still jumping around, doing shots and drinking Sailor Jerry straight from a cask barrel with a straw. 

The band decided to take a break and the juke box jumpstarted with Journey's 'Don't stop believing'. Aidan quickly jumped on the bar and does his best karaoke rendition, air guitar and all, taking breaks while the bartender's poured Sailor Jerry straight in his mouth. The crowds goes crazy taking pictures of the craziness and passed around the various boat drinks that John and Simon's intermingling arms were shaking up. The place was a mad house and it was only 7 pm. Our crew spends a couple hours squeezing back and forth through the room, catching up with old acquaintances and making new friends. This party shows no signs of stopping, but we are eager to take in some more Hollywood nightlife and decide to bounce. A few of our friends are headed for Jumbo's Clown Room, so we tagged along.

Jumbo's, it turned out, is a strip club that opened in the early 70's, and is known to have Courtney Love once work the stage before her claim to fame with Kurt Cobain. Due to licensing, the dancers no longer strip down to bare essentials, but do more of a burlesque show that affords the small one-room bar a kitschy charm. We stood at the bar, drinking PBR's and watched a couple of the acts as the appreciative crowd threw money on the stage. There was no leering or lap-dances.

After a couple performances and cold beers, I felt content with what Jumbo's Clown Room had to offer, so we walked a couple doors down to Harvard and Stone.  We entered the room to find a large island bar in an industrial warehouse room with a few couches and cocktail tables strewn about.  We joined Sean, the bartender, at the bar and order up some MEZCAL, prompting him to break out a bottle of Del Maguey. In no time we were sipping on four lovely and unique VIDA SIPPERS. We walked past a DJ playing 'Nowhere To Run To' by Martha and the Vandellas to check out the R&D room in the back. Research and Development has a small list of soon-to-be classics and soon-to-be discarded cocktails to choose from and the small group of embitters around the bar applied the scientific method with due diligence by sampling every cocktail the bartender had to offer. We decided to give our expert opinion and ordered up a few for our 'tasting panel', but we proved to be a poor control group as we happily lapped up the creations like Pavlov's Dog. 

I journeyed back to the main room to find the DJ dropping 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. The crowd was building and bopped to beat, and I found I had to dance my way through the room to get to the main bar again.  A few of our friends from the Neat party came walking in the door, so a round of Fernet Branca ensues as 'Baby Love' by The Supremes kicks in. The group shouted at each other while the DJ dropped Upbeat Motown hits and Northern Soul, one after another. The crowd around the bar was loving it, and bobbing and weaving transformed into shucking and jiving. Everybody was digging the scene until it exploded when the crowd heard Lulu singing "Shout".  Everybody in the joint was then on their feet, jumping around, swingin', twistin' and movin'.

We were all in the fray and sweatin' away…and this is how it rolls deep into the night…Hollywood, where dreams come true.



COMPLETE STORY:

Manifest Destiny
was the belief widely held by Americans in the 19th century that the United States was destined to expand across the continent.  The concept, born out of "a sense of mission to redeem the Old World", was enabled by "the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven."
—Wikipedia

Nearly thirty years ago, at his bustling bar in The Rainbow Room, a man named Dale DeGroff began using pre-Prohibition techniques and a gourmet approach to make his cocktails for Manhattan's elite. His innovative ideas and reverence for history was the humble beginning of a cocktail revolution that gained momentum at the beginning of the new millennium and has been expanding across the continent to neighborhood bars everywhere
.

This past spring I decided to take a trip to the birthplace of the New American Cocktail, so I saddled up my motorcycle and pointed it toward the rising sun with Manhattan in my sights. Along the way I found seasoned veterans, up-and-coming seekers and newbies alike, all striving to raise American bars to new heights of respect and adoration. Some chose simple execution, while others were overtly complex; but all shared the common goal to elevate the imbibers' experiences and expectations. The driving force of Manhattan's influence could be felt in every small town bar I came to; and though Manhattan's force is strong, there is another. San Francisco stepped in early as the sister city in cocktail culture, which quickly spread across the entire West Coast, and has worked its way across the continent to meet Manhattan in the middle.  And so, the Saga continues . . .

My journey for cocktails begins again, and as I have seen the point of inception, I will now trek toward the quickening. I will ride to a place where I can discover ways to expand my mind and learn how to live in harmony, which must be out West somewhere, because my drive will take me all the way to California and ultimately up the Pacific Coast to Portland.

The West, the epitome of spiritual awakening, the end all of open-mindedness and the tailored liberal front of America, is where all forward thinking ideas come to fruition. This dream factory instills our hearts with the promise of mankind, and propels our minds into a future we have yet to achieve. Big ideas are born in the East, but the West brings them to light, awakens them to their true potential, and gives them to the masses. The West Coast is the spokesman of The American Ideal, and it's voice is shot into the stratosphere and bounced back to all of mankind.

So I will make the voyage to the West on the steel horse I ride, across desert plains and over the Sierra Nevada Mountains until I reach the Golden Coast. Along the way, I'll search out those young Jedis who wield a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age. And as I ride along the PCH, I will watch the sun pitch into the Pacific. Just as it rose in the streets of Manhattan, so it will set in the West, taking with it a new day, and a new hope, for the rest of the world.

Life on the Road: R.I.P. Tamaishi

I bought my first real motorcycle in 1999. It wasn't actually my first bike. The first bike was purchased for $400 from one of the waiters I worked with, and if I remember correctly it was actually $200 cash, plus the $200 he owed me from a poker game. That bike only lasted a few weeks, but the biking bug bit me hard and soon after I was determined to get another.

After much debate and a gentle nudge from my wife, I signed the dotted line for a five year mortgage on a 1998 Honda Valkyrie. It was love at first sight. The bike was a massive 1500cc power cruiser splashed in a metallic blood-red and covered in melting gobs of chrome. I had never owned a new car in my life, and yet here I was with a most impractical luxury vice, with payments in tow, that I could only ride three months a year. The idea of riding is based purely on emotion and carries little-to-no logic at all. Ask any rider why he does so, and you'll likely get vague spiritual concepts such as 'freedom' and 'soul.'

On one of my first rides on my new bike, I noticed that when I looked down at the chrome headlamp, I could see the reflection of the clouds rolling by, so I decided to name my new lover Tamaishi, in reference to the small round stones used at water's edge in Japanese Zen gardens. It is said, that if you gaze long enough into a Tamaishi, you will see your soul reflecting back. Tama and I saw many miles together over the next few years, and I spent plenty of time reflecting on life's possibilities as we rode.

These days I ride a newer bike, but have kept the Valkyrie for visiting friends to enjoy. And so, as plans for this quest began to come together, a good friend named Joe Pro expressed a desire to come along. I gladly offered up my Honda for him to ride in the hopes that he would be able to join us, and thankfully he agreed. We now had three of us along for the trip: Joe Pro, my friend Matt Dorman and myself. I've always ridden lone wolf in the past, so to have a posse to share the experience with was very exciting.

The night before the trip, Joe and Matt stopped by my bar and we excitedly chattered about the trip through most of my shift. We couldn't wait to get on the road, and the prospect of the adventure had us bouncing off the walls. The night carried on like this, with unsuspecting patrons being bombarded with our enthusiastic tales of what was to come.

The next morning came quickly, and we knew well that the excitement of the motorcycle ride would afford us little sleep. I have been working out the details of our trip for months now, and had planned out as many details as I could while keeping a loose schedule fitting of a motorcycle trip, and our first day was intended to be a leisurely ride through the canyons of Utah en route to Las Vegas, but it seems that best laid plans often go astray and fate would have plans of its own.

After pulling off the freeway, and a couple of hours of riding into the great expanse of Utah's backcountry, beloved Tama's engine seized up as Joe was riding into a strong banking turn. The rear tire locked up and sent Joe skidding off the road and into the gravel. Thankfully, Joe walked away from the accident unscathed with only his nerves shaken. After much debate and close inspection, we determined that the bike wasn't going anywhere.

We sat in the afternoon sun in the middle of nowhere trying to decide what to do. Our jovial spirits were slowly broken, as we came to realize that Joe be a part of our adventure. We still had to also figure out what to do with Joe and Tama. Thankfully we were able to get a phone signal and eventually get hold of a towing service, but it would turn out to be several hours before rescue. We sat on the side of the road and watched the waning afternoon light turn to darkness.

Regan's riding partner, Joe Pro, and Tamaishi in Utah

When the tow truck finally showed up, we concluded that it would be best that Joe find the nearest town with a hotel and rental car to meet us in Las Vegas. Matt and I proceeded to ride on in the dark until we came across a motel.

I woke this morning after much reflection on yesterday's events. Was there some way to avoid yesterday's incident? All the precautions, planning and fine tuning were executed, and yet here we are with a completely different path laid out before us. Regardless of how much planning we do in our lives, there is always a different path that awaits us.

When we look at our reflection in the water, we see our potential, while our truth may be different. I reflect again on the day and what transpired. My friend Joe walked away unharmed from what could have been catastrophic, and that's all that matters. Today is a new day, and we'll ride on. Joe will meet up with us in Las Vegas and we'll figure it out from there. Tamaishi may be gone for good, but I will continue to gaze into my reflection without fear of my future.

The best laid plans often go astray.

 

Cashing in on Lady Luck


After everything that transpired on the first day, it came as no surprise
that I woke the next morning to the sound of driving sleet and rain. All good
things in life come with a little sacrifice. Apparently, we were going to have
to earn our way to the West Coast. Matt and I layered up as much as we could in
preparation of the cold, and saddled up our bikes looking like a couple of
black-clad Michelin Men. We knew that we had a few hours of snowy mountain
stretches before we would hit the Arizona desert and warmer weather, so we
buckled down and got to the business of laying down some miles with the promise
of the bright lights of Las Vegas propelling us forward.

Following a couple hours of grinding it out, the pouring rain let up just as we
were coming into Zion National Park. The breaking clouds hung low and the sun
began to sprinkle warm rays on the mountain peaks as we rode through the
majestic terrain. Taking the scenic route through southern Utah was finally
paying off in spades, and so our spirits lightened with every twist of the
throttle and through each twist in the road; only a couple more hours and we
would reach our lady luck.

We arrived in Vegas in the late afternoon and checked into the Cosmopolitan
in City Center. The entire Center glistens like some sort of sci-fi city of the
future and the hot, new Cosmopolitan only draws in the hippest and most
exuberant young crowd.

After a quick cleanup, Matt and I met up with Joe Pro, who had driven down in
a rental car. We gave each other a soundless gaze of appreciation; we were back
together after all the difficulties of yesterday. Way past due for a cocktail,
we ventured down to the Chandelier Bar for some libations where a bright and
smiling bartender named Jenny Stracke greeted us with an amicable smile. My
suggestion of Tequila received unanimous, knowing nods and Jenny proceeded to
shake us up three VERBENAS.

The cocktail was the perfect way to start the night. The three of us happily
swigged away, and with each sip the exhaustion we felt from being on the road
was slowly forgotten. As we were finishing our first round, Jason Hughes showed
up for his shift just while the Friday night crowd began to trickle in. It was
easy to see that this bar would be teaming with fresh-eyed frolickers soon and
the staff was preparing accordingly for the party to arise.

My glass was dry, so I asked Jason for a dealer's choice. His eyes brightened
as he began to pull from his bag of tricks. From my own experience, the best way
to get an amazing cocktail is by giving the bartender the freedom to surprise.
They see the opportunity to experiment and dazzle, and enjoy the prospect of
shocking the drinker with an enlightening libation. Jason exclaimed, 'Game on',
and began a meticulous process of combining Campari and Dolin Sweet Vermouth
'pearls' in a bowl before us. He strained the pearls and dropped them into a
Champagne glass, then topped them with some shaken Nolet's Gin and a Blood
Orange Juice Fog. The cocktail glistened like the chandelier crystals
surrounding us and pearls happily bounced around the glass in a seductive dance.
The molecular cocktail was superb, making the perfect toast for the night to
come.

It was then time to make our way down to meet Patricia Richards, Master
Mixologist for the Wynn and the Encore, at Parasol Down. My mouth watered at the
prospect of having someone like Patricia, who oversees the establishment's
entire cocktail program, create some of her signature drinks just for us. Also a
dear friend, I know that only Patricia would be able to handle such a vast job.
Her meticulous nature and attention to every minute detail is apparent in
everything she does. We sat at the bar, and watched her quickly prepare us
cocktails with every fine measurement precisely poured while she casually
recalled her inspiration for each ingredient. Her first gift to us was called
PEARFECTION, paired with a plate of savory meats and cheeses. Of course, she
nailed it. As we devoured each morsel she looked back at us with a matter of
fact smile, as if to say 'See?'…as if this divine arrangement was always there
just waiting to be plucked from the ether. 



While she made a SCOTTISH KILT and a CUMQUAT COLLINS, she told us about her
upcoming projects, like the new cocktails she is working on for the Wynn's new
"Supper Club," meant to electrify the already booming night club cliental. Once
she served up the next two cocktails, I sat and sipped in wonder, this lady was
throwing all aces, all of the time.After our amuse bouche with the Wonder Woman
of Vegas, we stepped into The SW for a satiating steak that was devoured as
though we hadn't eaten in days.

Chock-full of steak, cocktails and the wear of the road, we decided to head
back to the Cosmopolitan where we spent the rest of the evening sitting at
Vesper Bar, watching the parade of young revelers cat-walk back and forth
throughout the casino. And after a couple of ill-faired hands of blackjack, I
cashed in. Regardless of my lack of luck in the casino, Vegas had already paid
off well and it's always best to walk away when the chips are up.

Tinsel Town Bound

One of the first rules of a Las Vegas trip is to make it quick; the house always wins in the end, so short durations are always the best way to roll. Next stop: Tinsel Town.  

Matt and I loaded up for the ride to Los Angeles and Joe Pro worked on a flight out to meet us. As Joe Pro worked on his flight to meet us at our next destination, Matt and I agreed that there wasn't much to see across the desert expanse, so we devised a plan to tackle the ride quickly after eating the West coast's preferred burger, IN N OUT. We spent most of the day churning out the miles to Los Angeles, and it was nearly night when we finally arrived.  

We pulled up to the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood to have dinner, and meet up with Joe Pro and his friend Lauren Wells for a couple cocktails by the pool. A DJ was spinning old-school slow jams, warming us up for the night to come. We then headed upstairs to The Spare Room, a beautiful wood-clad bar with leather furnishings and a lounge sitting adjacent to two old-fashioned bowling lanes. A large group mingled with one another, sipping cocktails and taking turns bowling, keeping score on chalk boards. The crowd of LA hipsters was excitable, weaving around one another for a position at the bar, interrupted every few minutes by sound of pins scattering and cheers for a strike. Another DJ was in the corner playing a perfectly fitting mix of old soul, funk and modern swank to add to the already sultry vibe. 

I pulled up a seat to meet with Naomi Schimek, who runs the cocktail program for the trendy bar. She was bouncing around to the beat of the music in her black and whites, bow tie and bowler hat cocked to one side. Between slinging rounds for the reveling crowd, Naomi handed me a cocktail, the HOLLYWOOD RIVIERA, while telling me tales of the iconic, history-rich Roosevelt. The hotel was built in 1927 during Prohibition and Errol Flynn is said to have made Bathtub Gin here. It also became a famous mainstay for many Golden-Era stars, hosting the first Academy Awards and housing what is believed to be Marilyn Monroe's ghost still perched on Cabana 229. 



Completely enthralled after Naomi's storytelling, our group decided to explore the rest of the hotel. But when we journeyed to Teddy's, near the hotel's lobby, we were too overwhelmed by stylish patrons. In hopes of finding salvation, we made our way to the pool, but it appeared that in the time we had spent in Spare Room the entire hotel transformed into a party extravaganza; everyone drinking from Coup glasses and highballs with sophistication and allure. The rest of the evening we happily dug the scene, jumping from room to room, patio to parlor. 

After a brief jaunt across the street for photos in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, we found ourselves back at the Spare Room, appreciating the intimacy compared to the thralls of the rest of the hotel. Naomi offered up a shot of Fernet Branca and we toasted to her hospitality. The Roosevelt presented us with what felt like the quintessential LA experience that made it hard to pull away, but the hour was late and tomorrow would be a new day. 

Los Angeles Dreams Come True

The next morning came slowly. Matt and I spent the morning riding down the Sunset strip and along the Malibu coastline, meandering around on our motorcycles and taking in the sights.

Joe Pro and Lauren Wells gave us a call in the early afternoon and hoped to meet up for a late lunch in Venice Beach. As we veered our bikes back into the city, we found that traffic was thick, especially for a Sunday afternoon. Once we made our last inch onto the Venice boardwalk we were greeted by a crowd of blonde-hair, bikinis and short-shorts. Would-be musicians sang their tunes in between cool little curio shops, bars and independent coffeehouses.



Matt and I were greeted by Lauren and Joe in front of Hal's Bar and Grill on Abbott Kinney Boulevard as most of the bar locals stayed glued to the football game while we licked our wounds from the night before. The Roosevelt proved to be great, but offered little rest and we surely felt the repercussions of the festivities from the night before.  The slow redemption continued on through most of our lunch until conversation of the night ahead began to come together. We headed across the street for a cappuccino and haphazardly discussed our plan of action. 

We were expected at Neat Bar in Glendale for its first anniversary party. The event was to start at 5 pm, and it was nearly 4:00 when we realized the day has gotten away from us. Quickly, we motivated ourselves back to Hollywood for a quick cleanup and another night on the town.

We reached the party fashionably late and it was already packed to the door's edge.  The owner, Aidan Demarest, is behind the bar jumping around and dancing, throwing booze in a blender and having an all around good time. He had good reason to celebrate after a successful year with his stripped down concept bar.  In a time when the cocktail is king, Neat generally focuses on straight spirits paired with fresh juice chasers. There is no cocktail menu in order for guests to focus on the unadulterated spirit in it's true form.  At the other end of the narrow bar was a four-piece Jazz band plucking out some Jammin' Bluegrass that I am unable to make my way to experience in its full glory, as I stand stuck halfway in the front door.

Though Neat is known for straight spirits, this party was sponsored by Sailor Jerry Rum, so the Pina Coladas were flowing. I ran into my friends John Lermayer and Simon Ford who had traveled from across the country to guest bartend for the evening. After a few minutes they jumped behind the bar and started slinging cocktails. The crowd loves the scene and the bar staff was happy to have some help. Aidan was still jumping around, doing shots and drinking Sailor Jerry straight from a cask barrel with a straw.  

The band decided to take a break and the juke box jumpstarted with Journey's 'Don't stop believing'. Aidan quickly jumped on the bar and does his best karaoke rendition, air guitar and all, taking breaks while the bartender's poured Sailor Jerry straight in his mouth. The crowds goes crazy taking pictures of the craziness and passed around the various boat drinks that John and Simon's intermingling arms were shaking up. The place was a mad house and it was only 7 pm. Our crew spends a couple hours squeezing back and forth through the room, catching up with old acquaintances and making new friends. This party shows no signs of stopping, but we are eager to take in some more Hollywood nightlife and decide to bounce. A few of our friends are headed for Jumbo's Clown Room, so we tagged along.

Jumbo's, it turned out, is a strip club that opened in the early 70's, and is known to have Courtney Love once work the stage before her claim to fame with Kurt Cobain. Due to licensing, the dancers no longer strip down to bare essentials, but do more of a burlesque show that affords the small one-room bar a kitschy charm. We stood at the bar, drinking PBR's and watched a couple of the acts as the appreciative crowd threw money on the stage. There was no leering or lap-dances.

After a couple performances and cold beers, I felt content with what Jumbo's Clown Room had to offer, so we walked a couple doors down to Harvard and Stone.  We entered the room to find a large island bar in an industrial warehouse room with a few couches and cocktail tables strewn about.  We joined Sean, the bartender, at the bar and order up some MEZCAL, prompting him to break out a bottle of Del Maguey. In no time we were sipping on four lovely and unique VIDA SIPPERS. We walked past a DJ playing 'Nowhere To Run To' by Martha and the Vandellas to check out the R&D room in the back. Research and Development has a small list of soon-to-be classics and soon-to-be discarded cocktails to choose from and the small group of embitters around the bar applied the scientific method with due diligence by sampling every cocktail the bartender had to offer. We decided to give our expert opinion and ordered up a few for our 'tasting panel', but we proved to be a poor control group as we happily lapped up the creations like Pavlov's Dog. 

I journeyed back to the main room to find the DJ dropping 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. The crowd was building and bopped to beat, and I found I had to dance my way through the room to get to the main bar again.  A few of our friends from the Neat party came walking in the door, so a round of Fernet Branca ensues as 'Baby Love' by The Supremes kicks in. The group shouted at each other while the DJ dropped Upbeat Motown hits and Northern Soul, one after another. The crowd around the bar was loving it, and bobbing and weaving transformed into shucking and jiving. Everybody was digging the scene until it exploded when the crowd heard Lulu singing "Shout".  Everybody in the joint was then on their feet, jumping around, swingin', twistin' and movin'.

We were all in the fray and sweatin' away…and this is how it rolls deep into the night…Hollywood, where dreams come true.

 

 

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