Sunday, May 19, 2019

We Must Find Our Way Back, Dr. Watson

It has been quite the undercover adventure these past two years in a case that has had the good Doctor Watson and I all over the world ferreting out every clue in this expansive investigation. And it is with great relish and not a small bit of mirth that we now find ourselves clear across the Pacific Ocean ensconced in a chamber overlooking and epoch in history.

At present there is no time to expand upon the details that have brought us to this point other than to say that we will be soon detailing in these pages many of the episodes that we have been involved in over those past two years and adventures that have had us betwixt and between, including the intriguing introduction to the above elderly sisters of Australia's Blue Mountains in Katoomba, New South Wales.

For now, let's keep our wits about us! And let the storytelling begin! 

#sherlockholmes #drwatson #weareback #theinvestigationscontinue 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Color by "The Great Comet of 1812" Numbers - A Musical

The delicate art of rendering a complex or abstract idea into a simpler pattern or thought, particularly for a more simple-minded public audience, has been an ever-present part of the dynamics of storytelling since the dawn of time where hieroglyphic drawings on cave walls told (or attempted to tell) the story of the age of early man (and his early struggles with the wheel and the mastodon.)

Of course, some stories are easier to tell than others; children's stories and simple parables, for example, are straightforward and follow a discernible tho childlike thought line (save for those by Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is beyond many higher budgeted feature films).

Others tales are much more complex; trying to detail and explain credit default swaps perhaps to a neophyte of finance would tax even the best of yarn spinners (and remarkably Michael Lewis seemed perfectly up to the task.)

Thusly every few Broadway seasons there springs forth a idea that defies the common conception of what is and what can be. In the 2016 season "Hamilton" was just such a tour de force. Reading the dense biography of Alexander Hamilton can not be immediately thought of as the obvious catalyst for a Hip-Hop Musical involving the history of these United States AND touch upon modern day issues such as Immigration and Racism. 

And yet the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda did just that.

This year, 2017, has brought us the interpretation of a (thankfully) small sliver of Leo Tolstoy's epic novel 'War and Peace'- which hardly explodes with the idea that there is surely a musical buried within its pages (and perhaps 'novel' is being too kind....tome is more apt, and likely the longest, densest 'tome' ever written).

The Napoleonic invasion of Russia might not imbue a sense of 'Musical' to mind - tho no one foresaw the power of "Les Miserables" in the pages of Victor Hugo at first glance either. 

Pure and true genius, even if it is only temporary genius, is that ability to SEE what others do not and doing so LONG before anyone else does. And let it be stated plainly that simple act of  envisioning ANY Broadway production is a perilous feat of derring-do long left for the stout of heart and thickness of wallet. 

With vast teams of interlocking assemblages, all must work in perfect balance to have even a glimmer of hope towards pulling off a successful production and ALSO satisfy the whims of an ever more fickle theater going public. (See "The Front Page")

The 200 page love story found within War and Peace
had quite the number of intricacy webs.
Follow the numbers
We shan't dissect here the story of Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812, for that is a task left for the other dot connectors among us. Suffice it to be said however that a Playbill with a legend of Who's Who in the production is tricky enough but one need not additionally be repeatedly beaten over the head in an "I Don't Know Why She Swallowed The Fly" manner with these very connections. 

The production attributes - Stage, Costumes, Theater Design, Lighting - all stellar! Tho for all the glory and pomp built into the spectacle of this production, not to mention the addition of world class tenor and 'shooting star' Josh Groban as its lead - perhaps an enticement to bring in a younger, less "Tolstoy-esque' crowd, the wonderment of what might have been pervades throughout.

A stage set that involves audience members as well as the mezzanine and balcony participants evokes memories of Starlight Express, equally as welcomed on Broadway.

In the end this musical has that very 'Color by Numbers' or 'Connect the Dots' ambiance to it that ultimately dooms the ensemble, however high it's visions of grandeur might have been. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Heisenberg - The Height of Life's Uncertainties

In life, as in most of our investigations [and most certainly in national elections] there exists a formidable amount of relative and directional uncertainty - we all must continuously yet certainly manage the assimilation of all incoming data, parse and decipher errant clues and instructions, then winnow thru physical as well as ethereal evidence - carefully separating what constitutes 'smoke and noise' from hard fact. 

Additionally, the scientific study of our physical world further postulates that there is a fundamental limit to the precision in which certain pairs of physical properties can be known, believing for example that if you (perhaps) measure the mass of an object in motion you thereby lessen your ability to quantify accurately that objects precise velocity. It is thus expounded - the more you know about one the less you will know about the other.

This may appear to be pure folly when operating in known entities in the physical realm (handsome coaches traveling on a straight line for example) but which is duly evidenced and amplified when working in the subatomic fields of quantum mechanics (and most certainly in the dangerous arena of a woman's emotions!)

This scientific postulate is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and its effects waft like lingering vapors throughout this latest production by the Manhattan Theater Club

'Heisenberg' is exquisitely written by Mr. Simon Stephens, most recently of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' -  the irony of which is most assuredly NOT lost upon this investigator. From the original book by Mark Haddon it is a masterpiece of subtlety and emotional inference, with writing that works like a spider whose web ensnares its victim almost imperceptibly until it is much too late.

'Heisenberg' is the story of a young woman (Georgie Burns/Mary Louise Parker) and a much older man (Alex Priest/Denis Arndt) who 'appear' to serendipitously meet in a London train station and thereby develop a spontaneous relationship (or as spontaneous as one might expect once Georgie plants an uninvited kiss on the neck of the unsuspecting Alex).

Yet, as Sir John Gielgud eruditely once opined, "I am all in favor of spontaneity, as long as it is carefully planned and ruthlessly controlled"; and such a course is no less so evident in this performance.

In the hands of lesser professionals this story would lose its way fairly quickly but here these two actors thoroughly maintain a growing centripetal presence on a quiet set unoccupied by anyone or anything more than two tables and two chairs. Their magnetic attraction is exhibited slowly but certainly and draws in both the audience to the actors and the actors to each other like celestial bodies circling a black hole throughout their time together.  

Told in one long Act without intermission (do not dare be late to the start of this performance), Denis Arndt (Boston Legal, 24,
Oregon Shakespeare Festival to name but a few) is instantly recognizable yet a relative unknown with any specificity. He has a quietly commanding presence with clear speech and unwavering perception without the crutch of ubiquitous volume or needless histrionics.
Ms. Parker, ('Weeds', 'Proof', 'Angels in America'), has such an understated manner in which she handles her role that it is almost as if she's mentally knitting loop after small loop throughout the production and in such a way that you barely recognize her nuanced additions, only to witness the full spread at the end - leaving you in full awe at the resulting beautiful and emotional tapestry.

This is a limited performance and should be attended for its simple and emotional beauty, Ms. Parker seemingly overcome at the finale by the sheer fervor of it all on a recent Thursday evening.

As an aside, I must say that Watson and I have been fortunate enough to witness some of the finest performances to ever grace the stage and the productions at the renovated Samuel J. Friedman Theater on W. 47th St. by The Manhattan Theater Club, whose mission is "to produce innovative work with a series of
productions as broad and as diverse as New York itself", has been producing some of the most compelling works anywhere, including the recently acclaimed 'Venus in Fur','Fool in Love','Heisenberg', as well as the upcoming 'Wit', with actors Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney alternating roles in this two person drama on successive evenings.

With only 622 seats it cannot help being a thoroughly intimate experience from anywhere inside the theater and one would be well served to ensure their attendance before this run certainly (and regrettably) concludes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Happiness is a Smile Right Under Your Nose - The Tube Dude

Whilst on a recent investigation with Inspector Pietro of the Italian Polizei, we had discovered that our original focus, a haberdashery on nearby Anna Maria Island, had subscribed fully to the "hazy-lazy-days of summer" theory and was not yet in full awake mode.

Thus we found ourselves in a meandering circular traipse around St. Armand's Circle, the heavily tourist laden roundabout in the beachside area of Sarasota across Ringling Bros. Blvd. (whose Fine Arts Museum is no circus at all but a must see if in this area by the way).

Lamenting the ambrosial aromas of a too close for comfort "chocolate covered bacon" emporium, we espied a sign nearby for a shoppe called "The Tube Dude", with the Inspector immediately surmising it to be some watercraft proprietorship.

Oh how wrong he would be (and thus ensuring to continue to keep me busy in my retirement for years to come)!

It was immediately apparent upon entering this avant-garde artist's gallery that this was the source of all the brightly colored and instantly arresting mailbox posts along The Ave of the Presidents we had witnessed on our ride over here.

But it soon became so much more for here on a Sunday morn was "The Dude", owner, operator, designer, welder, salesman, web director, and all around chief Dude himself.....watching with chagrin as the Inspector took photos of everything inside EXCEPT the "Please, No Photography" signs. (Ah, Inspector.)

As poetry is oft defined as communicating the most using the sparest of words, so is the genius of the Dude's simplicity. So straightforward, so simple upon viewing yet only once seen does it appear this way. The designs, the thoughts invested, the creativity itself is at once inherent in every piece created. And with works now purchased, shipped, and happily located in 40 countries and many of the states here on this side of the Pond, his works are beauty incarnate.

And it was after several rounds of interlocutions that we also discovered that these pieces, while available to purchase 'as-is' directly from his website, often take on a specific level of customization once dialogue has begun with a prospective patron.

Mailbox posts, garden statuary, whimsical lawn pieces, corporate statements or specific business communicators, there is really no end to how these works of art can transform the mundane into a statement made.

Needless to say both the Inspector and I were quite smitten with The Dude and his shoppe, and only with his permission did I then take a few snapshots of my own. 

If in this area, do stop in and say hello to The Dude, whose mantra itself (like his pieces) is also quite simplistic yet awe inspiring at the same time - "A Smile is Happiness Right Under Your Nose".

But check for his address first for developments were clearly in the works to move from his window front store to a larger more individualistic "Seussian-like" operation in the months to come.........and away from the base temptations of any chocolate covered bacon. Indeed! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hamilton: A Seismic Cultural Reverberation

With a healthy cacophony of Broadway performances under our investigative belts numbering well into the hundreds, our investigative thespian eye originating on Drury Lane in London's West End near the turn of the century (1900 that is!) and then further continuing on in healthy quants once Watson and I relocated stateside with our persistent attendance to the Great White Way (and elsewhere) for decades now, we have witnessed performances spanning some of the finest that 'The Theater World' has had to offer.

From lauded musicals such as "The Pirates of Penzance" and "The Producers" to "Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats", along with prophetic Tony Award winning plays such as "Doubt", "Moon for the Misbegotten", "Venus in Fur", "Arsenic and Old Lace", "True West", and "Proof".

Individual performances as well, revered and since cherished, include those of Britain's Henry Irving,  George Rose, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Patti Lupone, Michael Crawford, Nina Arianda, Cherry Jones, Chita Rivera, and thousands of others.

Toss on legions of 'Off Broadway' and further 'Off-Off Broadway' shows, perhaps not as esteemed by the Tony brethren but each astounding in their own way (Oh "Lips Together, Teeth Apart", how promising you were!) along with dozens of regional performances nationwide and internationally (Theatre Royal Plymouth you are a jewel in the crown!), and as a result we feel perfectly appointed to herein opine upon the merits of this avowed Musical for the Ages, "Hamilton".

Bona fides notwithstanding, and without circling the juniper, it needs to be plainly stated and in terms leaving no quarter for uncertainty among anyone reading this treatise, that this production, "Hamilton", is by many ORDERS of magnitude simply the most astounding cultural work this investigator has ever witnessed and one that titillates the mind on levels heretofore untouched by anything that has come before it.

This is a seminal work of craftsmanship and inventiveness, and will be looked upon as the cultural balefire for all future performances that come after.

The multitudinous degrees to which this piece plays include a plane for "The Historical", dealing with the very founding of this fine United States with its triumvirate system of governmental checks and balances that remains to this day the halcyon to the world.

A plane for the events of today, particularly the debate on immigration, with Alexander Hamilton personifying the entirety of our present debate and the contributions of those coming to these shores in pursuit of a better life. (Whereupon any minute scintilla of reflection would afford the easy notice that 99.99% of all Americans are, in fact, the product of immigration...... and we are a better nation for it!) 

Pursuant to this dynamic is a third level to ponder - the genius stroke in Casting, with every major (and nearly every minor) role occupied by an actor/actress of Color (emphasis intended!). This singular act, dovetailing with the previously acknowledged exigency of immigration, removes (perhaps forever) the stigmatic silliness that pervades the performing arts overall. 

Add to this a subsequent profit sharing plan developed for those involved from the early
developmental stages of this masterstroke by the prescient producer's, has the embryonic momentum to further change the entire way the theater industry operates in the future.

And perhaps best of all, the stupefying breadth of this story is wrapped so exquisitely within a - how you American's call it - a Hip-Hop/Rap Soundtrack, that simply defies convention. 

And know this, it is not simply a verbal patois of singular storytelling but a 53 song soundtrack* that amalgams the worlds of historical theater, the occurrences of modern day, musical recognition from both the theatrical orbs as well as those in popular measure, AND done so with uncharacteristic verve to the historical figures represented that this final musical centerpiece in itself delivers a stunning theatrical cataclysm unlike anything that has come before it and that stands in its own majestic beauty.
* (While some may point to the documented listing of 38 songs, detailed and astute investigations performed (along with verbal and recorded admittance by the author himself) have thus uncovered it to be a 53 song performance......... dialed down surreptitiously so as to not 'intimidate'....)

Finally, and with no further attempts to retell a story that has been harped and registered ad infinitum, it would not be a complete and final investigation if specific acknowledgements were not delivered herein:

Lin-Manuel Miranda - All aspects of this investigation revolve around what can only be described as true genius; defined within as 'he who sees as clear as day that which no one has ever even conceived of prior to", all platitudes deserved. The role and production for many lifetimes.

Leslie Odom, Jr. - A performance so full of startling vitality that it certainly succeeds in outshining (in turns) the originator and eponymously named star. Do not be surprised in the least if Mr. Odom walks out of the Beacon Theater with a Tony Award of his own for his role as Aaron Burr for he will have fully earned it.
Daveed Diggs - With the fully deserved and aforementioned nod to Mr. Miranda for envisioning such personas out of the wisps of creativity itself, Mr. Diggs' splendiferous portrayals of both the Marquis de Lafayette AND Thomas Jefferson are the feats from which legends are born. A rollicking thunderclap of a performance.

Renee Elise Goldsberry - With her entrance upon the stage, there is no doubt that you are being blessed by a 'Presence' which you will harken back to many, many times as a pivotal moment in your theatergoing career.

Christopher Jackson - The pivotal role of George Washington has never been portrayed as nobly and majestically as the tall, imposing, and statuesque Mr. Jackson.

And finally, Carleigh Bettiol, who as a member of the Ensemble is as astonishingly captivating as to draw attention from the spotlighted roles each time she graces the stage.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

An Investigation into Relaxants, Opiates, Alcohol, and Ultimately Cannabis - Part I

Arguably it has been quite a while since my last entry here and, for reasons that may become more clear once the haze and fog lifts, I've been involved in a caper so vast and so intertwined that it required nearly all of my faculties - and nearly compromised those faculties on many an occassion!

Now, it is widely documented that a vastly acute intellect (such as my own some would say) sometimes requires (no - demands!) an opportunity to disassociate itself from the intensely boring minutia of its everyday existence and simply cleanse out the flotsam and jetsam enjoined in its own gray matter - regardless of whatever advanced preventative measures have been taken towards its avoidance.

I would further postulate then that this mental respite would be a certified requirement for any 'advanced' mind to operate at its highest levels, a venture that this investigator is keenly allineated with for, as the good Dr. Watson has keenly reported in his copious journal entries, my predilection towards a variety of mental 'calming agents' is well and even over-documented, if my opinion is regarded at all. 

[Also, see cerebral compatriots Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, as well as the punctuated equilibrium of Stephen Jay Gould, among others for similarly comparative traits.]

Arguably then, with laws suddenly allowing for the recreational use of what was commonly referred to as "Cannabis" now lawfully passed in the territories of both Colorado and Washington, with near half a dozen more in planning, a thoroughly discriminating and (ahem!) 'personal' investigation seemed to be in order!

Yet, upon this investigator's inaugural inspection, it immediately surfaced that the beguiling positioning of today's laws on cannabis nationally coupled with the rise and fall of alcohol prohibition in this country's early 20th Century proved at once to be an intriguing legal meander thru the past 100 or so years all its own, with much of this jurisprudence originating from domains no one could imagine in the present day!

Withal, it was just such a level of investigation then that truly peeled back the machinated layers from this obfuscated onion and released the very pungency of its utter malfeasance. And, once this ground level review had been secured, we were then entirely comfortable with a second further in depth analysis of the very retail dispensaries offering legally procured strains of cannabis and its brethren, the purview of which will follow along soon enough in Part II of this treatise.

Thusly, herein will be the first of my three investigations where ultimately the conjoining of the three may allow a fuller vision of the issues to waft lazily into one's consciousness and allow the reader a greater understanding of the issues before us and perhaps outline a clearer path forward.

Straight away, it is not presently celebrated nowadays that opiates and other such 'relaxants' as morphine and heroin were termed fully medicinal in London (as I am only too well aware) as well as in these United States near the late 19th century - fully legal by the barristers record and as easy to acquire as aspirin is today at a Boots and Coots Apothecary (or as you Americans call it - Walgreen's).

Likewise 'Cannabis' (as it was known until 1937 - more on that in a bit), and it's various strains had been broadly used in a medicinal manner to treat all form of ailments such as cramps, stomach maladies, and other such general misery by peoples throughout history including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the ancient Chinese - with it's first recorded use in Asia as far back as 7000 BC.

If you will allow, briefly, a quick traipse thru this byzantine history of how strains of Cannabis first made their way to North America will then set us forward to review its present status before us more robustly.

Prevailing wisdom augers towards the plant's first arrival in Europe from the first lengthy latitudinal expeditions to the Far East (arguably stashed away in a caravan dashboard alongside Marco Polo's returning pasta horde). With the follow on expansive Spanish Conquest of the New World in the 1500's, the subsequent transport of cannabis by settlers into Mexico and Central and South America was thereby made certain. 

Further, once ensconced in Mexico its otiose travel was an easy (albeit uncomfortable) mule trek north with its subsequent societal usage in the newly formed United States enjoying organic growth for over 200 years until the subtle winds began to change with the passage of what is known as the Harrison Act of 1914 - the very first attempts by the hidebound electorate to criminalize narcotics and opiates in any way (including the ubiquitous 'coca' leaf, which had already been emulated on the iconic bottles of a new beverage from the South called Coca-Cola, giving it an iconic reverence only hinted at today).

These 'Opiate' tightening developments discernibly then required of us a slightly further peeling of the onion layers to get at a 'parallel dynamic' at work in many portions of the U.S.

Growing immigration from Europe - Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and others - countries which all enjoyed a long history with the joys of 'brewing' and of 'spirits', brought with them that love with many enterprising Germans conjuring up and delivering millions upon millions of gallons of beer, ale, and other distilled spirits to satisfy the thirst of this increasing Immigrant population (emphasis fully intended mind you).

The suddenly expanding retail saloons, now selling beer by the glass (Oh, the horror!) begot fierce competition amongst themselves and forced many to further proffer the public with other legerdemain 'enticements' to win business amongst the populace - enticements that included gambling and even direct introductions to the world's oldest profession - prostitution. (Truth be told, the more astute know that 'sales' is the worlds oldest profession with, prostitution properly positioned as just a subset of the primary.)

It was this burgeoning alcohol culture then that had brewed up the earliest hints of the Prohibition Movement, with it's beginnings found in America's Protestant Churches and a further sympathetic ear lent via groups such as the 'Anti-Saloon League' and the 'Women's Christian Temperance Union' whose steadfast beliefs (it was then hoped) would lead to a more 'pure and sober nation'. (And as in the world political tome "Lysistrata", it was the women again who took the matters of unruly male heads of households into their own hands for the perceived betterment of society.)

Interstitially, there also existed a strong preponderance of prejudicial tendencies towards immigrants in many throughout the land, including a large count already voting members of the U.S. Congress. With the further not so subtle assistance of openly avowed racists such as newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, devout proponents of the Harrison Act slyly played upon the fears of the general populace with widely distributed stories of 'drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes', of Chinese immigrants enticing and seducing women with the use of their opiates, and other incendiary direct ethnic references to instill fear in the U.S. citizenry - even moving so far as changing the name of the formerly considered medicinal plant itself from 'Cannabis' to a more 'Mexican' sounding term -  Marihuana.

Racism was so thoroughly engrained in this mien that it's been fully documented of puffed testimony with one medical 'professional', Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania, brazenly testifying at a Congressional hearing that "most of the attacks upon the white women of the south are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain." (A scientific Point-Counterpoint that continues to this day on many issues of the day, regardless of the veracity of the inherent facts or science of the findings. An inexcusable violation of the laws of the righteous and the just.)

With the anti-alcohol Temperance Movement and the Anti-Opiates forces working in conjunction, the Harrison Act of 1914 and then Prohibition itself enacted via the passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1919 (thus banning the sale, manufacture, and even the very transportation of alcohol), the usage of 'Marijuana' quickly rose in these parts as the preferred stimulant of choice (and something I was only tangentially aware of at the time, being more medicinally predisposed).

Many will point to Prohibition as the very syzygy for the rapidity of Organized Crime growth as well for it was this nefarious enterprise, with it's comfortable meanderings in the shadows, and with the derring do of a funambulist, that IT was perhaps best suited towards the successful (yet illegal) operation of bootlegging, distribution, speakeasy management, and the necessary ancillary related corrupt practices required for the success of these operations. This incidentally also included the 'hiring' of the constabulary to allow these distribution channels and operations to remain open and trouble free and, with the addition of the sotto-voce backing of the politicians in attendance to continue Prohibition as the law of the land... the success of the entire highly profitable criminal enterprise was thereby assured.

Correspondently, along with the passage of Prohibition was the commensurate increase in general law enforcement to ensure the acts compliance - Police, U.S. Marshals, and Customs Agents to keep citizens protected from the evils of the 'demon alcohol'.

In one regard, Prohibition 'worked' as it had been intended for U.S. alcohol consumption in the 10+ years after it's passage dropped to 30% of previous levels. However, compliance in the early 1930's began to wane considerably and plans were ultimately drawn up and laid to pass the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of alcohol in December of nineteen hundred and thirty three. (Intriguingly, Confederate state South Carolina was the only state to vote AGAINST the 21st Amendment and the repeal of prohibition).

A dynamic not easily wasn't seen at the time however was the expansive role that law enforcement had become In Toto and the need to find another 'Ill' to police or the many facets of this expanded force would soon be out looking for work.

With extensive help of the aforementioned Mr. Hearst with his virulent hatred of blacks and Hispanics, newspapers across the country began running falsified and exaggerated stories demonizing the effect of marijuana and its effects on the children of, predominantly, white parents. 

Still more intriguingly, the DuPont Corporation had a desire as well to outlaw the continued use of Hemp, a strain of Cannabis, with it's strong tensile strength which had long been used over the centuries for its strong, sinewy qualities and which had a history of usage in the development of ropes, twines, and other woven products. Indeed, the term 'canvas' has its very linguistic derivations in the Latin word 'cannapaceus' meaning 'made of hemp'. 

Sails in whilom vessels used 'canvas sheets made of hemp' for they withstood extended exposure to saltwater and were much better than those of cotton composition; such was their use by American settlers as well with covered wagons all across the plains.

This plant, this hemp,  posed a major threat to Dupont's newly patented and designed products using plastics and petroleum based formulas and they too worked to ban and prohibit its use. Such is the continued practice by Business in the interests of 'free enterprise"....Indeed!

With the appointment of the former director of the Department of Prohibition to the head of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, this triumvirate alliance served as the force necessary to move the country towards what would become the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, effectively outlawing the sale and possession of marijuana without a 'Marijuana Tax Stamp'. No stamps were ever issued of course and this ingenious manner to make marijuana illegal became the law of the land and shifted both organized crime and the enforcement of the laws towards this new ill towards the American citizenry.

Elementary! For this then also served to target itinerate minorities as both blacks and Mexicans were heavy users of Cannabis (er, marijuana) and this served as the additional gambit that newspaperman Hearst had ultimately sought.

Which, in circumlocuitous fashion, brings us to the present day and the recent relaxation of attitudes towards the medicinal use of cannabis, with first the passage of laws in California towards its usage with a prescription from a medical professional, and then the eventual personal and recreational use of marijuana with legislation passed in both Washington and Colorado domains.

Of course, it was under the guise of "Investigation" towards this legal relaxation of laws in Colorado that brought me to the almost antiseptic marijuana dispensary "Euflora" on the famed 16th Street Mall in the heart of touristy downtown Denver, Colorado, an affair I shall document wholeheartedly in Part II of this worthwhile case!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Case of the Purloined Cruffin from Mr. Holmes' Bakehouse!

Recently I was made aware of a case of Bakery Burglary in a curiously effected shoppe in San Francisco that is perplexing investigative experts and patrons alike for this theft pointed only towards the removal of BAKERY RECIPES from the eponymously coined 'Mr. Holmes Bakehouse'!
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse on Urbanspoon
What, mind you, could be of such VALUE and found inside a ring binder that the alleged transgressors thereby bypassed every other single item of value inside said Bakehouse (iPad, expensive equipment, cash register and cash, Holmes-names accessories!) and focus singly on four binders containing the ingredients and cryptic instructions towards the preparation of baked goods alone?

Coffee Cream Cruffin with Marshmallow Square
Were these purloined recipes the written Magna Carta of all bakery morsels - never to be found or baked again?  The pop-n-fresh Crown Jewels of the pastry trade and made so spectacularly that the very manner in which they are amalgamated drew the eye of the darkest in the flour and sugar underworld? Indeed this immediately beckoned my acute investigative sensitivities!

While I admit I have not (yet) been asked to participate in this particular investigation, San Francisco's finest doing their usual excellent work no doubt, my curiosity has still gotten the better of me if for no other reason than the very name of this splendid enterprise - which I've  discovered with a mirthful mouthful, has been named after the feline in residence of the owners own mother - a cat named SHERLOCK HOLMES! (Oh the humanity!)

This bake shoppe, open only three months, has apparently already driven the foodies of this culinary-crazed city mad as a hatter with dozens of divinely derived blessings yet it is a singularly named item that has caused all the stir and has brought the throngs Walking Dead-like to beat upon the doors of this Larkin St. storefront: The Cruffin; a swirling delight of soft and chewy croissant goodness spired tall into an accentuated muffin pouf.

courtesy jim wilson/
However, it is what is then done with this creation that has set the bakery world asunder for the Cruffin itself represents only the launching point of the imaginative baking spirit of owner Ry Stephens, whose incarnations have so far included styles such as the Strawberry Milkshake, the Peanut Butter Fluffernutter, Honeycomb Caramel, Sightglass Coffee Cream..... the list being limited only to whatever this Parisian trained pastryman can conjure.

And so it is with the introduction of this Cruffin that long queue's begin to form ahead of the shoppes opening in anticipation of this frenzied patisserie offering....some only to find that the Cruffin is not made available until 9 am and is also then limited to only 2 per customer until they are vanquished entirely - a point which usually does not last more than an hour on weekends and perhaps only slightly longer on weekends.

The facts of the case so far are known: The door to the Bakehouse was unlocked upon the arrival of the early morning baking crew....near 3:00 am, and with the owner himself responsible for securing the door the previous evening.
courtesy of

Additionally,  a recently installed closed circuit recording system was not yet operational, a fact not yet known to the other employees of the bakery and further creating dichotomies in the case. The presumed reason to install a closed circuit system could point towards the proximity between the Nob Hill region to the north and arguably the 'toughest' neighborhood in San Francisco, the Tenderloin District just to the south (named many eons past for the cuts of meat afforded by the constabulary paid more for this rough and tumble beat). 

Yet none of this points to any such hooligan-type gaining entry solely for the opportunity to remove said recipes from their binders in the kitchen......visions of the 'Tampopo' homeless gaining entry to Tokyo's finest kitchens after-hours to prepare their own evening meals in stealth swirling in their, this was a job of cunning, thought, and conviction.

A disgruntled neighbor perhaps, upset with the constant traipses of the hungry and craven in search of the tantalizing deliciousness wafting nearby? Not bloody likely as the baked goodness vanishes as quickly as it arrives and no hours are kept past 3:30 pm on weekends or 2:30 pm on weekdays. 

The French Laundry
Yountville, CA
An employee (or former employee) with their own thoughts of grandeur towards the imaginary sugary riches that await a similarly coifed offering elsewhere...... a possibility yet also quite doubtful for Mr. Stephens avows his faith in the honesty and integrity of his employees and the dedication of those committed to this profession would abhor such an act. 

Yet this also appears a less fruitful lead in that the mere introduction of a renamed or reshaped 'Cruffin', like a stolen masterpiece by Van Gogh or Matisse, would call immediate attention to the very nature of such a beast and further warrant investigation into the derivation of the, this would not suffice.

And yet the theft of priceless art does continue in this era despite the pointless nature of such a crime (save one of an insurance related nature). Private galleries and collections sometimes burst with pilfered rarities, the satisfaction received simply in the ownership and not in the publicity of such ownership with many of these instances involving the transportation of these artifacts over great distances far from the original location. 

Intriguingly, another such high profile heist was recently conducted where near $300K in fine wines were absconded from the famed 'French Laundry' in nearby Yountville, CA yet remarkably found several weeks later in a Greensboro, NC wine cellar with several bottles already missing (and presumably enjoyed most heartily). 

In that case, where a bottle of Cote-Rotie "La Mouline" is proffered  for $5,000 and Napa's own Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon near $29,500, the individual bottles were serialized and scanned with ultraviolet tags for easier traceability, a fact proving instrumental towards their timely recovery. 

Surely such heraldry is not warranted here as the 230+ recipes were further secured on Mr. Stephenson's computer along with the manner in which one would concoct a Cruffin, despite having the ingredient listing, was lacking.

The California Sushi Croissant

All said, the lines at Mr. Holme's Bakehouse have only increased since the theft with customers delivering the supportive structure any small enterprise needs to survive. And as this caper unravels, you can be sure I will be keeping a very close eye on this one!