I’m in the USA at the moment. California to be precise.
This means that there are two things constantly on my mind – Donald Trump and coffee.
I am pleased to be able to report that arriving at Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX did not see me having to look at a picture of a grinning Trump after 14 hours of flying, seems they are in no rush replace the picture of Barack that replaced the picture of W that replaced the picture of Bill.
I wonder why.
The airport is named after Tom Bradley who was Mayor of LA for 20 years.
Bradley was the grandson of a slave, joined Council aged 45 in 1963, being the “first negro elected to Council”. He became Mayor on his second attempt in 1973, the city’s first and to date, only African-American Mayor.
In 1979, Bradley signed the city’s first homosexual rights bill and in 1985 the AIDS anti-discrimination bill which was possibly the first of its kind. So quite the legacy then.
Hence he gets an airport named after him. Fair enough.
It may surprise you to learn that the coffee you can find on the ground at Tom Bradley International is not spectacular. As an Australian, I am required by law to walk around loudly finding fault with the coffee in every other part of the world, especially the USA.
That the influx of Australian baristas to the USA is making it more and more easy to find coffee exactly like you have it every day at work (and isn’t that just the point of international travel?), threatens this national pastime and point of moral superiority so enjoy it while you can.
Melbournians particularly will find this challenging. They take coffee very seriously, and suffered some sort of moderate city-wide seizure when Lord Mayor Robert Doyle outed himself as a tea drinker a few years back.
(Just so you know, you only find Lord Mayors in Australia, Canada, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and surprisingly, the Republic of Ireland and Uganda).
So what will they name after Doyle? It’s going to be tricky.
Perhaps he could hope for a cocktail.
There is an IBA cocktail named after a Mayor – Felix Kir of Dijon, France.
Kir Royale calls for champagne and crème de cassis – a blackcurrant liqueur favoured by Hercule Poirot. The Kir for white wine and crème de cassis.
Pour one part crème de cassis into the bottom of a champagne flute and then add nine parts champagne. Facile.
I’m in two minds about the wine-based cocktail. Seems too close to a wine-cooler to actually qualify as a cocktail, and absolutely ripe for an unscrupulous bartender to rip you off by substituting sparkling wine for champagne (which is called a Kir Pétillant and should be priced accordingly). But that’s why we need to cover it.
Cocktailing is not without risks.
Fortunately the tending of bar is a generally honourable profession, you’ll rarely find them on a list of least-trusted jobs. Politicians though, they don’t fare so well in the public trust stakes.
Tonight I lay my head to rest in a hotel that served as inspiration for The Overlook in The Shining. It used to be called The Ahwahnee – had been called that since it opened in 1927, but now has to be called The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
That’s because of a massive tantrum being played out in the Courts by the former operator of the hotel.
When they didn’t get their contract renewed, said company apparently mounted a legal argument that they own a whole lot of names in the park, including Ahwahnee – which, by the way is a Native American Indian word meaning (as near as I can make it) “large mouth” which referred to the valley floor.
For clarity, this name was around long before said company took over the operations in 1993.
To be fair, it appears they were legally correct so they get to keep the name. Good on you guys, always go for being legally correct over being morally correct, because that’s the way to win hearts and minds. Dickheads.
And in this era of peaceful resistance, I want them to know that I have called this hotel nothing but Ahwahnee (ok, there may have been an occasional Wa Wa Nee thrown in) since we arrived.
That’s called stickin’ it to the man!
But in this most magnificent of buildings in this most magnificent of National Parks, I ordered a Kir Royale.
It is pink and pretty and far too sweet for my taste. I’ll take a champagne over a Kir Royale.
But I sit and sip and consider that actually, a politician created the drink in my hand and the National Park in which I am sitting.
Felix was Mayor for a long time, and was famous for serving up the cocktail at civic events. The reason for this – the official reason anyway – was that the crème de cassis was locally produced and Felix took the opportunity to showcase it whenever possible.
Felix was once a priest and a resistance fighter and also used his position to champion the Sister-City movement. Sister-cities have been around for centuries, but Felix saw it as an important initiative for rebuilding links damaged or destroyed by WWII.
Often you’ll find Sister City pairings where there is a reasonably obvious link – like Orange NSW and Orange County, California.
Or, my favourite, Dull, Scotland and its Sister City, Boring, in Oregon.
But Dijon – where someone thought of mixing mustard with verjuice instead of vinegar (great work guys, I’m a big fan) – has 14 sister cities, none of which make a whole lot of sense to me on superficial glance.
But a good politician – the ones we like to call “leaders” – will do useful things, even when it isn’t immediately apparent to a cocktail writer on the other side of the world.
Like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the Presidents we can thank for National Parks and the the National Parks Service of the USA which continues to make these extraordinary places accessible to the people. That’s a great legacy.
We can’t all create the National Parks Service, but sometimes great leadership is just about making sure the work that someone else has done doesn’t get fucked up on your watch.
And we raise our glasses in hope and trepidation and watch the clock count down the days…