Summer Guide 2016 is a sensual experience
“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul,” wrote Oscar Wilde in the second chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray. When the novel was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, the hedonistic behavior of the main character offended British moral sensibilities. Well, we here at the RN&R are hedonists, too—though probably not to the degree of the Dorian Gray character. I mean, we're definitely not sold on the idea that youth and beauty are everything. Nevertheless, we'll take a page from Wilde's book—in a manner of speaking—and encourage you to unleash your inner hedonist with these arousing summer activities.Get an eyeful
Mini golf is one of those things that’s generally good for people of all ages—an excellent option when family's in town or anytime there's a lull in summer events. There’s just something about the forest of silly obstacles that calls for good-natured behavior and reconnects us with our youths.
Think back to your youth. What did you want to be when you grew up? A pirate? There's totally a pirate ship at the mini golf place. A knight in shining white armor? There are plenty of dragons—some two-headed—for the slaying. How about an intrepid explorer?—then you won't mind when your ball gets lost somewhere within the dark, spidery recesses of the putt-putt pyramid.
Visit Magic Carpet Golf, 6925 S. Virginia St., 853-8837, this summer. There's a special magic about the obstacles there, which—like childhood memories are wont to do—have become a little worse for wear. They may have faded with time but, if you use your imagination, there's still a bit of magic there.
It’s hot outside; take off your clothes. Summer ’tis the season for skinnydipping, whether that’s soaking in a sulfuric hot spring, or diving into a cool pool at some secret swimming hole. And it’s great to get naked and have fun—wholesome or otherwise—with your friends. And, you know, don’t be a dick about it. No need to leer or make shitty comments. Just enjoy the sights. There are few things in the world more beautiful than naked humans—in all their shapes and sizes.
Drive across Nevada in the dead of night. The highways are long, straight, dry for miles upon miles. At, say, 2 a.m. somewhere between Battle Mountain and Elko, stop. You don’t even have to pull to the side of the highway—there will be no traffic. Shut off the car and lights and get out of the car. There will be a blackness all around, and also an alluring silence—no hum of the city. And straight overhead will be the most brilliantly clear stars you have ever seen, none of them diminished by the lights of the city.
Don’t bother telling anyone about what you saw and felt when you get back to civilization. There’s no communicating it. It has to be experienced.Play it by ear
The regular season of Major League Baseball is 162 games long. That’s not 162 games total—but 162 games for each team. (In the National Football League, by contrast, each team plays a tenth as much—just 16 games a season.) That means that from April ’til October, each team plays nearly every day. For busy people, trying to watch all those games on TV is a bit of an overwhelming commitment. And then there’s the lousy financial commitment of paying for a cable bundle that includes hundreds of channels you’ll never watch just to be able to see a few ballgames. But listening to games on the radio is an easy, unobtrusive pleasure—something that goes perfectly with housework or a trip to the gym or whatever. Local terrestrial radio stations broadcast games for the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland A’s and the Reno Aces, and other broadcasts are available online. The sounds of baseball enrich the texture of life—the crack of the bat, of course, but also calls of the umpires, the shouts of the hot dog vendors, the roars of the crowds, the dumb jokes of the announcers … and then a trip to the ball park is like going to a concert to hear music you love.
Located about 25 miles east of Fallon on Highway 50 is a rare wonder of the natural world. Looking a whole lot more like the Sahara Desert than the high desert, Sand Mountain is one of a few singing sand dunes in the world. The sound that comes from Sand Mountain is a low sort of moan. According to the New York Times, it's a note of low C. Sometimes the mountain also makes a kind of booming sound. What's happening? According to National Geographic, “As sand grains shuffle down the slopes of certain sand dunes, they produce a deep, groaning hum that reverberates for miles” and varies in tone depending on the size of the grains of sand.
The sand at Sand Mountain came from ancient Lake Lahontan, which the Nevada Division of State Parks estimates once covered some 8,500 square miles. Today, the lake is down to 12,000 surface acres, when it's full. Here's a tip: It can be hard to hear the singing sand over the sound of dune buggies during the day. Camp out at Sand Mountain to hear its eerie singing at night.
Music in casinos, according to casino lore, has a commercial use. The website Casino Las Vegas reports, “The themes playing from the well-hidden speakers of your favorite casino are not designed to get you onto the dance floor; they’re chosen for a very specific psychological purpose. Namely, to get you relaxed enough to part with your money.”
Thus to the toxic air of casinos can be added manipulative music.
Fortunately, many of the casinos unwittingly provide a remedy for their beleaguered customers. The overall cacophony of most casinos makes music difficult to hear, and sometimes even to detect. The flashing lights and the sound—a mix of coins, dishes, glasses, bells, sirens, wheels, and various implements such as long-handled dustpans and the voices of dealers (there is a YouTube video of “ambient” Las Vegas casino sounds) all combine to intrude on whatever effect the casinos think their music has.Watch your tongue
T’s Mesquite Rotisserie, 901 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village, 831-2832, is a long-time favorite destination for hungry Tahoe beach bums. We like the rotisserie chicken, but the tri-tip is on point too. The meat is synonymous with the word succulent. No day trip to the lake is complete without at least one burrito from T’s—whether it’s on the way to the beach or for the drive back down Mount Rose Highway—although that really only works if you’re not the one actually driving because those burritos are big, delicious and dangerously distracting to drivers attempting to navigate a curvy mountain road. The association with summer beach dining is so strong that we’re not even sure if the place is open from October to March.
About 40 years ago, RN&R News Editor Dennis Myers mentioned pine nuts to a visiting border state friend. She was skeptical. Was this some snipe hunt-like notion Nevadans use on credulous outsiders? A couple of years ago Myers mentioned them to her again, and she said she was now convinced—pine nuts had made their way to her state’s groceries.
It was a long time in coming. Nevada’s Reese River Reveille reported a few months before statehood, “We see that this luxury of Nevada is appreciated in the lower country, as they are advertised in the Bay papers as a new thing, and that Aurora is doing a good business in shipping them. Pine nuts are certainly a new thing to the American people, and … an excellent thing they are too, in the absence of the many varieties of fruits and nuts we were formerly accustomed to. The Indians do a good business here in selling them.”
As always, it’s not necessarily good news that a local favorite has gone to greater success, since widespread production can lead to watering down the product. It’s easy to imagine the harvesting of less-than-mature pine nuts as well as shorting the application of nutrients. Who wants the pine nut version of grocery store tomatoes?
There’s a special inebriating concoction that only a few—the initiated—in Reno would know. You can’t find it in a bar. You can’t buy it at a liquor store. It requires a mixer that no person would use in good conscience. What is it? Where can this mystery beverage be had? There’s only one place—the Truckee River. Here’s the recipe. Grab an inner tube and a six-pack of cold ones in a can. (The brand doesn’t matter, though Pabst Blue Ribbon is a local favorite.) Inflate the tube and climb aboard with your brewskies. Once you’ve shoved off into the river, crack one of your brewskies and wait until you hit the first rapids. After passing through the other side, take a sip. That, my friend, is the volatile, stomach churning combination known as a river beer. Drink it up—responsibly. And don’t leave your cans.Put a finger on it
When people think of iconic summer activities, swimming and water sports are usually right up there near the top of the list. From the swimming pool to Lake Tahoe, a cool dip is very often the right speed for warm day. But what about a warm dip?
Soaking in the mineral-rich waters of hot springs has long been a popular pastime. Before science found its way into medicine, mineral baths were a popular curative treatment for all sorts of ailments. People often called a visit to a mineral bath “taking the cure/waters.” Some people still subscribe to the therapeutic powers of mineral baths today. Healing or not, it can still be pretty fun—especially when clothing's optional.
Nevada has plenty of hot springs, from the resort-style ones to the ones you'll find out in the middle of the desert. (A word of advice on the uncharted ones—their temperatures have been known to change drastically over time. So don't go cannonballing in, no matter how many times you've been there.) Early mornings and late evenings when the heat abates are ideal times for “taking the waters.”
At Pyramid Lake, tourists for decades have scooped up handfuls of sand and put them in tissues or bags and carried them off to show the folks back home. It is interesting sand, with the tiny shells from ancient times. But the sand has a better use.
Run your fingers through it. Feel the silky texture. Walk out into the water, the sand underfoot seeping between your toes. You may feel more in touch with the earth, more in touch with yourself. And you may well feel your tensions ease. Certainly the experience gives you reason to have more faith in the tribal belief in the sacredness of the land.
The Black Rock Desert is more than just a venue for Burning Man. It’s there the other 51 weeks of the year too. It’s wet and muddy during the winter, but it dries out for the summer, and the feeling of that alkaline dust against bare skin is one of the quintessential tactile sensations of Northern Nevada. It feels especially good against bare feet, walking around the desert, whether you’re there with thousands of hyped-up revelers, bumping dance music, or alone at night, with the unpolluted sprawl of the Milky Way above you.Follow your nose
There is nothing like the smell of some good herb, right? No, not cannabis. We’re talking the premium scent of the genus lavandula. Yep, lavender. It’s redolent. It’s a heady, pungent member of the mint family that’s been used in aromatherapy, supposedly, for thousands of years. Come July, it’ll be flowering at Lavender Ridge, 7450 W. Fourth St.,747-3222. When it does, the scent can become unbelievably powerful.
There's a little shop housed in a shed near the back of the property, where visitors can buy bath products infused with essential oil from the lavender plants. Getting to the shop requires a walk through rows of lavender, which in the height of summer appear to sway—even on the stillest of days—as swarms of bees move through them like a small, rumbling army on the march.
It's worthwhile to note that getting some of this lavender can be considerably harder than getting some bud. You don't just call the Lavender Ridge folks up and say, “Hey, can I get a dime bag of that good stuff?” They're only open to the public from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. on the first Wednesday and last Saturday of the month.
Ah, the smell of freshly mowed lawn—a smell that immediately reminds us of summer allergens. It’s seems so alluring at first, it draws us in, and then we just start sneezing. The cliché is that smell is the sense most closely connected with memory, and the smell of freshly cut grass immediately reminds us of summer afternoons, trying in vain to get a broken old lawnmower to work, bursting into sneezing fits, sweating, and wondering why anyone would ever want to waste so much water trying to keep a non-indigenous plant species alive.
The pungent scent of sagebrush is one of the plant's most pronounced features. In 1945, when the makings for cologne and perfume were being reserved for war uses, United Press writer Frederick Othman suggested alternatives to Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace: “New mown hay? Tanbark? Sage brush? Pigskin?” In 1973, there was something called “Scent of the West" being sold in Salt Lake City—sagebrush-scented candles.
Novelist Robert Laxalt once received a letter on a ship at sea. He later wrote of opening the envelope, into which someone had slipped a sprig of sagebrush, “Before I could protect myself, the memories were summoned up and washed over me in a flood.”
Journalist Ed Pearce, who grew up in small counties Nevada, had a similar experience with a care package in the Air Force in Japan, which produced what he called “the scent of home.”
“Native Nevadans, especially those of us who grew up out in the rurals, can really get nostalgic about the smell of sagebrush after a rare high desert rain,” he said.Broaden your mind
Reno Magick, 1004 S. Wells Ave., is one of a few metaphysical stores in the Truckee Meadows. Owned by Misty Grayknights and her husband, Scott Reimers, it's an eclectic place with just about anything you could possibly need—from herbs to books to gems and minerals—for some summertime spell casting. In the mood for a little sex magick? Swing by for some large penis- and/or vagina-shaped candles. You might also schedule a reading with Grayknights. But—if you're not a practicing Pagan—you might want to slow your roll.
Tuesdays are beginners' nights at the attached Pagan temple next door. The temple is an official nonprofit church that recognizes eight pantheons, and Grayknights and Reimers are both ordained Pagan ministers. They can teach you some basics before you go jumping in headlong.
Reading is a magical thing. That can be easy to forget because we encounter written words so often in our daily lives that we take them for granted, but it’s a wondrous thing—that looking at arbitrary marks on paper has the effect of creating meanings within our minds. It’s how we learn our history, our recipes, our facts and our fictions. A good book can have the power to whisk the reader off to far away places. Sounds like some Reading Rainbow hokum, sure, but it’s authentic alchemy that warrants some cheesiness. Summer can be a great time to rediscover the unadulterated joy of reading for pleasure. Maybe find a nice hammock somewhere shady, grab a tall glass of lemonade or maybe some sugary iced coffee drink, and dive into some fun genre fiction. Maybe for the purposes of tingling your ESP, you might want to get into some mind-bending science fiction, like Philip K. Dick or Neal Stephenson—or, hey, did you know that the biggest TV show in the world is actually based on a book series? Yep, the TV show Game of Thrones is based on author George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, which is darker, sadder, stranger, sexier and more fantastical than the show. Reading is real magic.
Marcus Aurelius: “The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.”
Lao Tzu: “Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.”
Audrey Hepburn: “There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”
Lawrence Durrell: “Everything is clear in this struggle to reach her. The car humming like a top, stammering, banging round corners with its insane fixed eyes; the carpet of light racing along the dark arterial roads; the distance being patiently consumed. I am in a kind of fanatical imagery now, unreal, moving through this aquarium of feelings, conscious of nothing but the blood thinning in my veins, and the slow fearful heart.”