If you ever decide to motor to Mono Lake (that’s it above) from Los Angeles you’re almost certain to pass through Bishop, a town that figures somewhat in the Charles Manson story. It was the place where Manson family member Bruce McGregor Davis was first arraigned on a charge of “purchasing a firearm with fictitious identification,” i.e. he was using stolen checks. Davis turned out to be Manson’s “enforcer” and was duly convicted of two murders, though not the most famous ones.
In fact the folk in Bishop don’t make much of this part of their history. Far more celebrated these days is Mahogany Smoked Meats, who’ve been in business in one form or another since 1922. If you want a smoked ham or pork chops, an elk salami or buffalo jerky, then this is the place. And as the name suggests they apparently really do use mahogany logs in their smoking.
We had some of their smoked bacon just this morning – the kitchen smelled like a campfire. And – and this really made the trip for us – they also make their own Landjager – the legendary “walking sausage” which looks exactly like this.
Now, having been to Mono Lake, probably rather few people return to L.A. via Tonopah, a rugged though still functioning mining town in Nevada, but we did. Dinner at the Mizpah Hotel was pretty good. They have a restaurant called the Jack Dempsey room, which wasn’t open, but the bar looks like this:
Tonopah also still has a real honest to goodness book shop – Whitney’s Bookshelf - and there I scored a copy of Conversations With Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist. I’m never sure if I’m a true a fan of Joan Crawford, there’s always something compelling about her but there’s usually something faintly absurd as well. Think Johnny Guitar, which according to the book she absolutely despised.
Still, having read Conversations I’m rather more or a fan that I was. Newquist says to Joan, “Yesterday we had lunch at the Chinese restaurant in this building and in the next booth there was that woman with the two small children she absolutely couldn’t control, and she turned to you and said, ‘I really don’t know what to do with them.” And you looked at her and smiled and said, glacially, ‘Have you considered infanticide?’”
Ah yes, the Joan Crawford school of childrearing.