Todd and I had never heard of figs wrapped in bacon until thirty-some years ago, reading aloud Canadian author Robertson Davies’ Tempest-Tost (1951). In the book a patron of a small town theatrical group has figs wrapped in bacon as a savory. We tried it on our anniversary, liked it, and made figs wrapped in bacon a part of our celebrations of anniversaries or New Year’s Eves for a number of years. It fell by the wayside after my surprise heart attack the year I turned fifty (bacon, you know…). We’d never seen figs wrapped in bacon on a menu or even heard of it other than that one mention in Tempest-Tost. So imagine our surprise when we sat down for dinner in the dining room of the Grand Canyon Lodge, at the North Rim, and there among the hors d’oeuvre offerings was figs wrapped in bacon. We ordered it, of course. “Seeing this on the menu is interesting,” I said to the waiter. “Probably not many people order it?” “Quite a few do,” he replied dismissively, perhaps hoping to head off being told what was interesting about it. But he didn’t get away without learning of the reference in Davies’ book. (If he’d been particularly handsome, he might have been kept standing there, with his little pad and pen, while I embellished on the facts. Authors do that, you know, make much of nothing.)
Our second night at the Lodge I ordered a steak (one of the best I’ve eaten) and drank Coke or Pepsi with it, something I only permit myself on special occasions or away from home. A woman at the next table ate figs wrapped in bacon, I noticed. So perhaps the waiter hadn’t been only trying to get away when he said quite a few people ordered it.
I’d been to the Grand Canyon once before, as a teenager with a church group. But God made it snow on us, a pack of L.A. boys with nothing more than light sweaters. We’d expected to swim at the bottom, as the boys had on their Spring break trip a year earlier. This wasn’t the first time that I concluded God wasn’t necessarily good, could in fact be a pain in the ass. Looking back on it, I wonder how our troop leaders had been so goddamn dumb as to not realize—or educate themselves—as to how cold it can be at the Grand Canyon in March. But we are talking about people who believed a whole parcel of nonsense, whose natures probably didn’t run to pursuing facts.
The South Rim is ten miles from the North, as the crow flies. Driving, it’s two-hundred miles. A beautiful drive: Kaibab Forest, Vermillion Cliffs, Glen Canyon (pictured just below), Painted Desert, and several view spots along the South Rim as you progress toward the lodges.
After my second steak of the trip (be still my irregularly beating heart), we strolled on the path that extends for fourteen miles along the South Rim. In the shadows ahead, what appeared to be a dog-sized rodent (low head, humped body, long tale) hopped over the wall from somewhere in the depth of the canyon, crossed the path, and disappeared into the parking lot of one of the three lodges on the South Rim. Behind it came a second critter, this one clearly a very large cat, not crouching as the first had been we realized. We turned around. Into the dark, with flesh-eating animals coming up from the canyon, I do not venture. A moment later a mule deer hopped over the wall, crossed the path, and began eating labelled specimens in a native-plants garden. At the Bright Angel Lodge coffee shop, where we retreated for desert, a waiter told us we’d seen mountain lions.
Did I mention the stars? We happened to both be awake around 3:30 a.m., so ventured out and lay on benches gazing at the Milky Way, a rare spectacle for city dwellers.
The Grand Canyon—as long as you don’t go with a church group with the intent of further Christianizing Native Americans, you’ll have a good time. To say that “Grand” is an understatement is itself quite an understatement.