Vineyard of Earthly Delights

Just have a bite... There is little I would hesitate recommending whole-heartedly in Nomaville. Order blindly from any menu in town and chances are you will be pleased. Up the ante by selecting randomly from the wine list and your pleasure will likely double. About the only notion I’d suggest avoiding is sleeping in a vineyard, especially during harvest. Though the premise has a romantic aura, no doubt stoked by the likes of Kerouac, Steinbeck and possibly Thoreau, it’s also illegal. Even for a mild midday picnic, which is how my woes began.
Despite the fact that most vineyards are clearly marked “Forbidden,” they are irresistible as picnic spots, in part because they are verboten (German always sounds sexier for some reason). This, of course, has been the dirty little secret of tourists and townies alike for decades and has always added a delicious transgressive quality to the wine country experience. So spurred by writerly hubris and an unending desire to impress my wife, the Contessa, that I remain impulsive, raffish and court danger like the old-school newspaperman I’ve never been, I goaded her to dine amongst the vines. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself that “trespass” and “press-pass” share an etymological root, so in a pinch I could always claim I was on assignment, though such a ruse has only worked once for me and resulted in having to eke out a thousand words about my “special night” in the Museum of the Moving Image with Daisha the docent.

Anyway, the Contessa and I uncorked the wine and noshed our overpriced savories deep among the grapes, far from the traffic whooshing yonder. It was probably the third bottle of plonk that led to our inadvertent upgrade from picnic to camp out. Of course, we didn’t realize it until the morning, when a harvest crew ringed our picnic blanket and, silhouetted by the rising sun, made kissing noises until we stirred. After a round of hasty introductions, wherein I tried to convey that my wife and I weren’t some kind of wine country hobo duo living off the fat of the land, we were kindly dispatched to the roadside by the vineyard manager. Apparently, we were adversely affecting the terroir, though I’m more inclined to think the terroir was adversely affecting us – specifically my coat, which had accrued elbow patches made of mud sometime in the night. The vineyard manager was not impressed with my “Waning with the harvest moon” story, but said he wouldn’t press charges if the Contessa revealed her true name to him.

“Francesca,” she lied and I fell in love with her all over again. The vineyard manager chose to believe her and we trundled our picnic kit off to the car without the assistance of the law – just a modicum of shame.

When we returned to our Springs digs, I was eager to take a shower and change my clothes lest I get infested with phylloxera or something. As I sifted the topsoil that had accrued in my pockets in the night, I unearthed a California quarter appropriately emblazoned with a likeness of John Muir, a Sonoma Valley Music guitar pick and a tiny green worm. The first two treasures went on permanent display on my bathroom windowsill. The wriggling little vermicelli I transported in a matchbox to the Peace Lily that lives in the corner of my office on the Three House campus. I put a wine cork in the dirt as a memento of its former life, if only in the abstract. Now, I watch the worm weave through the dark leaves like an Edenic serpent and know, quietly, that it’s also watching me.

News Rapport

Should it be “putting the me in media” or the I ? The real question is “who cares?” Apparently, me do – at least enough to include a link to David Templeton’s “Speed of Film” article from this week’s Bohemian. Templeton was kind enough to pen some bon mots regarding FilmArt3, the new shingle I’m happily helming here in the wine country.  In the piece, Templeton recounts how he came to star in Farewell, My Android – our sci-fi short, which took all of 48 hours to execute. Now, darlings, I invite you to watch The Superhero, another speedy production now playing on SVTV27, SonomaSun.com and, of course, here.  It’s another of our series of “philosophical comedies,” a genre listed just before “physical comedy” in the Encyclopedia Commedia, which is loosely defined as “a work that is laughable in its attempt to be profound.” We try.

Spitzy & the Dame

You'll be back.This is not a eulogy, nor simply the blues – this is an outright dirge. Spitzy and the Dame are splitting Nomaville for some far away place, the name of which denial forbids me recall. My only salvo is Chief Cotati’s Curse. You haven’t heard it? Well, pull up a flat rock as the P-Town philosopher’s club used to say. The curse was first told to me at the Café Shrag in Lumaville sometime in the early ‘90s by a weathered, elbow-patched journo whose gig at the Lumaville Daily Echo I’d inherit five years later. At the time, I was young, brash and cavalier in a way that only youth can affect (now I’m merely brash, cavalier and warding off an impending existential crisis by jotting murky notes at the fig and sharing them with you, darlings).

As I remember it, I was busy crowing about my impending split for college and leaving Sonoma County for good and goodness’ sake, which is to say forsaking outright for keeps. The journo, sepia-hued from a career spent dragging navy-cut smokes under banks of fluorescent office lights, removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose as he sighed.

“Listen kid,” he wheezed. “Clearly, you know nil about the curse.”

“You mean my good looks?”

“Chief Cotati’s Curse, you arrogant twit.”

I shook the ice in my glass like a maraca, which I’d learn guaranteed the bartender would ignore me the rest of the night.

“Cotati was chieftain of the coastal Miwok when the settlers were moving in. He spotted the trend, knew he was going to lose what would soon become Sonoma County, so he cursed them, their progeny and anyone who steps foot on his sacred land. That includes wannabe scribes like you,” the journo clucked. He belted the rest of his river-water martini and ordered another round. I thanked him and he smiled, wanly. I’d later realize it was on my tab.

“The curse goes like this,” he rasped as he pulled me close by the lapel. He enunciated every syllable such that the last smack of his wretched martini misted the space between us. “You can leave, but you will always come back.”

He paused for dramatic effect. I saw his pause and raised him another before adjusting my ascot and groaning, “That’s it?”

“That’s enough,” he spat back. “Trust me, kid. You’ll be back.”

The journo weathered my clever arguments to the contrary as he finished his drink, then knocked me on the arm and shouldered the door into the inky night. Since then, I’ve returned to SoCo on a semi-permanent basis throughout the past decade. Three bouts of San Francisco never stuck, L.A. was a protracted exercise of geographic masochism, the Belgian Congo was jail time (literally) and whoever she was, she wasn’t waiting for me in Malta.

Though I had once been bristly about my frequent returns, I’m now convinced moving to Nomaville was the smartest move I’ve made, second only to marrying the Contessa – cursed or otherwise. So permit me at this juncture to torpedo some clichés on the eve of Spitzy and the Dame’s departure: parting is not such sweet sorrow, it’s sour as grapes. Absence makes the heart grow fonder only if you define “fonder” as aching eternally like the broken dreams of orphans. We never had Paris. But we’ll always have the curse.
So hear this, Spitzy and the Dame: You’ll be back. Go as far as the fates will take you and burn bridges like midnight cigarettes – I’ve read the message at the bottle’s bottom and it plainly says, “You’ll be back, my friends. You’ll be back.” Until then, until then…

Smoking in the Sky Box

Heat rises.By the time this little riff hits the presses, the smoke will have cleared. At least we can hope it’s cleared. ’Twas the “Lick Fire,” the result of an illegal debris burn far and away, south of San Jose, which tinted the local skies ash-grey. Just as rays refracting through smog makes for luminous Los Angeles sunsets, similarly spectacular is morning sun through the particulate matter of a state park gone ablaze. I overheard a barista at Barking Dog (Springs Edition) opine that sun shining through the haze looked like the world was ending. I had received a similar observation from the Contessa, who phoned me from her morning commute and goaded me to appreciate the blood-hued sunrise. Indeed, it looked like some revelation was at hand. It was downright demonic. Or rather, I should say, “daemonic,” which somehow brings with it the heft of biblical scholarship. Note, the Æ grapheme, wherefrom the “ae” vowel combination hails. The Latin diphthong made its way to the Old English alphabet where it had been transliterated from a rune the traditional name of which, coincidentally, is “ash.” I know this only because some English prof needled me over it once since the letter(s) are the second and third of my name. He also suggested that my name should be pronounced “Dee-dalus” so I dropped his class.

When I first landed in Nomaville, there was a period when I studied daemons in mythology for a project that continues to stoke my ambition. The local library was the locus of much of my research, which included ordering titles online to be delivered and held for me inside the foyer. I loved the system since it offered all the satisfaction of purchasing a title online (you even input your library card number in lieu of a credit card number) but without all the overdrafts. However, I became concerned that the amount of Lucifer-themed books I was ordering would arouse suspicions that some order of devil worshipper had moved to town. Rest assured, I’m too self-involved to worship anything other than the graven image that glowers in my own mirror, but I have had some run-ins with the old man. The most recent was at the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen where photo editor Flash Lely and I belted a belly full of his whisky before I recognized him. Though I’d learned long ago that the devil doesn’t mess with the press (or “messengers” as he has often wheezed through the gap in his teeth), his company always puts me on guard – especially, when he refers to the “wondrous utility of those who bridge the muse and mankind.” Yeah, glad to be of use, pal.

Some time ago, when my friend and news-game alumnus Hiya Swanhuyser and I were trawling tequila in the Mission, we were offered the contents of dust-lined, cut-crystal decanter. We each had a good slug (but smartly left the worm behind). Later, Hiya managed to stagger the stairs to her apartment and sleeping husband. I, however, stayed behind for a smoke, but soon found myself laying in the 22nd St. gutter. There, I became convulsed with laughter – the private joke, surely induced by the mescal wiping away my mind, was the stray notion that perhaps I was the devil and had merely forgotten. I recovered but was left with a lingering sense of doom, a permanent spiritual hangover, which was piqued again by the morning sun. As Flash’s grandmother once told him, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.” Now if I could only remember the ingredients of a Tequila Sunrise.