In Petaluma, Everything Old is Old Again


Having missed yesterday’s Petaluma Butter and Eggs Day Parade, I felt obliged to attend its follow-up, the 23rd annual Petaluma Antiques Faire. Or, at least my wife felt obliged, seeing as she’s been on a quest for an ever-elusive credenza. I’m not one for antiques, which accounts for my aimless ambling through the throng of vendors congesting Kentucky Street under the banner of “Recycle, Re-Use, Remember.” Permit me to make an alliterative addition to their slogan: “Retail.”? Commerce at the fair was in full force, that is for everyone except the businesses whose foot-traffic was siphoned from the sidewalks and into the street, which must have been particularly goring to the owners of stores festooned with “Going Out of Business” signs. So far, I’m only down $40 for a metal end-table inexplicably fixed with a combination lock. Of course, my wife loves it and I for one can’t wait to accidentally lock my keys in it.

Since my wife forbade me sneaking off to anesthetize myself with a Petaluma Strong Ale (though she has turned a blind-eye to my blogging this post on the sly from an? iPhone), I had to make-do with what was available at the antiques fair to numb the pain of seeing artifacts from my youth sold as antiquities (when did the 80s become ancient?). Besides bludgeoning myself with an electronic “Simon” memory game my only choice seemed to be ether, or at least a glass jar labeled “Ether.” I opened it on the off-chance that it contained a residual whiff (since just a dab will do ya), but that bird had flown long ago and joined a flock of dodos. My wife, however, was kind enough to take a picture of her man-tique peering longingly through its glass, darkly.

Social Media Snarketing

There was a time when “social media” described newspaper folk rubbing elbows. But like the word “thong,” the term has come to mean something else entirely in our new millennium. Speaking as an accredited member of the media, I can say I approve of the reassignment of both terms.

With “Web 2.0” came a deluge of social media sites and key among them is Twitter. A micro-blogging site that asks one to reduce one’s missives to the masses into 140 character aphorisms, Twitter posts are akin to something between a telegram and haiku. I “tweet” myself (the preferred term for engaging the service, though prescriptivist linguists might argue the term should be “twit” – which I’ve not heard in earshot since middle school).

For a more thorough explanation of Twitter, ask Oprah, its latest celebrity acolyte. For an analysis of its raison d’etre, ask yourself “What is the meaning of life?” then subtract the Hallmark card treacle. Take what remains (I was left with simply “because”) and you might have an answer. Sort of. Twitter, it seems, is what you make it – or, as it seems recently – what social media marketers make it. Whereas pornographers used to aid the proliferation of new media (Debbie did VHS, not Beta), marketers are often the first to embrace social media.

Consider, Hospice du Rhône, which breathlessly bills itself in all caps as “the world’s largest international celebration of Rhône variety wines.” The wine advocacy group joined forces with Sonoma’s Estate restaurant for last week’s Twitter Taste Live event, which successfully integrated the micro-blogging service and a worldwide tasting event staged in various locales. Throughout, imbibers tweeted their experience. This is what I managed to post whilst juggling a wine glass and an iPhone:

“Ah, the Hahn syrah — the cheapest wine by the glass at the girl and the fig. A local fave… 7:36 p.m.” “Bruce McKay is pushing the Landmark. Tackle him and bring the bottle to me. 8:08 p.m.”

“We’re in the midst of a brawl. 9:34 p.m.”

Of these pithy tweets, the last was an outright lie – McKay could kick my butt with a mere twirl of his mustache. Regardless, this troika of tweets was not only mixed into the global chatter, but also projected on a large screen at Estate so that we tweeters might enjoy a fleeting moment of celebrity before the virtual graffiti was washed away by a torrent of other tweets. Cheap thrills repackaged digitally? Sure, but it is illustrative of the peculiar combination of banality and revolution at the event horizon of modern communication.

Other popular uses of Twitter include using the service to fling oneself all over the world. Remember Paul Smith, the so-called “Twitchhiker” who graced these pages last month whilst circumnavigating the globe tweet by tweet? He made it back to England by way of, well, the rest of the world.

I just received a press release regarding yet another Twitter travel phenomenon – in this case, three “Kiwi” students who have dubbed themselves “Team Ellen.” By leveraging social media, the trio managed to get transported from New Zealand to the Ellen DeGeneres Show. They arrived on Wednesday. DeGeneres herself (or at least her flaks) tweeted to her 800,000 or so followers, “Check out these 3 New Zealand students with an ambitious goal of traveling to visit my show…” And then –  presto! or, um, tweeto! –  Air New Zealand (which also flew the Twitchhiker at one point) and Discover Los Angeles (a travel portal) footed the bill. Why? Because they knew someone would tweet about it and maybe even make mention of their largesse in the legit press (curse you, marketing people, you’ve tricked me again!).

Darling readers, I can offer neither airfare nor airtime, but I can offer you this: Tweet me your 140 character (or less) summation of an iconic Sonoma experience and I’ll print the best in this column. Then you can be a twit like me.

Mental Pollution on Earth Day

Roadside Attraction
Roadside Distraction

Seeing as it’s something of a cultural mandate, many?media companies have gone green lately. Some append the ubiquitous “Please consider the environment before printing this email” below their signatures; other outlets, such as newspapers,?camouflage cutbacks of their ailing print editions by claiming a web-only product is better for the environment. It is (and it’s better for newspapers too in my opinion).? A certain advertainment company, however, is going headlong and heedless in the other direction ? or so it seems. While stuck in traffic in Napa last week, a mobile billboard idled in front of me (imagine a delivery truck in which the three sides of its payload, viewable from the street, are outfitted with rolling billboards that changed every few minutes). Admittedly, burning non-renewable fossil fuels while advertising “Cosmetic Sedation Restorative Orthodonics” sufficiently riled my inner-West County-child-of-the-70s such that I began drafting this post. When I tracked down the offender’s website (the ad company, not Dr. Vanity or whomever), intent on some online character assassination to avenge Mother Earth, I was met with a prominently placed “Bio Diesel” logo hovering above an animation of the truck’s revolving ad mechanism. Drats ? I would have to find another target upon which to release my self-righteous anger ? the outsized, rolling yellow pages was actually green. Kinda. So, in commemoration of Earth Day, I offer you the above photo of the medium-is-the-message monstrosity, for which I?risked having to get cosmetic sedation restorative orthodonics having taken the picture while driving. Shame on me. And shame on them for providing yet another roadside distraction.

Cinderella fermenting in Marin

Drink: Kendric Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir, Marin County
Drink: Kendric Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir, Marin County

There is a troika of contiguous counties that have laid claim to Northern California wine country ? Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino ? but Like Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Kendric Vineyards wants you to know ?There is another.?

Of course, I didn?t know this at first. The availability of Marin County wines in Sonoma Valley, where I spent the other day searching, appears to be nil. After raiding the aisles of two specialty wine shops, two upscale grocers and finally Safeway, I still came up empty-glassed. I cannot account for Sonoma?s apparent cabal against the burgeoning wine industry of its southerly sister, though I will aver that this sibling rivalry transcends mere inconvenience ? it?s a Cinderella moment waiting to happen. It?s just a matter of time before some bonnie prince of the wine press passes over Napa and Sonoma, having traded the glass slipper for sips from a glass. In this case, I suggest the Kendric Vineyards 2006 pinot noir, expertly produced by winemaker Stewart Johnson from grapes grown on a 8.5 acre vineyard in Marin County near the Petaluma part of the Sonoma County border.

Aware of my plight, my father located a bottle courtesy of the lauded wine steward at Mollie Stone?s in the Bon Air Center in Greenbrae. Known to locals simply as ?Bennett,? the supermarket sommelier not only stocked a cache of Marin County wines, but highly recommended Johnson?s work (specifically the syrah, the grapes for which hail from the Shenandoah Valley appellation shared by Amador and El Dorado counties). In an effort to redeem the hours lost seeking a Marin County wine, I opted for pinot specifically for the fact that grapes were grown locally. It proved a fine choice: quiet, dark berry and cranberry hues open the curtains on a caravan of sandalwood, tea and tobacco notes before finishing in a chorus of fresh plum.

The $33 wine pairs excellently with a toscano salami sandwich, replete with sweet butter and cornichons on a petite baguette, which I recommend enjoying in Sonoma for the sake of irony.