(If) You’re Going to San Francisco

ggbThere’s a type of Sonoman that I never thought I’d become. The one that brags to visiting friends, “…Another thing that’s so bloody great about Sonoma is how close we are to the City. Heck, we can go anytime we want!” But we don’t.

The City in this scenario, of course, is San Francisco – that gleaming seven-by-seven mile metropolis, which, from the Sonoma Plaza to toll plaza is but a scant 39.6 miles south. So near is the City by the Bay, that some lucky Sonomans can actually see it from their hillside homes, weather permitting. And, somehow, they don’t go there either. Clearly, I’m not speaking of Sonoma’s few brave commuters who make the daily drive by car, carpool or daisy-chain of public transit, to toil toward a tax bracket that makes it all worthwhile. I’m referring to the islanders, those of us for whom traveling south of Schellville is a pilgrimage on par with a trip to Hell.

But why? We are not provincial people. We’re not a bunch o’ grape-stompin’ hillbillies, for the most part. Are we bridge averse? Wary of earthquakes? Or did we just forget how to get there? I know I nearly did during a trip I forced myself to take this week. To spare my fellow Sonomans the embarrassment of also having to ask the kid at the coffee cart how to get out of town, below are instructions made specifically for Sonomans that you may clip, tweet or tattoo backward on your forehead so you can read them in the rearview mirror.

A) Starting from the Historic Sonoma Plaza, do pass “Go,” do not “Collect $200,” just head south down Broadway.

B) Turn right at Hwy121. Ignore the voice in your head doing the sci-fi TV show monologue: “You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.” If it’s not the “Twilight Zone,” you’re fine.

C) Turn left at Arnold and proceed toward Infineon Raceway, which, despite oodles of time and money spent on branding, Sonomans still call Sears Point.

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D) Turn right at Sears Point onto Hwy 37.

E) Exit onto Hwy 101, otherwise known on this stretch as “Redwood Highway,” you know, because of the redwood trees that (used to) line it. Interestingly, the highway has six additional official names, including “Hollywood Highway,” where it fittingly reaches its terminus in a flotilla of smog. Be sure to keep left at the fork, by the way, or you’ll end up in the Novato Narrows or, worse, Petaluma.

F) Cross the Golden Gate Bridge. You’d be amazed at how many Sonomans scurry off to Sausalito at the last exit before the bridge, or get themselves hung up at Vista Point and lament how they’ve never been to Alcatraz. Get on the bridge. Stay on the bridge. Look to your right and wave to Japan. Look to your left and wave to the opposing traffic – they love it.

G) Pay the toll. It’s $6. Do not act shocked or surprised, otherwise everyone will know how infrequently you make it to the City. Do not attempt to tip or otherwise patronize the tollbooth personnel. They are officially known as “bridge officers” for a reason.

H) Turn around immediately and return to Sonoma. Seriously, I mean, come on, San Francisco? Been there, done that, right? Besides, you can go anytime.

How to do Sonoma County on the Cheap

Here’s the latest in our continuing series for the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, Inside Sonoma, Episode 9: Sonoma On the Cheap. Among other stops In this episode, your intrepid Lifestyle Ambassador rides the bus, says goodbye to California’s state parks and visits a taco truck.

Tipping Sonoma’s Sacred Cow

She’s everywhere in Wine Country – if it weren’t for all the vineyards, one might think we lived in one vast dairy farm lorded over by a cartoon cow with a propensity for milk-themed puns.

The iconic Clo the Cow made her billboard debut in1969 and later began her award-winning reign of puns thanks to the creative minds at Benefield, Levinger, McEndy & Vernon, a Santa Rosa-based ad agency now known as VeVa Communications. Since its inception, the campaign has remained essentially the same – the great two-dimensional head of Clo the Cow grins vacantly toward the roadside, gussied in some order of cultural meme, humorously explicated by wordplay. A vivid illustration of the Clo concept and its relative malleability is the “Mooona Lisa” billboard that featured the cow as Da Vinci’s famed “Mona Lisa,” in the most successful parody of the painting since Duchamp painted a mustache on her. Later, following the popularity of Dan Brown’s the “Da Vinci Code” she appeared in Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” as “The Da Vinci Clo.”

Of course, not all of Clo’s guises have been hits. In 1993, the campaign had a legal confrontation with television aquanaut Jacques Cousteau for its “Jacques Cowsteau” billboard. (The case was dropped when the Frenchman determined the punning bovine was an homage rather than an affront). Likewise, not all of Clo’s iterations spring from the minds of VeVa Communications. 20 years ago, Clover Stonetta prevailed upon the public for pun-laden aphorisms befitting their beloved bovine in a popular billboard contest. Over 7,000 entries were submitted and many went on to become billboards, including that year’s winner “Tip Clo through your two lips.”

Now, Clover Stornetta is reprising the contest. As the press release reads:  “Clover Stornetta Farms is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the last Clover billboard contest. We want your billboard ideas!  If you get a kick out of Clo the Cow and her outrageous puns, now is your chance to see your own ideas come to life on one of our novel billboards.”

Oh, man, that’s just asking for it – the $5,000 first prize notwithstanding and inclusion in “Wholly Cow II,” the second published anthology of the campaign.

Near the time of the original contest, my gang and I were publishing a satire tabloid entitled SCAM Magazine and being snarky young men with rather juvenile senses of humor, we thought we would go Clo the Cow-tipping and publish our own interpretation of the campaign.

Our minds newly-infected by a junior college critical theory class, we decided we couldn’t abide by the Orwellian ubiquity of Clover Stornetta’s marketing throughout “Sonoma Cownty.” Mind you, this is back in those precious years when young men are prone to calling any kind of perceived authority (parents, teachers, cartoon cows) as “fascist.” To wit, our grand idea was to depict Clo the Cow as a dictator. The resultant effort included depictions of “Fidel Cowstro,” “Cao Tse-Tung,” “Clo-Chi Minh” and, my favorite, “Moossolini.”

Now, mind you, I have no grudge against Clover Stornetta Farms, the three-generation family-owned and operated dairy located in my native home of Petaluma, but I’ll admit to chewing the cud of satire whenever it seems warranted. Now it’s your turn. Clover Stornetta is receiving billboard ideas through October 31. To submit, go to www.cloverstornetta.com, and click on the “Online Contest” tab. Contestants can also visit Clover Stornetta’s Facebook page (of course!) at www.facebook.com/cloverstornetta.com and follow the link. And if your dairy drollery isn’t cheesy enough, take my advice, don’t cry over spilt milk.

Leaf Blowers Must Die | Hooray for Sonoma’s Leaf Blower Ban

In honor of the City of Sonoma’s leaf blower ban (specifically against gas-powered leaf blowers), here’s a reprise of the column from 2009 that was one among the many voices that got the, um, leaf blowing.

Living in Sonoma during this time of year is like living in a postcard. Not the “Wish you were here” variety, which, in most languages translates as “neener-neener-neener,” but the ones purchasable at the visitors bureau that depict our rural countryside, braided with vineyards in autumnal hues that would make every crayon in the box snap from sheer envy. Burnt umber? Ha! Take a slow northerly drive down Highway 12 and we’ll see your “burnt umber” and raise you some “toasted sienna,” “persimmon brandy” and “cinnabar blush” to boot.

And what sounds accompany Sonoma’s autumnal palette? The rustle of leaves, the wind’s whistle through branches bare? No, a damned leaf blower – its stentorian belch ripping the noonday breeze like a chainsaw through a Monet.

I hate them. In my opinion, no object better exemplifies the worst of civilization than the leaf blower. Even the most grievous machines of mechanized death humankind has inflicted upon itself pale compared to the cosmic insult with which leaf blowers slur humanity.

The guillotine and the electric chair at least do something. The leaf blower, by contrast, does only what its name implies – it blows leaves around. Sure, it seems harmless until one considers all the noise and air pollution and the use of fossil fuels – not to mention the money bled and blood spent in obtaining said fuel – and the leaf blower proves useful only as an instrument of amplifying our ability to waste and ruin.

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I mean, what’s wrong with rakes and brooms? They’ve worked for millennia. What, are they, too Amish? One should note that the leaf blower began its repugnant life as an agricultural chemical sprayer. Evil begets evil.

From the second story of my office building, I watched some idiot blow leaves from the sidewalk into the gutter for the better part of an hour. Why would I waste my time watching him waste his? The spectacle of Western Civilization crumbling before my eyes must be studied and recorded so that future generations might learn from our folly.

I asked the guy to stop so I could, you know, think. He said he would, “when he was done.” His verbal jujitsu notwithstanding, I knew I had him beat on at least one point. Whereas I at least appeared to be wholly human, he had obviously turned cyborg. A symbiosis had occurred between man and machine, an ergonomic pas de deux that found the man with a roaring motor grafted to his back and an arm affixed with a plastic snout that exhaled his humanity into eddies of leaves and dust in a sustained bellicose, gaseous, thundering fart that signified the utter futility of man in the face of nature’s grandeur.

By now, of course, the man-borg has deafened himself from an inner-voice that once surely asked, “Has it come to this? Is this the purpose I’ve found for my life – inefficiently blowing leaves into a gutter with a reverse-vacuum cleaner strapped to my back?”

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind but it isn’t blowing leaves around. This is what you should do with your leaf blower – liberate yourself from the machine, damage it irreparably, then use it as the basis for a homemade Boba Fett costume. I’ve seen this done before and it’s awesome. Of course, to the leaf blower’s acolytes, this is all just a bunch of hot air, to which I reply, blow me.

Homemade Cinema, This Week

The studios are collapsing, audience attendance is the lowest in 12 years and your local multiplex is about to become a $1 Store. Movies, however, will never die ? not least of which because people like Don Lewis, John Beck, John Harden, Oana Marian, Raymond Daigle and myself keep making them ??at home.

Join us for Homemade Cinema, an evening of short films presented by SonomaFilm as part of the Arts Council of Sonoma County?s inaugural county-wide arts festival, Arts Sonoma 09. In celebration of local films and filmmakers, SonomaFilm will host three screenings throughout Sonoma County this week. Download the complete program here.

SonomaFilm Screening No. 1

8 p.m., Wednesday, September 16
Dimensions Galleria
115 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Petaluma, CA 94952

SonomaFilm Screening No. 2

11 p.m., Thursday, September 17
Emmy?s Spaghetti Shack
691 Broadway, Sonoma 95476

SonomaFilm Screening No. 3

7 p.m., Saturday, September 19
Outer Planes Comics & Games
519 Mendocino Ave @ 7th
Santa Rosa, CA 95401