Nomaville: Big Fish

Size matters.“Big fish, small pond” is a notion some puddle-jumping media types like myself have come to aspire to as a career model. We like to believe we’re above the bottom feeders but admit we’re pure chum when swimming with the sharks. Our main adaptive trait is increasing our magnitude by relocating to increasingly smaller ponds. In bite-sized Sonoma, of course, the media outlets can be counted on a single pectoral fin so it’s not difficult to make a splash or make waves depending on how much you care to pee in the pool.

Personally, I just want to float on my back and sip umbrella drinks, or in the case of this past week, nearly drown in the endless deluge of wine that flowed from Cinema Epicuria, the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. As I write this (on my back, drying out in a darkened room surrounded by a number of ersatz hangover remedies) the Contessa advises that it’s time to take the sin out of cinema and put the wean into oenophile, or put more plainly, “get your life back together!”

“Be cool, baby, I’m a big fish now, you know,” I protest, to which she reminds that no fewer than 42 press credentials were issued for this year’s festival, in effect a lot of big fish to fry.

“With a program of 75 films, that means there was roughly a ratio of over half a reporter for every flick,” she calculated. “So being a big fish isn’t anything special.”

Nor is having an MBA, I thought of saying, but thought it better to tell her which halves of which reporters I thought went to which flick. She wasn’t interested. This was merciful, for my mind began to hurt the moment I began to cogitate festival sommelier Christopher Sawyer’s cinematic tastes.

Earlier in the week, I had deputized myself Sawyer’s pilot fish so as to better navigate the roiling sea of wine that I knew would come in the wake of such stewardship. The spillback from the arrangement arrived on my kitchen counter Saturday night in the cases of wine Sawyer delivered to fuel an impromptu after-party I found myself hosting (it ended only precious minutes before sunrise lest we turn back into minnows). Following the gala event, some errant enthusiast had invited the entire guest list back to my pad, apparently confusing “after-party” with “aftermath.” The Contessa took it in stride, however, producing appetizers from thin air as car after car arrived, like a circus train, courtesy of the Native Sons.

When I saw a partygoer attempting to open a bottle of wine with her teeth, I thought I would attempt to play host, but soon learned that she had no idea who that was.

“Then who do you know here?”

“Um, I know Daedalus Howell.”

Flattered though I was having my own name dropped to me, when I informed her that I was, in fact, Daedalus Howell and that we had never met, she upped the ante by saying she had meant the other Daedalus Howell.

“And whom would that be?” I asked, surveying the sea of flushed faces for the imposter, glasses of Sawyer’s slough bobbing in their hands.

“Duh, the one who writes the column,” she sneered back.

I reached for a copy of the Sun (I keep a stack of my published work at the ready for such occasions) and showed her the mug shot above my byline. Her mascara-rimmed eyes darted between the inky photo and my furling brow for a moment. Then she diplomatically offered “You’re much more handsome in person.”

Manipulated by my vanity, I fetched her a corkscrew.

It slowly dawned on me that fish are always wet behind the ears.

Originally published in the Sonoma Valley Sun.