Sonoma’s Secret Societies

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Secret SocietyI received an email from the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance today and happily clicked through because I like my spam paired with wine and (full disclosure) the organization is a client of mine. In it was an invitation to join the Sonoma Valley Grapes and Wine Society, which affords one all sorts of amenities and exclusive arrangements devised to complement one?s wine country lifestyle. Seeing as my schedule leaves more style than an actual life at present, my societal needs are a might bit more circumspect. I?m more inclined to join a ?secret society,? one where no one knows anyone, never shows up anyway and pays dues directly to me. You can join but you must first file and application fee. How much? It?s a secret. Pick a number and I?ll tell you if it needs to be higher. And trust me, it needs to be higher.

Sonoma is chockablock with secret societies. Pick any proclivity, profession or passion and there are likely a few souls huddled around a candle, going through the motions of some ritual baloney in a wine cave near you. Weird? Sure. But effective ? secret societies have long been a means to get business done, particularly when it comes to creating puppet governments or re-jiggering the banking system. They?re also good for getting one drunk.

?Press Club? was my gang?s ill-fated attempt at a secret society, which failed miserably because, A) journalists can?t keep a secret and B) we were overly social and well-lubricated in so doing. Turns out, drinking and writing only go well together in the movies and our society began to fray faster than you could order a ?dyslexia and soda.? Also, our password was ?swordfish,? which accounted for the Marxists who frequently overran us (ever try to clean a greasepaint mustache off a pint glass?).

Among our Sonoma?s other secret societies is my fan club. I bet. I mean, I know they?re out there yet no one publicly claims membership ? the better to protect the shrine to me, I suppose. In fact, I communicate to them through this column ? take the first letter of every sentence and decipher the anagram. I don?t mind revealing how to do this for only true secret society fan club members would bother to take the time. But you non-secret-society-fan-club-members are thinking about it now, aren?t you? That?s the first step in the initiation process, which is followed by the ?passing of the cash,? an ancient ritual that involves large bills, a paper bag and a secret drop location (P.O. Box 653).

Of course, the best secret societies are those that come with a decoder ring and a membership badge. I?m personally a fan of any group whose sacred accoutrements can be found in a box of Cracker-Jacks. The one?s that require blood oaths, pledges to supernatural characters or the occasional assassination, not so much. Do such shadowy and clandestine groups rule Sonoma? Meh. Would it be cool if they did? Yes, but only in the motion picture version. It would be ?The Da Vinci Code? meets ?Sideways? with a little ?Eyes Wide Shut? and ?Dead Poets Society.? It would consist of a single scene of Sonomans reading cryptograms aloud, in a wine cave, naked, while emphatically not drinking merlot. Typical weekend, really.

If your secret society wants to bankroll this film do not bother the Sonoma Film Society ? bother the Secret Sonoma Film Society, a shadow operation that hosts the Secret Sonoma Film Festival. The group is so secretive that it?s said even the credits are expunged from the films they screen. No one knows who the members are, not even the members. Sometimes, members don?t even know they are members. I know I don?t and if I did, I couldn?t tell you.

Any thoughts?