No man is an island, however, if he lives in Sonoma he may well be on one – or at least isolated on an inland isle with his fellow Sonomans, or, if you’re feeling fancy, marooned on an existential archipelago with fellow philosophers and philistines, just west of Napa.
Yes, I know that both geographically and geologically speaking Sonoma isn’t technically an island, but the Petaluma River isn’t technically a river either and no one seems to have noticed (it’s a tidal estuary, which we natives pronounce “slough”). Sonoma, as we know, can be an island of the mind, ringed by a moat of merlot that’s content to continue on its own merry way until the cows come Rhône.
Ask yourself the following questions: When is the last time you visited a major metropolitan city (and, no, Santa Rosa doesn’t count)? Besides our local media, how often do you consume media from international sources (our local Spanish language broadcasts don’t cut it)? How many times have you rocked out to the Whiskey Thieves and been overcome by a near-crippling sense of déjà vu?
And if a Sonoman actually escapes the city limits and finds him-or-herself fine dining on a business trip or on vacation, he/she will peruse the wine list for Sonoma wines and either disparage the restaurant for not carrying them or ruefully order one and lament the inevitable markup.
You can see where this is going and I can be snarky about it because I’ve been there. Or, to be more precise, I’ve been here, for “there” is such an abstract concept I can barely conceive of it in a single thought. This is because my prefrontal cortex is a withered nub of formerly grey matter that’s now a garnet blotch thanks to our homegrown vino. This is for the better as it keeps my editors employed, correcting my frequent mispellings.
Why is it so many Sonomans find it so easy to become citywide shut-ins? Sure, it’s Shangri-La and all that crap, but it can also be like an episode of “The Prisoner” inter-cut with “Groundhog Day” and a self-hypnosis tape-loop of “Agoraphobia for Dummies.”
Give us a few thousand years and we’ll begin to speciate from the rest of our kin like blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos. If we started crushing grapes with our feet again, we’d already be there. Or perhaps we’re in the midst of devolution back to simpler minds? We’ll be too dumb to know, though the Sonoma jokes I’ve heard around the water cooler are at least worth a self-deprecating chuckle.
How many Sonomans does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but only after you explain it turns the same way as a corkscrew.
What’s the difference between Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley? Sonoma County thinks it’s Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Valley thinks it’s Napa.
What does S’noma stand for? Speak Not Of My Alcoholism.
A Napan, a Marinite and a Sonoman walk into a bar. The Napan orders a magnum of an expensive cult cabernet and glasses for everyone in the joint. The Marinite does the same and also throws a kilo of cocaine on the bar and announces “Free for one and all!” The Sonoman drinks all the wine, does the entire kilo and then bums a cigarette off a passing teenager. When the Napan and Marinite suggest he’s out of control, the Sonoman blanches and asks, “What do you mean, we’re in Sonoma, right?”
Though none of the above has ever occurred in a local, venerated tavern, only Sonomans will get the joke. This is probably just as well as there are some things that are better kept in town – you know, like a quarantine. The question is, does our little island colony keep the world safe from us – or does it keep us safe from the world? So-no-man is an island.