This is not a eulogy, nor simply the blues – this is an outright dirge. Spitzy and the Dame are splitting Nomaville for some far away place, the name of which denial forbids me recall. My only salvo is Chief Cotati’s Curse. You haven’t heard it? Well, pull up a flat rock as the P-Town philosopher’s club used to say. The curse was first told to me at the Café Shrag in Lumaville sometime in the early ‘90s by a weathered, elbow-patched journo whose gig at the Lumaville Daily Echo I’d inherit five years later. At the time, I was young, brash and cavalier in a way that only youth can affect (now I’m merely brash, cavalier and warding off an impending existential crisis by jotting murky notes at the fig and sharing them with you, darlings).
As I remember it, I was busy crowing about my impending split for college and leaving Sonoma County for good and goodness’ sake, which is to say forsaking outright for keeps. The journo, sepia-hued from a career spent dragging navy-cut smokes under banks of fluorescent office lights, removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose as he sighed.
“Listen kid,” he wheezed. “Clearly, you know nil about the curse.”
“You mean my good looks?”
“Chief Cotati’s Curse, you arrogant twit.”
I shook the ice in my glass like a maraca, which I’d learn guaranteed the bartender would ignore me the rest of the night.
“Cotati was chieftain of the coastal Miwok when the settlers were moving in. He spotted the trend, knew he was going to lose what would soon become Sonoma County, so he cursed them, their progeny and anyone who steps foot on his sacred land. That includes wannabe scribes like you,” the journo clucked. He belted the rest of his river-water martini and ordered another round. I thanked him and he smiled, wanly. I’d later realize it was on my tab.
“The curse goes like this,” he rasped as he pulled me close by the lapel. He enunciated every syllable such that the last smack of his wretched martini misted the space between us. “You can leave, but you will always come back.”
He paused for dramatic effect. I saw his pause and raised him another before adjusting my ascot and groaning, “That’s it?”
“That’s enough,” he spat back. “Trust me, kid. You’ll be back.”
The journo weathered my clever arguments to the contrary as he finished his drink, then knocked me on the arm and shouldered the door into the inky night. Since then, I’ve returned to SoCo on a semi-permanent basis throughout the past decade. Three bouts of San Francisco never stuck, L.A. was a protracted exercise of geographic masochism, the Belgian Congo was jail time (literally) and whoever she was, she wasn’t waiting for me in Malta.
Though I had once been bristly about my frequent returns, I’m now convinced moving to Nomaville was the smartest move I’ve made, second only to marrying the Contessa – cursed or otherwise. So permit me at this juncture to torpedo some clichés on the eve of Spitzy and the Dame’s departure: parting is not such sweet sorrow, it’s sour as grapes. Absence makes the heart grow fonder only if you define “fonder” as aching eternally like the broken dreams of orphans. We never had Paris. But we’ll always have the curse.
So hear this, Spitzy and the Dame: You’ll be back. Go as far as the fates will take you and burn bridges like midnight cigarettes – I’ve read the message at the bottle’s bottom and it plainly says, “You’ll be back, my friends. You’ll be back.” Until then, until then…