Ego Check, Please

Egos are like balloons, fragile, overinflated and susceptible to little pricks. Some egos are as small as water balloons, others rival the dirigibles seen hovering over wine country and come with as much hot air. My own ego has resembled the Hindenburg at times, not just in size, but in outcome.
Though my ego hasn’t directly caused 97 people to be engulfed in flame, I’ve surely burned as many people, figuratively speaking, with my outsized sense of self-worth.
Continue reading “Ego Check, Please”

Sunset Magazine Forgets Napa, Sonoma Wine Country – Beer to Blame

Most periodicals, whether they’re online or in print, annually produce what’s called an “editorial calendar.” This isn’t for the benefit of those who produce the editorial content of a given newspaper, magazine or blog so much as it’s a reference for prospective advertisers and their marketing notions.

Holiday gift guides come to mind as a perennial feature of such a calendar. Ditto the dads-n-grads coverage that comes every spring. According to Sunset magazine’s editorial calendar for this year’s October issue, readers could expect coverage of “Napa and Sonoma Wine Country.” Instead, however, we got something about an “Ale Trail” and no Napa and Sonoma write-ups as such. This means that some other trailing and ailing sap will have to write up Napa and Sonoma for those whose need for wine country ink is tantamount to their need of wine. Don’t worry, I got this: Continue reading “Sunset Magazine Forgets Napa, Sonoma Wine Country – Beer to Blame”

My Summer Vacation Essay

When I was a wee lad of grammar school age, it was guaranteed that within the first week of the new school year, my classmates and I would be tasked with writing the dreaded My Summer Vacation essay. Apart from the occasional foray to the Happiest Place on Earth or being dispatched to my mother?s native Minnesota for some out-sourced parenting, the long suburban summers of my youth in 1970s Sonoma County were precisely the same, year in and out. Which is why, when the composition books and the thick red eraserless pencils were distributed, notions of?plagiarizing?myself were hard to stifle.

If I had any sense back then, I would have just kept the previous year?s essay and written something in my mottled black and white book akin to ?Like last summer about which I wrote [insert massive quote of last year?s ?My Summer Vacation? essay], this summer was pretty much the same. The End.?

Despite, or perhaps because of, the annual repetitions of my summertime experience, I?ve retained little other than a smattering of sense memories. I?ll record them here so that I might quote myself later. Among them are:

Frozen candy bars at the local swim center. An ingenious means to compensate for a lack of ice cream, which would extend the life of a Three Muskateers Bar by half an hour while loosening our molars.

The sweet reek of coconut-scented suntan lotions and the Lolitas who lathered themselves into human pi?a coladas. Mind you, this was before I knew anything about the opposite sex other than I wanted to know everything. (Now, I?m Socratic about the matter: ?I know I know nothing? and I plan to continue enjoying not learning a damn thing.) Coconut is the official smell of summer.

Feats of derring-do off the high-dive that resulted in the hard slap of aquatic reality against my belly and the sting of chlorinated water up my nose. My hair was artificially blond for years from stewing in chlorinated water. Of course, this ended when I turned 15 when my hair became artificially black and I shunned the summer sun for shadows, graveyards and coffee house batcaves.

Hot dogs that tasted like charcoal lighter fluid, daubed with hot mustard the color of poster paint. This is mere moments before California?s gourmet revolution took hold. The kid in back of me in the lunch line was probably handed a prosciutto and brie panini.

The nozzle of the inner tube gripped between my wet toes as if keeping a tenuous grasp on something vital and real like waning youth or… hot air. It?s a common mistake to conflate sentimentality and profundity. I can guarantee you, at age eight, I was thinking of neither. I was probably trying to let the air out of the tube with my toe as a means of poolside propulsion, given my cartoon-level understanding of physics.

Anyway, the above sensations are what I might written in my comp book had I any sense of retrospection and wasn’t a notch above being learning disabled. Without a legion of editors, proofreaders and advances in writing technology, even these very words would read like some kind of pidgin English composed from random keystrokes and autocorrection.

Of course, if I had any sense now, instead of putting the staff through the paces, I would have simply scrolled through the archives and poached liberally from last year?s ?My Summer Vacation? column. Unfortunately, I didn?t have any sense last year to ?pay it forward? (trust me, I checked). So, you?ll have to wait until next year for a proper riff on summer?s cessation. Here?s a preview: ?Like last summer about which I wrote [insert massive quote of last year?s ?My Summer Vacation? column], this summer was pretty much the same…?

Sonoma is Bigger than Jesus

It was 46 years ago today (or August 11, actually) that John Lennon taught the band to blaspheme – at least in a manner of speaking. The outspoken Beatle courted controversy when he opined to a British journalist that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” The quote, divorced from its context, resulted in the Fab Four’s first major PR fiasco. It’s also a useful benchmark when assessing the popularity of the Son of God. Besides, it’s sort of fun drawing those little “greater than” and “less than” symbols that look like alligator profiles (hey, I went to public school, so that’s what I have to work with, alright?).

In honor of Lennon and the fine folks in my favorite spot of wine country – I’m going to say it: Sonoma is bigger than Jesus. Now, before you go and light your torches and storm the paper, like some peasant posse fresh from ye olde witch burn, take a minute and think about it. Take two minutes – it’s a big thought. Okay, now light your torches. Because Sonoma is bigger than Jesus. Continue reading “Sonoma is Bigger than Jesus”

Die Hard with a Viognier: J.M. Berry saves the City Party (in my mind)

A woman asked me why I didn’t attend last Tuesday’s City Party. I hesitated before I answered because I knew what I was going to tell her would most likely contort whatever image she had of me beyond recognition, if not redemption. But I owed her the truth.

I explained it’s not because I don’t enjoy a good party (or a good city for that matter), but having recently streamed Black Sunday on Netflix, I’ve developed an undue paranoia about being in large public gatherings.

To refresh your memory, this was the 1977 thriller in which Bruce Dern portrays a disgruntled vet intent on blowing up the Super Bowl with – wait for it – a blimp.

Now, the rational part of me knows inherently that between Homeland Security, our own police department and the fine folks at Goodyear, this will never happen.

The dark, strange fantasist in me, however, can’t turn off the storytelling machine long enough to believe it. When I’m on a jag, my mind is like the ’72 Mercedes I owned in the ’90s. Once the glow-plugs were warmed up and the diesel engine was cranking, I’d be damned if I could actually get the beast to actually turn off without idling for 15 minutes after the key was back in my pocket. It’s the same when I get a notion. The motor starts and won’t stop. This is great for the writing gig but makes me a bore at parties, especially city parties. You know, the ones where it’s up to a plucky squad of misfit vigilantes to save the day. Continue reading “Die Hard with a Viognier: J.M. Berry saves the City Party (in my mind)”