Sonoma on Prozac
My first wedding was truly bizarre, though to some it would probably have been close to ideal.
It was sunny; there was great food; good music; a fairly nice waterfront venue. A diverse mixture of drunken guests. But I think a wedding is a pretty strange event. Anachronistic. A holdover from some age in which marriage had a lot more effect on one’s fortune than it does now. In the secular regions of the United States in the late 21st century, a marriage is just a party.
In this case a big, expensive, wasteful party on the lawn shown below.
I have few memories of it. I remember the ceremony, which was on the 125-foot yacht. It was a civil ceremony, conducted by a judge for whom I would later work briefly (and whom I still admire). There was the bagpiper thing, which I mentioned. There was the reception line. Most of the people I didn’t know. I have a feeling my then wife’s side of the family had more guests, probably because they had a larger social circle than mine did.
Two guests stand out, though.
I mentioned that I contacted some old friends—very old friends, from, like, elementary school—and invited them. They showed, unbelievably. And then went through the reception line. And I remember their pained expressions as I shook hands with them. Were they really pained? I’m not sure; that’s the way I remember it. Why would they be so? Probably that discomfort that comes from seeing someone after a long absence. What do you talk about? (Nothing important.) Are you still the same people. (No.) Will you maintain the friendship after this? (Probably not.)
The few friends I had invited, though, all knew each other and so were able to enjoy each other’s company, which is one of the byproducts of a wedding: even if you don’t want to see the bride or groom, you may run into others with whom you have lost touch. So that was good. And I suppose, if they were to think of my situation, the wedding would have seemed like a good thing. And maybe it was, considered in isolation. But it’s just the beginning of a marriage, and the quality of the wedding, as far as I know, has no relationship to the quality of the marriage. I have experienced both sides of this coin: the big wedding followed by the sucky marriage, and the small wedding followed by the great marriage.
When the last of the champagne was drunk it was late and we went back to the boat and sailed off. I don’t remember where we anchored or if we docked. I’ve always liked sleeping in small, cozy spaces, so I enjoyed sleeping in the little bedroom below deck. It had teak panelling that looked like it had been varnished with raw honey.
The next morning we started driving to Sonoma.
I had found a bed-and-breakfast in the Valley of the Moon, which is where, at one time, Jack London lived. From the pictures, of course, the little place I rented sounded ideal. It was in vinyard, close to Jack London State Park, and we would have a small bungalow to yourselves—saltillo tiled floor, large deck, nestled into a hillside. Sounded ideal.
And of course it was highly disappointing.
How many times will I have to learn this lesson? Those little 300×300 pixel jpgs on the website rarely given an accurate depiction of what a place is like. Ditto for the Lonely Planet guide and any other guidebook I’ve ever seen. Verbal descriptions are usually, in my experience, even less accurate. One person’s “warm, cozy, quaint bungalow” is another’s prison cell, shotgun shack, or outhouse.
And then there were ostriches.
That wasn’t in the brochure. Those fuckers are mean. Apparently, growing grapes is risky (which is pretty obvious if you think about it for a minute) and so the proprietress of the vineyard had diversified. Into ostriches, which were raised for the meat. Around that time, there seemed to be a trendlet of ostrich raising. It was “the new beef.” Leaner than cow meat, ostrich was the “healthy alternative.” So these savy vineyard owners had decided to get involved is this growth industry, as a hedge against the mercurial grape market.
And there was dust. See, that’s the thing about dry, warm climates: they’re dry and warm. There was dust on everything. It felt like New Mexico. And I like New Mexico, but I wasn’t expecting that in Sonoma. I was expecting—I don’t know. Too much, I guess, as usual. Sonoma is beautiful—don’t get me wrong. But our bungalow was sort of out in the scrub. And we had lizards.
So what does one do there? Wine and food, right?
Yeah. But after a couple wineries, that gets tiresome. Sure, you get a few bottles and drive around slightly wasted, waiting for the next gorging. And that’s pretty fun. But after a couple days of that, it gets repetitive. I like good food and all, but food is food. You quickly habituate to the new quality level. Tra Vigne was fun, but I’d eaten a lot of good food in L.A., which has great restaurants. Had we been coming from some other city—Colonville, Nebraska, say—it may have had more of an impact.
Jack London state park was amazing, though.
We rode horses through it. I think that was the first time I’d ever ridden a horse, and I have to say that I can see why people do that. The animals are beautiful. Even the broke-down horses in the stable made me gasp. I’m not sure why horses are so appealing. It’s a visceral reaction of awe, which is part fear and part wonder. The wonder effect is akin to when you see a human athlete—a sprinter, say—but in this case, the athlete weights 600 kilos and can put out a staggering amount of power. And it towers over you. It can kick you across the field. That’s the fear part. And what fuels this incredible machine? Grass. Fucking grass! More wonder.
And then we drove south, back to the cancred sphincter that is Los Angeles.