Friday, August 27, 2010
A Little Earth, Wind and Fire on the West Coast
Katy Perry may be on to something. She sings that California girls are unforgettable. That's debatable, but I'll never forget California itself. I didn’t melt anyone’s Popsicle while I was there (we spent a considerable amount of time hanging in San Francisco’s Castro region though, so Krispin may have…) but I did melt away some stress. Who knew vacation was so awesome?
Our ten-day trek from the city by the bay up through wine country, all the way to the Avenue of the Giants (re: redwoods galore) was the first vacation I’ve ever taken alone with a significant other. That’s right, at the age of 31 I’m finally jet-setting about with my lover. I have to say that my Spinster vacations have been pretty good, I wasn’t sure the “couple” thing could compare to Aruba with my favorite cousin, or Barbados with one of my best friends in college. Drinking beer across Germany with my family and living with six girls “Real World” style across London and Spain are also chart-toppers, but California was different.
It rekindled my belief that maybe I could be in a “real” relationship. One that hasn’t only withstood the rigors of getting together on the heels of a broken engagement (mine) and divorce (his), but the trials and tribulations of a crappy hotel room, a tab of unnecessary parking tickets and a slew of unexpected misfortunes that probably come with any vacation (slowest waiter on earth in a restaurant with food we weren’t looking forward to, an uncooperative neighbor in the apartment we rented, and a phone call that threatened to uproot our lives as we know them). Though bumps in the road, they weren’t anything that we (armed with a Mustang convertible and maps to more than 1,000 wineries) couldn’t navigate through together.
I lost track of all the moments we toasted to, and all the future versions of “us” we discussed. Somewhere between the perfect Chards of the Carneros region and world-class Cabs of Napa, we let the little things go and the big things in. I was more relaxed and laid back than I can ever remember being with Ironman behind me and my work life temporarily on hold. My biggest concern most days was wondering what dress I would wear (I brought 15 of them), and whether or not I would get a salad at dinner before my entrée.
The disciplined athlete in me also took a breather. We rented bikes one day, but cadence, heart rate, RPE and energy supplements were the last things on my mind. I focused instead on the rows of vineyards rolled out before me that in central New York would have been cornfields. I took in the golden hills that were peppered with green and the occasional (unbelievable) home. Rather than hammer over the flat road and power up the hills, I took my time and stopped occasionally to take a picture.
I even smoked a few cigarettes. Oh yes, yes I did. (A throwback to my year and half abroad where smoking came as naturally as Power Gels do now).
I guess you could say I let my hair down, but that’s not exactly accurate. My hair spent most of its time in a wild tangle above me while cruising California’s Route 1 with the top down, our red car winding its way along the Pacific coast en route to Point Reyes, then over to the first winery stop on the trip (a little place that is otherwise insignificant in the shadow of Sonoma and Napa). The winery was run by a couple of loons who could barely be bothered to give us a tasting, as we were standing next to a very important couple who couldn’t jam enough “wine speak” into their discourse over the (I thought) shitty wines. Random vintages from the 1980s were open before them when we walked in the door. Between the woman’s declarations that “ten more minutes would make this zinfandel phenomenal” and the man’s roller-pin-like maneuvers with the his glass upon the bar (he put it on its side—while there was wine in it—and proceeded to act like he was making a pie crust right there) we were ready to leave before we even got to the reds in our tasting (and they only had one white on the list!).
Eventually we parted ways with the woman in her satin pajama bottoms and her know-it all husband clad in a cloak of sorts. With us we took a bottle of the Chardonnay, which served as a lovely pairing with the Jacuzzi at our cottage in Sonoma.
It was Dr. Doolittle meets Martha Stewart in this adorable property surrounded by colorful flower gardens, fabulous patios, and a cozy little structure that was decorated with a gallery of festive prints from wine events in the area, terracotta pots, votive candles and all the things you could ever imagine needing while away from home (including a VHS tape of City Slickers, which we totally watched). The CD player was already loaded with music, and a little "Let's Groove Tonight" wove through the evening breeze.
Outside we discovered a cast of roommates to include two goats, a fearless cat (he spent his mornings leaping from the fence, to the top of an umbrella shading a table on the patio, to the pavers near the garden), and an adorable dog named Snickers who rolled into calm submissive at the mere whisper of your big toe approaching her space.
We spent the next three days visiting wineries—I would write more about that, but the tastings were so generous, I can’t recall those days very well! Suffice it to say, my Visa card recalls them just fine and yesterday a pallet of wine arrived to the office for us. Woot! We were treated to a reserve tasting at Chateau St. Jean, which may have been one of the most remarkable afternoons of my life.
Next stop was the redwoods, where we stayed in a bed and breakfast that I’m sure has been used as a set in some horror movie. It was run by a man who made Shooter McGaven hand motions while describing his egg-frying capabilities, and gussied up his main lobby with a portrait of Jesus, ceramic elks, the unity candle from his wedding, and various other disturbing objects (a stuffed sheep missing an eye, a tapestry of a pillow fight, and many, many dolls). At the top of the stairs from the main lobby, was the door to our room. A floral wall-papered, lace-trimmed vision, with wicker furniture, a flat-screened TV, and a bible by the bed.
I feel compelled to also mention that across the hall from our room, was a closet filled with more dolls all posed in various positions—and in place of the door, was a glass pane. To view the dolls. Moving on…
We left the redwoods later that day and headed back to San Francisco where we spent three more days before coming home. One of my best friends from high school, Jamie, moved to San Francisco earlier that week, so we had the awesome opportunity to have a little reunion while also discovering the city together for the first time. Ironically, the apartment we rented was on the same street and just a few blocks down from where he lived. After an incredible night out to dinner at Foreign Cinema (where Jamie’s charm wooed the waitress into bringing a boatload of complimentary delicacies to our table), we went back to his place and had a night cap. The door to his bedroom could have been the door to a time machine. He surprised me with a home video we made ten years ago.
While I was in Italy, I was part of a band and wrote a song. It was recorded and became popular there, and my friend Jamie decided he wanted to try his hat at making music videos (we were always big musical theater dorks in high school). I had forgotten all about the hilarious work of art that ensued the night we “shot” the video. The production was a family affair, with my younger brothers accompanying the music by playing guitar in the background and helping Jamie direct each scene. My mom makes an appearance to remind Alex (the youngest brother) that bed time was soon, and Ginger (my beloved dog that we had to put down in 2005) is in several shots, trying to escape my cuddling stronghold as per the usual. Seeing her again was perhaps the most moving thing about the video. I only have pictures to remember her by, and seeing her mannerisms again brought tears to my eyes. I could almost reach out to the screen to pet her.
It was getting late and we began walking back toward our apartment. With each step (as with many in San Francisco) I imagined what it would be like to live in that city. Perhaps it was because I was being courted by views of the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz and the amazing hills all urban and pastel, or perhaps because seeing a video of myself on 19th Street just steps from Dolores Park from ten years ago made me feel like it was already home.
I went to sleep that night knowing that the next morning we would be packing to return home to Syracuse, where our real lives awaited—jobs, families, responsibilities, credit card bills, and workouts…oh workouts, how I missed thee (I was on a solid cheeseburger for lunch/steak for dinner streak and it wasn’t pretty).
Our suitcases were robust with trinkets of our time away. New clothes, post cards, prints, and a wonderful letter and gift from my boyfriend were all tucked between a collection of dresses that were well worn all along the west coast of California—the golden state.
But what I will remember always, are the feelings I had while we were there. The fortification of my heart in a serious relationship. The time spent rekindling an old friendship. The fresh hope for the future and the delicious elixir of the past. It all left me feeling at ease with my life. The one I’ve lived, the one I’m living…and the moments that are yet to come.
Three cases of wine have been delivered to my office, and I'm well prepared to toast the future. I can’t wait to see what it holds.