From Hiroshima to the Sonoma Cellar-Savior
This Saturday marks the 66th anniversary of the detonation of "Little Boy" over the city of Hiroshima, which killed thousands while giving birth to atomic warfare and the persistent threat of its existence since.
The fear of a nuclear holocaust coming to these shores reached its peak with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, followed by a brief reprise in the '80s (OK, class, raise your hand if you saw "The Day After" in grade school) and that WMD bait-and-switch in the Iraqi aughts, which proved more a moral meltdown than a credible nuclear threat.
I can only imagine what it was like to live in Sonoma under the shadow of a prospective mushroom cloud - especially in the early '60s, when Father Still Knew Best and worshipped at the flickering altar of an RCA Victor television tube, "Wireless Wizard" in hand.
Picture a Don Draper-style pitchman, two-fingers into his Gibson and advising television viewers about the efficacy of his brand of bomb shelter. Of course, if he were pitching a certain class of Sonoman he might well have opened with "Wine cave or bomb shelter? That's a good question. But when one is facing the annihilation of one's species, the better question is 'Why not both?'"
Meanwhile, at home, the emotionally-absent man of the house turns to the subjugated mannequin he married and says, "You know, dear, he has a point." But she's too hopped up on diet pills to really care about the bomb, wine or even the man in the skinny tie who's always talk-talk-talking at her while she's trying to read the bodice-ripper tucked behind the Betty Crocker Cookbook. So, he lights another Lucky, leans in and is, in due time, sold on the wonders of the "Cellar-Savior, Now in simulated-wood-grain."
As the spot continues, the pitch becomes more specious: "When you hold your tongue and say 'shelter' it sounds like 'cellar' doesn't it?" Or, "Gives new meaning to getting 'bombed.'" Sold!
Mind you, I haven't fact-checked this scenario with our local historians of whom there are two types - the professional and those with a near-lethal blood alcohol level. The pros I respect enough not to bother with the inane query, "Did a Sonoman ever have a combo wine cellar and bomb shelter?" But the provisional historians, the ones from whom "facts" come-a-tumblin' as if cued by the sound of a popping cork - they're ground zero for just the kind of hokum I enjoy most. Let's call this one Fat Man.
Brown bag, bottle and bench - ask a drunk if he ever heard of cellar-shelter and you'll learn all about the "Save Caves" of the early '60s and how he and his high school buddies used to sip dad's wine and munch from tins of "Survival Crackers" and something called "carbohydrate supplement," which was just a fancy military term for candy. They called these boozy excursions their version of "duck and cover," which would probably be just as effective in the event of an atomic attack as actually ducking and covering. Which is to say, we're all gonna die so why not drink dad's prized Lynch-Bages?
Forget Alain Resnais' "Hiroshima, Mon Amour," it's "Sonoma, Mon Amour" in the dank and dark of the Amerian Dream. So, when the great portobello cloud blooms over Wine Country and you're snug in your Cellar-Savior, you can raise a glass and thank the man in the skinny tie. And the little boy from whence he came.
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Daedalus Howell is radioactive at FMRL.com, the Future Media Research Lab.