Searching for Sonoma in the eyes of others
As pertains to this column, readers often ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" After I swallow the bile that wells up in my esophagus (nothing personal - just a Pavlovian response I developed while slumming on the workshop circuit), I tell my fellow Sonomans to "look in the mirror." When indignant they ask, "What the hell does that mean, man?" I patiently explain, "YOU are my inspiration."
If this is followed by awkward blushing and "ah, shucks" shoe-gazing, I clarify by adding that I mean "you" in the general, colloquial sense, a la "the collective consciousness of Sonoma." At least when there is consciousness and we're not all face down in the Plaza clutching 750s of Gloria Ferrer. This is followed by understanding or disappointment - sometimes both - then their brow furrows as if they're asking themselves, "Wait, should I be offended?"
In a word - y'no. As patronizing as the preceding paragraphs may read, it's true - much of my Sonoma-themed work comes from direct experience with Sonomans. And sometimes the police.
While at EDK this week, Chief Sackett strolled up to jovially suggest that I might someday consider getting a real office. I reminded him that it's from such habitués that I glean my material. Then I lamented, "It's not as easy as writing the police blotter, you know," which, he agreed, sort of "writes itself."
The DUI arrests alone could fill our bi-weekly news-hole but since our editor is an environmentalist, he'd rather spare the trees and just run the more ludicrous examples.
I'd rib him that in the "social satire trade" blotter fodder are low-hanging fruit lest he remind me that the blotter is actual reportage, not shtick, which would devastate my tenuous faith in humanity. Indeed, observational humor shouldn't require a breathalyzer - unless it's the punch line to a "You know you're a Sonoman when ..." kind of gag.
And if I ever devolve into that sort of nit-wittery please buy my soul back for me - I'll owe you. It'll be cheap, trust me - probably less than my wee fee for writing this crap in the first place. Hey, I don't mind being a hack but hackneyed is something else entirely. I bet.
Besides, to "know you're a Sonoman when ..." is ontologically impossible in my opinion. As any two-glass guru will tell you, the state of Sonomanhood is more an act of becoming than being. On top of that, it brings up the sticky question of defining what a Sonoman IS. The list of what a Sonoman is not, of course is infinite but I can assure you that topping it are "sober," "Napan" and "sober."
I ask, does that a Sonoman make? Close, but there's a helluva lot more as well. Like WitchiePoo and Glarifees and getting a bear hug from J.M. Berry that lasts just a little too long. Sure, it sounds like "Alice and Wonderland" on a bad date but it's our bad date, damn it. Just remember, one pinot makes you larger and one pinot makes you small. And tonight we've got a sitter and $20 with "Vern's Taxi" written all over it.
I used to think of life in Sonoma as a long, hard look into a funhouse mirror - a kind of comic distortion through a wine glass, darkly. It magnifies eccentricities into virtues and skews perspective along a vineyard-lined horizon where a rosy sun is always setting. Now, I realize it's more akin to a leap through the looking glass, with preconceptions snapping underfoot like so many shards. Just as you can't see your own face without a mirror, there comes a point when you can't see Sonoma any longer because you've become it. Then you have to search its shadows in the eyes of others. And that's where I get my ideas.
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Daedalus Howell's Sonoma notions are archived at SonomaReporter.com.