Winemaker Zach Rasmuson unexpectedly gave us another four-day weekend. He and 43-year old assistant winemaker Bo Felton were apparently flying to a ranch in Omaha to do a vertical tasting for Warren Buffett of Goldeneye’s Ten Degrees. There wasn’t much to do yet anyway, with just a few tanks full of destemmed grapes barely starting to ferment, and the ripening of the rest of the vineyards setting up to be the latest on record. I’ve got more spare time than I know what to do with at this gig. My dad always says that too much free time is dangerous for a man, mainly in regards to my addict-alcoholic stepbrother who would always spiral out during any small dose of it. Maybe it’s bad for me too. I don’t think I like it much up here. I don’t think I’m able to appreciate much of anything anymore.
Molly has been going off on a weird sass-driven text tangent, as if she wants to end our long distance fling. She claims that she honestly believes she’s destined to live in France and be with a Frenchman, to which I replied “Eat. Pray. Molly?” She didn’t like that one much. Maybe the cutesy, empty, endless texts we send each other every day are getting stale. They never did with S.S., no matter how brainless they were, and I always found myself looking forward to them. Up here in Anderson Valley in a trailer, things like this are the only modern entertainment a single man can find.
On Friday morning I brewed a French press, loaded up a mug, and made the drive out to the coast. After peaking around a couple coves and empty beachbreaks, I zeroed in on Blues Beach and scored my first real day of good Mendocino surf. The ocean was sheet glass all day with zero wind. I surfed long enough to cramp up, and as I towel changed in the creepy parking area, I decided to call my friend Autumn in Fort Bragg and take her up on an offer of a couch to sleep on. I drank a Sierra Nevada and sat on the tailgate, scrubbing the clay-like sand off my feet.
I ended up staying at her and her boyfriend’s place. They had a few plants going in a garage and they were dying. A fella named Iceberg from San Francisco turned up an hour into what turned out to be a cool evening full of food and wine.
Autumn and my ex-wife used to be friends back in high school and she was one of our bridesmaids. I hadn’t spent much time with her since my divorce, but we’d kept in touch, and throughout the evening I was tripping on how similar they were. The house reminded me of our old house in Eureka that Autumn and an ex-boyfriend had stayed at once. These two women have always had lots in common, a competitive relationship, and history of driving their men insane. But as a plutonic friend she’s always been generous and hospitable. And, I noticed, she’d become incredibly attractive in her maturity.
I slinked out early the next morning, grabbed a coffee and croissant at Headlands, and pulled up on a perfect surf scene with a couple people on it already.
The south swell was still pulsing its way up the coast and I’d learned by chance a few years back that this was the beach to be at when that happens. I suited up and paddled past three seals to get out to the peak on the south end of the strip, and my first wave was one of the best I’ve ever ridden in Northern California. As I was dropping in, a woman surfer was paddling up the face and she kicked water at me as I passed. The same thing had happened the day before with one of the guys out there. Whatever. Since I ride a bodyboard and am considered a second-class citizen for doing so, this thing tends to happen all the time, and I can take it from a local surfer who actually rips. But this surf crowd reminded me of the Sonoma guys, but even less talented, and full of the hypocrisy of driving their trucks all aggressively on the sand and parking right on the tideline with their Whole Earth bumperstickers plastered on the back.
On the way home as I got into Navarro’s cell range, I called my mom at home. She shared with me something so awkward about a good friend of mine named Tom in San Luis Obispo that my waterlogged brain couldn’t even process it. Tom is married with kids and doubles as a grassroots Geek Squad tech for his friends. After fixing my mom’s computer a year back, they added each other as friends on Facebook. Apparently last night he started up a chat with her that “got a little, I don’t know, strange” according to my 63-year old single mother. It began with him asking about her computer, and then he said that he likes “her new default pic.” She thanked him and said “not bad for 63”, then changed the subject to ask about his daughter. “It was like he kept getting off any other subject,” my mother told me on the phone as I traversed the curves from Navarro to Philo. Then he mentioned how my mom must get hit on all the time.
“I don’t get hit on,” she typed back.
“You just did,” he responded. Then he wrote that he’d almost accidentally left pics of himself on her computer the day he came over to fix it. “And that wouldn’t have been good,” he warned.
After a long delay in which my mom told me “I just wanted him to get offline,” he wrote to her “I’m going to be up late if you want to see some pictures.”
In all fairness there are a couple things at play here. Tom is 38 years old, an alcoholic, and hooked on pornography, which his wife lets him watch for various reasons. And not that there’s anything wrong with pornography – Tom has been generous in burning me greatest hits-style DVDs to take up to the remote wine counties I’ve chosen to work harvest in over the years (for fear that I wouldn’t see any women for a three month stretch of time). And my mom, after 40 years of working her tail off in the restaurant industry, getting burned by my father and the other men she’s tried dating, is getting weird. She has no filter and can be a flirt at times in a surprising way. That combination can come off as inappropriately loose.
After a glass of wine she’s blurted out things to me about her past sex life that have not only scarred me forever but have painted the picture of a closet freakazoid.
However, as she told me of Tom’s repeated attempts that night for a nude picture exchange while I drove down 128, slightly stoned and in disbelief, I had to wonder if I was actually dreaming, or if my friend is starting to hit bottom.