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Brilliantly Sunny In Mendo

Wendesday morning after coffee at the Mosswood Market I sat in the truck with my pregnant girlfriend, Jetta, checking out the weather forecast on a smart phone. She watched the ripples on her belly, the baby kicking. "Look!"

"Chance of rain Thursday. Just showers, no doubt," I said.

As it turns out, the garden where I planted watermelons and other hot weather crops between 1997 and 2000 has not been cultivated since then. It was inhabited by two asses, literally, until this spring, but they were sold off, and the space became available.

"I don't think it's gonna rain even one tenth of an inch. We should be good to work the soil this weekend. Then it looks like hot weather until next Thursday, when, according to this forecast, it's supposed to be 'brilliantly sunny.' Brilliantly sunny? As opposed to what?"

Our smart phone started ringing. It was a number out of Utah that we didn't recognize. Jetta answered. "Charlie's Whorehouse. If you got the dough, we got the hoe."

A male voice chuckled. "Is this Jetta?"

"Oh, my God. Yes. I'm so sorry. I thought it was a junk call. Utah number, you know?"

Turned out the caller was Skip from Camp Navarro, offering her a job as a server for corporate retreat parties.

"I'm so embarrassed. I had no idea!"

The guy said it was cool. She could start on Saturday. 8 a.m.

"Perfect!" I said once she was off the phone. "I'll be running the tractor in Ukiah all weekend. That'll give you something to do."

"Like I can't find 'something to do' on my own!"

The next day, Friday, I started over the bumpy slalom of last winter's mudslides known as Highway 253. We experienced two delays.

The phone rang. This time it was Dr. Hanna's office from Hospital Drive in Ukiah.

"Spec MacQuayde?"


"We had you for a 1:45, but Dr. Hanna is going to be in surgery all afternoon. Can you make it here in the morning?"

"Well it'll be almost an hour."

"No problem."

Back in January, when I'd returned to California, my second Ex had pointed out this weird growth next to the tear duct on my left eye. "Looks like it's full of puss. You should sign up at the clinic, have them drain it," she said. She's a nurse. "It's disgusting."

At the clinic they told me it wasn't puss, but a cyst. It was probably benign, they said. Months later, I was finally going to get the cyst checked out. We stopped at Dr. Hanna's office before heading to the garden.

"I'm going to have to take your height and weight," said the nurse, a voluptuous woman with jet black, straight hair who was taller than me, or seemed so in that uniform.

"I'm roughly 5'11" but the boots add at least an inch and about five pounds," I said.

"It's okay. We'll estimate. It's just for the books."

In the private room she had me take a seat and strapped the velcro around my left bicep to take the blood pressure. I watched the digital numbers on the screen while she interrogated and scribbled professionally on a clipboard.

"When's it gonna be done?" I asked, feeling the throbbing pulse in my arm.

"Should only be a minute. So do you ever feel like hurting yourself or anyone else?"

"No! Christ! When is it gonna be done?"

"Probably taking longer because you keep moving."

By now I was sweating and hyperventilating. I watched the digital readout on the blood pressure monitor, waiting for it to give the okay as if I had just run my credit card through a scanner and was hoping it would go through. Stop wincing, wuss, I told myself. People get their blood pressure tested all the time.

"It used to be easier," I told the nurse. "Back in the day they used a gauge like the old speedometers. Never took this long."

"Stop moving."

"Right, right."

When the nurse had finished, Dr. Hanna showed up in his baby blue scrubs. His hair was buzzed short. "So, are we going to cooperate?"

"Definitely. I just didn't like the blood pressure thing. Never used to take that long."

He groped my neck to make sure there weren't any major cysts hiding, then filled me in on the procedure he would follow on the next appointment. "For an extra $200 we can do a test to see if it's malignant. Otherwise we can just chuck it in the garbage."

"I say just throw it away."

"Come on, you've got the cash. You're a pot grower."

"No! Actually I'm planting sweetcorn and watermelons, among other crops. Not that I don't smoke weed."

After departing Dr. Hanna's office, a visit for which they eventually charged me forty-two bucks, promising it would only be about three hundred to remove the irritating cyst that itches my left eye every time I blink, Jetta and I headed up North State Street, pulled into the parking lot beside the Forks Market and stopped in the shade of a locust tree. I left my pregnant girlfriend on Facebook in the truck and walked in to pick up a six pack of Poleeko Gold pale ale.

They still butcher all day in the Forks Market. Usually people are waiting in line for cuts of meat, but this time the employees were engaged in a discussion about Black Bart, the famous bank and stage coach robber who haunted Mendocino County in the days before the Willits bypass. They were discussing the authenticity of several rocks that Black Bart supposedly hid behind before performing his robberies.

"The rock Black Bart hid behind isn't the same one on the 101 now," said a gray-bearded man, perhaps the proprietor of the Forks Market. "Those rocks are down in the valley. They were tossed aside by early road crews."

"Yeah, when you think about how the highways are even now, the condition they're in after a wet winter, you got to figure what they called a road then was loosely defined," I interjected. "In the stage coach days you would have been bumping along pretty slowly."

"You know his shotgun was never loaded? He was an educated man. Nobody could believe he was Black Bart when the detectives finally traced his bloody handkercheif to a cleaning service in San Francisco."

We delved further into Black Bart history while the guy rung up the toll on the beer.

"He was deathly afraid of horses, and performed all his robberies on foot."

"Well when you think about it, on foot you would be in a better position to carry out an ambush," I said, counting out the $10.83. I always try to pay for beer with exact change. Cashiers appreciate that.

After picking up the beer, I returned to the truck where Jetta had discovered some meaningful wisdom on Facebook that had to be related immediately. We took Lake Mendocino past the Chevron Station, turned right at the truck entrance for the Parducci Winery, and had to pause halfway down the road when we ran into the guy who is in charge of their employee gardens, he said. They were planting an open-pollenated, certified organic sweetcorn from Johnny's Selected Seeds that is reputed to be comparable to modern super-sweet hybrids.

I neglected to catch the fellow's name on that trip, but he wore a straw cowboy hat and said that he was employed by the winery to grow organic crops, also supplying free range pork and eggs for their workers and staff. "It's a great gig," he said. "That sun is really intense. I gotta get back to work."

"The sun is practically brilliant today," I said.

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