Northern California is to Southern California as an Ivy League college is to a suburban Junior High.
Northern California wears a sweater, and means it. Southern California has a sweater, but they drape over their shoulders.
Northern California is organic and natural. Southern California is raging silicone.
Northern California has fertile grazing land extending to the ocean. Southern California is desert sand extending to beach sand, dotted by grass that was flown in from somewhere else, along with most of SoCal’s inhabitants.
Northern California says: Eternal. Southern California says: “A Tradition Since 1996.”
Nestled in the hills above the Northern Marin County village of Inverness is a rustic lodge established in 1917, where, upon our arrival for a celebrational anniversary getaway, we were presented with mugs of hot apple cider, spiked with rum.
I believe we had a very enjoyable trip, though I cannot say for certain, the welcoming libation rendering me drunk for our entire stay.
Every decorative element in our cabin was chosen with thoughtfulness and care, the décor consistent with the lodge’s magnificent, natural surroundings. It all seemed to fit, from the massive, claw-footed bathtub to the wastebasket that was a milking pail. No TV or DVD player, the only nod to modernity, a red rotary wall phone, which on closer inspection, turned out to be a push-button wall phone, with the buttons arranged in a circle, to make it look like a rotary wall phone. I smiled goofily at the subterfuge.
I had never had rum before.
The single “touch” we could have done without was this enormous deer head, mounted over the wood-burning fireplace. It wasn’t the entire deer, just the head, including antlers – which could have served as a hat rack for twelve – and an extended upper chestal area, suggesting that the deer, intact, must have been truly gigantic.
I am not of the hunting fraternity, but I don’t see what the big deal is about hitting something that big. I mean, how could you miss? It’s like bagging a billboard. I mean, you hit a rabbit – it’s small, it’s fast – that’s something! Though a mounted rabbit head is admittedly less impressive hanging over your fireplace.
The “breakfast included” was entirely in keeping with the motif, everything, natural and home grown. Homemade granola, locally cultured yogurt, fresh eggs – I am not an egg eater, but I could appreciate their freshness – the chickens waddled up the stairs and laid them on our porch. No, they didn’t. But the menu assured us they were fresh. The porch stuff I made up.
Remember, I was still drunk.
When we had regained our ability to walk in a reasonably straight line, we left the room, touristing at the nearby town of Point Reyes, home of the Cowgirl Creamery. I bet you didn’t know where that was; now you do. Also – I’m jumping around here, but in the context of landmarks? – the original Peet’s Coffee emporium is in Berkeley, which we visited later.
Peet was an entrepreneurial pioneer, thinking, “People will pay more for coffee, if only it didn’t taste like mud.”
The “natural” motif continued, as we purchased souvenirs for the family in the form of pads of notepaper, made from organic cow poo. You can’t pass that up, can you? For five ninety-five? And it smells like paper, not what it’s made out of.
Yet another example of American entrepreneurialism: “What can we do with that stuff we keep stepping in? I know! We’ll turn it into paper, and sell it to idiots!”
Lunch was at a Point Reyes restaurant, trumpeting two choices of beef, one, “grass fed”, and I forget what the other one was, because I don’t care.
My only thought was about cows receiving one form of nourishment thinking, “I wish we ate the other stuff.” I leave open the possibility that cows may not think that way. It’s a form of arrogance, I suppose, to imagine that every species on the planet thinks like me.
We visited a state park that included the recreation of the village of a now extinct indigenous Indian tribe. You could almost hear their ghostly voices saying, “Thank you for your interest. We could have used some of that when we were alive.”
We drove down a bendy road to a hiking trail leading to the ocean. After starting down a path which was steep and of an indeterminate distance to the ocean, we quickly ascertained – being educated people – that if a hiking trail is steep going down, it will be equally steep coming back up. And considerably harder to negotiate. After ten minutes, we decided to turn back.
As the years roll by, it is a concern that such surrenders may be attributed in our minds to advancing decrepitute. As we returned to our car, I tried to nip that notion in the bud, saying,
“I’d like to believe that when we were younger, we also wouldn’t have done that.”
We were comforted by that thought as we drove away. Though not entirely persuaded.
Though our rustic rendezvous was relaxing and revivifying, at the end, things took an unwelcome and unexpected turn.
On our last night, we’d been invited to dinner and an overnight stay at our friends’ Joan and David’s place in Berkeley. That morning, we were informed that David had developed some worrisome symptoms, though we were encouraged to come anyway.
Shortly after our arrival, with the symptoms persisting, David was instructed to check into a hospital, for observation and testing. Joan and David immediately drove off, leaving us alone in their house, where we cleaned up from dinner, and eventually went to bed. The next day, we left for home, lacking any knowledge of the condition of our host.
I hope he’s okay.
I like David. And I want him to be well.