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California Vice (Land)



California Vice (Land)

The wife and I recently spent some time in California. Having been to LA and San Diego any number of times, this trip took us to northern Cali. I had not been in northern CA since the early 70s when a friend and I hitchhiked up and down the coast highway, camped in Big Sur and spent some time in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. It was just a few years after Woodstock, and there were hippies in tie-die clothes carrying Peace signs driving around in multi-color VW. Jerry was still alive. The vibe was warm and fuzzy, filled with love, flowers and plenty of that sweet smell of weed.

We stopped off in the Haight last month. There were a few folks clad in tie-die, that didn’t look that much different than their 70s counterparts. But there were more dark clothed, leather clad, pierced and tattooed kids walking the streets. Some were panhandling on corners, some sleeping in vacant storefront entrances. Walking by these kids, listening in on some of the talk while in a cafe, I didn’t sense the happiness and love that was prevalent during my first visit. There was no one handing out flowers or flashing the peace sign.

We were in a shop and saw a display of standard red and blue bandanas. Mine was getting kind of ratty, so I pulled one off the shelf. The tag said, “Vintage Bandana,” $18.00. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS! You can buy the same square, cloth bandana at any truck stop for $2.00. Capitalism and retail marketing to tourists is fully operational in the Haight. The vibe was definitely different than back in the day. Maybe it was because the weather was a bit damp and cool, or I am old and curmudgeonly. Probably a combination of two.

We travelled through NAPA wine country for some tasting. I guess my old and curmudgeonly persona was fully operational. It was like stepping into a scene at the Bushwood Country club in Caddyshack. Each place was full of couples in their 50s or so. The men wore deck shoes, crisp, pleated shorts and Lacoste Polo shirts. Their wives or girlfriends were all in sleeveless sun dresses, very tan and looked artificially younger than their partner.

The wines ranged from $60-$300 and up per bottle. Some of the wines were described with such obtuse language as, ‘a muscular note of seasoned berry’, ‘a warm bonfire aroma’, ‘the scent of a blueberry cigar box’ or the ‘leathery notes of a saddle.’ Do you really want to drink something that smells like a saddle or cigar box? Clearly, I am no sommelier. In fact, I didn’t even know what a friggin’ sommelier was. In any event, it all seemed pretentious to a “Two-Buck Chuck” aficionado like me. At least we got a buzz from the wine tasting.

We had a better ‘Fruit of the Vine’ experience in Murphy’s, California. It’s a quaint, small tourist town that reminded me of St. Charles or Hermann, Mo. There were a number of winery tasting shops, small stores and restaurants. The people were authentic and the wine and cheese prices were reasonable. We got another buzz and enjoyed the atmosphere, a win-win.

From Napa wine country to California Weed country…California Vice (Land) continues on my next blog.




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