Not me, apparently. After "philosophizing" in Chris Buckley's backyard, I headed back to Santa Barbara, parked, and walked to the end of the pier that famously burned up in November, 1998. I know the date because it was my birthday and I was driving back from the airport after defending my dissertation at the U. of U. in Salt Lake City. I remember rounding a bend and seeing the horizon on fire. The entire city was burning, I thought, but it was just creosote-soaked planks and pylons spitting flame. (Months later, I arrived home and a sobbing voice on my answering machine pleaded with whomever he was trying to call to help him recover from the financial and artistic loss of his paintings that burned. He sadly left no number.)
After reacquainting myself with the sea air and the waves, I walked to Madeleine and Bob's condo to say hello. They didn't know I was coming, so it was delightful to surprise Madeleine (Bob, alas, was at UCLA) and Sophie and their guests, Lily and Lily's grandmother. When two two-year-olds are around, they pretty much determine the course of human events, so we sat around, played, read parts of books, talked between lulls in the perfect chaos. It was fun and especially wonderful to see Madeleine so happy.
Later, we all headed to dine with dear friends George and Amy, who graciously put me up for the night and who hosted an impromptu gathering in my honor. The evening evolved into a study of California's pinot terroirs (which I guess makes us homegrown terroirists [insert bad pun drumbeat here]), beginning with a 2002 Williams-Selyem Rocchioli Riverblock (rich nose, evolving complexity; opening with this is definitly going all in). Friends dropped in and we munched pizza and caught up. Patrick was looking as dapper as ever, and he still maintains his intellectual ferocity. Mookie and Nigel, the house greyhounds, towered over Sophie, who ran around the yard with them anyway. Chryss (one of those Santa Barbara poets) and her new husband Dan came by as well, and we talked about music and the woes at the News Press and kids and people and events and anything, all the while powering through several more bottles of pinot and three pizzas. George kept it lively, spinning cd's from one of the best music collections in the west (Eric Bachmann and Yo La Tengo covering anyone, among several fine others). The second bottle, the 2000 Dehlinger Octagon, was my favorite of the evening, perfectly aged (like all of us, I hope?), laser fruit and spices and a wonderful finish with a hint of smoke. A 2003 Longoria Bien Nacido, one of my favorites from my time there, followed that with its rich, ripe central coast earthiness. There was a 2004 Brego pinot from Anderson Valley that explored the youthful strawberry side of the pinot spectrum. I might have missed one, but by the third bottle, one sips more than one takes mental notes. All in all, it was a wonderful evening--what we live for, good friends, food, wine, an evening that tailed off into quiet comfort and restful warmth.
The only thing missing from it all was my Amy, but here's a toast to you, sweetness. Cheers.
(Thanks for the help on the winelist, George.) Fresno tomorrow, I promise.