There is some kind of fantasy-weirdo version of Fisherman’s Wharf just south of Fisherman’s Wharf. I think this is where we wound up, quite inadvertently. It’s kind of like a mall decked out to resemble a fishing village. While I get the feeling that going to Fisherman’s Wharf is a lot like taking a cab directly to Times Square immediately upon touching down at JFK, the crab everyone got tasted great. Sure, it made us all sick, but I can now say I’ve visited two fake fishing villages in my life. The other was at Disneyworld, which despite the fact that it’s in Florida, is descended from Disneyland, in California. California and fake fishing villages. Strange motif for a place with how ever many thousand miles of coastline.
The trolley grinds violently across the streets of San Francisco. I can’t tell where the thing goes or if it’s even a truly useful form of public transportation. The car takes us down a hill on California St. that we then walk back up. About all I have to say about the trolley is this: if the subway system in New York required its riders to swing themselves up and down, on and off the cars, the city would be a lot more exciting. I’d definitely wear sneakers more often, too.
The Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful. Driving across it is beautiful. The five-and-a-half-hour trip to Mendocino that began immediately after going over the bridge was beautiful.
The Pacific Coast Highway north of San Francisco is a long, long drive. Twisty, curvy, and scenic – but long. About an hour into it we opted to take the 101 instead. It takes a long time to get back to the 101, but once you get there, you long for the Pacific Coast Highway. I wasn’t able to fully convince anyone that we should head back over.
There is an Applebee’s in Santa Rosa off the 101. When you’re hungry, the open smiles and friendly neighborhood cheer of an Applebee’s is pretty damn convincing. Keep in mind – ‘garlic-crusted shrimp Caesar salad’ really means ‘deep-fried shrimp Caesar salad.’ Also keep in mind – while deep-fried shrimp in your salad may not be what you were expecting, hey, who’s gonna say no to those tasty little fuckers? Also: the late cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, was from Santa Rosa. The Applebee’s has a photo near the door that shows him sitting in front what looks like a forty-five-foot-tall stuffed Snoopy doll. He looks like Dr. Frankenstein, about to be crushed to death by his misunderstood and freakishly huge creation. Good grief.
The Mendocino area does nothing short of totally ruling. Hella ruling. Awe-inspiring cliffs (‘headlands’), a very old and very beautiful hotel (‘The Mendocino Hotel’), delicious wine (‘hic’). It’s like Cape Cod with one difference: I’ve been to Mendocino and I’ve never been to Cape Cod. There’s probably really nothing to that comparison, but somebody there told me that it was kind of like Cape Cod so let’s just trust the locals on this one, shall we?
When you drive on a beach at night it’s hard to tell that the sand directly in front of you is soft. When the car stops going forward and you throw it in reverse and hit the gas, you dig yourself in deeper. When you dig all the sand out from under the car, make sure you dig deep enough to reach the wet sand – it’ll provide enough of a surface for you to drive the car out. Once the car’s out and everyone gets in and all the sand in their shoes dumps out onto the floormats, it’s time to be happy that it’s just a rental. And a Dodge, at that.
A friend’s wedding underneath a cypress grove at the top of the Mendocino Headlands is an indescribably wonderful experience. Freezing cold, but beautiful. So beautiful that a couple in sweats and shorts just outside the grove tried to peek in and watch, but at least had the good taste to get a hold of themselves and get lost.
On the way back to the airport I discovered that I have really crappy taste in music. Flipping through the radio station (and I haven’t listened to an actual radio in probably three years – thank you, MP3s) I’d find a song I liked and then realize that the last time I heard it was in a movie or something. And some bad movie, too. It seemed like everything I ever liked – well, at least the stuff you’d hear on the radio at five in the morning – has been digested and reconstituted by some form of overwhelming mass media. And it was usually featured in a Tom Cruise movie. ‘Oh yeah, I like this song. Wait: Wasn’t this in Jerry Maguire?’ ‘No, I think it was Vanilla Sky.’
When you make a flight reservation on Jet Blue you should check that they haven’t scheduled your return flight for a month after you wanted to leave. Because when you reach the check-in counter they’ll let you know that they’re going to have to charge you an extra hundred bucks to get your New-York butt back to New-York-butt-land. You’ll agree, of course, but you’ll wonder if they do this to everyone in some weird attempt to generate revenue.
None of it will matter, of course, when you’re jammed in the last row of the plane – in the middle seat, the only seat left on the plane – watching Let’s Make a Deal and you notice the bag you carry every day in New York, the one you keep all your stuff in, the one that your dad gave you from his set of American Tourister – is sitting there with the rest of its matching luggage family on the prize stage on this show from 19-seventy-something – sitting there all pristine, untouched, perfect, brand-new: all those concepts and qualifiers that so many of the rest of us, all over this country, attribute to California. The idea that it’s out there, away from everything else that we’ve already ruined, that we’ve already explored, that we’ve already experienced – out West. That California, despite whatever its reality, is where you are supposed to be. Or where you’re supposed to want to be. That it’s a new and braver world. And you realize that, no, this episode of Let’s Make a Deal was assuredly filmed in California, and that these contestants are freakbots, and that the host isn’t that much more on the up and up, and that it’s probably just time for you to get back to New York where you can be miserable if you want or happy if you like but at least you know all the subway stops.
That may also be when you realize that the knee of the guy in the seat next to you is touching your leg. And like a little bit too much, I might add.