Wine Country & Creepy Drifter Encampment: The Last Post Before I Return to the Salt Mines

June 13th, 2010. Categories / San Francisco

This week, a car was rented to convey the soggy soul sacks of J and I into the Northern California Wine Country. We are not “wine snobs” or really even “wine drinkers.” We enjoy a bottle every three months or more, working out to less than a third of an ounce per day total. At this rate, in one hundred years we will have knocked back four hundred bottles. That’s nearly enough wine to displease a wine snob for one year!

But the wine country was beautiful. Yellow, rolling hills were speckled with dark olive colored trees. The vineyards spread across valleys and up hillsides in chaotic plots of perfectly linear rows. Everything seemed sickeningly quaint and romantic, from fake chateaus, crafts stores, fruit stands, wine tastings, to the small town feel of Sonoma’s square.

On a weekday, the region was the stomping ground of casually dressed, grey haired people.

We went in a loop. First, up through Sonoma Valley, then across the hills and back down to Napa. We had come mostly to look around, but late in the afternoon we decided to stop for a tasting before all of the wineries closed. Our pick was a massive stone-coated building, empty except for an older host with a massive smile and slightly crazy eyes.

“Two merlots, on the rocks,” I cooly asked, leaning against the bar. She could clearly see I was a connoisseur. Unfortunately it was not of wine.

We tasted a few wines on a list, pretending to be delighted by “nutty afterbirths” and “cherry finishes with tints of cinnamon and sulfur.” The woman did her best to guide us. She was causal and friendly. But personally, I can only tell the difference between a wine that sucks and one that doesn’t. My taste duotone has no room for flavors of grey.

We left with a bottle of wine.

Field, farmer, and hills.

Landscape painter.

Beached boat.

Rows of grapes.

More grapes under yellow hills.

Hill top with trees.

The coolest dog in Sonoma.

Some type of plus sign on a hillside.

Oh dear!

The dump.

Freshly planted grapes.

Full grown grapes.

Field and windmill.

More field.

Rocks amongst yellow grass.

Cables on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bunker.

Since the wine tasting, we have not been drinking wine. Instead, we have been “getting our kicks” out in the sunny weather.

Switch in yucca.

FOR RENT…BEDROOM.

Large fish caught at Crissy Field.

Me and my destiny.

Home made biscuits.

Home made chicken enchiladas.

A few days ago, we hiked the massive sandy stairs to the beach at Fort Funston and discovered a playground of sea foam. On the north side of the beach, a mass of it was getting churned up and deposited on the shore. The wind would send it mashing against rocks and flying into the air like snow. Larger wads of foam would escape and tumble along the ground. It was fascinating to watch, and a little like getting sneezed on.

Sea foam! Bam!

A foamy snow.

The hatch.

Sign on a moving truck.

Making a break for it.

One of the many old ladies wandering the streets of our neighborhood.

Missing locks.

Three doorbells.

Color matched flowers.

Today, we went for a walk to Sutro Park. Fog hugged the coast. At the edge of the park, I discovered a creepy encampment in the backyards of two abandoned homes. Through a knocked down section of the wooden fence was a variety of trails and little sleeping areas in the underbrush. None of it seemed occupied, except for one especially hidden area along a fence that I was too fearful to explore. The whole area felt slightly foreboding. Bright orange and green fungus coated the trees.

The front of one of the abandoned looking houses. The two cars were moldy and over grown. It’s almost like the family went on a trip and never came back.

Weird message written on the side of the house.

The side of the house, and the massive ineffective fence.

Three kinds of wild flowers.

The staircase on the back of the abandoned property. The entrance to the secret encampment is to the left.

Inside the backyard.

The haunting world of homeless.

Two beds, a top hat and a handbag.

Ocean view.

The old pond for the house was now a makeshift seating area.

Not the most comforting fence to crawl through.

Behind it was an even more hidden lair. Far to the back of this, I think there actually was an active camp.

Above me, orange fungus.

Fallen fence.

On the way to lunch, I spotted this dead baby possum.

My first day of full-time work starts tomorrow. I feel like I’ve made the most of my free time out here, but I’m nervous about what the future brings. Until I get into the groove of commuting and working it’s going to feel pretty shocking. I’ve gotten pretty good about goofing off. Now I need to get good about working again.

In moments of uncertainty whether I’m doing the right thing for a living, I just have to look at all of the good moments work has brought me. Since my first job in 2002, I’ve been almost able to take 3 years off and explore. That seems like a fair balance to me. As long as I keep moving forward, I’ll still be able to meet my maker with few regrets.*

Too see J’s take on these pre-work moments, look no further than this.

*That have’t been proven in a court of law.

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