November 15, 2008
(This video is only partially ironic)
So, I stopped writing on this site for a while. It’s just that I’ve been so very thirsty. I’ve written about this before, and I don’t mean to complain, but I found myself uninspired by the work I was doing. The months slipped past and never once did I get a chance to try a sip of wine from the grapes that I’d grown. I would work with vines and try to help them to grow well and balanced, but what become of their fruit was a frustrating mystery to me. I might as well have been growing fucking sugar beets.
I had decided for a few reasons that I wanted to change things, to leave where I lived or to find a new job or something. Even thirsty, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work, it’s more that I didn’t like everything a guy’s got to put up with in order to do the work.
I think I’ll be able to put my finger on it after I’ve gone, but there’s something toxic in the air here in big-money California wine valleys. Maybe it’s that many of the fortunes behind the castles along Highway 12 or the Silverado trail were so newly minted or maybe not acquired by fully legal means. Or perhaps it’s that wine itself, as a perceived status symbol, attracts those sorts of people who value the price of an object more than anything. I think also that there’s a huge separation of wealth between the classes, and that the chasm allows for a certain abuse. I also think that there’s an unhealed injury on the collective psyche of the American soul, and that for various reasons, it expresses itself in California in ways I don’t really appreciate.
I could be wrong, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it just seems like I’ve had to put up with a whole lot of assholes ever since I moved here. I feel like a lot of the times people wouldn’t be speaking directly to me, but using a conversation with me as a vehicle to exorcise some demon, or to redirect an abuse that they’d suffered beforehand. I feel like a lot of the people I’ve worked with over the years used the workplace as a place to do act out an operatic, deeply emotional theatre. I just wanted to work and learn and get along, but I found myself deeply enmeshed in the personal problems and mental health issues of my coworkers.
In the meantime, I stuck to myself and when I got the chance, drove with my dog and my tent northwards, towards Oregon, where I’d heard the hills stay green, the vines grow happily, and the state parks allow dogs. Also, did you know there’s no sales tax and you’re not allowed to pump your own gas? It’s crazy!
Cedar burns aromatically in a campfire, like incense.
I knocked on winery doors and had a taste. I talked to people, asked around, and just wanted to see what it was like up there. I liked it. The air was cooler. I was lucky. The very winery I was most interested in had been looking for an assistant winemaker type person or a year or more without luck. It turned out that the owners and winemakers were a very nice family, well-read and polite, and they’d love to have me back up again for a few days to see if we got along.
I went back to Caliornia and finished the grape harvest, harvesting grapes I didn’t spend a lot of time growing, while the grapes that I had were harvested by somebody else. I worked a bit in a winery, but because the fruit came in maybe 40% lighter this year, they didn’t much need a part time afternoon kind of guy. I finished the certification process for 100 acres of biodynamic grapes, a 3 year process that I’d started and have now finished, my horns well-buried, my pixie-dust dusted. I went back up to Oregon and found out that it was true, we liked each other quite a bit and found working together and enjoyable way to spend some time. It didn’t seem like they were the sorts of people to act out a psychodrama at work. I liked the town, the people, and the cool feel and damp taste to the air. The leaves were turning orange and red. The bookstores and brew pubs seemed like home.
I took the job and went back to California and gave my 2 week notice the day after Obama got elected. I’ll be a production manager/assistant winemaker/vineyard person at a wonderful place with a long history, older vines, and oh yeah, I forgot, great wine, amazing wine, wine that they open for you and graciously ask you what you think.
Now, my last day is next Tuesday and afterwards I’ve got three weeks to pack and move my life. I’ll be starting all over up in Oregon, not knowing a soul but for my dog, and a family that’s not mine.
But have you looked at the cost of land in Oregon? It’s not so bad, really. It’s nowhere near as unrealistic as California. It makes a young farm lad believe that maybe by determination and the strength of his back he might someday win a piece of land he could call his own.
I spent last weekend at a sheep school.
I heard that there’s a whole of people who play music I like in Portland.
Listen, the monsters and dragons I’ve had to deal with weren’t so mighty, really. It hasn’t been anything I couldn’t cope with. I’m not much for faith in the almighty, nor in an eternal life, but I do think that if you go looking and striving to find a way back to the Shire, you’ll find it, somehow.
I’m still in love with the farm I don’t own and haven’t seen. I think that I might be coming closer to it by moving up north where the rain falls.