Friday the 13 and other Sonoma Phobias

April 13, 2012 • Culture Dept., Sonoma Co.

Friday the 13thIt’s Friday the 13th, the second of three such dates on this year’s calendar. The first occurred in January and if you didn’t notice it, let’s assume it was because nothing terrible happened to you on that day. If it did, someone surely would have blamed it on the fateful date. Like the ducks in the historic Sonoma Plaza. I’ll explain.

The last time we had a Friday the 13th in April was in 2007. Perhaps you will recall that it was a partly cloudy spring day, there was a headline in the I-T that read “Community Center debuts program of art on the lawn,” and Goya was showing at the museum. It was also the day our ducks returned to their newly retrofitted pond in the Plaza. Only, once they got in, they couldn’t get out. There was a critical design flaw that no one noticed until … Friday the 13th.

If memory serves, the walls of their new $700,000 digs proved too high for their wee duck legs, hence the pile of rocks or, as we’ve chosen to say, “stepping stones,” on either end of the pond. Since then, our ducks have migrated to a secret, undisclosed location whenever a Friday and the number 13 share the day.

Fear of Friday the 13th is known in psychoanalytic quarters as “friggatriskaidekaphobia,” though I suspect the word was concocted by European brainiacs so they could drop an F-bomb without anyone noticing.

It’s one of those gnarly half-breed words that combine at least two languages, a graduate degree in the liberal arts and a couple of pints. Try to say it out loud and you’ll be hard-pressed not to add -expialidocious to the end. Just to give my editor’s needless grief, that would look like this: friggatriskaidekaphobiaexpialidocious.

To my eye, this looks like the literary product of my 2-year-old when let loose on the keyboard. It also resembles one of those notorious towns in Wales with the awful polysyllabic names – like this one: Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (that’s its nickname, by the way – I won’t torture you with its remaining 38 letters, which can’t possibly contribute anything more than confusion and carpal tunnel syndrome).

It rolls off the tongue like water off a duck’s back. That is, after the duck has been boiled into a dish they call Welsh Salt Duck.

Sonoma and that, um, Welsh place should become sister cities. We could send them wine and they could send us consonants. Naturally, we have to keep Sonoma’s three precious vowels. After all, we need those ohs and ahh, otherwise Sonoma is just S-n-M (insert whip crack!). We also need them to pronounce anatidaephobia, the pervasive, irrational fear that one is being watched by a duck (I swear to God – Google it!).

Anatidaephobia: Fear of Ducks

As one who suffers from anatidaephobia, April 13, 2007, was a particularly trying day for me. I was on assignment covering the duck pond unveiling only to find myself being stared down by a clamor of pissed off waterfowl, trapped in the pond. If they could, they would have asked “WTD?”

This year, I plan to celebrate “Friggatriskaideka” at the girl and the fig. In lieu of salt duck, I’ll have the duck confit, lyonnaise potato and fava bean ragoût with a frisee and pickled red onion salad. Because I’ll be in Sonoma, where, no matter the date, one is always a lucky duck. Unless you’re a duck.

Daedalus Howell will read from and sign copies of the paperback edition of “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country,” at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 19, at Readers’ Books, 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Visit CreativeLot.net.

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