Origin Myth

For each of us not blessed with being born natives of Sonoma there is a corresponding back story to our arrival. An “origin myth,” as they say in the screen trade. I’ve rewritten mine so many times I can hardly remember the facts, though I suspect this was probably my forgotten intention.

My back story, so far as I can recall, had something to do with Los Angeles, a reignited romance and an unused return ticket. I won’t waste ink on the specifics (we can catch up over a glass of wine sometime, if you really need to know), since my origin myth would scarcely rank a footnote in the Collective Annals of Sonoma Origin Myths, if there were such a thing. And there kind of is: I’ve been collecting local origin myths since I arrived in the fall of ’05. I seek them out, tease them from casual conversation, bask in their back stories and catalog the dramatis personae. These informal, informational interviews reveal all manner of motives, all hues of humanity in its pursuit of happiness. Every experience I’ve chronicled, no matter the circumstances that have shaped it, somehow affirms that Sonoma is one of the most brilliant places on earth, judging solely from the personalities it attracts and those it has retained (of course, I don’t put my own name on this ledger, for at times I think it must be Greek for “dumb luck”).

There are sundry “made it big” stories, wherein the protagonist decides to ferment in the wine country, something akin to an early retirement after achieving the necessary escape velocity from any of a number of prior careers (though there is a preponderance of technology and entertainment stories). Each tale is compelling in its own right, as are those that have shared them with me – people who tend to give generously of their resources and themselves, adding extra burnish to the Sonoma experience. Then there are those drawn by the specter of opportunity, those who have recognized a burgeoning boomtown beyond the vines and epicurean escapades that underscore most weeks. These deliciously hungry souls are easy to recognize – their furtive eyes very nearly glow as they pour over coffee-stained business plans in the corners of cafes, moving their lips in capitalistic incantations.

Just as plentiful are the stories of lovers, those who followed their hearts to a particular someone, or just as common, to the town itself. By far the least common origin myths are filed under “marooned.” There was the man in the Mylar suit who described himself as a “spy from the future,” who muttered to me this chestnut of a backgrounder while I was gently swaying at the fig:

“I was sent here from the future,” he said off-handedly over his flight of Rhône varietals.

Before I could respond, Mark the bartender poured me another pinot, then nodded as if to say “Okay, now, you’re ready for this.”

“Um, how far in the future?” I asked.

“Not far. Next week.”

“Seems like a lot of hassle to travel back in time for just a week.”

“Wait until you see next week, man. Particularly Thursday. That’s why I’m staying here – in the past.”

“But by next week, it won’t be the past anymore,” I volunteered.

“By then, I’ll have perspective.”

We drank silently for a moment. I turned to him and began to form a question, but he cut me off.

“Don’t ask. I’m not going to tell you the future. And, anyway, it’s personal.”

“I wasn’t going to ask you about the future. I’m interested in your ‘origin myth.’”

“What the hell is that?”

“Where you’re from, why you’re in Sonoma,” I explained.

“I’m in Sonoma? Oh, this is worse than I thought.”


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