I was trying to think of what to call this when a great song by Steve Forbert, Autumn This Year, popped into my head… so blame him…
I turned 45 this year… only a couple of days ago. Vicky says I don’t look a day over 44 11/12s, but I feel the age, believe me. I feel it when I go jogging and my bad leg says, “Remember all those good times you had abusing the shit out of me?” There’s my mistake. I didn’t know legs held shit. I feel when I look in the mirror and realize it’s the brown hairs I can start counting… backwards…
But most of all, I felt my age this weekend as we spent it up in wine country around Paso Robles. We made a great excuse for not being amongst friends and family, taking off and staying in Cambria, one of our favorite little towns. We had a wonderful time – no so wonderful that I didn’t want to get home and start working on a new book but, still, a wonderful time.
As we often do with long drives (we drove to Cambria and back), Vicky and I had selected an audiobook to listen to and this time it was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. I love the movie but had never read the book. Always one to outdo me, Vicky had read the book and also loved the movie. Still, we both wanted to listen to it and it was a treat the whole weekend.
But then came Saturday evening. We had spent the whole day winery-hopping amongst some amazing hillsides and some of the prettiest country you could ever wish to be in and Vicky was returning us to Cambria – I was far too drunk, I mean, relaxed to drive. We made a stop at Jack Creek Farms for some cider. I have to link it because we just love this place. It’s nothing, really, but that’s what makes it so wonderful.
Then, Vicky kept driving. She hadn’t really been drinking because she was the designated driver this time out. Hey, it was my birthday! But all that wine turned my mind to a darker place, a place that made me feel a lot older than my graying head or limping leg ever could.
I thought, “So… 45, huh?” I thought about some of the people I’ve lost and wondered where they were and why they couldn’t celebrate with me. Particularly, I thought about one reader up north… my ex… and I pondered for the millionth time how that went wrong – because it’s a celebration, why not fuck that up by being morose, right?
And Vicky drove on.
We came to a country rode we knew would wind well out of our way and give us some great scenery before taking us back to Cambria. I suggested Vicky take it and she did. We left this four-lane road for what could only very generously be called… well, a road. It took us through hillsides and meadows and beneath the bows of some great, old trees. It also took us by a lot of farms, ranches, what have you – and there were cows.
Now, Vicky loves cows… seasoned just right… but, no, she loves living cows. She gets excited when we see them and I always threaten to take her to a petting zoo. So, we’re driving next to all these cows and Vicky is going, oh, two miles an hour, saying, “Hello, cow!” And, when one looks at her, she giggles with glee.
And that totally fucked up my morose mood… the bitch.
It didn’t stop me from reflecting on the past, people in the past, and where they are in the present… but I had to admit to Vicky that she takes a lot of shit from me in the form of baggage. I came loaded with more issues than – well, we were in an antique store this weekend that had literally boxes of old Playboys but let’s not stretch the analogy, okay? – and, so, I had to thank Vicky for that.
And for being my best friend.
And for letting me get all saucy while she was the designated driver.