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Friday, 20 May
The Wrath Of Grapes

Oh, what else did we do in the Bay of Dogs? Well, lots of touristy things, of course. I mentioned a few posts ago, for example, that we went on a little tour of the wine country, and I was going to devote a whole post to it, but it probably doesn't merit that many words, and I've been plenty wordy this week anyway.

Instead of going through the hassle of renting a car and driving all over hell and gone, we opted to buy tickets for a tour bus and have ourselves be driven around all over hell and gone. Another bonus, besides not driving after an entire day of drinking wine, was that we got picked up and dropped off at our hotel. (We had rented a room for a couple nights to treat ourselves and also to give our good hosts J. and A. some time to have their apartment back.)

So we lit out at 8:30 in the morning with the promise of wine hitting our lips at around 10:30--Breakfast of Champions. We met another bus at Fisherman's Wharf and boarded, and (I had predicted this, but it wasn't exactly a hard call) we immediately noticed that everyone else on board probably had a good 20 years on us at least. There were visors, lots of visors.

Eventually we took off and met our driver via mike as he guided us out of the city over the Bay Bridge. He set the tone almost immediately: "I wasn't even supposed to be here today," he said in even tones. "But we're stuck with each other today, so let's get along. I want to set down some ground rules, and the first one is, take it easy. I don't want any pukers today. And you guys look like a lot of alkies." Nervous laughter.

Like a seasoned comedian, he quite obviously had a patter down, and he had it down cold. The only odd thing was the tone he adopted, a kind of avuncular hostility towards the audience, as if he were stifling hecklers that hadn't actually said anything yet. You got used to it after a while, but it clearly had as much to do with behavior modification as it did with entertainment, the unspoken message being: We can all have fun here, but if you get weird on me, I have weapons. At various times during the day, he mocked the elderly (gutsy, considering his human freight): "Don't anyone die on me today. I have a bad back. I'm not pulling you out of here." Cops: "Oh, look, the doughnut patrol. That's your tax dollars, folks." Horse carriages: "Folks, I don't want anyone here riding those things. That could be Mr. Ed out there." And, at one very weird point, Baptists. I wish to hell I could remember the exact comment, but I cannot, but I do remember him following it up with, "We don't have any Baptists here today, do we?" Nervous laughter. I am too areligious to even begin to figure out what was going on, so I promptly fell asleep.

There isn't much else to tell, except that we visited wineries and greedily slurped up their offerings. At one winery, we did receive a bit of golf applause when a couple of the hosts asked who was visiting on a special occasion: when silence ensued, the wife said in a small voice, "Anniversary!" "Great! How long?" asked the host. "Two years," I said. The crowd clapped with warm politeness, and we graciously acknowledged their applause, and quietly exulted in the fact that most of them would probably die before us.

We lunched in Sonoma; the wife and I split off from wherever the majority of the group was going--not because we hated them, or anything, but we just figured, why compete with them for waitstaff? We found an Irish pub off an alley and ordered some fries and drinks. We sat on the deck, as it was a gorgeous sunny day. There was a light wind, and I noticed white fluffy motes dancing in the wind. Seeing these, I felt an icicle of fear slide into my asshole. "Does that look like cottonwood to you?" I asked the wife. She didn't know.

When I was a kid, I had miserable, miserable hayfever allergies. Combine that with chronic asthma, and you've got a real formula for success. Springtime was always a season of misery for me, and I remember my mother crying when she saw me halfway up a staircase, having to rest and catch my breath trying to get to my room, a ten-year-old little old man. And cottonwood was always the worst, it would fuck me up good every year. It wasn't until I moved away to college that my hayfever subsided, seemingly for good. But I still really got the heebies about seeing that stuff floating around in the air.

And for good reason. Within fifteen minutes, I had the sniffles. Five more minutes and I was sneezing. I felt my lungs starting to clamp up, which was terrible. I thought, Oh God! Will I be able to finish my beer? The wind freshened, and the cottonwood started blowing around malevolently again; I ran to the bathroom and promptly soaked half a roll of toilet paper with open-faucet quantities of snot. When I washed my face and then looked into the mirror, I saw a damp-faced thing gazing back at me with raspberry eyes. I hadn't had an attack like this in fifteen years, but good old Sonoma had provoked a histological boxing match embarrassment that was going to be legendary. My mucus membranes screamed "No mas! No mas!" at the Sugar Ray Leonard cottonwoods.

It was time to go, thankfully. And it only took about 20 minutes of recycled bus air to return me to my normal state. We went to a couple more wineries--they were fine--before making the trip back to the city. I of course slept practically the whole time back, probably for a lot of reasons. For one, sleeping was better than listening to the bus driver's litany of misanthropy ("Look at these joggers on our left. He's too old for her. He might die trying to keep up with her." I caught that one.). For another, my body was still pretty pissed off about the cottonwood siege. And finally, Jesus, I'd been drinking wine since before eleven in the morning.

As we got into the city, the bus driver praised our good group. "You guys have been great. I thought I'd see some troublemaking on this trip, but I can't complain." The senior citizens beamed and bobbed their gray heads, as if proud of themselves for, I don't know, not fucking shit up. He continued. "You guys can puke if you want. It's been a good day. I can hose this thing out. I don't care." Gosh, it's like getting a thank-you card! From Bobcat Goldthwaite!

And look at that. It was its own post anyway. I can just go on and on. I should drive a tour bus.

Roam | Skot | 20 May, 2005 |

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"I felt an icicle of fear slide into my asshole"

The Nobel for lit is in the bag.

Comment number: 005788   Posted by: sennoma on May 20, 2005 09:06 AM from IP:

(That should have xoxox tags, in case it read like a snark. Cwtsh!)

Comment number: 005789   Posted by: senn on May 20, 2005 09:09 AM from IP:

My dad is considering becoming a tour bus driver in a resort area. I cannot imagine that he would inject that sort of patter into his trips, but I'll be sure to point out how endearing it was.

Comment number: 005790   Posted by: KJ on May 20, 2005 09:57 AM from IP:

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