1/23/11

So far so good...

Yountville is a breath of fresh air.  We walk the neighborhood streets at a relaxed pace, noticing things for the first time and waiting for all of the oranges and grapefruit to ripen.  It is calm and quiet and there is room in our heads for conversation.  There seems to be more time in the day for things like reading and writing and taking our dog to one of the big parks in the area to give him a chance to run around and sniff and roll...

We moved up here in a hurry so that Anna could take a job at the French Laundry.  It was a dilemma; move to Yountville to pursue her career or stay in LA to pursue mine.  We found a compromise...I'll travel to LA to work for a week or two each month for as long as we can stand it.  Who knows how long that will last, but we're giving it a shot.

So I spent the last week in Los Angeles working sessions at The Bank.  It was fun to be back in the hustle and bustle.  I fell back into the studio schedule quite easily and it was a particularly fun week.  Highlights included working with David Ryan Harris, who is John Mayer's touring guitar player and a very nice dude.  Another project was being produced and engineered by the guys who worked on The Fray records and other recognizable radio hits.  At the end of the week we recorded a string quartet which was quite excellent and fun to watch.  I learned a ton and had a great time.  I felt lucky to be there.

I'm back in Yountville now.  Last night we walked down the street to a restaurant, sat on the patio in 60 degree weather, sipped beer and told stories.  We walked home, stopping for a moment to sit on a park bench and watch a train decorated with Christmas lights roll by.  We are worlds away from the buzzing bee hive that is Los Angeles.  It feels like I have a foot in each place and I like it.    

1/12/11

Bull riding?


The days have flown by me like a three-trailer big rig; loud and leaving me in a gust of wind with my hands covering my face to protect from the kicked-up debris.

Perhaps a more accurate description would be a Kansas-style tornado.  Wife, dog, myself and our entire household picked up, whirled around for who knows how long, and set down in a strange new place.

Turns out we are in Yountville, California, a town of 3,000 in the Napa Valley, and we have come here by our own will.  My wife was offered the job of her dreams at a restaurant called The French Laundry and we simply could not refuse.

Not two weeks ago we were maneuvering our lives through the 'jungle', to quote Axl Rose, of West Hollywood.  We had been living there for 3 months or so and had learned our way around, made friends, found our favorite movie theaters and thrift stores, found the shortest way to the beach and felt mostly comfortable in the smoggy surroundings.  Then, she got the call, and for the third time in 15 months we packed up our few things into our two little cars and drove away.

Now, we live in a little studio apartment sublet to us by a friendly local.  There is quiet all around us.  We hear the cars and trucks on Highway 29 and not much else other than the sounds made by the breeze and the wildlife.  Nobody yelling, no car alarms, no horns honking, no sirens or helicopters.  We drive with no concern for the schedule of rush hour because there is no traffic to speak of.  After our year in Seattle and our few months in Los Angeles, this place feels like a highway rest stop and real life is speeding by out there on the asphalt.

I felt a little disoriented at first.  We left a sweet situation in a city where I could work in the music industry every day with some very inspiring and exciting folks.  My job as an assistant engineer provided a relatively steady income and I was learning a lot, and fast.  I was writing songs with hit songwriters, playing music with friends in legendary venues, and having an all-around fantastic time doing it.  Now, we live in a place where the local music scene seems to consist of people strumming gentle acoustic guitar music in the corners of tasting rooms in wineries.

I was worried, to say the least.  What would I do?  Who would I hang out and talk shop with?  How would I make a living?

The truth is that the size of Yountville is deceiving.  This area is home to some of the best restaurants and wineries in the world.  When a chef reaches a certain level they turn their eyes to The French Laundry, as it is one of the most highly regarded restaurants anywhere.  Presumably, the friends and acquaintances  we will make here will be talented, skilled, driven people at the top of their respected fields.  Master craftspeople and artists in their own way.  I think it will be a very exciting and inspiring place to live for a while.  I'll be exposed to new things, new people, and I'll be motivated to reach the high standard of excellence that is part of the culture here.  I'm not exactly sure how I'll make a living but that is nothing new and I have some ideas.  I'm not sure how I'll make musician friends but I can always drive an hour into San Francisco and hang out with my buddies there.

I have always enjoyed throwing myself into new situations.  It's exciting.  It's a form of bull-riding for those averse to broken bones.  Grab the rope with one hand, your hat with the other, and call for the chute to open and let you out.