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.

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