I woke up this morning in San Francisco, and I tried to feel as if I had not made a mistake. In the months leading up to our trip, I’d tried so hard to figure out how to make our holiday to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys something my wife would enjoy. In so doing, I booked a night in San Francisco, something I never do when I travel here on my own. Perhaps I didn’t give her enough credit. Yesterday she asked if we could stay in Napa another night. I should have just said yes and had done with it, but we had a nonrefundable hotel in San Francisco and a table reserved at Spruce which we’d both been looking forward to. We got to San Francisco and had a great dinner at Spruce, followed by watching the second half of the Chiefs v. Steelers game, which did not end as I had hoped, at the San Francisco Athletic Club. But as we got to our hotel and I paid $50 for parking, remorse inevitably began to set in.
Yesterday we woke up in an ancient house built by the legendary Dr. G. B. Crane, and I surveyed the fog-covered rows of Cabernet Sauvignon from my second-story window with all the inner glee of a child on Christmas morning. No matter how long I spend in wine country, enough is never enough. In college, I interviewed and took a job as a doorman/bar back at my favorite bar, Iguana’s, only to discover that soon after it wasn’t my favorite bar anymore. Instead, it had become work, and that sensation had sucked the joy from it for me. For that reason amongst others, I fear I cannot move into the Valleys, fear that living in the place I love so dearly would somehow manage to damage the experience. With that being said, leaving wine country gets more and more difficult every time I do it.
Last night, as I reflected back on the trip Sonja and I had shared together, I got a little emotional. I’d had the chance to dine with old friends, and together Sonja and I had made many new ones. There were John and Rachel at Silverado Vineyards, Christian at Palmaz, Eddie and Ed at Salvestrin, and Steve, Scott, Charene and Aaron at Ledson. I’d introduced Sonja to my friends Jean, and later Randle, and I’d met Jim, Jack, Cindy, and so many more wonderful people. I recognize that here their given names mean little to the casual reader, but they are meaningful to me. These are the individuals who put works of art into a bottle for us to take home and share with one another, and whose welcoming hearts and firm handshakes-turned-to-hugs have helped to make this place my home away from home.
As I contemplated writing this post last night, the working title in my mind was “I hate San Francisco,” which of course is terribly unfair. “Don’t be a malcontent, don’t be a malcontent,” I kept saying to myself. So today I got up early, flipped through my notes by the fireplace and rated some of the wines I’d enjoyed over the past four days, then got dressed for it and went for a run downtown. This city more than any other reminds me of London, which I lived in briefly while doing research as a Fulbright scholar, and which I grew to love. Not least, the White Swan Inn where Sonja and I are staying, with its exceedingly quaint and distinctly English feel, is a place I can’t help but to appreciate. As I jogged San Francisco’s notorious and formidable hills this morning, I tried hard to let go of the feeling of remorse I had at leaving the Napa Valley, and to accept that there are, in fact, other wonderful places in the world in which to make memories. Perhaps, today, San Francisco will be one of them.
I need to learn to be happy where I am. Billy Joel assured me that Vienna would wait for me, and indeed it has for all these years. Perhaps I need to have some faith that Napa and Sonoma will also wait, will always be there when I come back, when I go home to them. As I sip my coffee and prepare to post these brief musings, I’m recommitting myself to enjoying the day in San Francisco. I’ll likely drink no wine, and I’ll surely meet no winemakers, but there is more to life than that, and I’ll have my beautiful wife at my side the entire time. Realizing this, how could I fail to find contentment?