enterprise.JPG Back before I was much of a bar girl, my special rock star would bring me along with him to the “open mic” nights at Valley of the Moon Saloon. Not having yet developed the thickness of skin one needs to feel vaguely comfortable in a dark, dirty cave, I was somewhat put off when he’d suggest we go “jam” at the saloon. Again.
At first I didn’t know anybody there, and when my guitar player humbly, yet ever-so-eagerly left me to get his fix on “stage,” I’d have a teeny little panic attack.
“Please, please don’t leave me out here all alone with these people!”
But within minutes I’d be absorbed into watching his magic flying fingers, and I could deflect any toothless advances made on me with my obvious oblivion to anyone but “Bobo.” Eventually I talked one friend, then another and another into coming along with me so I’d have someone to talk to, and pretty soon it became our regular Friday night scene. I know for certain that I’m responsible for completely changing the life of one person by dragging her and her giant, designer handbag into that bar. But whether that change is for the better or the worse, I still can’t decide.
Like I said, I wasn’t much of a barfly back then, and typically a place where old men hung out drinking all day was the least desirable sounding location on earth to me. I’d spent enough time in places like that to be completely over it by the ripe old age of 10.
Luckily, I suppose, I’m attracted to things with flavor, and Valley of the Moon Saloon, which is now the antique store Adam’s Attic, was something like what you might get from the “Iron Chef” if their three ingredients were smoke, Star Trek and a ghost.
In addition to stories of a ghost that haunted the place and played silly pranks on the owner, the former Valley of the Moon Saloon was popular with certain crowds for three reasons; indoor smoking, a bevy of beer and live music.
One of the first things you noticed when walking into the old two-story house was the cloud of smoke. The indoor smoking ban in California had just recently gone into effect, which surprisingly enough included smoking in bars, and there were few places around where one could maintain their habits of drinking while having a cigarette. Since the law was aimed at protecting the lungs of non-smoking employees, this saloon was exempt from it since the owner was also the only employee, as well as a smoker herself.
She was also, quite obviously, a Trekkie. Everywhere you looked you could find some Star Trek insignia and hard-to-find collector’s items, including a carefully glass-encased model of an exploding U.S.S. Enterprise, little ship parts flying everywhere. But one special wall was reserved solely for beer. “The wall of taps” I called it, and it boasted something like 15 of the best beers around, including our favorite and hard-to-find Death and Taxes.
Being one of the few places in town where musicians, local or not, could scratch their playing itches and satisfy what I refer to as “that certain attention needing air,” Friday nights at the saloon were always a loud ball of talent. This is the place where I first met some of the best musicians in town. Smokin’ Joe Herrschaft and his kid brother Phil of today’s Thin Man, J.B. Diamond and Bob Taylor of High Voltage, Jason Bodlovich before his numerous projects began to appear on the scene, maybe an occasional John Williams of Ten Foot Tone. I’ve heard that my newer friends, David Hinkley from the Cavemen, as well as the all-around music expert James Marshall Berry used to jam there, but somehow we managed to have missed each other back then.
I miss that place.


Princess of Cups I met my friend Terese when I was a freshman at Slo-noma High. She was already out of school, but I met her when she came to visit her best friend, who worked for my best friend’s parents at Dailey Floors, exactly where McDonald’s is today. Being older than us automatically meant she was cool. The fact that she not only had a driver’s license but also a cute car to take us “partying” pushed her to the top of our list of friends. Truthfully, even before we started spending almost every Friday night with five girls stuffed into her two-seater, MG convertible, I liked her immediately. She reminded me of Sarah Jessica Parker in my then-favorite TV show, “Square Pegs.” For me she was refreshing relief from all the usual high school girls who, by pure adolescent survival instinct, needed to be like everyone else. Terese was, and still is, one-of-a-kind with her fashion, her music, and – especially pleasing for me – her honesty.
As we got older and started meeting boys and other new people with cars, Terese became an early high school memory. Years later, however, our paths crossed again. And again and again and again.
Coincidentally, we’ve both landed in the wholesale jewelry manufacturing business. She works for the husband-wife team Cheryl and Roger, while I work for the husband-wife team Cheryl and Barry, right here in Sonoma. These two jewelry business worlds collide, surprisingly enough, clear across the country in Philadelphia. Twice a year I’ll see Roger on the airporter or somewhere along the way to the Buyers Market of American Craft, and while I’ve not seen Terese there herself, I know that the jewelry in the display booth 3,000 miles from home has been made by her talented hands. Terese is jewelry designer in her own right, hosting fun jewelry parties where she sells her amazing pieces to friends and friends of friends.
Another thing we have in common is an interest in filmmaking. A few years ago, through a circle of friends that I met at my insurance office, where I was always running in to re-instate my canceled policies, I was invited to participate in one of her many creative projects. As part of a class she was taking, she needed to do a community project. Since she’s an artistic, creative person who likes to make movies, she wanted to create a venue for local amateur filmmakers. A few months later we held our first Less-Than-Amateur Film Festival in a conference room at Saddles. Tickets were fifteen bucks at the door and we filled the room. It was a lot of fun but also a lot of work organizing the event while simultaneously making a movie, so we’ve decided that this year we’ll just stick with the organizing. We’re fully committed to actually doing it this year, so stay tuned for more information.
About a year ago we ran into each other at Murphy’s, where I met her boyfriend, Dustin Smart. I learned that he was in a band so I hooked him up with my special musician Bob Taylor, aka Colonel Angus and Bob Star. Now when High Voltage does a show with The Spell Merchants, Terese and I get to play groupie together. (When she can stay awake….)
Most recently our friendship has been renewed by the fact that she’s started doing Tarot readings at the tattoo shop down the street from my house. Being a columnist for “The Springs,” I’ve been dying for an excuse to hang out at Highway Tattoo and get a little inside scoop. Last weekend I spent a few hours of Sunday with her there, chatting with owner Jim and Andrew the piercing expert. I studied the world of ink, needles and the Princess of Cups. But I’ll tell you about all of that later when my amazing friend Spitznagel flips the Debauchery card and finally gets his “commemorative” tat. Or would that be the Fool card?

You can make an appointment for a card reading during the week, or you can just stop in on the weekends. Saturdays, 2-9 p.m. and Sundays noon to 6, right across the street from the Pink Palace, aka Sonoma Mission Inn. Just look for the chickens. Call 707.938.TATU (8288).

Is this happening to us? Raise your hand if you know the deadline for sending in your feedback on the Sonoma Valley Redevelopment Area Strategic Plan. OK, now raise your hand if you know where to get a copy of the draft or where you can read it on-line. Those of you with your hands up must either be on the committee, know someone who is, or you’re really paying attention. The only reason I know that there’s a copy of this draft available for public feedback is because I attended the monthly RAC meeting at the beginning of this month. It was my understanding, as I left the Boys and Girls Club on that dark and exceptionally chilly night, that copies of the plan would be strategically placed around the valley and there would be several public announcements as to where they could be found. I picked up a copy at the meeting, so I didn’t pay much attention after that as to where others might be acquired, but these last few days I’ve been wondering when the deadline was for my rather extensive feedback and began searching for information. Except for a tiny blurb submitted to this very newspaper two weeks before the deadline, and a mention on Weekday News at sonomasun.com, I wasn’t aware of any other public announcements as to where to pick up a copy or where to send your response. It appears that unless you attended the meeting – and I know you didn’t because, with the exception of four residents of Mulberry Street, I was the only public spectator – the feedback session is available only on the Internet and only in English. Which is really too bad because it appears a lot of time and money went into making this rather nice print-out of the draft, and to have it read by only a handful of people seems a terrible waste.
OK, I admit it. I’m not terribly interested in the whole redevelopment plan. But since I can’t complain about it without participating, I’m making some effort to get involved. So I read through most of the 57 pages. A lot of it is repetitive, and words such as “safe,” “affordable” and “community” dominate. But there were a few gems such as “Action Matrix,” “blighted” and “vehicular circulation improvements.” I tried not to let the fact that these “series of goals” won’t be completed until the unfathomable year 2024 discourage me. I’m glad I have the opportunity to put in my 20-something-years’ worth of “Springs” resident feedback. I admire the efforts given by this committee, and while I think some of the committee’s ideas are from some kind of fantasy-land there are plenty that could really work. Several of the plans would make for a nice improvement to the area. I encourage you “Springs” residents to sit down for 30 minutes after dinner tonight and read through the plan by going to http://www.sonoma-county.org/cdc/redevsonomavalley.htm. I’ll even share my copy with you if you’re computer- or Internet-challenged. If, after reading it, you have nothing to say – then great. But chances are you’re going to see something that will spark your interest and you’ll want to share your opinion. Do it! What’s the point of any of it without community involvement? The deadline, in the almost certain case that you don’t know, is next Wednesday, Jan. 31. The redevelopment advisory committee’s public meetings are held at the Boys and Girls Club, the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., which makes Feb. 1 the next meeting night. I hope to see you there, if for no other reason than it’s kind of fun to watch. (Particularly the whole Springs arch thing. Its local comedic relief, live, in person and free of charge.) If I can give up a night of my beloved kickboxing class to attend, then I know you can find a way to be there. I also hear that Donna Piranha, the mayor of “The Springs,” will be there, and I know she’d love to meet you.

Movies in my mind January is the hardest month for me to get through. Our next three-day weekend isn’t until the end of May, Daylight Saving Time is still weeks away, and baby, it’s cold outside. If I could get away with it, I’d hibernate right through Christmas, January and Valentine’s Day. But ridiculous mortgages need to be paid, delicious foods must be eaten and awkward teenagers need someone to keep them away from spray paint. Since I must be out of bed and using my brain anyway, I use January as a reflective month. I turn a little inward and watch the movies in my mind of things I’ve experienced during the last year. The film festival, a road trip to Vegas, house hunting, and writing for the best paper in town are some highlights of my 2006, and I’d love nothing more than to recap them right here, right now, with only you. Let’s get cozy.
Since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I’ll have to let you guess about that road trip. But I will say that the little sister of the Nevada Motherland visits our valley once a year in the form of Cinema Epicuria, and I’ll tell you about that instead.
I adore the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. This April will be my third year as a volunteer and I can hardly wait for it to get here. For five glorious days, there’ll be a special magic in the air, new voices to hear, fun parties to attend with great food and plenty of wine. Not to mention the great movies, of course. If you have yet to experience this amazing annual event, please, take my advice and go get yourself a pass right now! It’s the best way to do it. Trust me, I know. Another word of advice is don’t forget to go over to Sonoma Cinemas. My first year I didn’t want to leave the excitement of downtown and head over to “The Springs,” but last year I went and realized that my previous aversion was a mistake. There were no lines, no waiting and plenty of wine and food. And the movies are just as good!
2006 was going to be the year we finally moved out of our small house in “The Springs” and into something bigger and closer to town. We’ve found (amazingly) several houses that we would like to call home in our price range. But, alas, we need to sell first. It seems we’re one of a small handful of people buying right now, and while it’s been an exciting adventure, it’s also been a depressing one. There’s never been a better time to buy in Sonoma, so what are you waiting for? Buy my house. Please!
This year was, however, the year when I moved out of my small photographer phase and into a bigger writing one. I am officially a writer, and I couldn’t be happier. My current, official gig is covering “The Springs,” and I’ve had a great time noticing things I usually tend to ignore. In honor of this, I’d like to share some of my favorite word pictures from what I call Boyes.
Waiting in my “momma van” outside of what we still call Ernie’s Liquors, a woman dressed in 80 percent pure skin and 10 percent tattoo ink, is bent over in front of the pay phone while talking complete nonsense to an invisible listener.
Another image: an average-sized man walking down the street with a huge, dead pig slung over his right shoulder. OK, I didn’t actually see this, but my best friend did and she immediately called to tell me about it, and now I feel like I saw it too.
I did see another man, this one in a leopard costume, spinning a giant arrow-shaped sign, behind another one reading, “Car wash- $5”. Not one of those soccer team fundraisers, but something like a new-fangled attempt at making money in your own front yard.
I revel in contradiction and the tattoo shop across the street from the Sonoma Mission Inn is one of my favorite places to carouse. Always colorful, sometimes heavily pierced, the Highway Tattoo clientele are sometimes half nude and in some pretty interesting positions, while directly across the street are the straight-backed, well-dressed tourists dining on egg-white frittatas.
Next door, at the Barking Dog Coffee Roasters, is what I’m sure is a displaced chicken family from the Sonoma plaza. Now our family joke of, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” has been modified to, “He was going to get a tattoo”.
So now another exciting year has begun, and as the days turn into another week, I know I’ll make it through this month. A few more lunches at the Pub, a couple more Friday nights at Steiner’s and January will soon be behind me. Behind us. Thanks for sharing your blanket with me.

Dandy Tandy TRS80 My first computer experience was back even before Radio Shack started sharing those dandy Tandy TS-80s or whatever they were called, with the general population. The ones with the keyboard attached to the monitor and ugly orange numbers on the screen. I was a little ahead of that game. My mother’s husband was a computer techie guy in the Air Force, so at home he had a computer set-up pretty similar to what we all have now. All I knew about using it was playing Monopoly at a speed that would have us in hair-pulling rages today. But I loved it.
My obsession with “passing Go” appeared to my parents as an interest in computers and they prompted me to take a Basic programming class my first year of high school, which I conceded to do. It was a class of nearly 20 junior and senior boys, one smart senior girl, and me, a little freshman pipsqueak. The class quickly became “Academic Prep Flirting” and caused me to hire the smart girl as a tutor just so I could pass with a D minus. All I remember learning about programming was how to make a picture of a smiley face with the little bit spaces or whatever they were called, and getting Joel Myers’ phone number. After that, I hated computers.
A lifetime later I got a job which required me to use a computer for things like inventory and order processing. I hated it. I preferred a calculator and pencil, but it wasn’t my choice. As soon as I had finally gotten the swing of it, along came Windows 95, which at least made it more visually appealing to use. But computer equaled work to me, and I left my interest at the office.
My very own first home computer was a “gift” from someone I barely knew, who had to buy a new one because his wife had messed it up so badly that he couldn’t find anyone to fix it. I don’t even know why I took it, except that my new boyfriend was a computer geek, meaning he owned one and liked it, and I thought maybe we’d have fun messing around with it. And we did. I learned some DOS language and was thrilled when something happened on the screen when I typed in tree at the flashing prompt.
I think my next computer was a hand-me-down from my mom, who of course had several just lying around. The only reason I decided to take it and clutter up my dining room table was because in the previous weeks, my boyfriend had gotten me hooked on the game Minesweeper. I couldn’t get enough. I dreamt about numbers and little bombs every night. I discovered logic patterns while making dinner. I fantasized about setting new time records. I was a complete addict. Then came AOL.
America Online, my two new favorite words. I got to create my first virtual identity, Gup29, and the world of e-mail and chat rooms became my newest obsession. How I loved those chat rooms. The world of ASL (age, sex, location) and the lies that went with it. The immature thrill of blasphemy in the religious “rooms.” The “what are you wearing right now?” games. Advanced creative writing for the unknown authors of the future. Then came the obnoxious 13-year-olds who could finally use swear words without getting grounded, which prompted my migration to Yahoo! Messenger. The newer, better world of web cams and stories more appropriately told in monthly subscriptions delivered in brown wrapping paper.
The internet Explorer and Mr. Jeeves quickly became my constant companions. Then Microsoft Works and Photoshop. Instant messaging. DSL. Cable speed. Web design. Downloaded music. Personalized music CDs. Video editing. DVDs. Labels and packaging. Brochures, flyers and invitations. Google, MySpace and Blogger. Customized toolbars. Mozilla. YouTube. Word.
How could I live now without all of this?
So what does any of this have to do with “The Springs”? Nothing really, except that this is where I live and where I am writing this. And what else is there to write about the Springs that hasn’t been said already? Nothing. Really.

Redneck rebates in fabulous Fallon, Nevada It seems that every other week, someone, including myself, is complaining about living conditions in “The Springs.” My most recent travel adventure reminded me that there are much worse places to live, and that we really don’t have much to complain about. Gather ‘round friends, and listen to my Tales of Four Cities or perhaps better titled, Affordable Housing for Everyone.
Brentwood is a town in the East Bay, somewhere near Antioch or Concord. Always one to venture into the unknown, I went there willingly as a groupie with my special musician’s rock band. Although we did see an exciting high-speed chase along Highway 29 through Vallejo, it most definitely wasn’t the Brentwood where you’ll find a famous person who didn’t kill his ex-wife speeding recklessly down the freeway. Everything in this Brentwood is new and neat and clean and perfect. And new and sterile and boring and ugly. Strip malls and houses repeat like a simple mathematical formula. Sure, they have sidewalks and lighting and great drainage, but driving through town made my stomach hurt, and I’m sure it wasn’t all the whiskey my body was trying to digest. This is one of those new chain-store towns, built with the single intention of attracting shoppers. There is no history, no culture and no charm. It’s one of the many recent discoveries that my musician and I lamentingly refer to as “pointless.”
Perhaps we’d all be happier in Fallon, Nev., where good drainage and flooding aren’t an issue because it’s in the middle of the desert. The locals are lucky if they get a few drops of rain now and then to keep the sand out of their eyes. There’s very little traffic between the sidewalked, well-lit suburban streets and the main attraction, Super Wal-Mart. Reno is an hour of yawning away for those who seek culture, if you can call it that. Leukemia and cancer clusters are the norm in Fallon and the only method of recycling is burning all garbage in the backyard.
Surrounded by vineyards – not of pinot, but of the Sun-maid varietal – is “The Springs” of Fresno, the migrant-worker town of Biola. This is a place so neglected that the rusted sign outside of the tractor-repair shop still reads Master Charge with the old 1960’s logo. I fantasize about “borrowing” it someday and getting rich by selling it to an antique dealer. Outside of the bar where I learned to play pool and a dice game called zilch at the legal drinking age of 5, they have our coveted sidewalks. But they are covered in sand, pesticide residue and trash. The streets are well-lit though. And again, drainage here is not an issue because in central California, it’s not rain and flooding that plague the residents, it’s the impenetrable, unimprovable tule fog.
And let’s not forget Rohnert Park just over the hill. Built entirely to house commuters to San Francisco, it’s affordable and well-lit. The sidewalks are clean and shopping is close by. So is your neighbor’s backyard, if you’re lucky enough to have one.
So, if you own a home in “The Springs” and haven’t refinanced it three times to pay for gas, you could probably sell it (if anyone were buying right now) and own the biggest and best house in any of these towns. You could buy a small country for that matter, and be the queen. If you’re still looking to buy your first home, you could get a decent-sized starter in one of these communities for half of what you’d pay here. But would you want to? There’s a reason it’s affordable to live in those places. You get what you pay for.
So I, for one, am going to be grateful to be able to come home to West Sonoma.

Donna Piranha’s vision for “The Springs” I ran into Donna Piranha the other day, at my favorite breakfast joint, the Breakaway Café. She waved me over and invited me to sit down. I was thrilled! I’ve been hoping to catch up with her at some point and get an interview for this column of mine, as she’s been recently elected the first mayor of “The Springs.” I wanted to get the inside scoop, so over our favorite breakfast of upside-down banana pancakes and Snow Monkey plum tea (we have the same tastes), I whipped out my handy-dandy professional reporter’s notebook, (thank you, Mr. Howell) and dug into her sizable, creative brain. It was a day for the history books.

Diva Donna: Isn’t this butter the most amazing thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Donna Piranha: Well, no. But it is tasty.
Diva: I love this place.
Piranha: Yeah.
Diva: So, how does it feel to be the first mayor of “The Springs?”
Piranha: Well, it feels like this butter in my mouth.
Diva: Hmm. So what is the first thing you’re going to do as a city official?
Piranha: Well, I really believe in equal rights, and since I’m thinking I could use a secretary, I thought I’d hire myself a young lad for the job. Women always get those jobs and it’s just not fair. I’d like to be supportive of the oft-discriminated male population.
Diva: Yes, I see your point and agree whole-heartedly. Perhaps I’ll follow your lead and get myself a young male editor.
Piranha: Don’t you already have one?
Diva: I do indeed. But if one is good, two are better. Don’t you agree? Plus, I’d like to double my efforts on this cause.
Piranha: I like your thinking.
Diva: Thank you. So after you find your secretary, what will you do next?
Piranha: Well, I thought I’d form a city council. I’m not really sure what I need one for, but Sonoma has one, and since Sonoma is such a forward-thinking town, I thought emulation would be a good place to begin.
Diva: Right. Yes. Sonoma is a great city. Is there anything else you’d like to use your power to do?
Piranha: Oh, yes, indeed. I’ve been known to call purple blue on occasion. I mean who can really tell the difference between Tanzanite and iolite? But since I’m not one to call red blue, I thought I’d start with that. The Boyes area will never be downtown Sonoma, so I’d like to go with the vibe of the place, and let it dye its hair whatever color it wants.
Diva: I think I know what you mean, but can you please elaborate. In English, please.
Piranha: Sure. Sorry about that. I get creative sometimes in my thinking and it doesn’t always translate well. There are two major things I’d like to accomplish up there in The Springs. The first would be to give it the honorable sobriquet of Hispanic Town, or Latino Town, whichever is more politically correct these days. And I like the idea of giving the hard-working Hispanic community something to call their own. When I’m commuting home after work every day, I feel slowly pulled somewhere south of the border. I like it. I’d like to honor that.
Diva: Don’t you think that could be interpreted as prejudice or disrespectful?
Piranha: How? It would be an honor. If this is disrespectful, then every major city has a huge racial injustice called Chinatown. I mean this to be a respectful acknowledgment of our Latinos here.
Diva: I see. So what’s the other major change you’d like to see?
Piranha: I want to build a high-rise, right in downtown Boyes.
Diva: Where exactly is downtown Boyes?
Piranha: I have no idea. But I’m thinking about placing it right across the street from the post office. That seems like a central Springs spot.
Diva: Why a high-rise?
Piranha: Well, it just makes territorial sense. Instead of taking up more precious and rare horizontal space, going up is the logical thing to do.
Diva: And what would this building be used for?
Piranha: Multi-purpose. Affordable housing, for one thing. All of the things that are in downtown Sonoma that cause me to waste 30 minutes of my precious time getting to. Office space. An affordable gym. Low-cost yoga. A health food store. Doctors’ offices. You know. An art museum would be great too.
Diva: I see. I like it. Sort of like a self-maintained lunar station.
Piranha: Exactly! We wouldn’t even need public transportation because everything would be within elevator distance.
Diva: What about safety codes, like for earthquakes and fires?
Piranha: If they can do it in San Francisco, they can do it here.
Diva: What about crime?
Piranha: What about it? I’ve already had my car broken into twice and had several things stolen right out of my front yard. We already have crime.
Diva: I see. I’m feeling it. I like it.
Piranha: Would you like a seat on the council?
Diva: Well, I’m already pretty busy with three kids, a full-time job, a daily blog and this here newspaper gig, but I’ll consider it. Thanks.

Mexican Paradise Sunday afternoon. My eyes are closed while my hammock rocks slowly back and forth. I can’t tell which is more enjoyable, the warm sun on my cheeks or the gentle breeze that’s caressing them. The roar of the sea joins the tug of war for my affection, but I can’t choose a favorite. It’s all good. Then the approaching footsteps in the sand announce the arrival of my Margarita, and life gets even better. A massive shadow blocks the sun, so I open my eyes, and there he is; my nicely tanned, personal comfort technician, holding my perfect, gigantic, icy beverage. As our eyes meet, a Mariachi band starts playing in the distance. With a smile, he hands me a napkin and then my treasured drink. His perfect lips open and he starts to speak,
“Mom, can you give me a ride to Robbie’s?”
No no no, he’s supposed to say, “Is there anything more I…”
No, I can’t give anyone a ride anywhere because I’m not here. I’m far, far south and I’m just about to lick off the overspill on the side of my glass…
Alas, my ocean has been replaced with overgrown lawn and the sound of cars on Highway 12. Where my six foot, flap-cloth wearing drink holder was just standing, is now a six foot, red-headed fifteen year old in baggy pants. The soft breeze has turned to wind, my lips are dry, and my drink is nowhere to be found. Only the sun, accordions, and my thirst for tequila remain. I’ve been Cancun Dreaming again.
Happens a lot here in my “Springs” back yard. I’ll be taking a break from some gardening labor (yeah right), laying in my hammock, listening to the mariachi music from a house way around the corner, and I’ll wake up on some sunny beach in Mexico. It’s always the same; warm sun, a just-right breeze, the sound of waves and footsteps in the sand. My drink will arrive and I’ll have deep, meaningful eye conversation with its bearer, my very own Don Juan. Then I’ll sit back and sip my drink and even though I don’t speak Espanol, I listen to his sincere adorations. I smell the carne asada cooking just up the dune at my private little cabana. I taste the salt from the lip of my perfectly salted margarita glass.
And then somehow I’m back in my own backyard, with a mighty craving for chips and salsa.
Paradise slips away, and decision time storms in. Do we want to go over to Taqueria los Primos or to that other restaurant I can never remember the name of because it’s changed names so many times? Do we want to eat in the restaurant or get it to go? Walk or drive? How much money do we have? Do we just want a few tacos from the “Roach Coach? Perhaps we’ll get some chips and chile’s at La Morenita and make our own special recipe salsa, but which Morenita, 1, 2, or 3?

On days when I want to continue my Mexican vacation fantasy, Los Primos is the winner. This place looks, feels and tastes just like the real thing. From the loud laughing group of guys in the corner with three times the beer bottles on the table than the eyes sitting around it, to the Futbol game blaring from a wall-mounted television, unless gringos like us walk in, I feel like my passport should be on the table. We love this place.
The “Other One” has almost the same feel, but the television there only plays telenovelas and Bay Watch.
If its right before payday and my checking account is already overdrawn, there are several inexpensive mobile options to choose from. I personally like the truck with Jesus painted on the back, appearing to say, “Come, eat my tacos”. I think His tacos are like $1.25 each or something crazy cheap like that. The food is totally good, and He’s always open late.
The most fun thing to do though, is going to the “Mexi mart”. I don’t know what half the things in there are, but I like trying to figure them out. We always buy a couple of glass bottle Coke’s, the enthusiastically assured best Mexican cheese, a few chile d’arbos, and sometimes a just ripe enough mango. But be warned if you go; unless you liked your high school biology class, cover your eyes when you walk by the glass case in the butcher section.

Ay yi yi, when those Springs Salsa Sirens start with their subliminal, “Eat Mexican food”, there’s no escape. I’m not complaining, but with so many good choices, it can be difficult to make a decision. Where’s my Mr. Suave when I need him?

Fried Eggs I decided years ago and I still maintain, that if I’m ever in another relationship, it won’t be with a musician. Nothing really against musicians, it’s just the weird schedules and that certain attention-needing air that goes with them that sort of ruins it for me. There are a few perks in living with someone in a band however, and one is that sometimes they get paid. My special musician acts like a maniac on stage about every other weekend and brings home pretty much what it costs to take three of us out to breakfast, done dirt cheap. It’s a good thing we live in “The Springs”.

So about every other Sunday around 10:30 a.m., we take the little walk over to the former Breakaway, now Creekside Café. There’s something about walking to breakfast that feels really good, even if it isn’t a beautiful stroll. But it’s nice to be outside, even in the rain, and we have fun playing the “Name That Litter” game. We’ve recently started playing it in a section of neighborhood we pass through, and there have been some interesting things on our lists. It might be funny if it weren’t so infuriating to see all that garbage on the ground. Our last walk found dozens of empty cigarette packs, broken Dos Equis beer bottles, several 12-packs worth of Corona bottle caps, an empty red condom wrapper and, I swear this is true, a pair of turquoise panties. See what I mean? Infuriating humor.

The café is usually crowded, but we’ve rarely had to wait for a table. We pretty much seat ourselves now, and usually in the same place. The waitresses and hosts are down-to-earth and likeable. Though the cafe offers tea, I prefer to bring my own tea bag to supplement their offerings. Sometimes, one of the owners is there, looking like they had to come in at the last minute, usually tired. There used to be a sign above the door that completely explained this, at least to me: “The only thing more overrated than childbirth is owning your own business”. To my disappointment, it’s been recently replaced by some kind of Harley Davidson sign, with their names carefully carved into it.

This is a place where the neighbors meet, whether they know each other already or not. It’s a different kind of crowd here than you’ll find downtown. It’s a comfortable crowd, where the most dressed-up person is usually wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I’ve even been there in my pajamas a few times. Sometimes there are a few Misson Inn guests from down the street, but it’s mainly an assortment of slightly bohemian, artist-looking people, not-so-tough biker types in black leather, the hangover crowd of guys, the Mickey Rooney-doing-Santa guy that’s always sitting at the bar, and local business people of all trades in their alter-ego clothes. If, like me, you like to eavesdrop a bit, there is always interesting conversation to put on your toast.

After reading my weekly horoscope and the always inspiring Daedalush Howell, my favorite thing to do while waiting for my amazing French toast, or my eggs done almost right, is to study the old photos on the walls. There are several good ones of the Hot Springs Bath House that was once across the street. I imagine joining these good ol’ fellow hedonists, who used to come here by stagecoach to enjoy the health benefits of naturally hot spring water. When is somebody going to bring back those nostalgic days and re-build that place, just like it used to be?