The past three days I have been staying in a little cabin in the woods in a place called Carmel Valley, here in California.
My gracious host, a gentleman by the name of David, has taken me in without even knowing me, on only the recommendation of a mutual friend.
To let someone whom you don’t know crash on your couch for a couple of nights is one thing, but here in this cabin I have been privy to the absolute epitome of host generosity. Allow me to relay…
Three days ago, I hire a car in SF, jump in and start driving with the dual intention of going south and staying on the right (wrong!) side of the road. Several hours later, after a heavenly tryst with Trader Joe’s, I rumble into the depths of Carmel Valley.
Through luck rather than design, I find the street I am supposed to be staying on. It is a rabbit warren of confusion, with rustic houses and climbing plants. There is a chicken roaming around on the road but no house numbers to speak of.
After doing a couple of suspicious looking laps (and clumsy three point turns) I find a man out watering his plants. I stop and ask him for assistance. His name is Richard. Through some sort of ancient magic which I can only assume is neighbourhood telepathy, he knows of my imminent arrival and directs me to the right house. Having played his part in Welcome Christine to the Neighbourhood: The Stage Show (seriously, I would not have surprised if Richard dons a jaunty hat and lead a musical number, featuring a chorus of woodland creatures with canes, top hats and tails), Richard goes back to watering his plants.
I am about to enter David’s house when Ron, another street resident, turns up. Ron can’t hear so well in one ear, which makes for some cross purposes. However, he advises me that he is in charge of the street (unsure, in retrospect, of the veracity of this claim) and insists I come and see his Indian. I duly oblige – it would not do well to disobey the man in charge of the street. Ron’s Indian transpires to be a huge motorcycle. I please him by referencing the Anthony Hopkins movie about Burt Munro. Apparently, this is the password and, the initiation into the street complete, I am allowed to let myself into David’s house.
David’s house is a little cabin. It is ‘rustic’. It is awesome. It has a small deck out the back that looks out onto a leafy vista, complete with lemon trees, hummingbirds and climbing jasmine.
I know David will not be here when I arrive. What I haven’t expected is the note instructing me to drink the bottle of merlot on the table (or help myself to the plentiful bubbles and/or white in the refridge if I prefer) and to cook/use whatever I can find. I am also provided with a ‘California welcome’, in which I am yet to partake. (It’s legal here. Sort of.)
So I make myself at home, uncork a bottle, sit out on his deck and read my book as the air grows heavy with the scent of overripe citrus and jasmine. I can hear the river rushing by. Serenity is at an all time high. [I am later advised there is an ‘occasional mountain lion’ that wanders down into these parts. “Not much to worry about”. But if one comes down it will pursue me with a dogged commitment until it finally kills me. A mountain lion once tracked David for two weeks. Also, there are snakes. And black widows. At this stage, however, I am blissfully unaware of these potential death vectors and am instead able to relax and enjoy the ambience of nature.]
David, whom I am yet to meet, arrives home from work around 9pm. I fix us some dinner, using my spoils from Trader Joe’s. We then proceed to drink our way through a bottle of wine, maybe two, deconstruct the United States political system, global economics, the philosophy of improv and everything between.
At the end of the evening, David *insists* I take his bed and he sleeps on the futon in the lounge.
David is a winemaker and shares his life between his cabin and another place in Sonoma County and so leaves in the early hours of Thursday morning. His hospitality continues though as he instructs me to stay as long as I like and leaves me with half a dozen bottles of personally selected wine (including a perponderance of pinot noir which I have divulged is my favourite).
I note to him that I cannot repay his kindness. He responds: ‘Friends now’.
Damn right we are.