XV. "Wine Country Song"
California wine country. Walking through plant corridors through fields. Rows and rows of vines snaking up and around fence posts like long green snakes green fingers. Slender smooth arms. Sunset. King Midas touches the ground and everything turns yellow. Shiny gold.
Sit on the edge of a hill and see the checkered quilt. Criss-cross patterns of the rows of green-turned-gold vines. Open a bottle of wine and toss the cork towards the checkered field just below. Watch it tumble then rest in the six inch grass.
I am sitting on the lip of a shining brass plate.
Breathe in from the mouth of the bottle, taste. Exhale and taste again.
The wind is the only noise. No iPod can play this.
I do not miss the city.
The wine country in California is a place which defies music. There is music here, naturally, in the vineyard showrooms – the gift shops where tourists taste and purchase different sorts of wine at prices slightly lower than the liquor stores and grocery stores and Whole Foods stores. But the music is like wallpaper, or marble countertops. It is décor. The music is classical guitar played by an hourly-rate local, or soft speakers blowing whisperings of Enya or the cool jazz of Benny Goodman. Clarinets, not trumpets. Acoustic, not electric. Whole notes, not sixteenth.
But the area is beautiful. Let that one adjective be felt like a bullet. It is beautiful. It is beautiful. It is beautiful.
Like many I am one whom desires constantly to find music for a situation. Memories of particular places and moments in life have soundtracks in my dreams. I remember walking through Paris and listening to "On the Way to Your Hotel" by Decibully. I remember how the cobblestones felt in Montparnasse while that one telecaster riff reverberated in my headphones. I remember sitting on the pier of Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island and listening to Jesse Sykes' "Oh My Girl" in its entirety. The acoustic guitar and long, mournful tone of voice. The distance it connoted. I drove through the Great Smokey Mountains and into North Carolina with Ryan Adams. Pearl Jam on buses; Miles Davis in libraries. Moving to New York and making the last trip from DC with a backpack full of the last books and lost dirty clothes, I was looking out the window at Delaware trees with Simon and Garfunkel playing "America" in my ears, ready to be played again when we reached the New Jersey turnpike so I could count the cars. But the wine country has no obvious choice. Nothing seems apt. It is confounding and somehow a heartbreak.
It begs the question, then, if some moments and some places simply defy a musical backing. It is a sentimental idea to say that simply "the sound of nature" is music enough, and perhaps my desire to somehow attach a soundtrack to the scenery may just be a tragic flaw I have lived with which, until now, was never realized. What do you listen to when there seems to be no music to fit?
A car passes on the road above where I am sitting in my tall yellow-brown grass. The windows are lowered or maybe it is convertible and I hear the growing bass of hip-hop get large and then small and then fade. I am alone again, and it is quiet again.
I stand up with the bottle and begin to walk along the edge of the hill on which I was seated. There are acres and acres of grapes. Sitting on the edge of a loom lying on a table, an unfinished golden fabric laid out before me like a chessboard that goes infinite until mountains.
I start to think that music might not be necessary always. I want to say that it is, I want to say that music is a universal which can always be applied to the lives vibrating through the world. "This vine needs Coltrane. This fence post with the sets of initials carved into the wood needs Death Cab. The highway needs Tom Petty. The ditch needs something soft and melancholy by The Pale Pacific. The out-of-place boulder ahead of me needs eardrum-piercing Smashing Pumpkins."
But I am wrong. There is no proof, no logical reasoning as to why Billy Corgan suits the boulder better than Kelly Clarkson or Thom Yorke or Etta James. And anyone who can supply alternatives would not have any better reasons for what music should be played, what music fits the situation best.
So I know there is no music for the wine country. Not for me. Certainly there is road trip music for getting to the wine country, and motel room music for staying there. But for me, the wine country can just do without song or sound. It can just be, without any sort of supplement. It is not a flaw in music, it is a triumph in landscape. Sue me for sentiment.
Back in the car I listen to the radio. Let someone else make the choices. I don't know why I try to make them anyway. NPR till motel room Zombies.