Standing on a quiet city street, a cemetery behind him and a row of shops in front, he realized he recognized everything around him, but had no idea where he was. He looked at each object and spoke them out in his head, thinking “that’s the copy shop, that’s the convenient store, that’s the coffee shop.”  But he was paralyzed in his spot, unable to think where in the world he may have been.

His immediate fear was that he was he experiencing a broad loss of brain power, or worse. He reached his hands into his coat pockets and fumbled with the random objects with his fingers, hoping one would trigger a moment of powerful re-drawing-in wherein he would then gain back whatever abstract loss of place he was experiencing.  As the train rumbled by he felt a vulnerability that was unmatched at any point in his life.  He was not afraid of being hurt, or being struck by lightning or  car or a bull.  He was the man he had always been, awash in a dimension he had never known.

Later in his life, there were moments of intense vigor where he stood alone, perched above a massive cliff overlooking miles of expanse in every direction.  The wind pushed against his goose-bumped skin, drying the perspiration of walking uphill for miles, across a broad ridge that people from their cars down in the valley below would wonder at, thinking “how can that be right there and yet I know nothing about it?”  With his outstretched hands he embraced without holding tight, the fluid of the world coursing through him.  He stood on the cliff delighted with himself, giddy with his detached heart, he sang without noise.

After a few minutes on the sidewalk with the cemetery behind him and shops in front of him he regained his sense of place, exhaled, and followed the route he had walked thousands of times back to his housing.  Still slightly aware of what transpired in his time of absence, he walked back tired and confused, but satisfied to be back.

The people in their cars continued to drive, flabbergasted.

~ The Mayor

I was having a conversation with a friend in a meeting yesterday and we were talking photographers.  She pointed out a famed rock and roll photographer who is now based in SF named Charlie Homo.  At first I insisted that this was a nom du guerre and he was part of the sexual revolution and chose the name to speak out against discrimination [boring normal rational explanation.]  This is not the case and in fact esteemed Charles is married to a woman.

In my line of work I see a lot of mailing lists with thousands and thousands of names and it’s surprising how many are just mind boggling upside down crazy.  Recently I peeped one Greg Gregory.  Dude, Greg Gregory?  Birth Certificate probably reads Gregory Gregory.  Related to the now famous Boutros Boutros Gali?  At least BBG has that last name to break up the redudency.

I’ve spoken with Dick Harry on the phone before, tough conversation to get through without breaking into song.  However, the Hoars are the worst, and they always seem to be women.  I remember walking in a cemetery when I was young and seeing the gravestone that read: Susan Hoar.  If you’re a Hoar or a decendant of a Hoar, life is not easy.  If you’re name is Mulva, life is not easy, so rest easy today.

One last note, I thought it was bad when I heard that my Dad wanted to name me Lisa if I was a girl when I was born.  However, the real sickness is that he actually wanted to name me Hyke (hi-key) for a little bit after a dominant German high jumper.  Luckily I came out a boy and someone in my family had sense.

Imagine if Jim James was constantly updating his blog slaying haterz and wannabe  biters?  He could be like “Y’all know I’ll bust a bourbon bottle over your head, why do all you Fleet Foxes have to be riding my style soooooo hard.  The first time I heard y’alls album I thought it was the twilight zone minute and I was listening to my band and me sing songs we hadn’t written yet.  Now that’s some straight trippy shit I have a hard time understanding, so I’m going to take that as disrespect.”

It’s a great album the Fleet Foxes put out, but shame on those producers for using virtually every component of what makes the MMJ sound so perfect and painting it on these sly Foxes.

Back to gangster rap Jim James…”I will go country-scary on every last one of you.  Do you know what it’s like to wake up on your bus with a long 12-gauge about to pick your nose?  I’m not playing, quit biting, quit biting, quit biting.  I said it three times so it gets through your stupid-ass heads.  Check that or catch wreck.  I will chicken fry your whole world and leave it for a nasty possum to nibble on all slow and demented.”

But no, everyone is going to keep on wearing flannel, facial hair, speak quietly and carry on.  Haterz.

macho-man-sof1

I first got an email from Dr. Jim Macho about a week ago.  He was coming up here to pick up his wine and taste through the ’06s.  When someone has the last name Macho, I mean, come on, I was picturing this dude walking in here with two girls on either side wearing loin cloths showing their teeth.

If you’re Dr. Macho there’s no way you’re allowed to have female patients, right?  Some obscure medical law must prevent that kind of thing from happening.  His parents clearly did him right by naing him “Jim” as well, none of this Taylor, Mason, Hickory bullshit, his last name is Macho and goddammit his first name is muthaflappin’ Jim, doggies.

I checked out his order and it was pretty standard.  I was fairly positive he probably keeps wine in the house for when he hosts his buddy Don Awesome and his wife Brenda over for dinner.  With minutes to go before he arrived I thought about whether I should shake his hand upon meeting him or just go for a chest bump followed by a huge high five.  Maybe we’d both take a little two-step start and do that back-to-back bump that’s so popular in college football right now.

I checked my watch and the phone rang.  It was Dr. Macho.  Jimmer was calling to say he couldn’t make it this afternoon.  Crushing as that was, he pronounced his last name “Mash-o.”  I don’t know what to think, but that dude’s last name is Macho and he is doing a huge disservice to himself and everyone he comes into contact with by not living up to his true potential.

Soooooo, my buddy D  just had in his little gchat tag line “when are we going to see another Burlytown Gazette post?”  It kind of made my eyes pop out of my head, Roger Rabbit style for a second with the kind of fear that you only experience when a teacher calls on you to answer a question that relates to the homework from last night that you did not do.  At first there was the slow trickle anxiety followed by mild rage that someone would have the nerve to call you out like that, followed by deep seeded head-strong promises that you’ll be a better, more disciplined little doggy.

The last few weeks have been cool cool.  I was out of town last week in Colorado for biz.  Landed in Denver-downer and immediately high tailed it out to Vail.  Vail is moneyed and has a cool little village area with shops and over-priced restaurants.

Aspen is a whole different can of worms.  It’s a mountain town first and foremost.  But it also has 5 star shopping, sleeping, eating, drinking, and crazy people.  Aspen is positioned between some of the most aesthetic, coveted mountaineering objectives in North America so the contrast between hardcore skiers, explorers and do-nothing-spend-everything glittering waistoids is dramatic.

For every Porsche Cayenne driving d-bag there are hard working people like Brad from the Aspen Brewery.  He and his buddies have started that place form scratch and the beers they have been churning out since St Patrick’s Day of 2008 are the real deal.  I spent a little time there, you know, just a little, tasting through the line up and they were all quality beers and certain gems like the Ajax Pilsner and Conundrum Red brought the party the mouthy.

Before we go, I’d like to address the issue of author photos as well.

authorYou should always ALWAYS  try to look like Lionel Richtie and Braveheart’s mystical love child swirling through the far hinter-lands of star-5B67TY*halfmanhalfamazingX4, always.  Terrestrial names are for suckers, call yourself the Dragonman and have a community access show.  d00d, this guy’s info about himself is a swirl of golden space dust!  You can’t compete with that!

I’m too worked up, out.

There’s this old corny saying that goes “it takes a lot of beer to make good wine.”  As I am about a month into my first harvest experience here at the top of Howell Mountain, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  You know what it takes?  Water and electricity.  All day, and my days are running about 14 backbreaking hours of physical labor I am surrounded by two of the most deadly elements when combined: water and electricity.

It would behoove me to wear a rain suit all day , but then I’d sweat like Josh Howard in a VFW hall.  It’s been really pleasant weather wise, just balmy, cool, and clear unobstructed views across the valley to western Mayacamus mountains.  I wake up at 5:30 every morning, it’s dark and I make coffee.  I shower at the END of the day now which is in reality a really nice way to go about life you end the day on this super-clean note and wake up, hit the ground, get coffee, eat some Kashi, fill up on Sportscenter and head out the door.

I pray to Jah that each day is not going to be the day when I need to start my routine with a face off with the family of racoons that live in the vicinity of where I live.  I may start packing some steel with me in case this happens, and by steel, I mean a big gnarly sharpened hoe in case I need to chop off some racoon heads one morning.  That would be sad, but I’m also not trying to go hand-to-hand with these bastard trash-guzzling rodents.

Once I’m in my car, NPR is a wasteland so I go through the ipod.  Because it’s dark, but it’s early I opt for some deep shit that’ll get me thinking and freaked out.  Burial, some Tricky, Eluvium, sometime I go shuffle just to see what fate will deal me that particular moment.  Today I went that route and I was really stoked by the time I got to work.  You know how sometimes shuffle plays TWO songs from the same album back to back?  Well I got Jay Reatard “My Shadow” and “Death is Forming.”  Holy cow, I was waiting for the Swedish orgy team to be on the side of the road and give me road massage for giving them a ride to the rainbow they came from.

The ride up the mountain is really pleasant.  You’d have to be Scrooge McDuck’s broken bill not to love the view in certain places/  Once I’m on Howell Mountain road I gain about 1000 feet straight up and then the road continues on the back side of the mountain for about 2 miles.  Conn Valley is way below and the hills are surrounded by morning pockets of fog and cran-orange light from the horizon.  This road is not so much a road as paved surface.  A couple times my heart has taken a nose dive right on top of my nuts as a huge cement truck or equal sized  vehicle comes barreling around a blind corner at about 40 mph +, no big deal and it does more for me than the coffee.  One of these days I’ll bring my coffee with me, pull over to the side of the orad and watch the day come alive wrapped in a electric blanket of 87 degree emotion.  Both hands on the mug, held close to my pursed appreciative lips, losers.

I arrive at the winery, talk shit with my fellow harvesters, mostly focusing on how ugly, stupid and sex deprived they all are, we laugh, it’s cool.  Oh we all have mustaches.  All 5 of us, mine is the best, that’s not me being all uppity, my mustache is the fucking bee’s knees, it’s sick, it howls at the early morning moon then I get to work.

There are two chemicals that dominate my daily existence:  TSP and Citric Acid.  If you found a maggot-infested armadillo carcass on the side of the road, dipped it in TSP/water/Citric/water it would come out a 8 ounce cut of the best damn filet mignon the world has ever seen.  We spend about an hour cleaning all the equipment we will be using that day with this system.  The equipment includes sumps, trays, shovels, hoses of various sizes, an irrigator, pitchers, buckets, graduated cylanders, hydrometers, clamps, and gaskets.  Once the fruit comes in and it is sorted and de-stemmed it is pumped into anywhere from 739-2269 gallon stainless steel tanks where the berries and juice begins to ferment.  Each morning we do pump overs which involves all the equipment listed above.

The sump is a large stainless steel bin that holds 100 gallons. The steel mesh tray sits on top.  We open a valve at the bottom of the tank and the berries and juice come rushing into the tray, the liquid goes in the bin, the berries stay in the tray.  When the berries get too full in the bin, I shovel them into a 5 gallon bucket that weighs in at 35-40 pounds and haul it up about 20 stairs to a cat walk above the tanks and dump it back in the top of the tank.  There can be up to 4 or 5 of these trips and sometime I do 4 or 5 pumovers each morning.  It’s similiar to watching events in World’s Strongest Man competitions, except we are making fine wine.  The liquid is constantly being pumped via a hose through the irrigator at the top of the tank creating a cycling effect, mixing berries and juice and making a smooth even ferment process.

After you use anything, you clean it with tsp/water/citric/water, this may not sound like a big deal, but this is 80% of what I spend my time doing, every winery is this way.  The morning is a stellar time up here, the light comes over one side of the vineyard and lights up the grapes, then it’s behind the guest house, then it’s over towards the west illuminating the valley.  Today after lunch our Assistant Winemaker put a tee in our dirt patio area and blasted a couple balls into the abyss this is below our property.  It drops about 700 feet right off the patio.  We eat lunch together at a big table in the guest house.  Lunch is provided by the winery.  Today we told some dead baby jokes and clown suit jokes, killer stuff.

We have a rough idea of when fruit is going to come in, but it’s never certain.  If fruit shows up at 5:00 pm you have set up the sorting table which is about the width and height of a large dumptruck, de-stemmer, stem bin, auger, pump and make sure the tank the fruit is going into is sterilized and read to go.  It gets cold here at night, down to high 40s, low 50s and when you spend 3 or 4 hours in that temperature handling cold fruit, you get antsy in the pantsy to get it over with.  My hands these days are quite stained purple and there are lots of lines I never had before.

I’m really tired in the morning, and really tired when I get home, my whole body is sore.  But when I get to the bar, that first beer tastes so damn good when I have it, it’s stunning.  I get a little loopy, sometimes there’s a million things happening at once and I’ve been working for 12 hours staright and I haven’t had a day off in 18 days.  It’s hectic, but overall it’s incredibly rewarding and cool to be a part of producing some of the best wine on the planet.  More on that to come.

He sunk his hands into the dusty dirt up to his wrists, lackadaisically wiggling his digits, and pulled them out, the heavy lines and creases somewhat filled. It reassured him when the fill from his plot possessed his hands, blurring the lines from his annual effort to harvest in an area otherwise profitable for solar energy and thin, tan weeds. He lived with this condition, to live out a life out by nowhere and no one, uncomplicated from the dynamic of where he had otherwise found too many choices to choose from. What didn’t grow, didn’t bother him, it was all moot in the big picture.

He thought on the first time he found the mountain parcel. It was August and his brother had taken him out there to get away from the tremors he was experiencing. They were not real, he told his brother, but his hands felt shaky when he thought about going back to his life away from the mountain retreat. It was when he placed his hands on the old growth for the first time that he sensed something lied deeper in the tree. He exhaled quitely, stood there for a resting second, telling the story of his tremors, his fear, silently.

It eased him through his flesh and spine, lucidly spilling out of his hands. It was the first time he felt this spirit in him, rushing as if a dam had finally given way. Looking around he felt a new connection, a connection he had been longing for. For years he forced this, turned brass into fools gold, trying to sell it internally as the real thing. He knew what sparkled did not always shine. For the first time he felt a shine. He walked the property line and everywhere in between that evening, he weaved his hands in the ivy and rinsed them in the spring.

Once committed to living there, he washed his hands daily in the spring, raising them up above and out from his face and watch the amber sun pass through, lighting up his palms, and spreading through his fingers. He appreciated the lines that had been worn there on his hands. There were marks from where he had absentmindedly picked up the sickle by the blade one afternoon and his blood steadily dripped into the soil. It was not pain, he remembered fondly. He bled furiously and he rejoiced in the experience watching his blood infuse in the earth that had become a shelter without roof for him. He had several lines and marks on his hands from his efforts on that piece of shelter. No more from shaking, rather, from deliberately hard living. So when he pressed his hands into the dirt and watched the dirt fill his skin, he thought of how he was home-coming, having already been there, and he rested with that.

~The Mayor

There are so many things that make me happy in this picture.  Hill looking radiant!

In the past 2 weeks I’ve seen this raccoon in the back garden twice now, both times very late at night. One time he was walking on top of the back fence, which I found very impressive since this raccoon is a heifer trapped in a striped fur body. He’s the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen in real life or on film, tv, or the internet. I actually just spent some serious time researching pictures and video of raccoons on the internet because I think we’ve found the Sasquatch, Giant Squid and 250 year old, 500 pound catfish of raccoons.

The night he was climbing on my back fence was funny because I had just come home and I went to the back porch to water the plants. When I got back there I locked eyes with him and he went into frozen mode. He had nowhere to go and I’m sure he was using all of his fatty raccoon energy just to balance up there. I don’t think raccoons are particularly known for being nimble and there’s no way this huge bundle of fun is making any cat-like moves. Someone has got to be feeding him dinner scraps and then sending him out into the night. That or I should call National Geographic and let them know about this modern marvel.

The raccoon has caused a touch of strife in the house as I think they’re actually cool little (not in this case, doggies) animals. E thinks otherwise and would rather get her face painted with a 3 day old piece of cod rather than face the raccoon, even from the safety of the back porch. Until I can get my own picture of him as evidence, watch this raccoon fight and imagine if these 2 raccoons could morph into each other, and then add a third and you would be at about half the size of the burglar-eyed food bandit that traipses through my garden every now and then.