More Sweet Than Bitter

People talk all the time about the “perfect” day. Writers employ various adjectives and dream up certain sundry fantastical landscapes as a backdrop for their “perfect” scenes. But rarely do these moments of bliss actually occur as you imagine them in real life.

I say rarely because, for myself and some friends yesterday, a series of perfect moments culminated in a perfect day. We had been talking about going wine tasting up in Santa Barbara for some time, and so finally, after months of “talk,” we just all managed to put it on the calendar somehow.

Let me narrate the next 15 or so hours. I’ll try to use some brevity, and some imagery, neither of which will be sufficient to capture any of the beautiful moments, because somehow, despite my need to document, it’s best being most exquisite in memory.

After some joking around about mine and Alicia’s need for Starbucks in the morning, our friend Bru met us in the parking lot, we hopped in his car, and began the 2-3 hour drive to Santa Barbara. The beauty of this drive is that good friends can enjoy good conversation, and good music made even better by good scenery and the promise of good memories ahead.

Some 101 and Solvang:
We started to drive through the mountains to come up around the other side of Santa Barbara and into Solvang, the quaintest, most idyllic little Dutch community this side of the pond. In Solvang, we sauntered around a bit, enjoyed a nosh of delightful raspberry/cream cheese and blueberry danishes, and poked our head in a few intriguing little shops.

Santa Barbara Wine Country:
Following Solvang, we let the winding wine country roads take us further and further back amongst vineyards, ranches, and those quintessential long driveways opened up by brick, wrought iron, and wooden swinging gates. In Los Olivos, we stopped for our first wine tasting, where Bru proceeded to make wine tasting more than just a sophisticated hobby, but an exercise in identifying the various gustatory components of each sample: the oak, the blackberry, the vanilla, the apricot, the florals, and the list could go on. We joked as we began to get down the rhythm of smelling the libation vigorously and sensuously as we swirled the rich fluid in its glass. Feeling perhaps a little light-headed, we crossed the street and picked up smoked BBQ tri-tip sandwiches from a deli across the street for a later picnic.

More wine tasting followed after more wine country was traversed. It felt like somehow we had been transported into another world, a world of grapes, cypress trees, rolling hills, and pockets of ranch houses.Our second winery may have been the most memorable. A cooky little British lady kept us subtly giggling, as did a stuffed toy dog that we each took turns petting. We sampled quite a few spirits there, adding to the giddiness of the day. Despite the heat of this afternoon, we walked outside and were greeted by a gusty wind as we picked up our sandwiches and munched on them contentedly on benches overlooking grapevines and valleys as far as the eye could see. Our view was flanked by a proverbial outdoor adirondack chair, perfectly following the photographer’s rule of thirds.
Two more wineries followed, more giggles, more memories, as we all thanked Bru for the marvelous trip he planned for us. Everything was just as it should be, and that overwhelming sentimentality that accompanies picturesque and singular moments in time was a shared feeling.

Strawberry Fields:
Bru knew as we left wine country that there was a nearby organic farm/market. We picked up some strawberries, paying on the “honors system,” pet a beautiful black kitten with the greenest feline eyes I’ve ever seen, and then romped through the fruit field across the old road. It was a like another place in time, or at least another place in the country, so charmingly rustic and olden. The sun was at that place in the sky a few hours before it sets when the whole world is bathed in a sea of glowing sparkles and if you could pick out the specks of light that beam out, you would see their individual particles floating on leaves, t-shirts, and your best friend’s eyes.

Sea, Sand, and Surf:
One of the best parts of the day was the drive. A good portion of it was along the 101, where ocean meets highway. There’s just something so unnaturely mesmerizing about watching the vastness of ocean waves crash against the cement man made invention called the freeway. It felt like we were going to drive right into the surf and somehow the car would sprout an anchor and sails, and we would find ourselves buoyed up and down on the glassy sea. Ok, so maybe that’s a bit much. But somewhere in the divinity of the drive, Bru shouted out, “Who wants to go put their toes in the sand?” The decision was unanimous. About 2.5 seconds later we were pulling into a spot, traipsing through underbrush, and frolicking in the waves. No words for this moment. Glorious. Just glorious. Unforgettable. Locked in my memory. Sealed in time for the phenomenon that can never be replicated.

It was at some point in all this sea romance, Alicia and I looked at each other and declared the day perfect. Because it really was. Some time, most times, we idealize events we anticipate. And some times, most times, they end up falling terribly short of the way we pictured them in our mind. But not this day. It was just as good, no better, than we had expected. Alicia fell asleep on the way from the sea to State Street. I told Bru that a lot of days for me and her are just bitter right now as she prepares to leave, but today was bittersweet.

State Street:
Downtown Santa Barbara is a lot like a lot of downtown areas in urban, yuppie coastal cities. There were hipsters, there were indy coffee shops, and there were Chipotle restaurants looking way too fancy for “fast food.” We all oohed and ahhed over the gorgeous Santa Barbara courthouse, grew weary walking up and down the crowded streets, and about an hour later, hopped back in the car, Alicia quite capable now of crossing Santa Barbara off her California bucket list.

Succulent Breasts: Some chicken and waffles
What would the end to the perfect day be without some Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles as we drive back home through the City of Angels? Seeing as how neither Alicia nor I had ever frequented this iconic LA restaurant, Bru insisted it was a must. We all ordered the infamous #13, joked about our “succulent breasts,” and stuffed our already contented faces with buttery waffles and juicy fried chicken. Nom nom!
Fat and sassy, we headed home. It was a sleepy ride, more like a fun coma, we were all so filled to the brim with contentment. It was just one of those days where the wine was a little richer, the heat a little more sensational, the streets a little more fragrant, and the sand and surf a little more refreshing. More sweet than bitter. More sweet for sure.

2 thoughts on “More Sweet Than Bitter

  1. Brent

    the day with intentional late start and hiding companions

    could not have been any better-

    Danish delights in Solvang

    to an Epiphany in Los Olivos-

    we *had* to let Beckman without hospitality alone-

    venturing along with sandwiches

    instead of an eventful Rancho to Cambria’s vistas

    where the cool breeze and concrete counter tops screamed bliss-

    seeing all around and back down

    through the valley to stops left

    for fruits and vegetables of another kind-

    rows manicured and ready for harvest

    like a grocery store ought to be-

    their ultimate envy

    our timely reward-

    slowly to the ocean

    feet soaked

    down State’s street in a beach town

    dotted with a wealth too excessive

    for any but itself

    leaving a night cap reserved for comfort-

    syrup laden prongs struck through fried heaven

    left drool ready for the next time-

    another unanticipated adventure of view


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