Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bohemian Highway

--Adrienne Miller

I have a favorite plotting spot and it comes with a side salad and a bowl of minestrone soup. How’s that for service?
Its a ways away. A couple hours drive. Far enough that I feel like I’m getting away, but not so far that I think twice before loading up the family and making a day of it.
Its better if Tom drives, that way I can stare out the window as we pass over the bridge, through the wetlands, and up the freeway. Thats when the ideas start coming--just a trickle at first. Its not until we take the off ramp in the middle of Cotati that my imagination really gets going.
Sonoma County. I’m in love with it. 
We start rolling down those long country roads, the sound of my latest story soundtrack playing, and I watch it all go by. The patches of wildflowers along the shoulder. The cow pastures. The Russian River. The vineyards. And, my favorite, the apple orchards. 
I don’t know the names of the roads we turn on--maybe Tom does--but I know them all by landmark. There’s the left at the old Washoe House, and the turn at the tin movie theater, and the curve in the road that takes you past the house that I’m just going to have to use in a story.
And then there’s the food...Cause this supposed to be about food, right? 
If its the weekend we might stop at the Farmer’s Market in Sebastapol. Or there’s the apple pie place a few miles outside of town. And somehow we just always find ourselves driving past the Korbel Champagne Cellars and nothing, but nothing, in this world is more inspirational than a glass of Blanc de Noir. 
But those are all appetizers to when we turn down the Bohemian Highway (not kidding, thats the name of the road) and cruise into Occidental, a tiny town hidden away from the rest of the world. There you’ll find Negri’s, my favorite plotting spot.
You can’t miss it. There’s a giant neon sign with a martini glass on it and the handles on the entryway doors are a giant fork and spoon, just in case you needed reminding why you were there. The tables are covered in those plastic-coated red and white checked tablecloths that are great for easy clean up and serve as a warning to how messy you or, more likely, your kids might get.
And just as soon as our butts hit the seats, I slide out my notebook. By that time I’ve got two or three hours worth of ideas rattling around in my brain.
I  don’t have to worry about the kids. They’re happy as can be. Negri’s is a family place...a real family place. The kind of place that knows sometimes the two year old is going to put spaghetti in his hair. I order another glass of champagne or a cocktail and a plate of raviolis and get to work.
I’ll admit half the fun is that my favorite plotting partner is across from me. Tom doesn’t write books, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for in enthusiasm. And his ego isn’t bruised when I shake my head at some...most of his ideas. This is the man who thought Wayne Scotting would make a great character name, after all. 
The courses come out on rolling carts. Soup. Salad. Antipasta. And we eat it all, even the stuff I wouldn’t normally touch. Like the pickled peppers. I don’t like pickled food and I hate peppers. Yet at Negri’s I pop those bad boys into my mouth..and then gulp down the whole glass of water. 
The raviolis are wicked good. Everything is good. But I would be lying if I said we were only there for the food. Nope. It’s the place. The whole experience--the drive, the flavors and the feeling you get in a place where you can really relax and talk and laugh. And let the barn door of your imagination fly open.


Martha Flynn said...

Is Tom available for lending out?

Tom Neely said...

Case closed. Done deal. We're going up to Sonoma this weekend. I can't read this and not want to go.

And to Martha, of course. I'm sure the YA audience would appreciate my innate sense of awesome character names.

Rachael Herron said...

I'm behind in reading, just got to this -- LOVE IT. Love everything about this post. Thank you.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Adrienne, you totally took me back to my childhood when my parents used to pile us in the station wagon, and drive up to Occidental and environs to pick Gravenstein apples. Lovely memories. So pleased you're building them for your boys.

Unknown said...

This was lovely...I don't believe I've been to Occidental but I am sure going to go now :)

ps--I *love* Wayne Scotting, maybe after the half finished historical you could do a regency spoof. :)

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