Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Wild, Wild West

I'd been living out here for about a year when my friend Sarah came to visit from London.

We were driving home one afternoon after having lunch in town when she started to giggle. I asked her what was so funny. “Every time we drive out here, I feel like I’m heading into the real Wild West,” she said.

I must have looked at her in complete disbelief.

Don’t get me wrong. This is no metropolis, but it’s not exactly the Badlands, either. I think of the Wild West as open, empty vistas, tumbleweeds, and…well, ok, I have to admit that we do have rattlesnakes. And coyotes. Not a lot, though. The occasional mountain lion. But I live in a neighborhood; there are houses on three sides of me; the electric and cable service isn’t any worse (and sometimes a lot better) than in the towns of Monterey, or Carmel, or Pebble Beach, or Pacific Grove (especially Pacific Grove); and most of the roads are paved—although not recently.

True, she admitted. Then again, none of her neighbors in London have geese. She said this just as we were heading past the last, and one of the most successful, business in the Village—the Saloon—so I let it go.

About a month later I drove into the Village center to pick up a few things at the market. It must have been rush hour—all four parking spaces in front were filled, so I backed up a bit down the road to find an empty spot.

It’s common wisdom (every fictional detective from Sherlock Holmes to Morse quotes it at some point) that people don’t look up.  Which is why in science fiction films the slimy alien with the reptile face and poison claws leaps DOWN on the unsuspecting victims from his perch at the top of the warehouse, or from where he was glued to the ceiling of the dark passageway between the engine room and the crew quarters.

I guess it’s true. Pulling into a parking space just a couple of doors down from the market I’d been going to about once a week for a year, I happened to look UP. And was taken completely by surprise to see a sign in front of the upstairs rooms—a sign that has clearly been there for some time—that said Gunsmithing.


And it isn’t a small sign, either. It stretches over the equivalent of two storefronts underneath, written in a kind of graceful, outmoded script. The sign is slightly faded, but from the size and location of the space they inhabit on the coveted second floor—up the rickety wooden steps on the side—it’s clearly a thriving enterprise.

I parked and got out of the car. To my right, the woman getting into the bronze Bentley and the  “dog” in her arms were dressed in matching pink Jackie-O Chanel. (Cropped jackets. Contrasting trim). Hers looked original.

To my left, a giant black and tan bloodhound straight out of Mayberry with droopy eyes and even droopier ears, was glowering over the top of my car at them in disbelief from atop a dusty white half-ton pickup truck with mud on the wheels and rodeo tags on the bumper.

Next to him, a spotless, forest-green late model Subaru station wagon had a crate of prize-winning chickens in the back. Not that I know from prize-winning chickens, but  I’m pretty sure that’s what all the blue and red ribbons hanging from the side meant.

I stepped onto the covered walkway, sidled carefully around the massive German Shepherd sprawled snoozing in front of the Art Gallery and glanced at the new notices on the bulletin board:

New Yoga Class starting!
gentle, stretching, some Pilates
Community Chapel
BYO mat
Call Tristan

 Mobile Farrier Service            The Middle Way
   20 yrs. experience          Zen in the 21st Century

Chakra Balancing
by Compassionate Professional

Best price
Dry Oak Firewood          
You split, you haul

Brad—you can come back. M

Creekridge Rollers at the Running Iron Saloon 
Beer & Barbeque

I resisted the urge to look through the pile of ‘read & share’ books in the weathered bookcase underneath. Every available surface in my house is covered in books waiting to be read as it is. I did pick up an old copy of “Horse and Rider” to page through. Just wishful thinking, at this point. But wouldn’t it be nice?

Balanced on a stool at the tall table outside the Market, the celebrity owner of a local winery was debating whether smoke and ashy run-off from the summer’s wild fires would affect the taste of next year’s Chardonnay. And the problems he was having keeping wild boar out of the vines. I nodded to the wooden Indian standing guard at the door, and went inside to pick up a loaf of sourdough.

Sarah may have a point.