Archive for July, 2008

Philo California, Small Town?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I drove past the Philo sign last week and I thought it said, “Population 1098”. Must be some kids fooling around I thought, and drove on. Then, awhile later I slowed down real slow to get a better look. Sign looked legit. So, tonight I stopped and got a real close look. It’s for real alright.

After looking up “Population, Philo, California, on Google, I was convinced. In fact, the year 2000 census had Philo at 1098.

So why did I think it was something like 190 and Boonville was maybe, 900? Not paying attention I guess. Plus, I always forget to recognize that it is Philo, not Boonville that is the center of the Anderson Valley wine region.

All I can say is that my first memories of the Valley were of Philo, not Boonville so I think of it as a small town. Really small. Guess not.

The Principals of Writing Well

Monday, July 21st, 2008

These are Tom Wolfe’s four principles of writing well. The essence of the new journalism he is famous for.

“This is about how we do, or do not, write well.

1.You use the devices of fiction. There are four in number. Which means a scene by scene construction. You move from one scene, to another, to another.

2.The extensive use of dialogue. Dialogue is the most readable thing in prose. It has to be real. You need to use a tape recorder which can be awkward. I would write it all out at the end of the day from memory and shorthand notes.

3.The notation of status details. What they wear, what their furniture is like. How they treat superiors. How they treat inferiors. The things that show how they stand in life.

4.And, the most controversial of all, is the use of what Henry James called,”point of view”. To be inside of someone’s head. Not your own. Not the writer’s. Someone in that scene you’re presenting. If you can possibly do it. Now, in order to do this, you’ve got to be…you have to interview your subject extensively. And, you have to believe that the subject was telling the truth when he tells you what he was thinking.

“What about hanging a story on a character?”

“It certainly makes it easier. If,you can… find a character to hang your story on.”

One example that Wolfe tells is about writing his book,”The Right Stuff”. He says he made up that expression, after he found out what the astronauts were like. It was not their expression.

Wolfe says “it was all about status. It didn’t matter what rank you had. If you didn’t go out there every day and risk your life and then barely pull back from death, and do it every day, then you were nobody to them.”

His book wasn’t even about astronauts. It was about the test pilots. “Originally, NASA was going to use guys that got shot out of a cannon, crazy dare devil type guys who would be cool under pressure. But Eisenhower (who is an under appreciated president) put a stop to that. He said they are all going to be from the military and have security clearances. That way they will have to do what I say.”


The Orchards

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

The Valley used to have a lot of orchards. This is a shot of a little house we used to rent next to my aunt’s summer resort (which is currently Wellspring). We later rented a house on the resort property itself, which was also in an orchard, but this photo is from 1945 and I wasn’t born yet.

The orchard is a neighbors and it was a serious business then. The farmer had about 80 acres with maybe 40 of those producing mostly apples. There was a big old apple dryer used before refrigeration to dry the fruit for shipping.

The photo intrigues me because it seems such an idyllic shot. My brother and my cousin are seated and my aunt seems amused. As kids, we got to live on the farm in summer without having to be farmers and without all the hard work and uncertainly of real farmers.

Today, almost all of the orchards are gone but, apparently, where ever one can grow apples, one can grow grapes, so it is not surprising that the Valley has lots of vineyards.

Not everyone is happy about having so many vineyards but, to me, it has allowed us to remain an agricultural community and a prosperous one. The alternatives were bleak, as we found out in the 1970’s.

So here we are, one of the last unspoiled places in America. I know because I just completed a cross country driving trip looking for anything to equal us. In over 4500 miles and nearly a month of travel I found very few places to equal it and depending on your tastes, none to surpass it.