Wednesday, February 11, 2015

California Love

Leaving Philly the morning after the Sevco slaying wasn't going to be straight forward. The north east of America was being battered by snow storms and the departures screen at the airport glared at me with cancellation written so much it was like it had been given lines as a punishment. My flight was still going though but the numbers in the departure lounge worried me. There were only about 12 people sitting there for a flight due to leave in 40 minutes. Investigating like Columbo, the flight was still going and the pilots had even arrived. We awaited our plane to arrive from Raleigh (North Carolina not Walter) and ended up boarding 30 minutes late. This was a worry, I was only flying to New York and had just a 58 minute layover, then I saw the reason there were so few people there, the plane was an 18 seater. The scheduled flight time was 40 minutes but the pilot said we would be in the air for 15 which started to assure the worried faces who were all thinking "storm, tiny plane, storm, tiny plane" and there was pretty much chop the whole time but 20 minutes later I was queuing for my next plane to San Francisco from JFK and was feeling pretty good. We were boarding early and this plane was huge, all was good. Right up until I sat down, looked out the window and saw a snow storm that would have put off Captain Scott. Needless to say the runway was closed and we were delayed two hours, before my second plane de-icing of the trip. I didn't relax until we were in the air.

Touching down in SFO, late but happy, my cousin Tony was there to pick me up and whisk me away to his house. I had a couple of days there before heading to Sonoma County and was able to meet Tony's kids for the first time. No jokes, it was magical. Wednesday we drove up to Santa Rosa, which took about 90 minutes, and checked into the Hotel La Rose with minimum fuss. What was very noticeable all around the streets was Peanuts. And Charlie Brown, plus Snoopy too. Turns out Charles M Schulz ended his days in Santa Rosa. We decanted to a local bar as happy hour was just starting and alerted Peter Meechan, my contact for this screening, who got back immediately and said he would be there in 20 minutes, always a good sign. I'd been in town a few hours and it occurred to me that I was as far from home as I've ever been and here I am showing a film here. Who the hell is going to be interested in this? This far out you expect a Peter type guy to be all about the hoops and maybe one or two more but that's it. Anyway, Peter duly arrived and had two other guys with him (Good, at least there would be five of us at the screening) and we all immediately hit it off. I'd wrongly assumed Peter was an ex-pat but he was more American than Apple Pie and his two buddies, Jimmy and Isaac were exactly the same. As usual though, that combination of Celtic and good alcohol enabled bonds to be made and before long we were all laughing, joking and talking all things Celtic. This was magic. Here I am in wine country, California and I'm talking Celtic with three great guys. Bliss. We hit a few more bars and drank til closing time before the guys walked us back to our hotel. There was no need to do that but that's just the kind of guys they are.

Next morning, slightly delicate and a head cold developing, we were picked up at 12 (there had been talk of 7am pick ups the night before through beer bravado, this was never happening) and whisked off for a day of wine tasting. I've tasted plenty wine but I've never been wine tasting and obviously my main point of reference was the movie Sideways. We did a few different places with the highlights being Limerick Lane, which tied me in particular up for a while, and Francis Ford Coppola's place which not only had great wine, a swimming pool and a stunning setting but also had lots of different things pertaining to his movies (the gold telephone from Godfather 2, Dracula's suit, Robert Duvall's surf board from Apocalypse Now) and all the Oscars he has won. You may not be that impressed, my jaw was on the fucking floor the whole time.

Friday was the screening and that meant rest up before it. My head cold was awful and I needed a sleep. Isaac came to pick us up at 6 so we could go to Jasper O'Farrel's in Sebastopol and set the movie up. We had a few issues but got there in the end and that's when I took stock and realised the bar was packed. There were seven guys up from San Francisco but everyone else was local. This blew me away but not as much as the kind welcome I was given by almost everyone (one lunatic woman managed to annoy everyone in the bar) and blistering night took place with Jimmy as MC making Jay Leno look like an amateur and the film going down a storm. A lovely kicker was the bar had its best ever night. So much so that they were happy to give me 15% of the takings. I reacted with one of my many double takes of this trip. Those takings got split between Mary's Meals and The Kano Foundation and a perfect night was complete with new friends made and lifelong bonds created.

We got about two hours sleep before up for the Dundee game (430am ko) and let's just say things weren't quite as boisterous now. The San Francisco Bhoys joined us and were great craic again. The host, Lucas, even did a great breakfast but it was tinged with sadness because when it was done so was I and I knew I would be saying goodbye.

Schulz ended his days in this part of the world, my theory is he visited, met Peter, Jimmy and Isaac and just stayed forever.

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