Arturo poured me a glass in welcome.
As we talked, people strolled past the patio and sauntered down the Miracle Mile. Two doors down, at CoCoro Bistro, diners ate sushi at outdoor tables.
The evening was balmy. Palm trees fenced in the breeze. Midtown was out and strolling, Stocktonians appearing to relish every moment.
Earlier that day, the mayor had delivered his State of the City address at the
People swarmed the wine bar. They inspected Vera's portfolio. They drifted inside, where his photographs hung, and a musical duo played.
Numerous friends and acquaintances stopped by to chat. There was Chris, the bubbly rock music lover who became a courageous spokesman for people with HIV.
There was Melanie, an artist. News reports that some people believed St. Mary had appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich inspired her to replicate the apparition in a ceramic artwork. A photo of her grilled cheese with the
There was a woman, a member of a dance troupe, with whom I danced once in a performance. Making a fool of myself. She kidded me about how she had to manhandle me onstage to steer me through the choreography.
Some of these people I have known for years. I fought a couple of them for the red plastic bucket in the sandbox. What was it
I am particularly fond of Vera's black-and-white photograph of a lone
I so feel that photograph. The clammy, swirling fog that penetrates clothing, the two-block visibility, sunlight suffused in the upper reaches but not yet burning through.
The man wears suit and fedora. We see him in silhouette. He is striding away from us. In the background the first block is pale, the second ghostly, the third block is not there.
In the moments after Vera snapped the photograph, as any longtime Stocktonian knows, the man's increasingly blurry form would fade into the billowing bank.
I have spent so many days in that cloud that its cold radiates right out of the photograph.
Cherry trees require a certain number of "chill hours" to grow properly delicious cherries. Perhaps tule fog gestates the streak of bayou specific to proper Stocktonians.
As do heat hours bake into them the ways of the Golden State. The barbecues, soccer practice in the parks, top-down nights rolling down the avenue in a loopy Hawaiian shirt.
Days like today in which your skin heats like the red toaster coils and the cold spray from a passing Delta boat or a whirling lawn sprinkler feels goosebump good.
On the patio, the hobnobbing continued. Even if you don't want to work the room, sometimes the room works you. I was enjoying it.
A woman I've known for years who has cancer declared she was through with wigs. I remembered something
Afterwards, I looked the whole quote up. "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern."
Another artist talked about his wire figurines. With a sharp young woman named Sara, a winery employee, I talked at length about adventures in wine. She sprang for a glass of Champagne. Let me be clear: Good conversation, wit, buying a round: that's all it takes to be entered into Fitzgerald's Book of Friends.
I promised them all I'd soon throw a party. Here's the deal: One of my neighbors, a gracious retired teacher, recently informed me wine no longer agrees with her. She asked me if I would like a case of various snooty white wines from her wine-of-the-month club.
Dear lady, yes!
I can picture my friends beneath the giant Valley oak that spreads over my lawn, squirrels and robins up in the high branches, the pop of the corks as chicken comes off the grill to capers and mushroom sauce. Laughter and loss, the longtime ties, the great wheel rolling the Valley toward the summer.
The state of the city. It need not be said it's a whole lot better than portrayed by certain reports.
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