I parked at the farmers market. The skies were a chilly scrim of fog and rain. When I’d crossed the Golden Gate Bridge less than an hour and a half earlier, a warm sun had shone on San Francisco and Marin County.
Sonoma County represents a kind of paradise, a geography of upper-middle-class aspirations–fine wine, organic produce, and artisanal crafts and baked goods. Healdsburg was a manifestation of these ideals.
Downtown was a New England post card, but without the dilapidation, the unemployment, and the opioid addiction. Bearded hipsters and beautiful women partook in the weekend’s wine-tasting festival.
I was on East Coast time, fatigued and disoriented from my early wake-up and six hours in the claustrophobic dimensions of United Airlines’ economy class. A glass of wine might fell me. I opted for Flying Goat Coffee.
The cafe was clean and well-lighted, with white-washed plaster walls and tables carved from reclaimed redwood. The patrons tapped away at MacBooks. The chalkboard menu featured organic this, hand-crafted that, and gluten-fee whatever. The staff wore nose rings. I felt at ease.
“Are you having a good day?” The barista seemed sincere. I was caught off guard. I shrugged, betraying a hint of authenticity. She nodded. She understood that my shrug communicated a complexity of emotions. When you travel, you ache for connection, a sense that someone sees you as a human being. I’d found it. I left a $5 tip for my $2 coffee.
I walked down Center Street. More wine-tasters, more couples, more restaurants and shops dedicated to the finer things. On Monday, the weekenders would be back in Silicon Valley, writing apps to shatter our attention or creating robots to subjugate humanity. Today they were indulging in olive oil and Pinot Noir.
Healdsburg is a city for the contented, the well adjusted, the wealthy. I turned right on Plaza Avenue, walked north on Healdsburg Avenue, and got back in my rental car.