I really don't know how to begin describing our experience once we were actually inside the Metro Hotel. Realistically, I would have to trade in this article for my first novel to get it all in. Suffice to say that it entailed a very narrow and steep winding staircase, a sweet but extremely daft hostess, an old fashioned key ring with around 100 keys, an even more adorable key ring with only 1 key, a claw foot bathtub, antiques around every corner, real pine floors and a giant plastic goose lamp. If I live to be 192 years old, nothing will ever match that afternoon. It was like we had stepped into some French version of Alice in Wonderland.
As Layne went for a soak in the claw foot, I took a secret, but in-depth tour and photo shoot of the hotel, I kept expecting to find that one room, that one space that was filled with shipping boxes or corner with a tacky hotel ice machine. I never did. The Metro is the real deal and no matter what you do in this life, add this place to your to-do list.
I climbed that wacky staircase back to our room, giggled a few more minutes with Layne, and then we departed into our separate but joined rooms. I crawled into the massive feather bed with equally yummy feather comforter and pillows and drifted off into vibrant dreams of times and places long lost, young vampires and big plastic geese.
We got up from our nap around 6 PM, refreshed and feeling a little more normal than when we went to sleep. We showered, changed and headed out to see Todd. Petaluma is an oxymoron like no other so as you might suspect, the dark of those adorable little manicured lawns, was far less scary at night than it seemed during daylight. It's as if all the underlying darkness became this underlying light when the sun went down.
Considering the day that we had, the ironic and appropriately named "Mystic Theater" was great! It was built in 1912 and has great acoustics. And holy double super bonus with cheese, it had booze! We got a shot of tequila, slammed it, ordered another and a cold beer and headed to our seats for a brilliant evening of music from Will Kimbrough and Todd Snider.
Just the two of them, a couple of guitars, harmonicas and two mic stands. Will first, then Todd, then Will and Todd together. It was the first time I had seen Will solo and I was completely blown out of my seat. Todd was exactly what I have come to expect, a funny escape from my reality while reminding me exactly what my reality really is. I love artists like that, ones that after a show make you feel a little more centered, a little more focused and little surer of what you want your life to be.
That's my big confession this week kids, I go see Todd whenever he is within a 800 mile radius and depending on circumstances, even further, not because I'm some crazed super fan (well maybe a little crazed), but mostly I go because I always feel like I find a little more of myself when it's over. Seeing Todd live (Will too for that matter) is another thing each and every one of you should add to your life's to-do list. Really, you'll be a better person for it. It's like $15 - $30 therapy with liquor and cussing. And in most cases, you will get wild trips to towns like this one out of the deal.
We said hi to both of them after the show, I bought both of the Will Kimbrough CD's. Then we headed out looking for some drinks and some fun. Well, whadaya know? When we got to Pathfinder, they were parked directly in front of us and the two of them along with Dave the road manager were just headed to the van. Todd caught a glimpse of us, hung a hard left and headed on over. The five of us just hung out there partying in the street until some late hour when Dave finally reminded them of their early flight out of San Francisco in the morning. They drove off, headed North and now it was mine and Layne's turn to hang a hard left and head to the nearest, darkest, drinking establishment on Petaluma Blvd.
I am still looking at real estate in Marin, the homes there are so beautiful.
I steal the following phrase from CMFQ, because it is such a perfect description for a finely tuned sense of finding just such a drinking establishment, it's called "Bar-dar" and I have a sharp and keen one. I was training even as a child. I lived with my Dad in a very small West Texas town. My Dad used be drinking buddies with Roy Orbison, who lived in the next town over, he was a Shriner, a 32 degree Mason, a member of the West Texas Bass Club, he loves guns and trucks and he has more ex-girlfriends and wives than I have shoes. So you can understand how I was brought along to every beer-joint, honkey-tonk and pool-hall in the West Texas bass fishing circuit for as long as I can remember.
In fact, my bar-dar is so acute, that not only do I know how to differentiate between a beer-joint, honkey-tonk and pool-hall, but their sub-categories; dive-bars, dance-halls and skank-holes as well. I can smell a good bar from at least 2 miles away and even in the oxymoronic Petaluma; my skills did not fail me.
The "Central Club" is one of those classic dives. The whole room shoots straight back to a wider area past the end of the bar where a lone pool table sits under a gritty lamp. At the very back, a ladies room and a men's room sit side by side. It's still an old timer's joint, but is just beginning to draw a younger crowd. It's not yet packed elbow to elbow with 30 year olds who paid a cover charge to get in and are blaring Flogging Molly on the CD jukebox while sporting wife beaters with the bars new logo, which is just like the old one, but now has flames incorporated into it.
There's definitely room to move about and George Jones is being played on the box the way it should be, by the old timers and the bartender. It's in that nice transitional phase, where the old timers sit in the corner and bitch about the kids and the kids stand around the pool table waiting for the old timers to give up the corner and the music. I love to sit in these bars and watch the struggle to overthrow that prized corner stool. I love to watch that one kid who inevitably goes in for "the" stool when the current owner steps away for a smoke or a piss.
I love watching the old timers turn away from him and begin to laugh and tell inside jokes to the bartender and watching the kid squirm uncomfortably and try to laugh along all the wrong times. Then the brilliant way the bartender and the old timers go completely silent after a failed attempt at joke of his own; they just stare expressionless for a second at him and then look down grab their glass and take a drink. By the time the original owner comes back, Mr. "I'm goin' in for that stool" guy is more than ready to race back to the comfort of the pool table area and his generation.
Layne and I walked in and sat at two stools in the middle of the bar, exactly where we belonged, exact equidistance between the two groups. We ordered our drinks, did a shot and began recanting the highs of the day. "How about that crazy fight in the park this afternoon". "I know, was that funny or what?" It had no longer left our lips than he walked by; The Prince-like child from the fight. "Of all the gin joints, he had to walk into ours". We couldn't help it. Layne reached out an arm and I spun around and we told him what we had seen. What happened earlier? Was it a drug deal gone bad? Was it a gang related hierarchy episode? Were they vampires arguing over their next kill? We were prepared for anything but for the answer we got.
Seems Billy Bob's grandma owned a cranberry farm and he had promised this young Prince a summer job on the farm, but the job never manifested and now summer was over and he never got to gather a single red berry. And he was plenty pissed off about it!
Well of course, a cranberry farm job. How silly of us. Well, it just made perfect sense. Isn't that what all the little goth punks are going to blows over these days? The coveted cranberry job. All of our Lost Boys theories of vampires of the day in a town run by children, the overthrow of the old and a new leader in the young, all shot to shit in an instant with the truth. The intense fist fight that was a highlight of the afternoon was nothing more than "The Cranberry Incident". He walked away toward the pool area, Layne and I turned around, ordered a shot and began that gut wrenching laughter all over again.
We awoke the next morning, a little woozie and a lot hung over. We packed our bags, bid farewell to the adorable adjoining rooms and made our way downstairs in search of the daft hostess from the previous day. Instead, we found a very old French woman doing laundry by hand in the back yard. She did not speak a word of English and although Layne did an exemplary job with her broken French, I'm still not sure that we checked out. For all I know, they think we are still up there, giggling like idiots. I never did get a receipt.
We searched out breakfast and found "the Original Marvin's" We went in expecting to find little old Marvin and his precious wife serving up home cooking and morning hang-over cures. We did not find Marvin the little old man, but instead burly, chain smoking lesbian, dykes running the place. They did however, take us under their wing, served us one of the tastiest, heartiest breakfasts that I have the pleasure of eating and didn't even charge us for the O.J. because it was only half fresh squeezed.
We decided to take a last look around town and were sorry we didn't have more time to play. We saw the town's custom painted fire truck which reminded us to stop drop and roll, should our clothes be on fire and I would have loved to try "Pinky's Pizza". The sign stated, "This Ain't No Limp Crust Sissy Boy Pizza" and somehow, I believe it.
We were stopped for gas as we were leaving town, when a young woman in and old school VW Beetle filled almost completely with grocery sacks and shopping bags pulled up in front of us wearing a cowboy hat, sunglasses and a filter mask. It was the perfect way to bid farewell to the peculiar and eccentric Petaluma. As we pulled away, I couldn't help but think to myself - now that was odd.
Authors note: Back in "Petaluma The Movie" part one, I promised that I would explain how the laughter of day one turned into white knuckle screams of day two, but have since decided against it. I believe that story really deserves a column of its own. So keep an eye out here at Full in Bloom Music for "California's Historic Highway 1" (644 Miles of Terror).
A scared Jones -DPJ