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Monday, July 10, 2006

Patriotic Road Trip - Part 2

Last you read, we two patriotic Americans were fleeing the pagan-heathen, un-patriotic, stench-den of unwashed, drug-addled, nappy-headed, tie-dyed, fucking granola-eatin’ hippy outpost that is commonly known as Bolinas in our Patriot Wagon – the car.

Nothing these days comes close to being more patriotic than your neighbor than guzzling a few gallon of gas on or near the 4th of July to really show your pride in America and all that she stands for. You could dress yourself in gingham, light your ass on fire, and parade yourself around town and still not come a-North-Korean-dictators'-tiny-dick close to my patriotism, fella.

Because when my county puts out the call, I answer with a rrrresounding turn of the ignition key! Va-va-varroom!

Of course, there are those among us who are of weak moral fiber and dubious parentage who "prefer" to stay at home or "walk" to wherever they're going. Worse are those extremists who demand to bicycle or take the insidiously benevolent-sounding "public transportation" anywhere they damn well please.

Excuse me, but I can't feed my kids on "foot power"!

They call, this, this thing they are doing “sustainable”. Lemme tell you: I’d rather lick the sweat from the ass cracks of Fidel, Osama, and Kim Jong Il than take a fucking sustainable walk over to Jacks Market to pick up my lotto ticket and bag of Cool Ranch Doritos!

Nevertheless, our drive was quite lovely once we left Bolinas and headed towards our destination: The Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Before we arrived, we happened to stop in the larger, and slightly less hippyfied, town of Point Reyes Station.

I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not, but in the last few years it seems as though the town has become more busy (read: touristy), with more operating storefronts. And I don’t know if it's the success of Cowgirl Creamery (whose headquarters and cheesemaking facility is located in the downtown) or what, but there are a lot more cutesy cow images on signs and places of business with the word “cow” or “cowboy” in their name.

My sister-in-law, Karen, was into the cow motif once when she was decorating her kitchen in her country-style home. But that was many, many years ago. In fact, cows haven’t been the new black since Garth Brooks sang country.

We stopped by Cowgirl Creamery because, if anything, I loves me a good factory tour. Unfortunately it was more store than factory, but you could see one lonely worker shuffling between the large, sterile, empty cheese making equipment and a few racks of freshly made cheese.

The store part was pretty crowded with people milling about and, in particular, a preppy gay male couple (sweater queens) who seemed to stare intently on the cheese selection as though they were watching a foreign language movie.

"Damn, Mary", I thought, "if you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Oops! Can't do that either!

We also joined in the cheese gawking, but eventually decided that nothing immediately struck our fancy, well except for the 4-ounce jar of preserves that cost 15 dollars. Oh, and the Cowgirl Creamery aprons, t-shirts, and hats that cost a grotesquely great deal more.

One would reasonably think that by visiting the actual factory/store where the product is produced, thereby cutting out the transportation and middleman costs, that one would actually be able to get a better deal on one's Mt. Tam or Red Hawk*, especially considering that such a small percentage of goods for sale there are actually produced by Cowgirl and that the source of the sales revenue likely comes from the deli or the sale of other cheeses and goods.

However, one's frugal ass would be wrong.

*To purchase the same cheese online would cost you $30/12-ounces, not including next-day shipping (figure in another $30), as opposed to the retail price of $21/16-ounces – though you would get a pretty worthless “Cowgirl Creamery” box to keep.

It is no wonder the “elitist” argument directed towards the Slow Food movement keeps rearing its ugly head.

A long time ago, when selling records at a record swap, I learned rather quickly that when selling anything, you charge what you think people will pay*, not what you think or know it's worth, unless doing so would cause you to lose money. Often, the more ludicrous I got with raising the price, the more people were interested in buying what I was selling. Honestly, I felt a little dirty.

However, $300 accrued in the matter of minutes can do a lot for one's sense of shame.

*Hate to be the cynic here, but it seems to me that the whole ethical food market (i.e., labels such as "locally-grown", "organic", "natural", "cage-free", "free range", "artisan", "heritage", etc.) is vulnerable to this type of exploitation...er, uh, I mean capitalism.

Speaking of shame, it was a shame we filled our bellies up back in Bolinas, because the Pinecone Diner across the street from Cowgirl Creamery looked awesome! I peeked my head in and immediately saw a fully tattooed waitress, a cop sitting with other locals at the counter, and a hodge-podge of humanity sitting in old school diner booths. The place smelled of coffee and diner food and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to look at a menu before I stepped into the dusty old book store next door, but next time I will and report back to you.

Back on the road again and before we knew it, we were in, yee haw!, Oyster Country. Of course, this was after we passed many fields of dairy cows and towns, like Inverness, that were so small that if you blinked while driving through you could miss it.

Eventually we came to Oyster Camp Road, a one-lane white gravel road that runs alongside a small, grassy, inlet that also serves as an estuary. At the end of the road was a very unassuming, no frills small white wooden building that we soon found out was the operating facility for the Drakes Bay Oyster company – a small, sustainable, family-owned oyster farm run by West Marin natives, the Lunny family.

There were a few cars out front and a couple of rickety wooden tables on the side that were occupied by a group of people eating oysters and drinking cheap beer. Behind them, and behind the building, were guys dragging in bundled nets of oysters and hosing them off while Norteño polkas played on a small radio sitting in a shack next to them. The smell of the sea permeated everything. Near the edge of the water sat a group of small, individual bundles that I figured contained 50 to 75 oysters each.

Inside the building, a man and his daughter were busy explaining the oyster pricing to a couple of guys drinking Mickies straight from their 40-ounce bottles (a real high-class clientele). I impulsively wanted to buy some but there was no way of getting them back home without keeping them cold. And even though the owner offered to pack them in ice for us, we weren't sure we'd make it back before the ice melted.

Also, despite my foodie pretense, I've been pretty clueless, and somewhat frightened and apprehensive, about buying and eating oysters that don't come smoked and packaged in a flat, pop-top, can.

It's too bad I've waited so long, because these tasted delicious. I was given one to try (I offered to pay, but was turned down) and they were so fresh, with just a little salty-sweet flavor. Though I've got nothing against oysters, I've never been a huge raw oyster eater. However, these Drakes Bay oysters must have changed my mind because now I suddenly have the urge to seek them out.

Luckily, if I'm craving some, I don't have to travel all the way up to West Marin for a bite (or a slurp) since they are also sold at Swan Oyster Depot. Unluckily, they are also sold at Swan Oyster Depot, which is always packed and with a line out the door.

Whether they are bought at Swan Oyster Depot or straight from the farm, anyone seeking to experience the taste of these oysters better do so in the next 6 years, because by the year 2012, after more than 100 years of various commercial oyster farming (and possibly thousands more by indigenous tribes) at this location, Drakes Bay Oysters farm will be destroyed and the area will revert back into a (beautiful, but certainly not pristine) wilderness area.

Which makes you want to go "yayyy!" right about the same time you want to go "awww!"

Still, if everyone, including the Sierra Club, concedes that Drakes Bay Oyster farm is a sustainable, organic, low environmental impact business, it seems rather stupid to close it down simply because of a decision that was made at a time (1976) when the previous oyster operation used environmentally and ecologically disruptive and damaging oyster harvesting methods.

Kinda like throwing the baby out with the bath water (and many other cliché analogies that haven't come to mind yet).

Ok...moving on to the lighthouse.

By the time we got there, it and the steps down to it were closed. It was cold and windy as hell, parking was crazy, the bathrooms stank to high heaven, and we had to walk up a large hill on our way to the overlook.

Other than that, we had a blast!

Mostly we enjoyed the fact that the steps were closed and that we could see everything just fine from the overlook. Honestly, we just didn’t want visitors from other countries see us huffing and puffing our way back up the stairs from the lighthouse, since this would have proven everything they've suspected about Americans but were afraid to ask: yes, many of us are that lazy and overweight.

Happy now? In fact, just this weekend I seriously deliberated on whether to buy one of those plastic grabber things so that I wouldn't have to reach for the TV remote.

Right about the time I realized that I'd rather get punched in the gut than have to walk back up those stairs, some little boy shouted, “a whale! a whale! I just saw a whale!” which led many gullible adults, including myself, to stop what we were looking at and veer our attention towards the direction in which the kid was pointing.

Nothing. In fact, it was obviously futile to look so far down, over miles and miles of choppy ocean, expecting to see some speck of a whale’s hump and tail emerge for a second before disappearing into the great and deep expanse, but that fucking kid got us all worked up. The attention-hungry little bastard was probably just making it up for a few ounces of love from his emotionally-distant father, therefore sharing way too much personal information about his family’s dysfunction and distracting me from peacefully staring into the silver waves while communing with my Higher Power to suddenly straining my eyes looking for a fucking imaginary needle in a haystack.

This is why I’m in recovery.

After we left the Lighthouse overlook, we headed back in the direction we came, this time stopping by Marin Sun Farms brand-new old retail store. They had just reopened the day before after being closed for several months due to flooding.

They have remodeled the place and included a large and impressive wooden table to serve food at. However, the only thing for sale now is meat (including sausages) and eggs, since they are still in the process of working up a menu, which should be finished by the end of this month.

They envision people ordering simple menu items like sandwiches, sausages, and steaks (picked from the selection in the case and grilled to order). In addition, they also intend to have private dinners once or twice a week after the retail store has closed.

Good luck, MSF!

Winding down, we left beautiful West Marin county, left the cows, left the oysters, left the hippies and the damnable kids and settled on dinner in downtown Sausalito.

Ah, Sausalito.

I’m saving you for a rainy day.



Anonymous blister said...

you rock, hold on to your anger like a life preserver.
ps pirate-p=irate

11:24 AM  
Anonymous elle said...

ha-i agree with everything you said-i love our county with all its idiosyncrasies!

1:31 PM  

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