We have some lovely friends with truly excellent taste who told me recently that they thought using half wine barrels as planters was outdated and tacky and they had broken all theirs up. At the very moment they said this, we had in our shed a wine barrel waiting to be cut in half and used as a planter. I did not share this fact with them.
Now, objectively, I’m sure they’re right. But here’s the thing: they did not grow up in California in the 1970s. I did. And I am not objective. I love Bistro des Copains, the Michelin starred French bistro in Occidental, but my favorite neighborhood restaurant is Negri’s, where the food is smothered in traditional red sauce and served on checkered tablecloths and the waitresses have all been there for decades and call you Hon. I appreciate the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but my favorite San Francisco museum is the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the grand old dame at the top of the hill, with its long, classical, quiet galleries and where once – really! – my sister and I performed in a dance recital. And I still have a soft spot for half wine barrels used as planters.
I remember my dad coming home with his first half wine barrel, a Brooklyn boy SO excited that you could just drive an HOUR to where they made real California WINE and they would sell you a REAL BARREL that had very recently held REAL WINE and they would even cut it in half for you and it still smelled of the wine (SMELL IT – can you SMELL the wine???) and you could plant in it and the printing on it would remind you forever of its sacred origins as a vessel for WINE made in California, which was really about as far from Brooklyn as it was possible to get and isn’t that just GLORIOWSKI SKEEZIX in too many ways to count?
This makes my dad sound like a dork, which – OK – he was. But he was also a man truly, madly, deeply in love with getting to know the wondrous northern California landscape, and he loved to share that excitement with us. And while his enthusiasms sometimes embarrassed me when I was in junior high school, I later came to value them deeply, and, still later and forever, to miss them. Forever.
And while I love the life I have now, and while there was a lot not to like about that earlier time, there is a part of me that misses California in the 1970s, when you could build a cabin on Mount Tam without permits and drive anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area in 20 minutes and the Book Depot in Mill Valley was still the Greyhound bus station where all the dads took the bus into the city for work instead of the plaza where beautiful rich people hang out all day drinking lattes, and you could catch Dungeness crab from the docks around the bay without a license. Or maybe you couldn’t, but we did. Anyway. And people thought planting in half wine barrels was cool.
That’s why I have a soft spot for wine barrel planters. So, dear friends with the best taste EVER, please don’t hate me – here’s what we did last week.