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Santa Cruz Wine Festival
This is my favorite wine festival. And I go to a few. 

It's not just that I went to school in Santa Cruz. It is that the Santa Cruz festival is the epitome of what a wine festival should be. Santa Cruz country has many small wineries up in the hills. Most are family owned and are not open much of the year. 

However, over a two weekend period at the beginning of June, these remote mountain wineries open their doors to visitors. 

It's wonderful. You go to the wineries. Sit on the grass or among the vines, listen to whatever band they've brought in for the festival, sip some wine, eat some gourmet food (because most wineries bring in chefs) and relax.

We went the second weekend of the festival, when the Southern wineries are open.

Karen and I drove down on Saturday morning and met my mother and her boyfriend Gerry. They were camped at a tent/RV campsite in the Henry Cowell State Park between Santa Cruz and Felton.

Over the next six hours, we drifted from winery to winery. Tasting. Sitting. Absorbing the summer heat. We bought quite a lot of wine. 

Then we went back to the campground and cooked some steaks over an open fire. There's just something about meat cooked in the out of doors. And while I detest most forms of cooking, I enjoy cooking of doors. Go figure.

Later that evening we toasted marshmallows and chatted by the fire.

The next morning we got up and took a little hike. Here I've just got to say that Henry Cowell has some great campsites. Our site was big. It had a nice tree cover. Plenty of space to put up a tent. We were close to the bathrooms, of which there were an adequate number. And it was very easy to roll out of our sleeping bags and take a short hike. 

There are a number of trails that lead through the brush, oak and pine trees. And interestingly there is a fair amount of sand. These mountains used to lie beneath the sea in an earlier age of the world.

Gerry cooked us up an excellent Eggs Benedict.

After our hike, Karen and I headed out for some more wine tasting. 

Sunday, we took things at a slower pace and meandered past some of our favorite wineries. We even visited an Alambic Brandy distillery. Although, of course, we could not taste, we did sniff. The owner was quite knowledgeable and very interesting.

There are many wine festivals in California. But really for relaxation, Santa Cruz is my favorite.


The Novato Art and Wine Festival

Well, there wasn't much wine at the festival this year, but whatever, that's not why I go.
I go for the calimari. Mmmmm....fried calimari with a lime sauce. I love California where calimari and gyros are considered festival food.

Actually, Karen and I had a bit of trouble going this year. We had it on our calendar as being the weekend of the 16th. However, wrong. Karen, Kevin, and I arrived in Novato. There was strangely plenty of parking. Strolled over to the main street and...well, no festival. We had a lovely day wandering around doing nothing much.

However, I wanted my calimari. So, on Sunday, Karen and I headed out for a short hike at the South China Beach State Park off 101, and then up to Novato. 

We parked and strolled the various booths of the festival. The Novato Art and Wine Festival has one of the better collections of art/craft booths for a Summer Festival. It was a little chilly (welcome to summer in the Bay Area) but the crowds were in a good mood.

For whatever reason, the wine tasting booth wasn't there this year, but then again there was no entry fee either. And really, I felt pretty well satisfied with the wine tasting that we did at the Santa Cruz Wine festival. After all the calimari booth was there and that was what was important. 

Have I mentioned that I really like the calimari. 

Neil Gaiman at Cody's 

Crystal reads comics. a=b
Crystal is a woman. a=c
Women who read comics read Neil Gaiman. c=d
Ergo, a=d, Crystal reads Neil Gaiman.
Cold chop logic, but oddly true.

Of course, that cannot sum up the mythic language, the images, the imagination, and the incredible breadth of knowledge, learning and humor that is Neil Gaiman. That is his writing. That is in his voice when he reads.

Comic book writer, artist, novelist, children's author, movie and t.v. scriptwriter. 
Neil Gaiman can do anything. a=b
Gods can do anything. c=b
Ergo, Neil Gaiman is a god. a=c

Neil Gaiman was in town doing a book promotion tour for his new book, American Gods. And like a rustle in the grass, emails went from person to person. Neil will be in town. He's going to read. Let's go see Neil.

And so I put a little yellow sticky note on my computer. Neil Gaiman. And I went, Kevin, and Karen, and Gina came too, but they're irrelevant to my story. Neil was there. He came and read. And a hundred or so people came and crammed into seats and stood up against the wall to listen.

I arrived an hour early. Bought the book, well its only polite. The room was already packed. Kevin was saving a seat. I told him to hold it for Karen and went foraging on my own. There were still one or two solitary seats for the quick. I looked around for two seats, so I could save one for Gina. Nothing. I decided to grab something before I ended up standing. So, sat and I began to read American Gods. Sank into the story of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday and old gods scrabbling off the Americana. I was glad to sit alone. It meant that I could read. 

And then there he was. A tall stoop shouldered Englishman. Longish black hair. Pale. Wears a black leather coat. Always. Wears black. All the time. Looks like Morpheus, but doesn't speak in black bubbles.

Instead, he has wonderful English accented speaking voice. Full of humor and pauses. And when he reads you see the characters. Hear their voices, as they ought to sound.

He did not have a copy of the book. He asked if anyone had it. We laughed together. Someone stood up and handed him one. 

He started to read and then paused and apologized for not doing the author thing. You know where you clear your throat and explain the story. So, he cleared his throat. Gave a quick one sentence explanation of the book and continued.

He read a chapter set in San Francisco. A place like no other. Where Easter has a picnic in a park and then has a mocachino. Where waitresses have eyebrow rings as symbols of caste.

And he finished reading and I sighed. 

Then there was a short Q&A session. He started with a round of movie news. The status of various books and stories in production. So, we wouldn't have to waste questions on them. 

People raised their arms and questions and asked. And he answered and meandered and was humorous and serious by turns. 

The most emotionally striking moment of the evening was when one woman asked what it was like to know Roger Zelazny, one of the people the book is dedicated to, who died in 1995 of liver cancer. And he spoke of knowing Roger as a friend who you thought would live forever. Someone that you thought you had plenty of time to know. And then there wasn't. He spoke of going to the funeral and seeing other writers and saying that they were Roger's bastard step-children, because although there were and are better writers, Roger's work made you want to write. And in his voice as he spoke was the knowledge that if he tipped it a little more and we would all cry.

And then they whisked him away to sign. The line stretched round the store. I went off with Karen and Kevin for dinner. I'm not much into signatures. When we walked by again at 10:00, the line was even longer. Because you know he didn't just sign. He talked to everyone. 

Because you don't need an equation to know that Neil Gaiman=insanely cool.

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