Vail Daily column: This is why I write
Tables all taken, we’re directed to the end of the bar at the only restaurant in town.
Exactly where the owner sits for a quick glass of white wine toward the end of our meal, just before the tidal change from full house to closing.
Coincidence. If you believe in that sort of thing.
We learn she’s a physicist as well as restaurant owner. Cashed out before the tech bubble burst and bought the place, property and all.
I look around. Count the surfboards on the ceiling. Note the woodstove in the corner. It’s all checking out.
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I ask her how long she thinks Moore’s law will continue. That’s the axiom computer power doubles every 18 months.
She smiles, says she knows Gordon Moore. Doesn’t believe the pattern will fade any time soon.
Will computerization evolve from silicon and such to biologically based? Yes, eventually, although there’s a long ways to go along the current path. She tells us about bubble technology, an old method using magnetic film for those ones and zeroes now enjoying a resurgence with some modern tweaks. I ask about quantum chips and computerization. Ah, now I’m talking about two different things, she explains.
I laugh, out of my depth even before getting to the truly crazy quantum stuff — crazy but it proves out with uncanny consistency. I confess I have almost no idea what I’m talking about at this point, alas a hallmark of journalists with our mile-wide and inch-deep knowledge of the world.
She tells us, my wife and I, about how no one realized when she bought the place that the ceiling was the beautiful knotty pine we’re looking at now. This pearl revealed itself in the cleaning of grime, grease, tobacco residue a decade and a half ago.
I’m thinking, this is really why I got into journalism for a living, and why I’m writing fiction for fun. For the research. These moments. The little coincidences.
The writing itself? The tab you pay later. A different kind of … fun. A famous novelist I heard speak last summer described it as scrubbing your eyeballs with sand. Yeah, that too, sometimes.
Most definitely you’re not supposed to talk about it, according to some of the lore. Pretentious, for one. But the admonition has a more mystical feel, like the native sure you’ll steal his soul with your camera.
As usual, I break the taboo. But this is hobby or better put, like Sherlock and his violin, you and your meditation, maybe yoga in its original form. A means to thinking deeper, better or at least differently.
I’m not doing this for the sugar plums dancing in my head about publication. I’m doing it for, well, this moment and others like it.
The owner is explaining how she came to Bolinas, interesting precisely because the community is not at all like its touristy neighbors around Point Reyes National Seashore.
Now tell me, she beckons, what in the world brought you here?
So I tell her. A character I made up moves here. A number of scenes take place here, a couple in this very restaurant. We’re staying across the street where another character stays: Smiley’s, built in 1851. A saloon with rooms and thin walls, as we’ll learn, out back.
Only I’ve never spent any time here. I wrote it all on Google knowledge and imagination. I’m pretty close, though. I wrote a scene, thinking at first about Mendocino, a place I have been. And I lived in a beach town or two in a former life.
Like the smell of saltwater, some things stick.
By coincidence, I finally found Bolinas, a perfect fit for my character. The real town has, um, idiosyncrasies.
Oh yeah, the restaurant owner says with a laugh and widened eyes. She tells us a couple of quick stories. And tells us about a town where transformation is inevitable, even with no highway signs (state quit trying after locals always took them down) only a few beds for visitors, no new water taps. It’s a place of one-time communes and still a lot of tie-dye culture, gray-haired surfers of both sexes, long conversations that easily take philosophical turns.
My story is sci fi along its backbone. And the owner, Roseanne, proves as quickly helpful with that as with Bolinas. I feel like I won a lottery in serendipity.
She’s back helping with a startup and tells us a little about it. We must have commented about the two worlds she walks, between the restaurant and Silicon Valley.
I’m a translator, she says with a smile.
Indeed. I even have a character in my tale named Trans for a similar role. Ah, another coincidence.
We’re going to have to come back.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@ vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.