Are we talking about the same Napa?

If, my dears, you are looking for photos of food or discussions of my latest culinary disaster masterpiece, you’re going to have to wait a bit. Because I just have to get something off my chest.

People always ask me, “What made you move to Portland, Oregon?” And, when I’m not being a smart-ass (or interviewing for a job), I say, “My family has lived for four generations in Napa, California.”

That’s right, bitches. Fear my foodie/wino cred.

But when I was born 27 years ago, Napa was known more for its prunes and its state mental hospital than its wine.

Boy, howdy, has that changed.

And growing up in the Valley during the boom years of the 80s and 90s, I witnessed the change firsthand, literaly from my bedroom window. The hills went from grassland to vines to condos. The roads got progressively more crowded with BMWs and Lexii, weaving erratically between the wineries. People blasted through the main drag of Napa heading farther upvalley, not deigning to grace us with their drunken tourist presence until that bastard Mondavi decided to build that monument to his virility, Copia, in a spot of town that floods every other year. Brilliant, butthead, that’s why the land was so cheap.

I really, really, REALLY hate Copia. You want to know why? Took Napa ten years to raise $1 million dollars for a new Boys and Girls Club Center, and took Mondavi one year to raise the $12 million he needed for his autoerotic gustatorial exhibitionist delight.

Everything in the town goes for the tourists and the resident-tourists, those who thought it would be nice to live in Napa and be near all the greatly overpriced wine and food. Being a teenager in Napa, your options for Saturday night entertainment after the 10pm curfew were:

– Denny’s

– Driving around, committing acts of petty vandalism (I have video of the homecoming queen bashing in mailboxes).

– Back alleys, where you could drink and/or do drugs and/or have sex.

– Open fields, where you could drink and/or do drugs and/or have sex.

– Someone’s house, where you could drink and/or do drugs and/or have sex.

– Mormon dances. Where the good kids were inside being GLMs, and the ‘bad’ ones were (guess what!) drinking/doing drugs/having sex.

Well, unless you were a total geek like me, who always wound up at someone’s house, watching The X Files while everyone else was drinking/doing drugs/having sex. And that sex was not always consensual. But money ruled the town, and if it was someone whose Daddy could bust out a checkbook and write a $50,000 check to get the charges against their kid buried, well… Betcha didn’t know that about Napa. Thursday, May 14th, 1992, an eighth grade student pulled out a handgun in his science classroom at Silverado Middle School and opened fire, wounding two students. I was down the hill in the music building. Betcha you didn’t know that about Napa. The day after California’s Prop. 187 passed, kids started demanding to see my green card (I am half Mexican, but my Mexican ancestors have been American citizens since 1875). I’m still followed around stores in Napa by security guards, and sometimes stopped by them because they suspect I’m stealing things, based solely on my ability to tan (after burning severely). Betcha you didn’t know that about Napa.

Yes, Napa is a beautiful place, yes, it has attracted many cultured wine and food people. It is just very, very hard for me to wrap my mind around the idyllic vision of Napa I run across in food blogs and the version that I experienced.

By the by, if you ever run across Tulocay Made in Napa Valley Spices, flee. Because the only Tulocay I know of is the big cemetery.

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2 Responses to Are we talking about the same Napa?

  1. FoodDude says:

    You’ve pretty much outlined the reasons I left Napa. I think the “Oh my god, I have to get out of here” moment came to me one beautiful afternoon as I followed a line of slow moving tourists in motor homes up the Silverado Trail. It got so I looked forward to winter.

    Thanks for the link!

  2. Mary (Sue) says:

    Oh, crap, FoodDude, are we related?

    *squints* Tio? Estas tu?

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