Driving Miss Mobley: A Wintertime Odyssey in California Wine Country. Act III, Scene 6 (Santa Cruz Mountains).

Winter Waves near the Franklin Point Overlook.

Franklin Point Trails — Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve

[The scene open with an overhead tracking shot of Esther and Boke approaching a scenic overlook at Franklin Point, a rocky headlands along the southern San Mateo County coast, as heavy winter waves crash against the rocks and scour the beach with frothy sea foam. It is a cold but beautiful day shortly before 11am. Harbor seals and shore birds are in abundance along this undeveloped stretch of land that protects threatened natural sand dunes and undeveloped coastal terraces].

[The first part of the scene is set to the song, “Beachcoming” by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris].

[At the end of their walk, Esther and Boke come to a wooden viewing platform constructed near the headlands. Boke has with him the red soft-sided cooler he had earlier used to such great effect in Napa. He and Esther are dressed in down outer layers, jeans, and hiking boots].

[The camera zooms in to the picnic meal that Boke has prepared of sourdough sandwiches made with a local chevre and hickory smoked lomo from the El Salchichero artisan butcher shop in Santa Cruz. He also has Brough a chilled bottle of 2017 Howard Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay from Big Basin Winery, which he serves using stemless Riedel wine glasses].

E: Boke, this here is one LOVELY view! And this Big Basin white wahn ya’ brung’ is DIVINE!

B: I’s glad ya’ lahk eet s’much.

[Esther sets down her glass of Chardonnay on the bench and stares intently at Boke, despite his efforts to avert her gaze].

E: Boke … or should I say … Breaht? Breaht Wintahs, ya’ can drop tha’ hillbilly Appalachian acc’nt thing, OK?

[Boke doesn’t speak and gazes into his wine glass].

E: Sol figur’d it out fah me. She looked ya’ up on tha’ Internet. Ya’ certainly are NOT a redneck, are ya?

[Boke stares down into his glass and waits].

E: I know fat a fact that ya’ was valedictorian of ya’ high school class. And then ya’ went ta’ Williams! Ya’ hadta’ pick a New England school like that, didnta’? And theahn ya’ had ta’ go an’ graduate summa cum laude AS WELL.

[Boke is silent for a while before he starts to speak].

B: Honestly speaking, Esther, didn’t think you’d keep me on as your driver if you knew all of that. Or if you somehow managed to learn about Hopkins humanities degree, the Stanford postdoc, the Harvard interview, the Defense Language Institute training, or the reconnaissance work I did as active duty military. I know how absurd it all looks now, but I figured that the ‘Morgan Freeman meets Chris Cooper in Matewan’ simple minded persona would be easier for you to handle.

E: Ya’ maght be right about that. Nobody will hire a’ Hopkins man these days, especially one with a degree in the HUMANITIES!

[Boke pauses to take a sip of wine before speaking again].

B: Well, Esther, in the interests of full disclosure, I doubt that your “Jessica Tandy meets Vivien Leigh” personality is totally authentic, either. Did teach you to act like that at Smith College, or did you pick it all up by yourself?

[Esther acts shocked].

E: Well, I nevah! That is jes’ so … Yeah, screw it. I was an English major at Smith who got into wine instead of doing the teaching thing or going to grad school. Sue me.

B: You made the right call. Trust me. But why the fake accent?

P: Oh, you probably know already after watching it deployed in action since arriving in Napa. The Southern belle routine still works like a charm on the Robert Parker generation of wealthy men who continue to style themselves as vintners in California wine country these days. It helps me gain access to their ultra-exclusive wineries without intimidating them with an elite educational background or my far superior wine knowledge. Plus, as a powerful woman with a sharp attitude who sometimes falls back on her Brooklyn roots when she gets angry, the Southern accent kept my emotional instincts in check.

B: I’ve never seen you get angry.

E: Don’t make me angry, dude. You wouldn’t like me when I get angry. It’s like the Hulk, only worse.

B: But isn’t it hard to be someone you’re not?

E: Says the dude who until a few minutes ago was acting like a redneck hillbilly.

B: True story, but my reasons for doing so are … complicated.

E: I’ll bet!

B: What was it that convinced YOU to go through with it?

E: When I was hired to be their new wine columnist, my editor-in-chief at The Chronicle advised me to ditch the New England attitude, hide my Brooklyn roots, and cultivate a softer, more overtly feminine touch, especially during my on-site visits to the high end wineries whose advertising dollars we were hoping to land.

B: Did it work?

E: At first, no. It’s just wasn’t natural for me to act that way. I’m a city kid from modest means who fell in love with wine at an early age and never really grew out of it.

B: Fine wine was your ticket out of the projects, was it?

E: Not exactly, but close enough. I went to Smith on a full scholarship, dude. I earned that ride.

B: So what got you into wine if it wasn’t affluent parents?

E: I really liked seeing how wine could spark passion and create joy in other people’s lives. Ordinary people’s lives, like my aunt’s and uncle’s. They didn’t keep kosher, and they had little money, but they always had some interesting wine on the table with dinner. I learned my first lessons in geography by deciphering those labels. Soon, I was hanging out at a local wineshop, and eventually I landed a job there. I watched with amazement how much time normal people invested in keeping up with wine trends and how they saved for weeks or even longer for expensive bottles to celebrate with. That’s what really matters to me. The people. The passion. Not the pretense. Or the power.

B: People do love wine. Almost as much as they love each other.

P: I still love it too, but after years in the business I am growing sick and tired of professional wine-speak bullshit. It’s all such a con. And I’m playing a part of it!

B: But it’s your job. You get paid to act the way you do.

E: I know that. But more and more I’m convinced that the best wines are the ones where growers put into the soil what they want to extract from out of the grape later. Call it biodynamics if you want, but to me, well-made wines are like liquid love, bottled and aged until they reach sexual maturity and then — it’s orgasmic. Forget goddamn taste. We’re talking full-on fucking FEELING here.

B: You are taking this conversation a bit too deep.

E: Grow up, dude. We’re both adults here. You know as well as I do that winemakers have taken something as simple a clusters of grapes and created something of real cultural value. And each generation of winemakers adds a layer of complexity onto that already impressive legacy. Try putting all that in a weekly wine column, though. It’s harder than you’d think.

B: And pretending to be a Southern sophisticate drinking her way through California wine country is easier?

E: It took work, but not as much as you’d think. The final piece was the decision to hire you as a personal chauffeur to shuttle me from one appointment to the next. That was the old money edge that made the performance complete. Why’d YOU take the job, anyway?

B: I applied out of desperation. Filled out the whole application while drunk on Pinot.

E: I hope it wasn’t from Napa.

B: It wasn’t. But I never thought I would get an offer.

E: Your application was the oddest of the bunch, that’s for sure. I figured having a redneck driver would fill out the whole “Driving Miss Daisy in a black Tesla” thing I needed while sparing me from any accusations of racism in the process. Hillbillies, as you know, do not belong to a protected minority group.

B: That’s ‘American of Appalachian origin’ to you. Only I have right to call myself a redneck.

P: Fine, whatever. But you should know that I had a BUNCH more places lined up for the two of us to visit in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Lodi, and the Sierra Foothills, and Santa Barbara. Cult wines, trophy wines, natural wines, the works. Even Oregon and Washington, one day.

[Boke is silent].

P: And then you had to go and blow the whole thing up. If these last few days have taught me anything, it’s that I can’t keep living a lie like that. With you as my hillbilly driver, it was still possible to pull off. But now that I know it’s not true and that we actually LIKE each other? Thanks for royally fucking up my plans, asshole. Excuse me: ‘asshole of Appalachian origin.’

[Esther gives Boke the finger].

B: Actually, I kinda like you when you’re angry. You’re much funnier that way.

[Boke and Esther both smile. They take sips of their wine while stare out at the waves crashing in front on them].

E: Dude, what say we hike back to the Tesla and hit up some of the Westside tasting rooms in Santa Cruz this afternoon, like you had planned?

B: You’re still game?

P: Shit, yeah! Well, after we grab coffee at Verve first. My treat. What do you say?

[B. silently gazes out at the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance].

P: Well??

B: I’d say that’s a very smart idea coming from a spoiled Smith girl who gets paid to drink expensive wine.

[Esther throws her glass of Chardonnay in Boke’s face].

E: How Penelope puts up with you, I will never know.

B: Because she’s an earthbound angel. And because she’s seen what I am, capable of when I’m not broken down into a million tiny pieces, like I am now.

[Esther looks at Boke with empathy and concern in her eyes].

P: You are fucked in the head, that’s true. And you drink too much. But those can be fixed, with help.

B: You think?

P: I haven’t always been a professional wine critic, dude. Even Smith girls get the blues. I’ll tell you about it, sometime. Ask me. Just don’t lie to me, anymore. I promise to do the same.

[Boke nods his head yes].

E: See? This is how how normal people communicate. Not online, where anything goes. But in real life. Do you think we both can handle it?

B: We’ll never know unless we try.

P: Fine by me! But from here on out, I’m off the clock and so are you. Let’s road trip the shit out of this day before it gets too dark.

B: Agreed.

[The two shake hands, collect up their picnic supplies and start walking back to the Tesla. When they arrive, Boke opens the passenger side door for Esther].

B: After you, E.

E: After you, dude! Also: I’m driving. Some things around here are going to change.

[Boke’s eyes widen, but gives her the key and settles into the front passenger seat. Esther enters and turns on the ignition, but she hesitates long enough for Boke to notice].

B: The engine’s on. On means go.

E: Hand me your hat first.

[Boke hands her his ‘made in Montana’ hat. Esther puts in on, then adjusts her mirrored aviator glasses].

E: And I’m picking the music this time.

[Esther taps on her iPhone to select a playlist before starting off. Then, like a rocket, she races the Tesla south to Santa Cruz with Roxette’s ”Joyride” blasting through open windows as the camera pans out to reveal the region’s rugged coastline and surrounding redwood covered mountainsides in all their rich and verdant wintertime beauty].

[End of Act III].

I am a gender non-binary writer and founder of the eco-consultancy, sempervirens117.com. I live and work in the Santa Cruz Mountains, outside of Silicon Valley.

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