“In Petaluma, you are only three people away from having made-out with everyone,” says the 39 year old flight attendant, wife, and mother of two. Pretty in high school, only to mature into a beauty that rivals any on the silver screen, she can get away with saying things that I cannot. Damn, I wish I was prettier; I would get into less trouble (or would I?)…but her basic premise is correct — Petaluma is a tight knit community.
Maybe because I was a late bloomer who perhaps did not make out with as many Petalumans as I might have liked, I prefer my more tactful, “You are only one person away from knowing everyone in Petaluma.” If I don’t know you, one of my friends or family members certainly does, and vice versa. With a population well over 50,000, Petaluma is not exactly the “sticks,” so this speaks volumes about the kind of people who call Petaluma their home. If you grew up in Petaluma and spent too much time dating your late-teens/early-twenties drinking buddies, you may not find this to be a plus, but for the rest of us, it gives Petaluma a unique aura and connection that feels absent in many other communities.
This last weekend again reminded me of how lucky we are to live in this area. When people ask me to describe Petaluma, I often have a hard time conveying that our sum is greater than the whole of our pieces. We have some noteworthy individuals, but so do a lot of communities. What makes these individuals do and the organizations that they are part of that make us who we are. We have a diverse population and a rich history but our community is more than interesting people and a history packed full of pivotal characters and worldly events. For the most part, Petaluma is filled with activists. Not necessarily the type of activists who march up and down the street with “Impeach (current President)” signs, but people who care about where they live and who they live around and genuinely want to help make things better. These are people who volunteer at their kids’ school, who attend local fundraisers, and who start charitable organizations. They don’t just rant and rave about the undesirable state of affairs – they do something about it. It is a bit daunting at times to wade through groups fighting for so many diverse causes, but I would rather be part of a community where people with opinions are willing to do something about it, than in one where they are not. Not surprisingly, I recently learned that Petaluma is known for having one of the highest voter turn-outs of any city in the U.S.
If you read my weekly blog “Petaluma Weekend; Things To Do,” you know that last weekend was a busy one. If there was an end to the number of things to do, I never saw it until I opened my eyes Monday morning. And on top of everything else, the fair was in town (and with that… pig bellies!). Of the many events this weekend, the GF and I selected a few and scheduled them on our calendar.
With an old high school friend in town for the week, a group of us dined at Sugo on Friday night. Initially skeptical of the value of social networks, I am now quite a fan of Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, having reconnected with old friends and discovered new ones. This particular high school friend falls into neither of those categories, instead being someone who I was acquainted with in high school, but through electronic correspondence and a mutual passion for food, have developed a friendship with. (Before you start raising an eyebrow, not only was the GF at dinner and likes our new foodie friend, but I can’t get anything past her since she graciously edits all my blogs. (Except for the ones he posts without me proofreading first –Editor))
Our meal started casually at around 7pm, when I arrived for dinner. With only three of our expected party of six, we ordered a bottle of wine and chatted until the rest of the group trickled in. Just like most town gatherings, it didn’t take long to figure out that I was within acquaintance degrees of the three other people at the table — I had met one previously and the other two were loosely related to me through mutual friends. As I said, you are only one person away from knowing anyone.
The evening was a real pleasure. Shortly after getting our meals, I received a call from my best friend from high school who lives in the Sierras, but happened to be in town for a wedding. Ten minutes later, we squeezed in another chair and became a party of seven. She knew several of the people at the table, was acquainted with another, and had dated the brother of another …I guess my foodie friend was right in her somewhat risqué observation. As I looked around the restaurant, I noticed that I knew people at three other tables. My next door neighbor, someone I had met recently at a fundraiser, and an old friend from my college days. With a glint of politician in the recesses of my mind, I worked my way around the room.
Within minutes of receiving our food, another high school friend came through the door and we squeezed her in too. She is friends with both the owner of Sugo as well as some of the other people at the table. I never found out if she had planned on joining us or had drawn to the Sugo bat signal that must have been spotlighting over our gathering. It wasn’t long before another friend showed up to meet a party member, and much to my surprise it was one of my ex-girlfriends. (I guess the adage about making out had come around full circle and bit me in the butt.) Needless to say, it was nice to catch up with her and hear how her and her kids are doing. We stayed late into the evening and eventually, the owners had locked the doors, grabbed what was left of the open bottles of wine, and joined us for a few hours of visiting and story-telling. The whole thing turned into quite a party. (Well, for a 40 year old with an early bed time, it was quite a party.)
Onto the next morning and Saturday was full of activity. The Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation District’s free “Summer Walk in the Vineyard,” was an exclusive opportunity to visit a private ranch and vineyard that works with the district to fight urban sprawl and keep a certain sense of agriculture in our community. I met some great people at this event and saw some familiar faces. My email contact at the district, Susan, greeted me at the Old Lakeville Road location and explained to me and the group what the SSCRCD is all about. We received a great education on conservation districts, vineyard operations, and even got to taste some private label wines. Clover Stornetta was also there providing free ice cream and Clover cheese, crackers, and fruit…but alas, no Clo. (If you get a chance to taste them, I highly recommend Flo Wines, which produces under the labels Andrea La Rue and Saddle Up. You can purchase them at Vine & Barrel. See my blog entry “Vine & Barrel re-opens in new location!”)
Sunday brought me a reminder of how I lucky I am to live in this town. While attending the fair with my nephew, I ran into two of the people I had met at dinner on Friday night. As I was purchasing tickets for the Smash-up, Crash-up Derby, I ran into Susan from the above mentioned SSCRCD also buying tickets (although she claimed they were for her daughter. It’s okay Susan; nothing brings out our hidden redneck like the chance to watch cars smash into each other.) Another one of the Friday night dinner attendees texted me that she was at the fair with her daughters, had overheard me talking at dinner about the Derby, and was curious to see what it was all about. We had a great time and the kids all made bets on their favorite cars.
Monday night, while sitting on Avatar’s Punjabi Burrito’s patio trying their food for the first time, we ran into Juliet and her clan. (You can read my review of Avatar’s in one of my previous blogs.) Juliet is one of my fellow board members, and marketing director for Cinnabar Theatre, in addition to her former role as a big-wig at Pixar. They were on their way back from seeing Toy Story 3, which she helped produce. As we left Avatar’s, we ran into one of my partner’s rowing teammates, enjoying a bike ride with her hubby on this unusually warm evening. We chatted about restaurants we liked in the area, and then hustled off because we wanted to get some ice cream before the shop closed. Next, we headed over to Groco (Grocery Outlet) to stock up on wine bargains and share discount stories with other deal aficionados. (The Mont Pellier 2006 Merlot is excellent for a $4 bottle of wine.)
What a great town we live in. I am the first to balk at going out and socializing, preferring to stay home and read, compute, or garden, but as I get to know more people, this is starting to change. Running into people I know, all over town, constantly reminds me of how lucky I am to live in more than just a town; I live in a community.