I used to spend quite a bit of time in Bolinas, a tiny one-horse town just north of San Francisco. I fell in love with Smiley’s Schooner Hotel, and I have to admit that the saloon and cafe and hotel in Darling Bay are directly stolen from that delightful property. (Yep, writers are thieves, magpies collecting shiny real objects to tuck into our story nests. A couple of years ago, the property was for sale, and I still dream of buying it sometimes.)
One New Year’s Eve, we drove into town through a storm so big it closed the roads behind us, washing them out. The power went out all over town, and we ate that night in the cafe, lit by candlelight. The cook had worked overseas and was good at cooking on propane. They cranked up the Victrola near the front door, and our table was so merry that our laughter rung from the wooden beams overhead. That night, we rang the new year in while listening to the Whoreshoes play “Easy Like Saturday Night” in the saloon (which had a generator, so the amps and speakers worked, along with the many strands of twinkling white lights which shone as the only light in town).
We danced and whooped and reveled inside the old beach saloon, and it was perfect.
Another time, when a big group of us were given the large room over the saloon, we chose to sleep on an air mattress on the veranda that hung over the saloon’s front door. We fell asleep tipsy and happy, waking up just as happy but also quite damp in the early ocean fog which soaked our sleeping bags.
And last year, one of my sisters rented a cottage there for Christmas, and the three Herron girls converged on Bolinas with our loved ones. (Okay, yes. There are three sisters in my family, just like in this series. We all have good singing voices, and we harmonize beautifully. However, we’ve never been a famous country girl band, and the characters are not based on us, I swear. I could never do the love we share justice, though I often borrow its flavor to bring into my books.) We all splashed our way through the rain to the cafe where we ate huge quesadillas and drank bottomless cups of coffee.
Darling Bay is my way of honoring Bolinas’s spirit. There really is a town poet laureate. Rangy black dogs run on the sand, barking at sand pipers. Patchouli incense wafts over the town as fragrantly as the other burning weed that’s ever popular in small-town Northern California.
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I hope you like it. Please tell me what you think? It always means the world to me.