commensal.

\ kuh-MEN-suhl \  , adjective; 

  1. eating together at the same table.

Right now we are accidentally watching a Chinese New Year Parade full of elementary school aged in the town of Mendicino. It happens to be going on in front of the most delicious coffee place on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Dwayne and I really like our new friend, Caroline, that we’ve been working with in Napa. Because she’s so cool, we decided to drive her to her next help exchange job on the coast of Northern California. We arrived at a pub called Patterson’s to meet her new hosts. It was the size of a very small country home with a life-size cardboard cutout of Elvis in the upstairs window.

“Do you know what Milo looks like?” I asked Caroline as we walked up the front steps.

“Nope,” she replied. “This should be interesting.”

We opened the heavy curtain and ducked our heads in to the packed bar. We looked around and no one looked up from their friends or phones as if they were expecting us. Two Californian surfer lookin’ fellas sat to the left and I looked at Caroline, raised my eyebrows, and tilted my head as if to say, “My bet is that is them?” She got it and walked over and said, “Milo?” They smiled. Caroline is pretty. “No, unfortunately we do not know Milo.”

We came to find out that Milo had run down the street right as we walked in because he dropped a ten dollar bill at the last bar. He’s a ball full of energy and a head full of curly hair. He wears black thick rimmed glasses and his eyes light up when he talks about the farm and the “goat-like sheep.”  He was picking at his fingers while he told us how he ended up at this farm two years ago for a friend’s wedding and hasn’t left. Dead skin fell from his pinky into the complimentary bowl of peanuts. I cringed when another new friend sat down later and started eating from the bowl.

We drove up a terribly windy and rough road, stopping to load free firewood on the way, and then met Steve, the owner of the house and land and sheep. He looks like an unkempt Dennis Quaid, like if Quaid had been camping for ten consecutive days and had a stuffed up nose, so his mouth never fully closes so he can breathe. His hat sits lopsided on his unbrushed shaggy hair. He is so chill and laid back, I am almost falling asleep just thinking about it.

I felt like Dwayne and I were dropping our daughter off for college as we went in to look at her room and make sure everything was safe and good. On the way up the coast, I said, “In New Zealand, the girls and I had a code word if we ever felt unsafe. We need to have one in case you want us to not leave you here.” We decided on something like, “Have you seen the Polar Express?” If Caroline said, “Yes, it was horrible.” We’d get out of dodge as soon as possible. If she said, “It’s great!” We’d smile and hug her and leave her to make new friends.

When we were in her new room, I asked, “How’d you feel about the Polar Express?” She smiled and said, “Loved it. But the soundtrack was awful.” I laughed and nodded. The music drifting from the living room was what Dwayne calls “world fusion.”

Instead of pictures on the wall, acoustic and bass guitars hung above the piano. Instead of couches, a large drum set sat next to boxes of tambourines and egg shakers. Caroline and I talked Dwayne into playing a couple of his songs next to the fire. Then Milo played a few, breaking only for dark chocolate. Steve is a musician and with his eyes almost half closed, he said, “Drumming is all about three things. I always say this. Keep it clean, lean, and bouncy like a trampoline.” Then he made drum sounds with his mouth for about 90 seconds, 60 of these seconds felt awkward.

Are you wondering how the word of the day fits in with this story, reader? Steve makes tables out of redwood trees he found in a river when he was a kid. He charges $3,000 and when Dwayne asked him more about it, Steve replied, “I wait until the Universe creates it for me. You know? I just wait. The Universe creates. Always.”

Steve, Milo, and the rest of the gang are so totally wonderfully commensally enlightening around the homemade redwood table full of organically grown veggies.

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