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March 21-27, 2007

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Best and Mightiest Aphrodite

Photograph by Brett Ascarelli

The Bohemian's Best of the North Bay 2007

Romance: Writers' Picks


Best and Mightiest Aphrodite

If gaining entrance to the love-ins of the '60s was contingent upon being mortal, Aphrodite would likely have traded in her spot on Mt. Olympus for a ticket. Some 40-odd years later, would this goddess-turned-mortal still be sexy? Somewhere after menopause, she'd probably have traded in her Botticelli curls for a Diane Sawyer coif. Popping Viagra, suitors would still come knocking to woo this now mature and wrinkly sex kitten.

Wrinkly sex kitten? Yeah, why not. Enter the world of Joan Price, who at 63 is pshawing the way that pop culture ridicules older people who still have sex. The Sebastopol resident has written Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty, which has become something of a bible for sextua-, septua- and octogenarians wanting to restore their sex lives. She's packed the book with exercises to keep love muscles tuned up, testimonials by older women doing it and her own story about falling for the love of her life at age 57. This author-cheerleader has been touring throughout the country, giving workshops to women--and sometimes men--who are 50-plus and want to keep their sex drive alive. "When I do a workshop," she says giggling, "it's sort of an ice breaker the first time I say 'lubricant' or 'vaginal tissue' or 'clitoris' or 'sex toy.'"

To Price, mature desire is not an oxymoron. In fact, she and her husband don't see any reason why wisdom shouldn't be sexy. "[My husband] sees wrinkles as sexy," she says. "He sees an aging body and face, certainly, as extremely attractive, because they reflect what a woman has experienced and learned and given to the world and brought back to herself. Someone without them is sort of suspect."

Price also has a popular blog, www.betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com, where she and her readers discuss issues surrounding aging. In one recent post, Price brainstorms about different terms to describe older people: senior, elderly, mature, etc. She was prompted to write this post after reading a newspaper article that referred to a political conference attendee as a "little old lady." Although the article wasn't talking about her, per se, she took it as an affront to her demographic as a whole. On her blog, she quipped, "Don't call me a little old lady . . . Call me Joan." Whatever you call her, she's our mighty, middle-aged Aphrodite.--B.A.

Best Place to Say 'I Do' with a Lorne Greene Accent

It's like something out of Bonanza: the wooden cabins, the dirt trails, the horse stables. Dust may gather at the bottom of the bridal gown, but that only adds to the charm of a wedding at Mayacamas Ranch, located in a beautifully remote area just outside Calistoga. Relatively inexpensive to rent, Mayacamas has a casual air of down-home charm with a serious, professional staff. There are hiking trails and tumbled weeds, but there's also a swimming pool and a full garden from which the chefs pick basil for your reception dinner, served on a moonlit deck. A fireplace and bar adorn the meeting hall, where the newly married honeydoves can take the first dance across a hardwood floor. And when the last of the wine is gone, when the records have all been played and the cake has been eaten, and when you finally pack up your dancin' spurs and turn in for the night, the only noise you'll hear is a distant owl, floating serenely across the valley toward Mount St. Helena. Mayacamas Ranch, 3975 Mountain Home Ranch Road, Calistoga. 707.942.5127.--G.M.

Best Place to Get Caught In Flagrante

In the days before we got married, my man and I used to grab a down comforter and a flask of bourbon and head out to the coast to watch the sun set. Our favorite spot was Duncan's Landing on the Sonoma Coast because it has a relatively comfy earth-and-rock formation you can snuggle into to get out of the wind, and it faces southwest, so you've got a good, warm view of the setting sun and an amazing show of wildflowers in spring. So we're out there and it's wintertime and there's no one really around and it's a little early for the sunset, so we scramble down to the beach below. Now remember, this is before I got married, so I was game for all sorts of man-pleasing undertakings that he doesn't benefit from so much any more. He's having a good ole time, but it's of course taking a long time, or at least feels that way, and I'm sort of looking around and I notice there's someone far far above on the bluff peering down at us. Small rocks start raining down. This perv begins risking life and limb to get a view of this (now rare) act! So what I'm saying is Duncan's Landing is a good place to watch the sunset and also a good place to service your man if you don't mind possibly getting caught. Duncan's Landing, Sonoma Coast State Beach, off Highway 1, a couple of miles north of Coleman Valley Road..--M.T.J. Ed.'s note: Our condolences to MTJ's husband.

Best Romantic Field Trip

"Immerse your senses in the glory of spring!" That proclamation sounds like something Beethoven might have based a symphony on or that Mahler might have scribbled on a wall at his estate in Maiernigg. In truth, it's the slogan adopted by Michael Thomasoff and his Russian River Rose Company to promote the annual Perfume Rose Oil Harvest tours, in which the olfactorally inclined can take a trip through the Healdsburg farm's rose fields, smelling the roses, harvesting petals by hand, then taking a lesson in rosewater distillation (perfumery, to most of us) in the farm's magnificent old distillation barn. The surprising thing is, it's incredibly romantic--something about the sensuality of, you know, the senses, all the iconic love power emanating from all those roses. It's a definite turn-on and it's educational. too! The tours take about two hours and are purposefully kept small, with no more that 14 people per excursion, though larger groups can be accommodated by special arrangement. Participants help harvest baskets full of petals from the Thomasoff's hundreds of ancient Bulgarian, French and Persian perfume roses that grow in their beautiful rose fields, right smack in the middle of the vineyards of Dry Creek Valley. Back at the barn, you'll help stuff the petals into copper distillation kettles, then watch as they make the magical change from flower parts to aromatic rosewater and rose oil. The power of all that scent coming at you can be a real rush. On some tours, refreshments are even served, and the whole thing comes at a surprisingly reasonable cost: generally from $9.95 to $12.95. Tours are offered Thursday-Sunday beginning April 12 and run through May 28; a special food-enhanced event is scheduled for May 6. Reservations are required for all tours. Russian River Rose Co., 1865 Magnolia Drive, Healdsburg. 707.575.6744.--D.T.

Best Moony-Eyed Walk

Romance is seldom an accident, and the vast majority of romantic moods are created by force of will and a bit of good planning, turning a walk around the block from a simple point-A-to-point-B exercise into a meaningful moment; all it takes is a little hand-holding and some moony glances into your special person's eyes. It also helps if the walk is at least a little bit pretty. The Prince Memorial Parkway, beginning just north of Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa, takes you along the creek, past several exhibitions of public art, through and around some highly attractive gardens, and then out near Railroad Square, where you can finish with a glass of wine (or a cup of coffee) at one of the square's many fine hangouts. Then you get to do it all over again to get back to where you started. Don't be surprised if it gets to be a habit, this whole romantic-walk thing.--D.T.

Best Way to Step on Your Lover's Toes

While many men would like to block out the Shall We Dance remake with Richard Gere they were forced to watch a couple years back, they should remember that the protagonist's love life was strengthened at the end of the film. You and your honey can have a similar experience after taking salsa-dancing lessons from MJ Productions. For over a decade, the company has provided affordable lesions to North Bay residents of all skill levels. "Our Petaluma class started in 1994, and soon after, people requested classes in Marin," recalls instructor Myriam John, whose lifelong love of dance shifted from folk to salsa in the mid-'80s. "Dancing salsa is a great way to express your feelings and communicate through body language to your dance partner," she says. "The beautiful salsa music elevates your spirit, bringing the couple closer in romance." With gentle taps used to anticipate the next move, dance partners develop an unspoken, near-telepathic bodily synergy--or pull in opposite directions. Either way, this collaboration doesn't have to stop when you get home. Johnson, her son and daughter, who are fellow instructors, have become makeshift matchmakers over the years, something she sees as gratifying. "The reason I stay involved with dancing is two-fold: my love for the dance and music, and for the satisfaction I receive from the people who attend my classes and parties." And the rhythmically challenged shouldn't worry--a klutz who puts forth the effort is still adorable to many. MJ productions holds regular classes at various venues in Petaluma and San Rafael. For more information, call 415.601.3685 or 707.762.5863.--D.S.

Best Place to Buy Someone Else's Underwear

Since when did shopping qualify as foreplay? Since Aubergine set up shop in Occidental, offering vintage European clothing at absurdly affordable prices and focusing on a healthy selection of exotic bustiers, gently used bras, the silken panties of strangers, efficient cotton nighties from Italy that cast a strangely erotic allure, naughty stockings and, of course, a free garter belt for each customer. A recent shopping foray to Aubergine found four friends already there, two couples on the prowl for $15 dollar lace-up thrills whom we gamely joined like some 21st-century Bob and Carol and Ted and Alices. Devoted to the sensual, Aubergine doesn't truck in such as shopping bags, perferring to wrap your purchases in sweet scarves. The last time we were there, the pretty clerk slipped in a box of incense and a bottle of perfume as gifts. Now, that's a turn on. Aubergine, 3690 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental. 707.874.9034. --G.G.


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