(c) Nick EliotWhat happened to your accent? I mean, I know you live in California, but you supposedly grew up in Alabama. So, what gives? Did you lose your accent on purpose?

1) It wasn’t on purpose.

2) You haven’t heard me talk about beer yet. When I talk about beer, my accent totally comes back. Also, when I hear other Southerners talk. Once, I watched an entire season of Friday Night Lights in one weekend, and by Monday I sounded like I’d just come from revival.

FINAL coverPrologue

Tell me a story, he said.

So I told him about my first morning in San Francisco. It was July, summer in the city, foggy and cold. I was tired and jet-lagged and had yet to unpack, but I wanted to see the famous California coast. I took a bus over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, where I boarded a shuttle to Point Reyes.

Alone, I wandered along the cliffs in the freezing fog, out to the lighthouse. I stood gazing at the roaring Pacific, a crazy-looking ocean, infinitely more dangerous and dramatic than the Gulf Coast waters I knew so well. On a small hill above a meadow, I followed a picket fence for several hundred yards, curious where it led. And then, without warning, the fence abruptly ended. A narrow ditch split the ground in two; on the other side, the fence continued on its way.