When I was 12 and delivering the Sacramento Union on my early-morning route in South Land Park, I’d flag down the Crystal Creamery truck, hand the driver a quarter and receive my treasure: a pint of chocolate milk.
I’d chug it down in the crisp predawn air and think I was the luckiest kid in the world. And, for a week or two each spring, I’d skid my trusty Schwinn to a stop and desperately try to scoop up and save from a squishy demise baby toads that were emerging by the thousands from a nearby canal, all hopping madly about. A car would come by and splat! – graphically demonstrating the futility of it all. I’d limp home, defeated.
Milk trucks, the Union and, sadly, those toads are long gone, but one thing remains: my deep affection for this town.
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It’s not just a town, though – it’s a place. A wonderful mindset. There’s nowhere like Sacramento, and I’ve been lucky to live here almost exclusively since 1963. It’s safe to say I’m part of it. It’s definitely part of me.
However, I’ve grown increasingly dismayed at being dismissed, along with others of my generation, simply as a fusty stick-in-the-mud who jerks a knee whenever change around town is promoted.
Periodically that portrait is painted by a local columnist; other times, it’s conveyed, implicitly if not outright, by those whose prominence affords them an outsized soapbox, from which they promulgate the notion that – horrors! – Sacramento isn’t “world class” or suffers from some insidious “inferiority complex” while simultaneously casting dissenters as cranky, out-of-step old-timers who think all development should’ve ceased after Mr. Sutter constructed his residence. (But I will say: those guard towers? Tacky.)
Naturally, the proffered solution is something bigger and bolder and typically involves huge, shiny projects that will arguably boost civic self-esteem – while assuredly ballooning boosters’ bankbooks.
Honestly, I doubt that we longtime Sacramentans tag an idea suspect because we’re bitter or anti-growth. It’s likelier we tag an idea suspect because, well, it’s suspect.
Some proposals are substance-less. I’m not saying they don’t matter; they just have no real impact on residents’ lives. It’s been interesting, for example, watching the impassioned-if-inconsequential debate over the water tower logo or whether to illuminate the Tower Bridge to resemble a tie-dye T-shirt at a Grateful Dead concert. (OK, now I am dating myself.) The latter especially fascinates, considering the span’s current hue has always reminded me of baby poop. But maybe that’s just me. (Well, and billions of babies.)
It’s all pretty funny. And pretty healthy. For discussion is good.
But – labeling and shushing? Not so much, particularly when the matter carries significant communitywide ramifications.
For instance, it would’ve been nice had all Sacramentans, including, yes, even we oldsters, been able to opine via the ballot box on the wisdom of spending a quarter-billion dollars to build the Golden 1 Glitterdome.
I’m only asking that our views and concerns not be devalued simply because we’re OGs (original geezers). We’re all in this together and, especially given the insanity now in D.C., we Sacramentans need each other like never before. So, how ’bout giving us longtimers a listen, too? I promise to turn up my hearing aid. (Both, even!) Feel free to dismiss me the moment I’m as dead as one of those long-ago, flattened amphibians.
But until then? I’m still hoppin’. I’d just prefer not to be hoppin’ mad.
Mark Drolette, a freelance writer and longtime Sacramentan, is not a crusty old guy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.