There's nothing like a short vacation to get you back on track. I've been up in Sacramento since the middle of last week doing nothing more important than wandering around residential neighborhoods, marveling at beautiful wood houses framed by old trees with fall leaves erupting in glorious hues of yellow, orange and red. I love Sacramento. it's a little city that wears a big heart on its sleeve.
It's not just Sacramento's tree lined residential streets that keeps me in love with the city. It's also the noise and excitement of state capital government and associated quirkiness. One of my lasting images of Sacramento is that of a well fed cat, perched on its haunches at the entrance to the State Senate. The cat has a well deserved reputation as a mouser and is a fixture around the statehouse. While Sacramento has the trappings of a cosmopolitan city, it's never lost its down home, work on the crops, then get them to market feel. The Capital cat is just one of several images that helps to keep everything real here.
Every time I visit Sacramento I feel like I've come home from a long trip. It's a great town in which to be a reporter, writer or artist.Wandering around "J" street I couldn't help but glance in the windows of art galleries and editorial offices nestled into brick buildings built to withstand the repeated ravages of floods and fires that shaped this city's architecture in the 19th century.
Lost in my vacation dreams, walking beside the rail road tracks that go past business buildings, art galleries and coffee houses, it's not hard to imagine being a young reporter here, living downtown and working at any of the several upscale publications that have established themselves in Sacto. If you exercise your mind as you walk a six block square pattern, it's very difficult not to imagine five or six story ideas you could pitch at an editorial budget meeting. Jack London or Ernest Hemingway would have found a lot of rich material here.
I also look at Sacramento with a fisherman's eye. The health of its two rivers-- the Sacramento and the American, is getting better every year and the state is doing a lot to encourage new generations of anglers to get a line wet in waters that are renown for producing consistent limits of fish that repeatedly snap leaders after stealing bait or hitting a flashy lure.
And speaking of fishing, the organizers of the Salmon Festival and the employees of the California Department of Fish and Game Nimbus hatchery deserve special mention for the annual Salmon Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of attendees every year to watch the first trickle of giant Chinook (King) Salmon jumping up the fish ladder on their one and only spawning runs. As a fisherman I really enjoy watching little kids crowding each other for vantage spots where they can see big hens and roosters resting before the begin their journey up the ladder. There was only a small trickle of fish this year but the full tide of the annual Fall run is pushing its way up the Sacramento now from San Francisco Bay and the frigid Pacific.
The high point of my short vacation was spending time with my godson and his parents in Rescue, CA. I took the boy out shooting for the first time, blasting away at innocent pumpkins, resting on a dirt ledge in wet forest compost. He went through about 200 rounds of ammo in my trusty single shot plinker before we cleaned up the area, packed the tarpaulin and headed back down US 50 to their house where my daughter, the Lovely Miss Amanda was waiting.
I haven't seen Amanda in a long time. She's 23 now and all grown up. I miss her a lot. It was a hoot to sit down and catch up on her life. She's working and going to school and I try hard to respect her privacy. It's a blast to see my daughter as a young adult. But the news the rocked my world was that she may be fast approaching a point where she's ready to begin writing about something that could be a good book. Amanda and I have talked about this before and I've tried not to be pushy.
Her sub-plot reminds me a little of John Krakauer's tale of death on Mount Everest. The back story is how obvious signs of a child's mistreatment can be lost in the hustle and flow of Silicon Valley. And how those signs could have been predictors of the brutal murder of two sisters, and their mother by a deranged father. Should my daughter, who was in her late teens when the signs first manifested themselves, have broken her promise of confidentiality? How did the system let my daughter's friend down at nearly every point where it should have intervened? How could a father slaughter two daughters in Silicon Valley, where houses start at one half million dollars, and where attendance at upscale private schools is seen as mandatory dream for teens moving up the social ladder?
If Amanda researches her book, she's in for a long ride. I think she's got a good idea for a book and I'm looking forward to reading what she writes.
Well, Amanda is off for a well deserved vacation in Italy and I've had my days off. I got the best coming home present any one could ever ask for last night at San Diego International Airport-- a little 11-pound Chihuahua frantically wagging his tail when he spied me walking out to the car. Crazy dog kisses. I'm home, back on my little mountaintop here in rural northern San Diego County. Jim Forbes10/15/2007.