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When we awoke in Nevada, I was chastened, it is true, stripped of pride. “Turn around, you too are mortal.” We packed the Acura, and crossed the border. As the sun hit the lake, it could not have been more beautiful.
Sacramento suffers from ill placement. Located anywhere else in the country, it would be celebrated as a hip and accessible city. Instead, it is forgotten between Tahoe and San Francisco, or even degraded, by people who focus myopically on its more prominent bookends.
The Central Valley is very strange. But for the titanic dam projects through which the U.S. Government tamed western rivers streaming down from the Rockies and Sierras, it would remain an arid desert. Now it produces most of the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Sacramento is green, unnaturally so. Trees bearing plump oranges swell by the roadside. Palm trees loom over the houses and surround the capitol building. All of it is wrong. It should not be. It has no right to. Yet irrigation and F.D.R. and the Bureau of Reclamation made it so.
We greeted our friends with the greatest of gifts – novelty t-shirts from Moab, Utah! Shane’s bore a wolf, in native design, howling at a moon. There was even an abstract cactus. Colin’s depicted the excessively phallic Balanced Rock from Arches National Park. Beneath the pink-colored erect stone monument bore the memorable slogan: “The Magic of Moab.” Emily and I wore throwback 80s t-shirts, advertising the names of Moab and Canyonlands.
Colin decided to wear his to the bar. He donned his tweed irish flat cap (we had purchased it in the old-west-style Old Sacramento tourist district on my last visit). Feeling saucy, he approached the barkeep: “I’ll have a pint of your finest ale!”
The bartender regarded him for a beat. He glared at his hat. “We have many fine ales.” He looked at Shane. “What are you doing with this crowd?” (apparently we looked just as disreputable.) “Is that a penis on your shirt?”
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