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Alive and well in a ‘bat’s nest of wackodom’

I live in Nevada City. Think about it. That’s a profound statement, much more profound than saying something like “I live in Coalinga.” For one thing, no one ever asks, “Where in Nevada is Coalinga?”

I have friends who live on Idaho-Maryland Road, Nevada City, California. Their mail comes via Boise and Baltimore, as well as Elko and Elk Grove. Coalinga’s mail comes via Bakersfield every time (except when misrouted to Illinois). Next time you complain about mail service, consider the postally challenged folks on Idaho-Maryland.

One right-wing fellow declares that Nevada City is a “rat’s nest of wackodom.” As a resident rodent, I decided to test that claim. I figure if we fit his perception of wackos, we probably have a lot of organic gardens, ponytails, Bolsheviks and beatniks. There’s probably at least one restaurant that has twigs and bark on the menu. We have coffee shops but no truck stops. That alone might arouse suspicion.



I didn’t have to go far to find an organic garden. There’s one right in my backyard. It’s small, but it’s there. It’s so organic, our cat thinks it’s Cat Disneyland.

I drove my historical car (over 200,000 miles recorded) down to the historical district of historic Nevada City and parked on historic Broad Street. The trick is not only to find a spot on Broad, but also to find one with time remaining on the meter. It isn’t always difficult, because you can park for three dog-years for a nickel (how long is a cat-year?). In Nevada City, time is not only history, time is money – but not much.




Right off the bat, I ran into two guys with ponytails. They didn’t look or act wacky to me. One of the two said he is a compassionate conservative, whatever that is. I have nothing against people with ponytails. Being hirsutically deprived, I’ve thought about growing one as a compensatory measure. That urge is exceeded only by my aversion to looking like a 1951 Pontiac hood ornament.

Neither Bolsheviks nor beatniks were present at Java John’s. There was a couple from Irvine, but nobody looked or acted like V.I. Lenin or Jack Kerouac. There’s a distinct aura of capitalism about the place. I did meet a couple who are members of the Green Party, and after we agreed, for different reasons, that we shouldn’t drill in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, they got into their SUV and left.

They must be Theoretical Greens. By comparison, I must be a bomb-throwing anarchist, because my historical car gets 30 mpg. From the looks of the farm bill and some other things coming out of Washington and Sacramento, there appears to be no shortage of Theoretical Democrats and Theoretical Republicans, either.

Crossing Broad Street, there was a guy in a swimsuit, cowboy boots and a cape (I’m not making this up). Looked fairly normal to me. His dress wasn’t any more bizarre than my granddaughter’s preferred summer attire of underpants, tennis shoes and second-chance bib. At first I thought he was headed for the Magic Cauldron, but it’s closed. No matter, I get all my ritual supplies at Sierra Presbyterian Church. Most likely, Cape Dude was on his way to a meeting of the Planning Commission.

The needle on the wackometer sprang to life on Boulder and Nile streets. We should rename them “No Maintenance, All of the Time Street” and “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here Avenue.” If we ever figure out what kind of non-historical window dressing to put in the Miners Foundry’s historically drafty windows, maybe we could get around to fixing a few potholes, historical or otherwise. The streets in Coalinga are maintained on a regular basis with no dilution of historical charm.

I’m running out of space, and I have to go out and ensure that my garage meets this week’s specifications. In Nevada City, we’ve implemented garage control measures.

Some people call Nevada City the Santa Cruz of the foothills. Others call it the Beverly Hills of the foothills. I don’t think it’s either; I hope it becomes neither. Otherwise, I’ll have to say things like, “I’m from Santa Cruz North.” What’s profound about that?

Nate Beason lives in Nevada City. He writes a monthly column.


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