Bernadette Garcia: Hospitality and a serenade in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Bernadette Garcia: Hospitality and a serenade in Nevada City

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Bernadette Garcia

I am not a local.

Although I was born in Los Angeles, raised in Pasadena, and still consider myself a "California girl," most of my adult life has been spent in other places: Paris; Florida, New Hampshire, and for the largest portion, Reno, Nevada, which I currently call home.

The first time I visited Nevada City was sometime in the '90s, before widespread internet. The only magazine to which I subscribed, "National Geographic Traveler," had a tiny blurb about the town so I dragged a friend out for a day trip and fell in love with the history, the architecture, a little coffee shop that no longer exists and the stunning vistas of the foothills.

Much as I loved this gem of a place, I did not return until four years ago, when, in a serendipitous moment, another friend told me that a theater company "somewhere near" Reno was holding auditions for "Miss Saigon." Years before, I had auditioned for the first national tour, hence it was always a dream of mine to do it. I searched for the audition notice online and discovered the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra, or CATS, as they are more easily known. And on a whim, I decided to audition.

And what I rediscovered ... is that just about every person I met has been kind, welcoming and generous.

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That whim brought me back to this charming Gold Rush country for what amounted to about a month in total. I enjoyed the beautiful area comprising Nevada City, Grass Valley and the surrounding neighborhoods. Best of all, I made some wonderful friends and acquaintances while performing in "Miss Saigon." The people here were really what touched my heart.

It took me a while, but I finally returned to Nevada City to perform in CATS' recent production, "South Pacific." My perspective was a little different this time around and I had lost touch with some of the friends I made during my last visit, although I would be happy to reconnect with them. I decided to make more of an effort to see what I could, play tourist, talk to everyone I encountered.

I signed up to take Zumba at a gym on Cedar Ridge. I have tried to eat at as many different restaurants as I could. I took the guided wildflower hike at Buttermilk Bend. I gloried in the tulips at Ananda Village. I saw a movie at the Del Oro. I have walked up and down Broad Street so many times that I could practically walk it blind-folded. I can now give great recommendations to visitors! I wanted to ride the narrow-gauge train. I learned the staircase shortcut by the Red Castle.

And what I rediscovered, other than the fact that everybody seems to know everybody here, is that just about every person I met has been kind, welcoming and generous. When people hear that I'm a visiting artist from Reno, I can think of about a dozen offers of lodging or invitations to dinner I received — almost immediately upon meeting me. As a city girl, it has been a pleasant surprise to find that this type of friendly trust still exists.

In closing, I would like to give a heartfelt "thank you" to all the lovely people I have met here: from the good folks who have given me lodging to the ladies at Zumba who were so excited to see the show. From the new friends I've made to the patrons at the restaurant who serenaded me with "Bloody Mary" when they saw me walk past (sorry if I seemed overwhelmed — you took me by complete surprise!).

But I am especially grateful to CATS for inviting me back and making it possible for me to perform in the gorgeous Nevada Theatre again with an extraordinary cast and crew.

Nevada City, your hospitality has been grand. I am not a local; however, I feel like an honorary local now. For you true locals, know that you have something special here.

Bernadette Garcia lives in Reno. She wishes that she could stay here longer, but has yet to win the lottery. Please feel free to serenade her if you see her. She promises she won't run away next time.

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