Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deserted on the Sacramento River

I am a wanderer. And a photographer. Sometimes i ask myself, am i simply wandering and the camera is just a happy passenger capturing moments along the way? Or does some image in my mind make me wander – looking to give shape to the emotions in my soul?  Either way, the other day i found myself rambling along a lonesome stretch on the banks of the Sacramento River. And as serendipity would have it, i stumbled across an old lost soul – a broken-down riverboat listing hard to starboard.

In fact, she was sunk in silt and water past her starboard rail and the water rippled softly across the main deck all the way to her port deck guards. She was an eerie sight. Doorways opened into darkness where imagined ghosts of men wandered. It sounds cliche, but the sight made me shiver and i couldn't stem the flow of questions. What was her name? Why did she sink? Who had abandoned her to this fate?  

And then, standing there on the banks of the River with the sun setting low, i imagined how haunting and magnificent she would be in the moaning winds of Autumn with swaying lanterns hanging from the upper decks and pilothouse. I would sit inside the dark doorways and watch as people stopped to whisper and wonder. Yeah. I’ve got a bit of deviousness in me – for some reason that makes me smile.

The image of that lonesome hulk stuck with me and when i came home i sat at my computer trying to find who she was, who had she belonged to…and…i found nothing. Zip. Nada. I called the Sacramento Yacht Club, which is just down river, and spoke to a very nice lady. She didn’t know anything about it either though she did say it was supposed to be moved. You know, for all the history surrounding Sacramento, i’ve come to realize that the history dwells on one thing and one thing only. Gold. If you want to know about panning, mining, or claim jumping during the mid 1800’s, there’s a plethora of material available from museums, books, to online sites devoted strictly to the gold era that California is so well-known. The history of the railway gets a nice second billing. (And if you haven’t been to the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sac, you should set aside a Saturday to view some of the best train restorations possibly anywhere in the country.)

However, Sacramento is also known as a port city. Really? Does anyone out there know the stories of the ships and sailors who sailed to this port? Sacramento was founded because it was a port. So where’s our maritime history?  Where's our museum? San Francisco? That’s the closest one i could find. There are teasing bits of info on the web, but nothing that constitutes a real collaborative collection of maritime history for a city who’s named after the River. Amazingly enough, the best local info i have found is at the aforementioned museum, the California State Railroad Museum. They have some fine B&W prints, mainly from the early 1900’s, depicting maritime traffic on the river. Yet there is so much more to discover.

I am now intrigued to the point of making phone calls - which i loath above all things.  I want to know about these ghosts of the past.  The ships.  The men who sailed them.  The tall tales of the sea and rivers.  Is there anyone out there that has some knowledge of the nautical history of the area? Who knows about this haunting ship that lies rotting on the banks of the Sacramento River – what is her story?

Other References:
1. A brief history of Sacramento,,_California

2. A history of San Joaquin Delta,
3. Historic Old Sacramento Foundation run by the City,
4. An excellent site devoted to maritime history in San Francisco Bay area which also includes lists of ships that sailed to Sacramento,
5. Recent (‘09) discovery of a sunken ship, the Clarksburg, in the Sacramento River,

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Free Stuff at The Fountains

Whoo-hoo! Fourth of July fireworks and concerts in the park. Yup – it’s summer all right! I love the laid-back atmosphere of summer concerts. A warm breeze, a cold beer, and groovy tunes. Ahhhh… Many SAC folks know about Cesar Chavez Park and the Friday Night Concerts (for a list of concerts at CCP click here), but there are a number of other free concert series that run all summer long throughout the valley. One i attended recently was at The Fountains in Roseville.

The Fountains shopping and dining center are still relatively new yet i have avoided it like the plague because – well – there are a lot of exclusive shops there. By exclusive i mean shops i can’t afford. But the lure of free music brought me around and i found my feet wandering into the center late one Saturday evening.

And i’m sorry now that i let my prejudice keep me away; i was snooty about being snooty. Prejudice = missing out on cool stuff. Even if you don’t shop or take advantage of the restaurants, it’s a beautiful place to just wander around. The landscaping – yeah i’m a geek and notice things like that – is beautiful and well-maintained. There is even a large fire pit – which i am certainly going to dig come Autumn. And two things that i’m always looking for in a center and usually don’t find – trash cans and lots of whimsical seating areas.
OK – snicker if you want – but i was happy to not have to wander all over for a trash can to toss my empty water bottle. And the hits don’t stop coming – The Fountains also have a train car ride for the kids. It’s rather cute. My friends tried to talk me into riding it, but i opted out. Hard to believe, i know. But there were other things that had caught my attention…

Yes, the crowning glory of the center – the fountains. Splashing, sparkling, bubbling, lusciously wet fountains. While there are several water features on the property, the central fountain is the most interesting and fun. So maybe it doesn’t rank up there with the Bellagio in Vegas, but it certainly has its own charm.

My first impression made me think of a fountain floating in the clouds. Along with the multiple water jets, colored lights, and music, the fountain boasts a huge set of very fine misters along the inner lip of the pool. It’s a beautiful and welcoming sight – people are drawn into the cooling mists like magic. Advertisers all across the world wish they could get that kind of publicity – the ability to draw in every person without garish signs, promotions, or the Internet. About the only thing that would get more attention are the words “free” followed by the words “chocolate” or “sex.”

But for me, all the above is bonus material; the real reason i came was for the music. On July 3rd i caught the show for Sacramento Blues Revue and was lucky enough to get a front seat. What a blast! A fine line-up of talent – from vocalists to the horn section and lead by Rick von Geldern – energized the crowd. People clapped, whooped, and sang along. It was a fantastic way to start the Fourth weekend.

The following week another blues band hit the stage – Pinkie and Blind Resistance. The name alone piqued my curiosity so i met some friends early and we got a front row seat. We weren’t disappointed. This band plays some wicked blues. I loved their raw and soulful sound. And the harmonica player – wow! Trust me, you’d just have to see and hear this guy to believe it. Words won’t suffice. Pinkie Rideau, their illustrious leader, was as down-home and genuine as they come – and you got it – she loves pink. The band wowed the crowd; people were dancing in the aisles and rocking in their chairs.

Now i’ve only had the good fortune to see these two bands – but if this is any example of what’s in store for the rest of the summer then i’m going to be one happy chica until the tunes stop flowing. Oh happy summer!