Saving Sactown

Being temporarily back in my hometown, Sacramento, California, for this world historic event, is poetic and poignant, as well as practical and personally perfect. (Forgive me the alliteration, I just woke up. Tourette’s?) Particularly to be living on the edge of downtown, homeless all around us, the daily struggle clear as day, and with friends who not only took me in in my hour of need, but have inspired me…

It’s just so good.

But beyond that, this situation, along with my desire to play my music, to have sold out two shows and then to have had to move them to the Internet, thus reaching out to friends all over the world…it’s just so amazing. Then, to be blogging again – the last time I blogged in Sacramento, about Sacramento, it led me to my last real job, editor-in-chief of the now-defunct SacramentoPress.com – has brought me full circle. (If this was a movie, I’d fall in love and then die tragically. Knock wood!!)

So, I’m profoundly happy and satisfied right now. Scared, too, and well aware that much of the world is suffering. I see it all around me, and the news – which I limit – is depressing. I went to bed in a funk last night. But I am focusing on what I can do something about. Think globally, act locally…still true!

So now I find myself once again concerned with my hometown, as I was when I launched bloggingthegrid.com, in which I chronicled the wild growth of downtown and Midtown Sacramento, the collapse of my professional alma mater, The Sacramento Bee, and the first real bloom of Sacramento as something this native never thought it would be: a cool place.

I was here to chronicle the Great Recession, but lived in New York City and then was traveling during the post-recession boom that brought lots of new restaurants and cafes to Sacramento, but forced many of my musician and artist friends to the periphery. Ah, progress.

Now comes COVID-19, another widespread disaster, perhaps even worse than a decade ago, especially for businesses in the Grid (the core between the freeways and the rivers). The Bee‘s parent company is not just shedding workers, but is in bankruptcy court (and my tiny pension is on the line). And I’m back in Sac.

Downtown, always quiet after the state workers went home, is once again silent and empty. Most businesses are closed, the new area around the Golden 1 Center (which, for the record, I like, with a couple of reservations, well done Sactown!) is quiet, and all has been returned to the homeless and the skaters, like the old days.

Midtown, what most suburban locals think of as “downtown,” with its shops and cafes and restaurants and co-working spaces and overeating parking meters, still sees a few people out and about. But things are quiet, and businesses are either closed or shifting their approach in order to stay open. Small businesses need to be open; closed, they shrivel and die.

This is where we come in: My friends here at Giggle and Riot Headquarters on North C Street (I live in the attic) are retooling their business, and they’re doing it with creativity and energy, amazing resourcefulness and most of all, an eye on responding to Sacramento’s hour of need. And I’m helping where I can, writing and editing copy and helping with the pictures.

Giggle and Riot are creating interactive, crafty games for families at home to play, a scavenger hunt to draw people out of their homes (Netflix and Amazon can’t be the only businesses to attract customers now!) and what they’re calling a Curbside Crawl to draw people to the local businesses that are taking orders online and then delivering them curbside. Giggle and Riot will be providing lists of those businesses, as well as some places you can go and enjoy while social distancing.

Their new website, which goes live today, is where you can find out about their new company, Giggle and Riot Fun.

It’s kinda genius. It’s convenient for their customers, who they miss – and need – and it’s good for their fellow Sacramento businesses. I’m offering this insight as a) help to my friends, b) help to Sacramento businesses, and c) as INSPIRATION for individuals and businesses, for all of us, who are going to have to learn to work and play in new ways. I know it’s inspiring me! I’m actually starting to book more writing business myself, based on the new, online needs of businesses that are being forced to reinvent themselves on the fly.

These are darkening times, which means they’re going to get darker. We need to be careful, yes; but we need to be creative, too. And people are, right here in River City, and you can be a part of that, by supporting creative solutions of local businesses, and by supporting artists who are adjusting their creative output as well (put obvious self-serving disclaimer here). I will write about a project for local musicians that I’m working on soon.

Watch webcasts, yes, but get out in public – it’s still out there. I for one love my attic space, but I’d go nuts without the American River Parkway. You can go to Midtown, downtown, and Oak Park, you can still be a part of Sacramento’s vibrant public life. You just need to do it in creative ways, like all creative people are.

Please don’t misunderstand: I get it. Staying home is still good advice, generally speaking; limiting your social contacts is essential; and in-person social distancing is a must, and may remain so longer than we’d like to imagine. Be socially-responsible. Wear a mask, whatever you’ve heard about that.

But until the authorities lock us in our houses, going for runs, walks and bike rides is also a socially-responsible thing to do. You need exercise, now more than ever. And succumbing to fear is a lousy way to live your life.

Unless you have a year’s worth of pheasant and deer meat in your Subzero, sufficient toilet paper to TP the White House, and basta dried pasta to sink a gondola, you’re going to need to go to the store. You’re going to need to go out.

The virus is not everywhere. The virus is not actively hunting you down like the zombies it is most frequently compared to. The virus does not have your name written on it. Most of us are going to live through this, and life will go on. If you observe the most basic rules (wash hands, don’t touch face, keep a safe distance), you’ll be fine.

But Sacramento needs you. If and when you go out, please think about continuing to patronize the LOCAL businesses you always have, and in the course of your day, give central Sacramento some love. She needs you.

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Thank you for checking out my blog - it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I am working on projects regarding music history, Japanese culture and my songwriting.

- A week-by-week music history website, music1967.com
- An upcoming book on Japanese culture, Japan from Anime to Zen
- A YouTube channel, featuring random songs and thoughts for the pandemic
- Original music on Spotify, with links to Patreon and Amazon 

David Watts Barton

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