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I Can’t Breathe

It was in March when I saw the Facebook meme, “I would like to exercise the 90-day return provision on the Year 2020.”

As more than one person has observed, 2020 has proven to be the conflated sum of cataclysmic elements from the 1918 flu pandemic, the financial crisis of 1929 and the social seismicity of 1968.

People Power

Katie Valenzuela won’t join the City Council until December. But she is already learning how she won’t fit in. Steve Hansen, the two-term councilmember Valenzuela defeated in March, won’t speak to her. Other members smile and offer congratulations, but the words carry little weight.

At first, this bothered Valenzuela. “I was pretty depressed when the pandemic started,” she says. Sheltered in her Boulevard Park home with her two rescue terriers, socially distanced from work and friends, months from being sworn into office, Valenzuela felt disconnected from the motivations that propelled her run for office.

Farm Fresh

Locking onto a snail with laser-guidance precision, Randy Paragary delivers a lightning strike on the gluttonous gastropod. “He died during the journey,” he says. With apologies to escargot, snails would be wise to steer clear of this backyard vegetable garden.

Paragary, his wife Stacy and executive chef-business partner Kurt Spataro have kept Sacramentans well fed and entertained for decades. While retaining his local dining and entertainment venues, Paragary has evolved his interests in recent years to include Midtown’s new Fort Sutter Hotel and (drumroll, please) his backyard tomatoes and other edibles.

Sacramento’s Fairy Godmother

Giving back has been the driving force of Dr. Barbara Arnold’s life. The celebrated ophthalmologist has generously donated her time, money and wisdom for decades—which she believes is the key to a life well lived.

“If you do big things young enough in life, you get to see the ripple effect as you get older,” says Arnold, who lives in Curtis Park, but also has an art studio off Scribner Road along the Sacramento River, where she paints the natural beauty out her window. “That’s why I encourage younger people to participate (in philanthropy). Do it within your vibrant lifetime to witness what your giving has done.”

Off The Streets

Salvador Bradford takes pride in keeping his studio apartment tidy. His converted hotel room has around 250 square feet for a bathroom, stove and mini-fridge.

There is space for the trappings of a home: a shelf of Star Wars and Star Trek DVDs, and a small shrine to Jesus Christ, to whom Bradford credits his past five years of sobriety.

Voices Heard

Inside Sacramento is looking for a few good community journalists. But not just from any community. We are interested in writers from neighborhoods that historically don’t get much attention from traditional media—unless the news is bad.

We want to see Sacramento’s underserved communities from a different, deeper, more personal perspective. This means we want stories by and about people who really know the neighborhoods.

Dining

Food For The Soul

Food For The Soul

As I write this, Sacramento County has just reordered all indoor dining to shutter. The brief window of opportunity to visit a restaurant has closed after restaurant owners were put in a literally impossible situation of making diners feel safe, and still have their restaurants be the convivial gathering places they were pre-COVID. Too many of us expected bar and restaurant owners to enforce rules they were just coming to terms with and fully understanding.

But, thankfully, for those of us who cannot cook water without burning it, or those of us who cook competently but enjoy a restaurant meal now and again, or even those that cherish the opportunity to cook for our loved ones and yet equally admire the skill and talent that go into a truly professionally prepared dinner, we still have takeout.

Closures Make Diners Savor Every Bite

Closures Make Diners Savor Every Bite

I’m writing this piece during the heartrending events of late May/early June that have seen a tragic death in Minnesota ignite a storm of outrage that led to peaceful protests nationwide, that led to violent actions blocks from where I write these words. The circling helicopters I can hear are a constant reminder of the fractures of our society, our unmet duties to our neighbors and the love we fail to hold in our hearts for our brothers and sisters.

All that is to say, if this piece seems more fatalistic than normal, you’ll know why. And fatalistic it will be, for this piece is about those restaurants, those community gathering places we have lost. But, not to be too dour, this is also a reminder to treasure those eateries, those centers of community that are still here and make Sacramento one of the most vibrant eating cities in the country.

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

First thing you should know, I’m writing this in early May. Restaurants have not reopened for on-site dining. Life has not returned to anything resembling normal. And, from this point of view, a few weeks behind your current perspective, it doesn’t look like we’ll be gathering in large crowds anywhere anytime soon.

My friends in the restaurant industry have been hit harder than almost any other group during the pandemic. The well-loved institutions that have stayed open by offering take-out and delivery have done so with skeleton crews and shoestring budgets.

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