Joan Didion, the trailblazing Sacramento-born writer who died a year ago, is getting her due in her hometown. Didion, 87, was one of her generation’s most celebrated writers. But except for a white mansion with a wrap-around front porch at 2000 22nd St., there are few visible signs she ever lived here.
The reasons aren’t clear. Sacramento has always been skittish about boasting on its celebrities, and a number of Didion fans believe she never cared for the place.
They point to comments made in her writing and elsewhere—“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento,” for instance—and how she couldn’t wait to flee after graduation from C.K. McClatchy High School in 1952.
But many ambitious young people feel constrained by their hometowns. There is ample evidence she cared deeply for the city and its surroundings.
When restaurant partners Chris Sinclair, Raphael Jimenez Rivera and Matt Brown created Bodega, they wanted an East Coast feel with Caribbean flair. It’s a taste of home they can share with their West Coast neighborhood.
“In New York and New Jersey you can get Puerto Rican food, Caribbean food almost everywhere,” Sinclair tells me. “It’s as common as tacos are out here on the West Coast.”
The neighborhood approves. The reception has been stellar since Bodega’s August opening. Diners come from around the corner and across the region to visit the Pocket shopping center where the restaurant sits.
Despite rave reviews, Sinclair thinks of Bodega as a humble neighborhood bar and family restaurant. “Two of the three owners live in the neighborhood, and all of us have kids,” he says. “We want neighbors to come out for a lively dinner, families to come over after the soccer game, and everything in between.”
Imagine a Sacramento where every few blocks community gardens flourish. Where we have access to the food bounty of our region. Where we can walk with our kids, parents or partners to harvest grapes, pomegranates, broccoli heads, mustard greens and basil tops.
In almost every neighborhood, a vacant and unimproved lot awaits cultivation. The ghosts of fig trees whisper potential.
You’ve probably driven by it countless times, a Spanish-style building shaded by trees along J Street between 52nd and 53rd streets. You’ve even stopped there at the traffic light on Rodeo Way.
An ornately painted sign identifies the building as A.W. McClaskey Adult Center. It was once El Dorado Elementary School. Today it houses various classes, several focused on adults with developmental disabilities.
When seismic regulations were ordered in the 1970s, the site was deemed too expensive to retrofit for kids but perfect for adults. In 1978, the building was repurposed as the A. Warren McClaskey Adult Center, named for a former Sacramento City Unified adult education director.
“Before legislation desecrated adult education, we used to have 10 apportionment areas,” says Susan Lytle Gilmore, principal at McClaskey since 1992.
Maia Evrigenis could not have known her battle with adolescent cancer would be universal, but that’s what happened when her fictional memoir “Neon Jane” was published by Koehler Books this past May.
“As a cancer survivor, I felt like I was living in a different body,” says the Arden Arcade resident, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 13. “Other people didn’t have bodies that made cancer cells. I felt weird and alone about being different, and that’s the part of the book people tell me they relate to the most. It’s given me the sense that my extremely personal experience is actually very universal.”