EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Just a country boy
When I was younger, growing up down in the foothills of Grass Valley and Nevada City, the pinnacle of worldly sophistication to me seemed to be Woody Allen movies.
You know – Annie Hall, Radio Days, Hannah And Her Sisters, Manhattan – the ones that feature New York City as an integral character in the story, as a shifting, breathing vital monolith like no other place on earth. Where you’d meet quirky women like Annie Hall and talk about foreign films and everyone was Jewish and interesting.
As a starry-eyed adolescent, my dream was to move off to that island of skyscrapers and become a world-famous writer. I clung a bit to that dream for years.
Yet now I realize and embrace my destiny – to be good ol’ country folk. Not some shotgun-totin’ tobacco-chewin’ redneck, mind you – but a person who loves and admires what the country has to offer and could hardly imagine living anywhere else.
I have lived a few months in the big cities – even spent a summer in New York in the heart of Manhattan, working for a magazine and living my Woody Allen life
It was great in some ways; the endless curiosities of Greenwich Village, the churning suit-and-heels blur of the weekday commute crowds on the subway, the never-ending street symphony of honks and vrooms and sirens that lulled me off to sleep each night.
But at the end of a month or so of Manhattan maelstrom, I would long for trees – for a quiet acre and the silence of leaves rustling.
Driving down to San Francisco in the dark on a past weekend, there was never a moment when there wasn’t some light, some neon in the distance. Mile after mile of urban sprawl has bled forth from the Bay Area – endless In -N-Out Burgers, Wal-Marts and Chevrons.
The City itself still raises an electric charge out of me, crossing the bridge to the sea of lights and forest of buildings. It’s the infernal add-ons we’ve built sweeping out from its edges that get me, that take away a bit from the startling glamour San Francisco once presented 10, even 20 years ago, when you crossed the bridge and found a grand magic city there. But now, you must first motor through miles of ugly sprawl without even a hint of the dignity that Manhattan or San Francisco can still offer even a woods lover like me.
I would take a tree over a Target, a pile of clayey dust and pine needles over a strip mall, and a galaxy of starlight for all the neon in the whole wide urban sprawl of the outside world.
And a cabin in the woods, finer than any fifth-floor rent controlled condo on earth.
You can’t quite get away from it all these days – the stupid pointless car alarms are honking away in the pines, the cell-phone affectations of the city folk are always there to remind us that the Bay is reaching outwards and upwards.
I still love Woody Allen’s films, long after his moment in the cultural zeitgeist has come and gone, but I guess I watch them with the eye of a tourist now – not through the eyes of a hopeful immigrant.
Sierra Sun Editor Nik Dirga grew up in Nevada County.
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