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Now Playing: ‘Drunk in the woods’

David Bunker

News of the impending closure of Truckee’s movie theater reminded me of my time living in Spain.

Hold on, there’s a logical connection here, I promise.

Several years ago I was studying Spanish literature in the small town where Miguel de Cervantes was born. On lazy Sunday mornings I’d stroll down to the local convenience store and buy a Sunday paper to get my fill of Western European news.

An item that dominated the news and opinion pages, along with immigration from North Africa and an impending war in Iraq, was the possible outlaw of the botellon.

In Alcala de Henares, and across the downtown streets of Madrid, teenagers flocked to plazas carrying cheap red wine, liquor and beer. They sat in circles, talking, drinking cheap alcohol and smoking some type of pulverized Morrocan herb with a skunky smell.

Politicians and community leaders were up in arms, proposing all kind of regulations to outlaw the botellon, which often left the plazas littered with trash and the teens a little dazed and confused.

As the discussion was hashed out (no pun intended) in the opinion pages and among the local leaders, I always felt that everyone had completely missed the point.

At the root of the botellon problem in Spain was a youth disenfranchised, aimlessly searching for a way to connect with each other; perhaps bored in a social structure that, despite a wealth of cultural offerings for visitors and resident adults, offered them little.

So they drank 50-cent cartons of wine in cold, downtown plazas. It was what was left for them.

And the adults, of course, lamented about the state of the delinquent youth.

And, as out-of-touch leaders are apt to do, they totally failed to see the societal issue that prompted the botellon.

Which brings me to Truckee’s movie theater. (Told you there was a connection.)

Substitute an illegal backwoods campfire for a European plaza and you have Truckee’s own botellon.

It’s not hard to figure out why backwoods drinking has a certain appeal to local teens. How many kids are going to hang out downtown buying high-priced mountain furniture or searching for their dream estate in Martis Valley?

Even as Truckee’s populations swells, Truckee’s offerings to local families seem to be shrinking. Apart from a Putt Putt golf course that received approval from the planning commission last year, the kids seem to be left out in the cold.

Now, the owner of the building that houses the Martis Village Theater has every right to do whatever he wants to do with his property. But as growth in the area continues to attract a predominantly second-home resident, and services in the area begin to reflect that growing market, Truckee seems to be in danger of losing itself. Or at the very least, losing entertainment options for its youth.

Sure, some of the trends seem irreversible. The rich and retired may never stop coming to Truckee. But the dangers of letting the wealthy majority who come here a few times a year mold the services in town are very real.

Truckee has opportunities ahead that could change things. The Railyard, Hilltop and a few other developments have the potential to offer something to local kids. A state-of-the-art movie theater sounds like a good idea.

A local spot for teens may not rake in thousands of dollars in monthly rent, but it could have a much more profound effect on the future of Truckee’s teens.

Or else those backwoods campfires may start getting really crowded.


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