Shine on, you crazy torch

Carson City artist Carol Foldvary Anderson recently sent me some of her calligraphy on small rectangles of paper. One says: “Inspiration is holding on to a goal and not letting go.”

Maybe inspiration was what we sought Monday under the Reno arch on North Virginia Street, where folks gathered to greet the arrival of the Olympic torch in downtown Reno.

“Wanna go see the torch?” I asked co-workers.

“It’s windy,” staff writer Carli Cutchin noted. “Can’t they postpone it or something?”

By myself, I fought my way up the Seventh Street wind tunnel and on to North Virginia, where tall buildings broke the breeze.

A woman approached me. “Do you have a dollar? My friend and I need to catch a bus.” I gave her a dollar. While walking away, I heard her say to her boyfriend: “Now we only need one more dollar.” I wondered why she hadn’t asked for $2.

Then, a plastic bag floated past, reminding me of that unforgettable scene in the movie American Beauty. The bag rode on the wind like a kite, up past the Eldorado sign. It disappeared above the tallest hotel tower. Looking back down, I saw a street littered with flying bits of tumbleweed, McDonald’s cups, papers.

Under the arch, the choir from Elizabeth Lenz Elementary School sang songs about love and peace and unity, interrupted only by the loud arrival of an Amtrak train a block away. When it was time for more students to walk through with 160 flags from countries participating in the globally unifying sports event, emcee Renee Phillips, a Channel 4 anchor, couldn’t seem to locate the youths or the flags.

“I don’t see the flags,” she said. “I see an American flag. And that’s good enough, right?”

Vice Mayor Dave Rigdon talked about Greek history—torchbearers were originally seen as “heralders of peace.”

“There’s no better time for our country to spread the message of peace throughout the world,” Rigdon said.

A representative of one of the Olympics’ major corporate sponsors, Coke, gave away pins while I counted the 11 burned-out bulbs on the underside of the arch. Coke and Chevy logos were everywhere—on the stage, on shirts, printed on plastic flags.

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light…” a voice boomed over the loudspeaker.

The Spanish Springs High School choir took the stage and sang “Carry the Flame” as the kids with 160 flags finally arrived. Then, running up the street, came Jessica Young, torch in hand. Young was nominated to be a torchbearer after she donated a kidney to her sister in April. She took the mic and spoke simply, honestly about being moved with love for her family, her community and her world.

Her three-pound torch ignited a huge kettle of flame, from a fire that’s moved across our nation, kindling something hard to describe. Something not entirely eclipsed by corporate logos.

One of Carol’s notes came to mind as I watched a new bearer of the torch continue north toward the University of Nevada, Reno:

"Inspiration is taking an idea and running with it."