To grasp the obvious
Went to the City for a newspaper conference last weekend. I’m a little jaded about such things. I usually have a good time, drinking with kindred spirits, eating in idiosyncratic restaurants—you know, conferencing—but often the subject matter is geared toward issues that are different than mine.
This time, I more or less behaved myself, stayed out of the bars, early to bed; I spent most of my time pumping people who’ve been in my situation for information. On Saturday night, though, I did have a little fun. I went for a ride on one of those fake trolleys with the wooden seats and wheels. It was the first time I’ve ever cruised the City without a destination—usually I have to drive or copilot or whatever. I got to see a lot of interesting things. I saw a couple of punks jump a guy and kick the hell out of him. I got to check out all the cool architecture. I really got to examine the streets of San Francisco.
I had a bit of a revelation on my return. I had a moment during which I saw my city as a stranger would see it. I was driving east on I-80, just past Wells Avenue. For just a moment, I saw the lack of urban density. I saw the plain cement highway structures. I saw the buildings without facades. For just a moment, I saw a cowtown.
I’ve often wondered why it seems that visitors don’t perceive Reno the way I do. For just a moment Sunday, though, I knew. It’s saddening, really. If a second had been spent 20 or 30 years ago planning for the city to come, paying attention to details like patterns on bridges and soundwalls, Reno wouldn’t have such a struggle remaking its image. I wonder if it’s too late.