Ghost world

Ghosts surround us.

While we travel through city streets and old buildings anchored in the present moment, sometimes specters from the past flicker by. And even if we take a nonparanormal tack at looking at the space we inhabit, it isn’t hard to imagine countless overlays—the people, many of them long dead now, who moved about in the minutes, hours and days to weeks, months, years and decades—in any given space. Where did they go?

And while there are some constants, like the revived Jim-Denny’s luncheonette on 12th Street (although the late Jim Van Nort no longer flips burgers and chides the counter ladies there), most of downtown Sacramento—like everywhere else—is in a constant state of flux.

Art galleries seem to be among the more ephemeral locations. Riding down 12th street below Jim-Denny’s, you pass the former location of the Exploding Head Gallery on the right. Over on K Street (walk your bike there, don’t ride), the K Street Gallery is empty, with a scrawled note posted in the window stating that it moved up K Street to Midtown. Across the street, the former Toyroom Gallery location is empty, with a “For Lease” sign in the window.

Around the corner, on 10th Street, the former Levinson’s Books spot is now occupied by Temple Fine Coffee and Tea; across the alley and upstairs was the Himovitz/Solomon Gallery, before it moved out to the Del Paso corridor. “Mr. Levinson still comes in here sometimes,” said Sean Kohmescher, Temple’s proprietor.

Outside, toward the Citizen Hotel taking shape on the corner of 10th and J streets, construction workers were taking down the chain-link fences that walled off the soon-open ground-floor bar and restaurant, Grange, from the street. Between Grange and Temple, a door in a wall at 1010 1/2 10th Street marks the Golden Hotel upstairs; earlier, two men in front of the door discussed finding gilded opportunities in an economic debacle.

“They payin’ $42 to stand out in front of Mervyn’s holdin’ a sign fo’ six hours,” the clean-cut one told his dreadlocked pal. “Mervyn’s is goin’ out of bidness, you know. That’s $7 an hour, and the lady on the phone say there’s more work like that comin’ up.”

As the midday elongated into afternoon and the lunch crowd dwindled away, Johnny Morris sat alone at the al fresco tables in front of Temple, waiting for a cappuccino. Morris—once the pomaded-hair presence behind the counter at Javalounge, now a chef who’s waiting to open a restaurant somewhere on the downtown/Midtown grid—sounded bullish on the transformation taking root all over town.

“It says something about Sacramento that Joie de Vivre [a San Francisco-based chain] would build their first hotel outside the Bay Area here,” Morris said, motioning toward the Citizen. “We need more places like this, like Citizen and like Parlaré [Euro Lounge],” he added, pointing at the corner across the street. “Can you imagine this five years ago?”

Morris has lived here since around 1980, long enough to remember a downtown that rolled up its sidewalks on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays. He sees opportunities in the changing character of the central city, which may not be a unanimous point of view.

Still, whether we fight it or accept it, change continues.