People & Places
Best celebration of American history before it was American history
Ever since my Carlos Castaneda phase, I’ve longed to experience a real American Indian powwow. I finally got my wish on August 19, the last day of the 13th annual Sacramento Powwow at O’Neil Park. Dozens of northern and southwest tribes represented at the three-day celebration of American Indian culture, dancing and beating drums in traditional regalia, selling handmade jewelry and leather goods, and chowing down on American Indian tacos and fry bread. As per tradition, Percy Edwards, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, did all the beadwork himself for his ornate, 50-pound red fox outfit. “We’ve been doing powwows for centuries,” he told me. “Before it was for celebration, food, sometimes honoring somebody, but we always have a big gathering, and it turned into this.” No sign of peyote-toting Shamans, but the rhythmic thump of the drumming was hypnotic. To find out about future powwows, visit www.whisperingwind.com. K.F.
Best internationalist architecture
The strip mall
Sacramento, we’re often told, is one of the most diverse cities in America. By the numbers, Sacramento is America. What accounts for all that diversity? Is it the naturally tolerant culture? The proximity to so many major transportation corridors? Nope, its all in the strip malls. But strip malls are bad you say? Strip malls are eyesores, architectural abominations. Of course they are. But the strip mall, with its dingy corrugated awnings; its unadorned boxiness; its patently un-pedestrian friendly, unshaded, overheated parking lot; is really quite beautiful in its own way. The strip mall is the perfect incubator for small businesses in need of cheap rent. In fact, a big chunk of Sacramento’s economic diversity and authentic, locally owned business owes its survival to this drab, but mightily efficient architectural form. Without the strip mall, your favorite noodle shop, storefront church, and carneceria would probably have to pull up stakes and head to Fresno. Sure, one day we’ll tear down those ugly strip malls and put up new Jamba Juice/urban loft/Rite Aid clusters. But be careful what you wish for. Strip malls can be found just about anywhere, for now. C.G.
Best new, multiculti clothier
Half breed clothing
Remember that old Star Trek where … what? Oh, shut up. Like you don’t still have all the original episodes on Betamax in your basement. Anyway, remember the one where those weird spores made everybody all hippie-happy, and Kirk had to get Spock really pissed off to shake him out of it, and he was all like, “All right, you mutinous, disloyal, computerized half-breed. We’ll see about you deserting my ship!"? Or that other one, where the android Kirk barked, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock! I’m sick of your half-breed interference!” Harsh much? He knows Spock struggles to come to terms with his human side. What he’s obviously saying, in tough-love terms, is not to pussyfoot around your mixed heritage. Spock should own it, yo. Kirk’s a good friend that way, a good leader. So, obviously, is Tom Boerner, a 33-year-old local event promoter of proudly mixed ancestry now getting into his own clothing line called Half Breed. “It’s about being mixed,” he says on MySpace. “I believe we all are mixed with a variety of ethnic backgrounds, whether you are half, a quarter or even just a smidgin. It’s what gives you character … it’s who u truly are.” So far the clothes, like a black tank top with the word “halfbreed” scrawled across the chest, seem similarly, classically declarative. We’ll be watching for more. When we’re not watching TV. www.myspace.com/halfbreed1. J.K.
Best pious, local anti-pollution effort
Four Winds Native American Congregation
Water plays a big part in various religious services. Water is also scarce—especially in insanely hot August and September—and too often polluted. The National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program is so concerned about this trend, it just asked congregations to organize Bible studies nationwide aimed at teaching flocks to use water more wisely. If the council needs experts to help spread the word (and Word), it need look no farther than the Four Winds Native American Congregation, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Sacramento. As director of Water Programs for the National Tribal Environmental Council, Four Winds congregant Ron Thompson works with local, state, federal and other stakeholders interested in the future of western water planning and management. That Native Americans have found a home at an Episcopal church is no surprise when you consider the indigenous people of future America made their first contact with the Anglican Communion in 1607 at Jamestown. That’s the longest relationship the church has had with any community in the Americas. As for Four Winds’ care and concern for our most precious resource, that’s obvious, too, when you read the words on the Episcopal Church’s Native American ministry logo: “With water and the Holy Spirit seeking and serving Christ in all creation.” Four Winds Native American Congregation meets 4 p.m. Sundays at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Edison Avenue; www.dncweb.org/four_winds.htm. M.C.
Best place to build a temple to white greed
The lost cemetery of China Slough
You can’t fire up a backhoe around here without unearthing somebody’s dead ancestors. And there’s nothing like the words “long lost cemetery” to give a developer the willies. So, it’s not surprising that Thomas Enterprises was sweating it this summer, as some of Sacramento’s Chinese American community inquired whether clean-up work in the rail yards’ redevelopment area was trampling over a 100-plus year-old cemetery full of 19th century Chinese railroad workers. There’s some anecdotal evidence that there was a cemetery for Chinese workers in the area just north of China Slough—a toxic lake that had a habit of catching fire and was later filled in to build the current rail depot on I Street. If so, that could put the cemetery right in the middle of the clean up area for future development. But given the status of Chinese workers in 19th century Sacramento, nobody bothered to keep track of the historic burial ground. Is there a lost Chinese cemetery somewhere in the vicinity of China Slough? Are people’s ancestors being carted away to a toxic waste dump in Utah? Will the rail yards’ future anchor tenants—say a Bass Pro superstore or a new Kings arena—be cursed by the ghosts of pissed-off coolies? The plot thickens. C.G.
Best place to buy magic jewelry
Chopsticks in every color of the rainbow, Japanese handmade paper, and the national game of Japan, GO, are sold at Sakura Gifts, a 50-year-old neighborhood shop. But I was lured by something else entirely: Phiten Titanium jewelry and accessories. Manufactured by a Japanese chiropractor since 1985, these necklaces, patches and wristbands are now used by members of the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Astros and anyone else looking to increase flexibility, and relieve joint and muscle pain. Hey, Diamondback Randy Johnson was wearing a Phiten Titanium necklace when he pitched his perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. But these magic bracelets aren’t the only reason why Sakura’s great. The shop stocks vegetable seeds from America’s oldest Asian veggie specialists: Kitazawa Seed Company. The Japanese Orai-Alrite spinach is perfect for fall gardening. 2223 10th Street, (916) 443-8388. J.Fo.
Best place to hang with real Polaks
Polish American Club of Greater Sacramento
Gotta feed that hankering for home-made pierogies? Need to scarf down some kielbasa and golabki? You want to be at the Polish American Club of Greater Sacramento’s annual Polish Festivals (but you’ll have to wait a whole year for the 19th annual). Next September, you can load up on authentic Polish culinary delights, enjoy traditional dance stylings like those of the Lowiczanie Polish Folk Dance Ensemble, or get on the dance floor yourself and polka your ass off. And don’t forget the beer. The Polish love their piwo—back in the 1200s, Prince Leszek the White refused to join the crusades, explaining to the Pope that “there is no beer in the Holy Land.” Better yet, become a club member and enjoy the Sunday afternoon family dinners, monthly get-togethers, concerts and holiday activities. You can help preserve the traditions and folk culture of a nation whose patriots—Kazimierz Pulaski, Tadeusz Kosciuszko—were instrumental in the founding of the United States. Or, just come to socialize. And you don’t have to be descended from szlachtas to join. (916) 782-7171, www.polish-club.org. E.D.
Best place to meet a scholarly Polynesian
Respect Integrity and Self-Determination through Education
Johnny was hungry. He sat outside a catered RISE staff meeting while a sympathetic staffer snuck portions of food through the back door. But it wasn’t enough—Johnny was still hungry. He walked into the meeting, grabbed a plate, filled it with as much food as he could, then began to eat. Everyone stopped talking and shifted their attention to the bold intruder. He looked up from his plate, smiling. “Oh, you guys having a meeting?” “It was classic Johnny,” says RISE program director Keith Muraki, remembering Sione “Johnny” Folau, the oldest of six kids in a tight-knit Tongan Family. He was gunned down in front of a party on Saturday, Aug. 4. “He really epitomized RISE,” Muraki says. The program, an educational support system for historically underrepresented students at Sacramento City College, has become something of a hangout spot for Polynesians. Instead of a stereotypically rigid academic structure, RISE, in Poly fashion, goes to great lengths to focus on family, communication and unity. Johnny will be sorely missed by many. Sacramento City College, 3835 Freeport Boulevard, building AJ5; (916) 650-2782; www.scc.losrios.edu/~rise. J.F.
Best place to ask ‘Wie geht’s?’ and get an answer
Sacramento Turn Verein
In most of Sacramento, saying “Wie geht’s?” (pronounced “vee-gates") will get you a funny look. But at Sacramento Turn Verein, you’re more likely to hear, “Es geht mir gut.” Or one would hope. The Turn Verein movement was a sort of German version of the YMCA—a 19th century fraternal organization that evolved beyond sports to include cultural events and democratic political leanings. A political disruption left the German organization in the hands of more conservative folks, while the more liberal Turn Vereiners came to the United States. Many Turners were involved in the movement against slavery, and although often quite recent immigrants, they joined the Union cause during the Civil War. Sacramento’s Turn Verein was founded by German merchants in 1854. Their lovely hall on J Street is available for rental, but it’s also one busy place as it continues to fulfill the mandate of the cultural and athletic fraternity. From the 40th annual Oktoberfest (October 5 and 6) to German language classes (just in case you really want to respond to “Wie geht’s?"), from eight soccer teams (including two for women) to a traditional German chorus, the “Turner Harmonie,” the place is hopping. 3349 J Street, (916) 442-7360; www.sacramentoturnverein.com. K.M.
Best professor to bring Africa back to Davis
Moradewun Adejunmobi, UC Davis
An associate professor and chairwoman of African Studies at UC Davis, Moradewun Adejunmobi is the kind of adventurous teacher who expands horizons and extends awareness for her students. Keenly interested in the language, literature and popular culture of Africa, Adejunmobi has worked in or visited many of its countries, including Benin, Botswana, C#&244;te d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Togo. Her specialty area is Ghana, with a focus on the Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, Pan-Africanism and current debates about development in Africa. Students who’ve traveled to West Africa in her summer-abroad program have come back raving about how their lives were altered by the experience. One blogger wrote that she’d been “profoundly changed forever” by her travels with Adejunmobi. Huzzahs to that! M.W.
Best reason to die
Unfortunately, the majority of us will die at some point. The scary part isn’t how we’ll go, but if anyone will show up to the funeral. Hmong people know how to do funerals right. Once a person has passed on, he or she is dressed in traditional attire and placed on a table so friends and family can offer blessings and ask for good luck. A txiv taw kev, or spiritual guide, leads the deceased’s spirit to the origin of birth by journeying backward to Thailand, the Mekong River and finally to a village in Laos. Musicians play the qeej, a bamboo mouth organ carved out of hollowed wood, to help the spirit finds its way through the path of life. Funerals typically last three days and include the slaughter of a rooster or cow to accompany the deceased to the afterworld. Usually, the more children you have, the more animals are slaughtered. Thao and Sons Memorial Chapel in Del Paso Heights will help those of us unlucky enough to die go out with a bang. 300 Harris Avenue, (916) 921-8426. S.C.
Best resource for la Raza
La Raza Galeria Posada
The Galeria’s all about empowering, well, la Raza or the political-cultural identity of the Chicano people. And it does so in a way that’s inviting to everyone—a good thing, since La Raza’s events are reliably vibrant. Through literary readings and signings (which received our separate kudos, see Arts & Entertainment); powerful, message-driven art and live music; a bookstore that stocks works by influential Chicano authors and crafts by community artists; and a bounty of other cultural activities, La Raza is a mighty presence in a tiny space. Mighty enough to draw the Latin Rock All Stars—comprised of former members of Santana, Malo and Sly and the Family Stone—to its recent benefit event for the Joe and Isabel Serna Program Fund at the Empire Events Center. 1022-1024 22nd Street, (916) 446-5133, www.larazagaleriaposada.org. E.P.
Best place for a Chinese-American wedding banquet
Anyone who’s planned a wedding will tell you that finding a location for the reception can be a pain. Try finding a location for a traditional Asian wedding. For Chinese-American couples in Sacramento, the go-to place seems to be Happy Garden restaurant. Even a friend of the owner of Frank Fat’s—a downtown restaurant renowned for its Chinese food—told me she had her reception at the Happy Garden. What is it about Happy Garden that makes their customers so happy? For one, the service is impeccable. The restaurant allows their guests to be close and intimate, but not to the point of being claustrophobic. The dance floor is small, but you can still get down. And the food is great. Happy Garden is one of the few places in the city where you can find real, authentic Asian food. Who knew you could find romance in a Chinese restaurant? 5731 Stockton Boulevard, (916) 456-0581. E.L
17th and L streets (Zanzibar Trading Company)
You’ve no doubt passed by a hundred times, always intending to go in when you have more time. Something in the window catches your eye and you finally venture in—not intending to buy anything, of course. But soon there’s a unique beaded necklace over here and a tantalizing tribal fertility statue there and an intriguing West African CD comp in the listening station—and before you can say, “Max my Visa!” you’re hooked. But it’s not just the fair-trade soaps, candles, jewelry and other handicrafts that make this place cool. Next to the display of several items are notes educating you of the products’ backstories. And if you linger long enough, the store’s ever-helpful help will appear to provide more details, such as revealing the hand-woven mini baskets are so small because the arms of the elderly Zulu women who made them are now too weak to make the regular-sized baskets. Not everything in the store is African—products, artwork and cultural artifacts come from 90 different countries—but it’s all relatively inexpensive. You should have gone in sooner. 1731 L Street, (916) 443-2057. M.C.
Best places to go on shopping sprees
Thanks to the nearly 30,000 people of Russian, Ukrainian or Slavic ancestry who live in the Sacramento region, we’re all afforded the opportunity to go on Russian shopping spree. According to our sources, many local Russians prefer to shop for groceries at the Citrus Plaza Market (6240 San Juan Avenue, Citrus Heights; (916) 725-5445), the Good Neighbor European Deli-Market (5111 College Oak Drive, (916) 332-8572); or the MNM Food Market (7117 Walerga Road, (916) 339-3023). European furniture designs preferred by Russians can be purchased at Furnitalia (2663-A Town and Country Plaza, (916) 484-0333). Two of the best kept Russian beauty secrets include Salon on J (3671 J Street, (916) 456-6458) and Vera’s Salon (2937 Fulton Avenue, (916) 802-7839). By the way, the 2900 block of Fulton Avenue is affectionately known as Russian Plaza. You’ll find many other Russian, Ukrainian and Slavic business in the vicinity. R.V.S.