Sacto, USA

Here’s what SN&R staff writer Jeffrey M. Barker wrote in his September copy notes, wherein reporters pitch stories and let editors know what they’re working on:

“Road trip!” he announced with a slammer. “I’ll be connecting the dots from Sacramento, Pennsylvania back home, with stops in Sacto, Il., Sacto NE, Sacto, KY, Sacto, CO and Sacto, NM! This is genius!”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Barker—who’d discovered by accident that there were half a dozen other places called Sacramento in the country—was off and running. His planned trip to visit his sister and nephews in Illinois had morphed into an adventure tale of, well, Sacramento proportions. In the process of making it to all those Sactos, Barker drove hundreds of miles; visited five states in two rental cars; spoke with Sacramentans in post offices, gas stations and front porches; and, oh yeah, experienced a flashback straight out of Deliverance.

Barker, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

When he returned to Sacramento (our Sacramento!) after his travels, people around here wanted to know how it went. He’d give up a little bit but mostly seemed resolved to save it for his feature story, “On the road to Sacramento.”

During the editing process on the story, I asked Barker to rework the ending, to consider with more depth what it all had meant, what he’d learned from visiting all the Sacramentos and, mostly, what it felt like to return home at last to this one. Having read the story, knowing what I did about how his journey went, I asked him whether some newer/younger/hipper version of Dorothy’s closing discovery in the Wizard of Oz might be in order: “There’s no place like home.”

Well, no. That’d be too corny, Barker explained. Instead, he came up with his own way of signing off the story.

As for me, I don’t mind things a little corny as long as the sentiment is real.

And after reading about all those other Sacramentos, there’s something (with all due respect to Barker) that I’d now like to say.

There’s no place like home.