Only In Redding

Only in Redding

I sit in a Starbucks in a small Northern California town gazing into my iPad. From afar, I catch the blowing breeze of a conversation between three older men. One donning the armor of a retiree (tan shorts, scoop neck short and silver helm), the other two wear the armor of house Redding (Levi jeans and flannel shirts). What they are discussing is lost on me as I have forsaken my ability to fully speak Redding, but I translate a few choice sentences, one goes like this:

“I have been to Los Angeles once and to San Jose twice….”

after that I lost the the translation and all I could hear was grunts and guttural noises, but that key phrase rang in my ears, L.A once and to San Jose twice, these places may seem like far off castles in the sky to the unknowing ear, but they are fairly close to this deserted outpost, yet these older men speak of these places like they lie sleeping across the atlantic.

Breaking news: a farmer just joined the table, complete with overalls-dirty cap-orange shirt and everything, no this is not the lead up to a joke, this is the reality of Redding California: Breaking News

As i stare out the window of the Starbucks gazing into the empty intersection, I feel like an alien visiting a dusty 1950’s diner, trying my hardest to understand this strange place, but only succeeding in longing for home, or culture or understanding……humanity?

A thought bubble appears over my head:

{is this place an anomaly, or are there others like it, scarred landscapes devoid of culture, travel, places where the printed word still dominates and people order their coffees as a large, not a venti.}

The urge to run away washes over me like a giant salt crusted wave crashing over the white sand of a Caribbean hideaway, but some unknown force keeps me here. More retired newspapers walk in, no digital media in sight, I am alone. The guttural noises start to make more sense, am I starting to understand the language again, should I buy a newspaper and trash the iPad, do I need suspenders, I can’t take back my travels or culture, but I can forget, maybe I should assimilate, I resist the urge, assimilation here would be a slow death.

I start to think, is this place unique? I have heard of other places like this, but I thought that they have disappeared, become extent like the pterodactyl. This isolated place, so close to a stronghold of culture (San Francisco), yet so far away from culture itself. Why is cultured shunned, hated, put in shackles and thrown into a dark dungeon? Maybe there is a comfort in this town that I never knew, or resisted all the years that I lived here, a sort of peace that the rest of us long for…..I do not know, the conversation now transforms into power tools as the farmer starts to walk away, it seems to get heated, in a polite way, i understand every third word-Power tool……..Drills, Saws..Machine………..there is nothing wrong with power tools, I have used them in another life, but a heated power tool conversation in Starbucks, only in Redding.

Mike Story