I was reading this thought provoking and well-written blog this morning, and although it wasn't really addressing something I wonder about here in Napa, it did make me start thinking about it again. This writer is, well, a real writer, and I won't produce anything like the powerful voice he does when he shares, but I do have some questions rattling around in my head.
Here's my basic question: What the hell is going on in Napa that no one's telling us about? It's not a conspiracy theory question, as in "Where are the UFOs being hidden?" or "Why hasn't anyone ever truly explained the rebops: are they a government project gone bad?" It's more a question about things I see happening around here, slowly but surely that make no sense.
When I moved here 22 years ago, this was a quaint little town, full of small businesses and had the feel of a slower, old-fashioned when-our-parents-were-kids feel to it. There's a river running right through the middle of it, sometimes it would rise and flood the whole downtown area. There was a drugstore with a lunch counter that actually had red vinyl stools where you could sit and eat your tuna-melt. The sound-track was the whistle song from the Andy Griffith show. After Orange County (where the freeway by my Big Daddy's house is now 26 lanes wide, counting onramps and access roads) it was like moving to another world. Cows! Sheep! Vineyards! Things I had never seen before. In Orange County, if it's an expanse of green it is a school playground or a golf course, or (when I was a child) strawberry field. There is nothing green in Southern California that hasn't been set aside for some specific purpose or another.
Napa has been slowly changing over the years though, as though there's a long-term plan in place that we regular people haven't been apprised of. Almost all directions are given referencing where something used to be. "Turn left where A&W used to be." "It's right across from where the clock tower used to be." A real Napa native could go on and on with this list. Major streets have been re-routed. Whole blocks of buildings from much earlier days have been razed to put up corporate things. There's a Ritz Carlton going in right next to the failed Copia center, (They're tearing down JV Liquor Warehouse) which will become something new and corporate I'm sure.
Why are so many large hotels coming here? There has never been a need for mass-lodging for anything going on here in Napa, why all of a sudden are we preparing to host huge numbers of people at 4-6 hundred dollars a night? What the hell is up with that giant thing they're building on the corner of Main Street and Third? (You know, the one with the copper roof. That was not cheap!) Why did we spend 65 million dollars to redo Veteran's park right across the street from it? I think that was the eventual tab for that project.
It's not for the people who live in Napa, it's for something big coming here, something that none of us know about. I feel like the city is preparing for a large influx of people, the kind of people who stay briefly and can afford the Ritz. The older houses and neighborhoods are being torn down, because you can't have crappy old houses across the street from your big new shiny thing. There's a huge new construction project going on across the street from where my shop is, the first "sustainable" shopping mall, ok, that's green, Napa loves the idea of that.
After what? Twenty years? The Uptown Theater is finally restored and is getting ready to have a live show with big name artists. I have tickets for that, I'm going to check it out for its opening. Are we going to try to become the new Sundance film festival location in the sun instead of the snow? You KNOW Nations will be torn down if that happens.
There is a lot of money in this valley, and some very big-yet-low-profile people who live and invest here. I think they're up to something and just not telling. It doesn't keep me up at night, but I do wonder.
Maybe it's just that I'm getting old, and don't recognize progress for the "good" thing it is. I know there are some people who still resist cell phones because they don't want brain cancer, or people who never did get their VCRs to stop blinking 12:00, 12:00, 12:00. Am I turning into that old lady? I only have three cats, so I think I'm still fine, but is that what's happening? What will be the technology that finally confounds me, the one that young people find as natural as googling instead of going to a library? "Oh you kids and your teleporting, every time I try it I end up in Bakersfield, I just don't understand how you land where you want every time." I'm either old, or on to something here, and I'm not sure which it is.
I do still get excited when I see cows, especially those Oreo cows on highway 29. I don't think that will ever get old.