Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
I regret that I will be unable to join the This is Reno Daily-Respite-From-COVID-and-Other-Accounts-of-Repetitive-Gloom-and-Doom-club this Wednesday.
I am now traversing Donner Summit with my ragtop lowered, to join Paul Meaney, my oldest non-Reno friend made after leaving college (how’s that for a descriptor?), for what we compute to be the 41st renewal of this twice-a-year tradition, wherein we meet at the Rio Restaurant overlooking the river in Old Sacramento, sit in exactly the same booth across from each other as in the past, have three (3) Bloody Marys, no more, no fewer, and a small loaf of bread delivered by the same server for the past four, maybe five years now, fall and spring; settle up and tip her always including a silver dollar (Ike version), then go next door to Joe’s Crab Shack for lunch.
Except – this year it’s a virtual meeting.
We’ve agreed to phone each other at exactly the same time we meet twice-annually, 11:20 a.m. This time I know because he journeys on Caltrain, whose choo-choo engineer owns a watch, as opposed to Amtrak engineers, who use a calendar – close enough. I drive the route; Paul leaves his home near Stonestown – the home he came home to when he was born, and he’s even older than I am, believe it or don’t.
He walks two blocks from his home to a Muni bus, rides the bus to a Muni streetcar, rides the car to a BART station; rides a BART under the Bay to the Caltrain station in the Mole (?); boards then buys a Bloody Maria and a Chronicle and relaxes all the way to Sacramento, feeling no shame nor guilt whatever that while he’s doing this – nothing – I’m fighting my way with white knuckles along I-80 with the attendant whack-jobs, immigrants and Peterbilt trucks operated by doped-up drivers popping energy pills sharing the road with me. Or most of it…
We meet; and for a couple hours yak about everything under the sun – he re-convinces me that I don’t want to visit his city as I did a half-dozen weekends a year for 40 years since moving back to Reno from our salad days working together in downtown SF. The Marina and North Beach are not what they used to be.
We compare notes on our two-apiece sons, the same ages and who camped with us for a score of years. And now, in our November years, we compare our grandkids. All Bay Area residents, who don’t know what a “channel” is because the sons have “tablets” and the grands negotiate their TV sets with them – none of them have cable TV, but find their shows on other gadgets – Zulu? Primo? We don’t know…
And Paul is still mystified by stuff happening in our valley – yup, people still pay a pretty penny to run around buck-naked in the desert during what can be the hottest week of any year.
Paul and I and our ladies went to the earliest Burning Man gatherings in San Francisco when everybody who was boarding the 38-Geary bus to Ocean Beach had something that would burn, like a log, or a month’s bundle of Chronicles and Examiners, or a nightstand, to throw onto the fire, before they had a Man. Now on the playa it costs a hell of a lot more than that 1963 15¢ bus fare to go and burn something.
So – we’ll talk, and talk, and talk. Our departure will be dictated by the westbound departure of the Caltrain, and as I said these train guys have wristwatches set daily to WWV time. We’ll part, always having agreed to do it all over again next fall. Or this year, maybe later this spring.
I got skunked a dozen years ago by a late snowstorm over Donner which looked like trouble I didn’t need (but we did it again a month later). Today, it’s virtual.
I was told that we could have this spring meeting on something called “Zoom” – this person doesn’t understand – we’re old and unattractive – we know what each others’ homes and faces look like – we meet to talk, not to look at each other!
I’d love to be with y’all, but as I said, as you’re reading this I’ll be somewhere between Reno and Ol’ Sac. Thanks to Jody Rice for covering the pancake beat yesterday; we’ll read more of her work soon, and, hey, be safe out there, huh?
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Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.