This Press Is Local
We can only make our community better if we engage in it.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
“You live in Salinas? Like, on purpose?”
I get that one a lot.
It’s true: I live in Salinas, on purpose. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and came to Salinas more than a dozen years ago by way of marriage to a non-landed gentry native. In between “I do” and settling in Oldtown, we lived in Idaho, the mid-cities of Los Angeles, the Virginia Beach area and Silicon Valley. The lure of cheap real estate in 1998 and in-laws more than willing to watch their grandbabies proved irresistible. Aside from a brief stint in Berkeley (a time I like to think of as, “Really, what were we thinking?”), we’ve lived there ever since.
I have no qualms about it. I may be one of the rarities, native or not, who actually likes living there.
I get my coffee there (Cherry Bean), I do my shopping there (Star Market), I see a lot of movies there (Maya Cinemas) and I plan to start swimming there (YMCA), hopefully sooner rather than later. I buy Slurpees at the South Main Street 7-Eleven, and I buy sausage from Butch Francis’ Cowboy Sausage Company at the Saturday Farmer’s Market by the Steinbeck Center. My taco money goes to Tico’s, although there’s a truck that sets up close to the Banker’s Casino that might be worth a try; and my wonton soup money goes to The Eagle, although the Salinas Donut Shop at the Greyhound Station has strangely good egg rolls.
I have friends in Salinas who are farmers. My kids have friends whose parents are farmers. I also have local friends who are attorneys, schoolteachers, social workers and engineers, restaurateurs and trinket-shop owners.
I am 100 percent invested in living in Salinas.
But I don’t have any illusions about it, either. I can’t hang out at a bookstore there, because none exists. I can’t send my kids to school wearing red or blue because of what those colors represent to the deeply entrenched gangs that have the upstanding residents of the East Side living in fear. I watch business after business struggle to open – and indeed, some of them never open – because the permitting process is so convoluted that the average, would-be small-business owner doesn’t stand a chance.
FOR THE SAKE OF A FREE PRESS, AND FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS, BE ENGAGED IN WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND YOU.
And in Monterey County as a whole? There’s an entire community in Prunedale that has to have its water trucked in. We have some of the highest foreclosure rates in the state. Our public schools are struggling with budget and morale issues. It took the Board of Supervisors 10 years and five tries to update its General Plan.
I came to the Weekly from a perfectly good job covering the clean-tech industry at a business paper in San Jose because I believe the Weekly is doing journalism that matters. It’s fiercely independent, it’s the only paper in the region doing significant arts coverage, and its writers are smart and engaged in the communities they cover.
In the coming weeks, I hope to hear from as many of you as are willing to reach out, not only about the paper, but about your communities. What’s going well? What could be going better? What do we, the residents of Monterey County, need to function better as a society?
It’s an important question, because newspapers exist to elevate the level of discourse in society. They’re supposed to inform and engage, to put out calls to action, and to (as my favorite journalism saying goes) “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
Who the comfortable are, and who the afflicted are, differs in each and every story. It’s a moving target, but one we try to hit every time.
Write us letters, by e-mail or postal mail. Comment on our stories at www.mcweekly.com. If you see us out and about, stop us and give us your opinion. Tell us we’re great if you think so, and tell us we’re terrible if you don’t. We’re adults and we can take it. But for the sake of a free press, and for the sake of your own neighborhoods, be engaged in what’s going on around you.
There are some things about living here that make hiding out seem like a good option, but there are far more things – the art, the culture, the food and the people – that make living here wonderful.
One of those wonderful things is coming up, by the way: The Weekly’s 101-word short story contest. Look for specifics in the coming weeks, but start warming up your keyboards. The fiction contest, now in its 18th year, is your chance to put your creativity to work, and win fabulous prizes, all within the confines of (you guessed it) 101 fast words.