When crossing the overpass from Davis into Sacramento, you’ll see tall buildings begin to appear, jutting out and up from the surrounding farmlands. It almost looks like they’ve been dropped from the sky, scattered like dice across the cornfields by a higher power.
That said, this is the fantastical origin story I imagine of Sacramento every time those buildings first come into view:
I envision farmers sitting around a table and deciding that the bucolic area they worked and lived in was in need of a city, then taking to the sky in their helicopter (along with the pieces needed to assemble it). Once a few hundred feet above the ground–and far enough away from Davis– they elect to drop them.
They watch as the pieces land amidst the cornfields. They exclaim, “We’ve got ourselves a city!” They clap amongst themselves as they look down– some with pride and awe, others with apprehension at this incongruous addition to their rustic setting.
Anyways, I had the fortune of living and driving Lyft in our state’s capitol for around seven months. Named “the City of Trees,” this under-explored gem with a population of 500,000 is full of peaceful parks and quality coffee shops–the kinds with brick walls and leather couches you can really sink back into (inside one, the floor shimmers with 1,000 pennies). This is especially true in Midtown, where charming Victorians and leafy green trees dot most of the streets.
I loved the high summer temperatures; how you could go swimming in the river at eight pm, then walk through the gayborhood paved with rainbow crosswalks while still wearing shorts and a tank top. It was common to see people biking around on the “group beer bikes” on evenings like these. Every night of the week you could find comedy or live performances. Karma Brew by my house reminded me of an 1800s train car, what with its narrow interior and antique decor.
I drive Brian and his beautiful black guide dog Murphy–who, after I move the front seat as far up as it can go, lays peacefully at Brian’s feet as we drive alongside the American River towards his North Sacramento destination (where he is attending a conference).
Passenger Lisa tells me about Sacramento’s Greek church, working the gyro booth at the Greek Festival, and taking a selfie with the cast of My Big Fat Greek Wedding at a Greek folk dance festival one year.
“We just saw Manu Chau,” the passengers after her say, take-out bags in hand. The smell of gyros and souvlaki waft through the car, bringing a scent of Greece.
Bigger Passenger Story: Boxing Niece Takes Down the Boys
I pull up next to the charming Victorian house in Midtown, where beneath the front yard’s lone oak tree, a middle-aged woman stands shaded from the Sacramento summer heat. Duffle bag in hand, dark hair tied back into a ponytail, and toned arm muscles visible through a sleeveless black tank top, she waves before making her way across the grass towards my car, feet crunching against the occasional leaf.
After greeting me, Shayna* asks if we can make a quick stop at Republic (a sports bar downtown) on the way to her final destination, which is the gym. She wants to pick up a wristband for a “fight night” event that she’ll be attending later that evening.
‘Quaint meets bustling’ is the vibe as we drive down K Street in downtown Sac, where the layout combines the charm of a small-town road with the vigor and energy of a big city main drag.
Speckling K Street are bars like Dive Bar–where humans dressed as mermaids swim through tanks above the bartenders’ heads, and Coin Op– where guests can play arcade games while trying a variety of local beers.
“I like going to places alone,” Shayna says. “Nice thing about these matches is there’s no need to worry about intrusions, because everyone’s as concentrated as I am. Also it’s mostly dudes, so I never have to wait in line for the bathroom. Fight nights are the only times I’ve ever seen lines out the guys’ door—while the lady’s is completely empty.”
Outside the car windows, a family crosses the street with their mid-sized Australian shepherd. The little girl seems to be the one in charge, holding the leash and confidently steering their cute beast while the others walk slightly behind her.
Maybe the sight of this prompts Shayna to say what she does next, or maybe the timing is purely coincidental:
“I have a niece who’s interested in fighting too. She’s actually been boxing since she was three years old.”
Shayna describes her as a “tiny little thing” to whom no one would ever attribute the hidden talent of boxing. Her opponents, especially the males who chose her to fight against because they expected her to be an easy target, certainly never did.
“None of them ever think she could take them down. I remember one time though when she just completely annihilated these two boys, even made one of them cry. Their moms actually got mad at us. I was proud of her. Soon as she gets old enough, I’m gonna take her to Republic to watch the matches with me.”
Her final words before getting out of the car: “It amazes me sometimes, that of all things she could have possibly taken interest in, she chose fighting…” (shakes head) “But hey, I’m just glad it’s that and not the Kardashians.”