Mixed emotions

I came out to Sacramento to strike it rich in the tax industry. Seems odd to say that now, realizing that city is where many tried to do the same years ago. Must be in the (river) water out there.

That 2001 to 2003 time period might be the darkest time in my life, but it taught me so much. I can go back to Sacramento now and see this period written on the street signs, the Fremont Building, the shopping center where the tax office was located, the sidewalks, the banks where I kept my money. Even in the eyes of three young children and their mother who were as much a part of my time and defined it as much as the tax business I was trying to make work.

Mike and I stopped in Natomas, the little neighborhood north of Sacramento on the other side of the American River, where I had my main tax office. The shopping center is still there, full of activity, just as it was back in 2001 when I signed the lease on that storefront office. Mountain Mike’s was still there. Opening the door of Chang’s revealed not much had changed there either. Radio Shack was gone, which would’ve been a bummer back in ’01 considering all the junk I bought and needed there to keep the tax office running.

The storefront that was once my tax-business dream is now a real estate office. The last tenant there – apparently some sort of workout gym – tore down the white walls and mini-offices to reveal a big open space. Ironically the walls and carpet are green now. I’d asked Fez, the president of the tax company, to tear down those walls (the space had been used for military recruiting before I came in) to make the space more open and inviting. He refused to do it and I always wondered how much that played on our slow business. The official color of the tax company: green.

But visiting that place, camera in hand, I thought I’d feel better. Nostalgic. I didn’t though. It was like visiting the spot where something horrific had happened, my own personal Ground Zero. Except now, like maybe when after a house is rebuilt on the same property of the one that burned down before it, life was normal again. No traces of the sweat, tears and anguish that had come before. Just a sign that said “We Sell Natomas” in the window of the old office beneath a channel-letter lit “World Realty” sign. I took no photographs.

We got in the car and headed on to Reno. I was depressed, sad, sullen. So, I took a nap. When I woke we were in the mountains with a lush, green pine tree forest towering over the road, vistas with sweeping views of the valley below. I remembered why I loved this area so much. And then in short time we were in Reno – a different state, a whole other world.

Sunday morning, the Reno Balloon Races, rediscovering a throw-away city that doesn’t seem so throw-away anymore, seeing an old friend and making new ones.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

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