Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Oh, Sacramento

As you enter Sacramento from south of the McLean County town on Ky. 85, there's a historical marker that greets you ...

Ky. 85 then merges with Ky. 81, and town fans out east and west of that Main Street strip ... 

Here's the Blue Jay Cafe of 245 Main Street …

The IEEE 802.11 “Wi-Fi” network is for back-office operations only. “I don’t even have the password,” says the server.

I’m at No Smoking Table B1 1. There’s a sign on the table that says so. There are a lot of signs at the Blue Jay Cafe:

Blue Jay
Great Food
Great Friends
Good Times

Sit Long
Talk Much 
Laugh Often

Try The

Absolutely No
Smoking In The
Kitchen Area

Due To New
Insurance Policy
No One allowed in
Kitchen but
Employees Only

Those are all permanent signs. Then there are five whiteboards with various price and selection bulletins, such as ...

Tuesday Night May 30th
Moonlight Bar-B-Que
with Salad Bar, Dessert,
Coffee of Tea $9.99
Starts at 5 pm till 8 pm

Sacramento is about 30 miles south and west of Owensboro's Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn on Ky. 85. 

I’m having oatmeal and toast and coffee, and it’s fine. The total cost is $4.08, and then they are going to add tax. There are many things about places like Sacremento, Kentucky, and the Blue Jay Cafe that haven’t changed since I first traveled much around the state 25 years ago. For example, to my left, there is a circular table of gray-haired men drinking coffee from mugs and eating sausage and country ham on biscuits off heavy china plates, and so far I’ve heard them talking about Silver Queen corn and Lava soap. Really. I’m not making any of that up. Anyway, I would lay money that 25 years ago that same scene was playing out among the fathers or uncles or church elders of these fellows at the Blue Jay Cafe or whatever restaurant was operating in its place in 1992 (and grandfathers, etc., in 1967, 1942 …) 

But one thing that has changed, I feel certain, is the cost of a bowl of oatmeal, two slices of toast and a cup of coffee. I am happy to pay the $4.08 today. This food and service and environment are absolutely equivalent to the $4.08 experience available at most any other restaurant I might find within 100 miles of Madisonville, and it is indisputably better than any of the chains. But, still, $4.08, even converted to $2.34 in 1992 dollars, is still more expensive than what I believe I would’ve paid then--by a 1992 quarter or two (so, 10 to 20 percent more or so). I didn’t find 1992 data for Sacramento, but, from 1999 to 2015, per-capita income in the town went up from $11,811 to $17,455 (or $12,269.17 when adjusted for inflation, about a 3 percent raise in terms of how you'd feel it). Point is that a couple of pieces of toast and a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee make more of a dint today than then, I feel sure.

The other thing I wonder about places like Sacramento is about the change in felt-sense distance between it and Owensboro, it and Louisville, it and Washington and (going the other direction on Ky. 85 and population) it and Anton since 1992, 1967, 1942 and so forth. On one hand, I know that cable TV and the internet in some ways have shortened those distances--growing up in Paducah in the 1970s and early 80s, I was a rock-’n’-roll fan who had literally never heard of the Clash or the Sex Pistols until after we finally got cable in 1984 or ’85; whereas, I imagine there is a pretty big Cage the Elephant fan somewhere in Sacramento right now. On the other hand, how do the entrepreneurial/management/leadership/artistic horizons of a place like Sacramento compare over time? For example, what does the supply chain for a place like the Blue Jay Cafe look like today vs. in previous years? Do they buy all of their oats, bread, butter, brown sugar, salt and coffee grounds from Cisco or Sam’s, where they would’ve sourced each of those from Sacramento Oat Company, Sacramento Bread Company, Sacramento Brown Sugar Company, etc., each with its own owners and layers of management in previous years?

I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions, but I would love to know and then somehow relate them to things like voting patterns, church membership, health trends, etc.

“Bye, Jimmy,” the server tells someone—Jimmy, presumably—as he leaves the cash register and heads out the front door along Ky. 81/Ky. 85. The servers had been busy in the back, and a very tall, razor-thin man of probably about 65 poked his head in the swinging kitchen door (the one with the employees-only-because-of-the-insurance sign) and asked for “Sweetie” to come out and cash out the developing line of customers at the register. That guy went to the back of the line and then stayed after paying his own bill to talk extra with Sweetie, who is a tiny woman of probably 35 years. They share a long hug and some quiet words of clear sadness. “Have a good day, Sweetie,” he says. “I love you,” she says. “I love you, too,” he says. That all really happened just as I wrote it.

These photographs were hanging on the wall in the back of the Blue Jay Cafe, outside the restrooms ...

There's a florist next door to and just south of the Blue Jay Cafe. It wasn't open ...

The Masonic Lodge is the next door down Main ...

Here are a couple of signs that were taped to the glass doors at the U.S. Post Office ...

Then there were these two pictures in a display case inside the Post Office. My guess is the pictures at the Blue Jay were from the 1959 regional championship commemorated here ...

This is the oldest headstone I found at the Free Union Cemetery on the town's northwestern edge ...

Then I drove back to Madisonville along Ky. 85. This is one of my favorite roads out of town--Anton Road. It drops off sharply from both sides of the road into swamps and farmland, so there are guard rails along both sides of a lot of Ky. 85 to keep you from falling off ...