Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We Are Locals

Growing up Tahoe Style…My first thoughts at a title make me gag. “Tahoe Style”: how trendy; how bay area; how sickening. I react with no less than mal-content as only a true local would.

But what truly makes us a local? Simply claiming to live in the presence of our high sierra villages? Owning a house in “Tahoe”? Claiming stake to what has been heralded as the Jewel of the Sierras, The World of Blue, what is becoming the Aspen of the Sierras? No and hell no! It is so much more…
I find myself home once more, or dare I say for the first time in a long time, literally overlooking the condominium I lived in until I was seven years old on the shores of Brockway Springs Resort. The epic sunsets, the views I remember so fondly of Scott, Twin and Ward Peaks; the top of Alpine’s Bowl; Dollard Point reaching out just far enough to hide Tahoe City. Why would I ever leave? Why do all of us wish to get away in height of summer, in the insanity of Christmas and mid-winter? We point the finger and say, “Them, those damn tourists! They walk in here, acting like they own the place, demanding everything in the world, and showing no respect! Who do they think they are?!” We’ve all said it; we’ve all experienced it; we all know the bitter feelings all too well.
We live the life of a mixed blessing. Each of us found ourselves here at one point or another for the same reasons: The beauty; the adventure; the excitement; the chance to get away from it all, and yet be close enough for comfort. We once found or re-found ourselves here to downhill mountain bike the gnarlies of dirty hairy and then some, drop bowls and chutes off Disney, KT-22, and Rose, flip and dive into crystal clear waters off lake-side boulder, wheel our not-so-properly-equipped beater-mobile to the top of anywhere and nowhere, live care-free and borderline irresponsibly; enjoy Lake Tahoe, Prosser, Stampede, Boca, the Truckee River, the Sierra Nevadas, the small-town life in all its glory for all that its worth. Once upon a time it was ours for the taking, we owned it and we let everybody know it…
Where are we today? We soon find ourselves in routine ignoring the urge to get out, try something new, and go somewhere different. We soon find ourselves saying, “No, let’s not go on the flume (or Rim) trail, there’s always too many yahoos up there.” “No, I’m not feeling Hidden Beach, it’s going to be packed with all those Carson City Folk.” “The Truckee River will be a madhouse this weekend.” “Northstar is nothing but a fashion show these days.” “Downtown [Truckee] is a s#!*-show these days.” “It took me an hour to get through Martis Valley (or the Y in TC)!” “Let’s just stay in tonight…” “We have stuff to take care of around the house anyway…” And so we begin to fold: to the bay-area packed house next-door lining the whole street with Prii (the plural of Prius?); to the 4th (or 3rd) of July Parties; to the Millionaires and Billionaires.; to the half-chained minivan driving 5 miles an hour over Brockway Summit with three feet of snow on the roof; to forty-minute lift-lines standing next to gossip-filled Sacramento teens; to crowds, lines, traffic, tourists, posers, imitators, and those that try to be local. Keep Tahoe Local we say.
We begin to sit at home and pray for mixed blessings to fix the mixed blessing. We hope and wish for what some would call ungodly winters where every road in and out is closed for weeks. We long for the economy to be in the dumps so they won’t come this year. We plot our next move to be the ass-hole local, elated at the thought of keeping one citified-family from returning next year. We are not “Tahoe Style” and trendy. We are not Bay Area, Suburbanites, City Folk, part-time residents, weekenders, or work-visa foreigners. Today we turn bitter and cold, no better than the disrespectful tourist abusing our home, to the detriment of all our fellow locals. Day-in and day-out we become one of them, and so hide ourselves among and as far away from the crowd, the frustration, the bitterness, the mad-rush, and the ever growing line as possible. But there is hope.
It’s the “off-season” as we call it that we are more “on”, more honest, more our local selves than any other time. The time when you can say hello to your neighbor Jennifer walking down the street and know she and her dog truly belong; know you will not be burdened with the, “So where are you from?” “Oh, you mean you actually live up here? Wow. Cool!” More than you know buddy. The time when gas-station-Miguel has the time of day for you, genuinely cares, “What’s up? How are things?” Life is good my friend. The morning when Natalie has a moment for more than just serving your breakfast. The day when auto-parts-store-Jim cares to introduce himself and make sure you get the ether you need to start your old 1990 Diesel F-350. The nights when 267, 28 and 89 are not California Highways but Brockway Road, North Lake Tahoe Boulevard, and River Road. The life where you can cruise road-side with your not-so-freshly-tuned bike without the fear of being pancaked by that fresh new Pearly-White Escalade on 22’s. A serene calm, a peaceful and relieving pause between the exhale and the inhale, a much welcomed and uplifting inner and outer tranquility finds us once more.
Right when we need it, and often least expect it, life slows down in that eye-opening, fulfilling way we have known before. We find ourselves alive and full of passion in a new way. Finally it is April; finally it is September. This is the life we signed up for. This is how small-town mountain life is supposed to be. Kings Beach, Truckee, Tahoe City and Incline: we can breathe once more, know our neighbors as friends and brothers, we can be ourselves. We our free, we are alive, we are locals.

Daniel Herr (@DanHerr) is an alumnus of Kings Beach Elementary, Incline High School, and Cornell University, Free Mason, Entrepreneur, Coach of Truckee High School Basketball, Freelance Writer and Photographer, Leave-No-Trace Trainer, Avid Outdoorsman, Thrill-seeker, Gemini, and until late, Project Engineer for a Local Developer.