Editor's note: If you appreciate being able to read posts like this, and want to ensure ANC's ability to continue publishing similar content, please click here to demonstrate your support and become a paid subscriber for as little at $1.35 a month.
After living in Redding for 10 years, we moved eight years ago this summer to Portland, Oregon.
Redding has always been a hard-scrabble town, from its earliest days as a railroad outpost when it was known as Poverty Flats, to last decade’s Great Recession.This past week I visited for the first time since we moved away.
After a handful of wet, cold winters in Oregon, I had forgotten about the winter sunshine. It was sunny and warm and the stars were bright in the sky. I walked around downtown and noticed the new courthouse under construction; the Dobrowsky house was gone but the trees remained. The old slump-block Dicker’s building was gone and a new mixed-use building was starting to take its place. The Art Deco Greyhound Bus Station had fallen for a generic stucco development that would fit in anywhere. The crusty old Americana Hotel had been renovated and was welcoming weary travelers. Judge Eaton’s Victorian house looked beautiful, reincarnated as a museum. I saw the lights of the Cascade Theatre brightly beckoning on Market Street. The Caramel Corn lady’s house was gone, I remembered her late-1800s house on the corner of Sacramento and Court street for its decorative front porch pillars. Some people might remember the Caramel Corn lady from the old Downtown Mall. I never knew her name, but I always remembered her face.
When I moved back to Redding after graduating from Humboldt State University in 2001, I felt like I wanted to stay and make a change in my hometown. I put in 10 years, bought a home and worked hard to find my niche. I married my sweetheart Justin in October of 2008 in downtown Redding. Then the housing crisis came and we lost our jobs and eventually had to let our house go, too. Moving to a bigger city presented a chance to establish ourselves again, so we packed up and drove north.
We left Redding in search of opportunity, to find a place where gay people have a better chance at fitting in. A place where the economy was more resilient. Somewhere where we could feel like we fit into a community. Portland gave us all of those things and welcomed us with a warm heart.
Living in Redding isn’t easy for many people. The economy is fickle and there aren’t enough good paying jobs. Local government is deaf to equity. Conservative values abound at the cost of creating community. It’s been that way since its beginnings as Poverty Flats. While I was there I heard a country western song on the radio blaring, “I believe in working hard for what you’ve got. Even if it don’t add up to a hell of a lot,” and it reminded me of the hard- working people I knew in Redding who were barely making it.
But it’s sunny, and there’s that fancy bridge and the river, Whiskeytown Lake and lots of great places to ride a mountain bike. On my visit, aside from my old friends, those were the things I missed the most.
There’s still a part of me that would like to move back and stand up for the gays, trans people, women and minorities and everyone who doesn’t fit in to the hegemonic culture. But for now, I’ll stay up north and work to find my niche.