Back To West Cap.
After checking into a motel in West Sacramento, my destination on this trip, I walked out to West Capitol Avenue and looked up and down the broad avenue that many refer to as “West Cap”. It runs through the heart of the city where I used to live.
Neon motel and restaurant signs added an electric glow to the early evening sky and I noticed people strolling by on the sidewalks, others zipping by in cars, but I was thinking about the people that call West Cap home. The ones who live in the motels. Their lives, their stories. That was what this road trip was all about. I’m putting together a book of “people” stories and I’d set up meetings with two people who live in two of the motels.
That evening, even though it was busy, West Cap was a pleasant, and orderly street. It has it’s share of traffic and has been used as the route for many local parades and happy celebrations. It’s a nice wide avenue, well maintained. However, at one time it was a wild avenue, the scene of bad times featuring deaths and arrests. But regardless of what was happening on the street at different times there have always been those people who have called it home. The characters, the winners and the losers. Those that know the ups and downs of motel living on what also used to be a heavily traveled interstate highway.
Before I tell you about my meetings let me fill you in on the avenue itself. It once was the main highway from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. West Sacramento is the halfway stop in between. Consequently, the two lane road slicing through the city featured an abundance of motels with 1000 rooms to house motorists traveling in either direction and those who attended the California State Fair in Sacramento each summer.
However, like many other cities in California, freeways were built that bypassed the city and West Capitol Avenue became a much less traveled road. Tourism fell off and the motels struggled. Their clientele changed and some of the businesses fell into physical disrepair. A few closed up shop. Some counted on weekly and monthly rentals while others allowed working girls to use their facilities to compensate for the loss of tourist dollars. That created a subculture of professional pleasure providers which flourished. For awhile West Sacramento had the well deserved reputation as a wide open hot spot. However, several years ago when the city of West Sacramento became incorporated, law enforcement stepped up enforcement and the motel owners formed an association to keep a lid on things. Things tightened up and these days an unmarked white van periodically sweeps West Cap looking for those who have run afoul of the law. For all extensive purposes West Cap has been cleaned up and West Sacramento is a vibrant, healthy city.
However, still living in various motels on West Cap are some people who live, or have lived, somewhat over the line. They are lawbreakers to some, but solid citizens to others. They can rip you off or help you out. They can be called good or evil. Could be your friend or foe, your enemy or lover depending on your take. They come up with enough to pay rent but for the most part their lives are hard. They seem to be in paradoxical situations often, a kind of permanent catch 22. Nothing comes easy. The two I met with fall into this category, Next time you’ll meet them..