my city: hidden in plain sight

Every time I venture into mid/downtown Sacramento, I discover something new. (Yes, I am one of those people who lives in a suburb yet likes to claim she lives in the city.) Nevertheless, I happen to spend time in the city on occasion, and without fail, I always come to a revelation of sorts.

Such an occurrence took place a couple weeks ago, when my sister, our two friends and I shared dessert at midtown’s Crepeville. This was not my first time dining at the quaint café. In fact, we’ve been there dozens of times; it’s one of our favorite spots. However, in spite of all my experience, I’d never looked high enough to discover what I discovered that night.

In-between conversation, I happened to glance up at the wallpaper boarder outlining the top of the wall. I first caught a glimpse of what seemed to be, uh… a yin yang symbol replaced with squash. Upon closer inspection, my suspicions were proved true. This was inarguably a picture of a significant Chinese cultural sign being tainted with garden vegetables.

At first, I was confused. Then, slightly horrified. Finally, I was thrust into peals of amusement. Once I was able to compose myself, I tried in vain to explain my amusement at the sheer ridiculousness of it all to my friends.
They didn’t appreciate it as much as I did.

Also, upon my calming state, I came to a few conclusions (as was expected, since I was observing the city, after all).

One: While there’s no way to know exactly what the motivation is behind Crepeville’s decorating choices, I had my own theories about what the squash yin yang meant. To me, it meant that enjoying dinner was more important than pondering questionable philosophies (which, ironically, was exactly what I was doing). It offered the idyllic notion that there are more than two schools of thought — that these vegetables managed to dominate a powerful symbol, just because.

Two: This endless source of entertainment — which I seemed to be the only one enjoying — had been right in front of me every other time I’ve been to Crepeville. This silly picture happened to bring me great joy, and I hadn’t seen it until now, because I didn’t look carefully.

On that very same night, the four of us walked less than a block away from Crepeville to Old Soul in The Alley to get some good coffee. While I’d been to our previous stop several times, Old Soul was a new spot for me. I was immediately impressed.

Aside from maintaining a lovely ambiance and serving some of the best coffee in the city, I discovered something in the coffee shop that had nothing to do with the shop itself; I immediately dubbed it the treasure wall.

In the picture above, Old Soul’s long brick wall is occupied with handmade pictures and crafts available for purchase, created by elementary school children. The description says, “William Land Elementary; Spring Art Show; Art by: Mandarin Immersion Students.” Old Soul Co., a small business itself — with a total of four Sacramento locations, including one in the airport — is currently investing in future small businesses.

It may seem minor; it may just seem like a nice thing for the powers-that-be who oversee Old Soul’s interior decorating to do. But to me, this is a big deal. This tells me that local businesspeople and artisans recognize what everyone else may be missing, hiding in plain sight. This tells me that Old Soul is paying it forward, empowering average children to be more, just as someone empowered the dream of Tim and Jason.

They recognize the potential that is always there, that’s always been there… hiding in plain sight.

This principle applies to more than just the eccentric wall decor found in Crepeville, or the inspirational campaign in Old Soul, just steps apart from one another. This principle applies to our city — the people in our city — as a rule.

Sacramento is known to be one of the cities most prevalent in human trafficking and gang violence. People are hurting constantly. The state of a lot of personal situations in our metro area is heartbreaking. While the idea of “hiding in plain sight” does, unfortunately, often apply to criminals’ manipulations, there is another side of the coin.

Our city is overflowing with potential. Even criminals and their victims could have very positive futures, if they were given the right opportunities. We often cast away these sorts of people without really giving them a chance. It’s time for that to change.

Imagine looking deeper. Imagine truly seeing what’s been hidden in plain sight all along: the overwhelming possibility of hope, for what seems completely hopeless. We can’t be afraid to get our hands dirty. We can’t be unwilling to sacrifice a few luxuries in order to help hurting hearts.

The people of Sacramento deserve a renaissance, a rebirth. And it’s up to us to find — and carefully use — what’s been hidden in plain sight all along.

Originally published at

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