Saturday, July 29, 2006

Culture Collision

Downtown Novato is going through some pretty spastic growing pains these days, for a city that's already well over 100 years old. El Rancho de Novato started out as a Mexican land grant in 1839, and wasn't even incorporated as a "real" city until 1960.
I always thought of Novato just as that place on 101 you drive by real fast on your way north to Sonoma, past the funny refrigerated storage facility with the huge Van Gogh-esque mural of American presidents on its side (recently painted over, alas).
Then I moved to Marin County and came to think of Novato as a funky old town with a couple of outdated bars, surrounded by sprawls of housing developments — and a huge shopping center with a Costco on the other side of the freeway.
I am really not the person to make judgments about Novato and its permutations. I think Novato is great, but I don't live there.
I'll let Jennifer of The Novato Experiment be your chronicler of the progress this town has been making. Check in with her every now and then for updates.
You'll have to decide for yourself, though, whether you even think Novato {can/ought to/shouldn't/must/won't be able to} adapt to the growing demands of people who moved to Novato because it's the last place they could afford in Marin County, and who now expect local merchants to cater to their sophisticated tastes.
After lunch the other day at a nifty, manly new pub called Finnegan's, owned by a group of men and probably cheffed by men — good, smart food at half the price of a comparable San Francisco joint, with only a little tweaking still needed in the service department — I walked past a shop displaying these paper napkins in the window.
Hello? Is this not the 21st Century?
Well, they'd probably make a hilarious High Camp statement at a gay cocktail party.
I'm just not sure that party's happening in Novato. (But give me a call if it is... I'll bring the napkins.)


Moonbear said...

As I recall, Novato is a town that puts up a life-size manger scene in the middle of town, lighted up, at winter holiday season. The only people I know from Novato liked to hold hand and "fellowship" together. I'm not sure how the napkins will go over.

cookiecrumb said...

Hey, MB: Oh! I didn't know that about the manger. Well, then maybe Novato needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century a lot more than I thought. Allez!

Bacon Press said...

Wait a minute?

If you're going up to Novato, should the napkins say "Danger! Meth Lab Cooking"?


Dagny said...

My dad could probably use some of those napkins. We like to make jokes about how dangerous it is for him to be in the kitchen, especially when he pulls out the torch to make creme brulee.

One of my friends considered moving to Novato a few years ago. One of the new housing developments had below-market homes for teachers so she put in for the lottery.

I like to think of Novato as the place to turn onto 37 when I am heading to Sacto from SF.

Kevin said...

No comment.

kudzu said...

I read your post last night and decided to wait until now to comment, since I wanted to think about your description and -- especially -- the first comment it elicited........I used to think of Novato as "that town up there" until people I love moved into the community and I began spending time with them in their new hometown....What is true is that one finds one's own element no matter where one lands. I've met some of the brightest, most nurturing, and (since this is a food blog) most adventurous eaters/cooks there in the last several years....I admit hating the design of the "new" downtown, where sort of Old West buildings and nice shade trees were replaced with slick store fronts and weird parking slots. I admit that there is a larger percentage of flagwaving churchgoers. (This may be due to the fact that so many SF firefighters and police officers commute from there.)....But there is a lot stirring there, with affordable housing (true affordable housing) opening up at Hamilton, the old movie theater's conversion to a performing arts center, the arrival of TJ and Whole Foods and restaurants that are trying to respond to changing demographics....And hey -- I even know some gays there. Not that there's anything wrong with that....E for effort, I say.

Jennifer said...

Ah, Cookie. A whole post on Novato? What did we do to deserve this? :-)

I love these comments. From meth labs to hand-holding fellowshippers, Novato truly is an exciting place to be. When my gay friends come to visit, they do a little shudder as they get out of their cars, but they have a nice time anyway.

I still have hope! After all, I live here. I would love to think that eventually I won't have to fill up my gas tank just to get a good meal or a bag full of nice groceries...

cookiecrumb said...

Jennifer, you'd probably be surprised how often I find myself in Novato.
Oh, and I just discovered an old friend is co-manager (or something) at Kitchen.
Keep hope alive.

Jennifer said...

Well, we shall have to meet sometime when you're in the neighborhood!