I’m not sure what drove us to the original street level of Sacramento, except a growing curiosity for a world over a century behind us, and a hope for sustenance. We found it easily, set deeply into the collection of businesses that make up Old Town Sacramento. It was still too early for business, and so we flipped some pennies into the fountain and took a walk down the row of businesses, hoping for a good place to eat.
If I can tell you anything about Old Town Sacramento, it’s that there are slightly more candy stores than sock stores. I don’t understand how any one of them manages to stay in business when they all sell candy and socks. Are tourists really that hungry for funny feet and sugar?
We weren’t. We were hungry for real food. I got sucked into an oil & vinegar store thinking they had free olive samples, not free samples of olive oil. It was delicious, but not quite enough. We passed by a display of historical facts and followed some children into a Wells Fargo mini-museum. I tried my hand at the morse code machine (hoping, perhaps, that the genetics passed down on my mother’s side would aid me), and failed miserably, only typing out a lot of Ts and Es and Ss, and a couple of Ks. My timing is off, which I was used to in music, but was a new low to hit when it came to communication. As we left the mini-museum, we saw an ATM and it occurred to us the fully costumed woman behind the counter may have been an actual bank teller.
We wandered into another place meant to commemorate history effectually, this time very clearly stated a Visitors center. There was a beautifully painted carriage and some knick-knacks. The lady at the front asked me if she could help and I told her I didn’t know. I wandered into another room and a jovial man asked me if I was taking the gold rush experience. I asked him what it cost and he redirected me to the lady who tried to help earlier. She explained there was the Gold Rush Experience for $10, the Underground tour for $15, or we could do both for $20. They sounded like a great deal to me and I was about to forget my stomach, but Erica wasn’t, so we excused ourselves, and the lady bid us adieu with a recommendation for the District. We wandered a bit until we found it, and checked out their menu. Erica ordered a croissant with some tots. I am not quite a fan of breakfast and I didn’t want to pay $10 for a bowl of fruit, so I nibbled on her tots.
We were starting to hit a wall, so we tried to get in contact with some friends to see if we could stay with them, but they were out of town. Out of curiosity, I looked up if Hostelling International had a location in Sacramento, and they did. Oh boy, did they! I see the words “victorian mansion” and switch over to the image search to see a gorgeous pale blue mansion, with some pretty swank decor inside. We abandon any plans to meet up with friends for a place to stay, and book a night in the mansion with private rooms for about $100 total. We could have gone for the much cheaper option of a group room for about $30 each, but the private room meant we didn’t have to worry about stuff or people as much.
The next few hours were dedicated to keeping us awake, because at this point we had both been awake for about 22 hours. We continued to snake our way through Old Sacramento, and discovered this costume mansion (so many mansions!), Evangeline’s. I got distracted talking to a girl rallying donations for the ACLU outside and Erica explored the first level. After I made my donation, we wandered through the first level, which was like a really classy Spencer’s (as if Spencer’s could ever be classy). The upper levels bore a pretty extensive range of costumes. On the second floor were my favorites: steampunk, victorian, and 1920s. Oh, those flapper costumes were very tempting and very inexpensive. Truth be told, I got lost among all the costumes. There were so many. It was a little heavenly. We kept discovering stairways and new alcoves full of designs. The top floor bore a few more flamboyant and ambiguous costumes, with a huge display of wigs and makeup. And above that stairway was a door to nowhere, and another stairway to nowhere with a Jessica Rabbit mannequin guarding the way.
We left the costume mansion and made our way past more candy stores and many empty businesses. We hopped back in the car and stopped at Rite Aid so Erica could get some bug cream, and she came back out and said “so there’s a TARDIS on 2nd and 61st.”
Of course, we made our way over. We were so perplexed for five minutes, because 1) there are two intersections of 2nd and 61st and 2) neither one had a TARDIS. We drove down 61st and found no TARDIS. We drove down one of the 2nd streets and found no TARDIS. Just as we were convinced we’d been lied to, I spot a more promising patch of blue down the other 2nd street and we make a beeline for it. We hop out of the car and pull open the doors and the TARDIS is indeed bigger on the inside – a little library. We look through the books and Erica spots one called “Literary Feasts.” I exchange it for a literary feast I kept in the back of my car – a collection of Shakespearean Comedies.
Satisfied with our expedition, we rack the internet for where to go next before our energy dies out. Erica finds a house designed by an art teacher called the Dragon House, which bears the title of something to see from both Atlas Obscura and Weird California. We drive by it and want to take pictures, but they’re working on the house and we were too tired to be awkwardly interactive with people just living their lives. At this point, energies have died immensely and we take a nap. The area is very safe, and we only need to kill an hour before the hostel will let us check in.
3pm rolls around and we pull into the hostel. The clerk is kind and helps us to parking ($6 for the private lot), and then finishes checking us in and shares the rules. He helps us out and gets us a cheaper private room, #30 – the Lucky Strike. The room is at the top of the servants’ stairs. It’s about the size of the room I have at home, with a single bed and a double bed, a chair, and a nightstand. The beds are wire framed. It’s not entirely Victorian, but it’s not the modern stack the group rooms have. Either way, the downstairs is comfortable and a tad luxurious, with the parlor set up with a Victorian aesthetic. We’re pretty content. So content, that we pass out for 4 hours.
When we wake up, we eat some of the food I’d brought along for the ride, and look up what we could do now that it’s 9pm. I take a little bit longer to eat, and spend my time eavesdropping on a conversation some of the other hostelers are having. A couple of them are truck drivers, or one used to be and one had only been on the road a year. They briefly squabble about the impact unions have had on driving for better or worse before the more seasoned driver explains that it is for the better, and to prevent anyone being taken advantage of and to extend the years the drivers can work. Oh, and they also talk about how this hostel used to be a funeral home, and then the seasoned driver says the following: “I’ve been watching those videos lately where everyone comes together for a picture and they take the picture and get it developed and there’s someone standing at the edge of the photo…. but nobody knows who they are.”
Erica and I have been hoping for ghosts – me rather fruitlessly. I don’t believe in ghosts but I love other people’s excitement and fear of them. I hear the woman of the group discuss how no, wearing as much makeup as she does isn’t going to put toxins in her body. I’m a little confused by the conversation until I hear her talk about how the dress takes so much longer to make, and I piece together a memory of a living statue preparing for her day that we’d seen in Old Sacramento. I even took a short video of her earlier. Amused by the revelation that I was now eavesdropping on the living statue, I packed up my laptop and went back to the room to figure out where were going next.
Erica finds a place called the Dive Bar, which features mermaids in tanks, and so obviously we were going there. She pauses to make a call to her mom to brag about the find, and this is the closest thing we get to anything ghostly the entire time: her mother picks up, exclaims “Sweetie!” and her voice immediately cuts out and is replaced by a waving bass buzz. Erica tries to call her back, but the line is unavailable.
Is it a ghost?
A minute later, she manages to call her mom, and it turns out her phone had died. So close! At least something dead was involved.
After that, we make our way over to K street and find a long line of people outside the very reserved facade. We show our IDs, the bouncer takes our picture to match the ID, and we entered. We pushed our way through a confusing mess of people who were actually attempting to bump and grind while mermaids floated above the bar. In the tank was a mermaid and a merman and they swam through every few minutes after refreshing their lungs. Their thing seemed to be twirling about and flirting with each other, I suppose to get the hormones moving in the patrons. It was pretty, but I’ve been spoiled by a private education of professional mermaids. We had our fill, and made our way out to discover we were hungry.
Next door to the Dive Bar was a place called Pizza Rock, which also had a bouncer. We were seated fairly quickly, and given menus. The menus were made of old beaten up vinyls, with the main spread on the album and the extra bits on the vinyl itself. It was pretty neat. Erica was delighted by the Eddie Muenster pizza, and me by the Artichoke Joe. Neither of us got either pizza – she got a prize-winning margherita which they only sell 76 of per day, and I got the Garden Pizza. Her margherita was delicious, and my garden was satisfactory. We finished our meal, fairly satisfied with the day overall, and made our way back to the hostel, stopping briefly to pawn off my leftovers on a homeless man who was very eager to have them.
Oh, there’s also this weird statue in the park next to City Hall that we have no idea what it is for because the lights next to it were out. It’s very creepy, because at 12am it looks like people just frozen in time.