Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Reno Arch on Virginia Street, Reno, Nevada


My sister, her husband, and their two sons are having a short vacation in South Lake Tahoe and Reno now. It's the first visit for her boys, ages 14 and 16, to Reno where she and I were both born and raised. It's changed so much since this postcard that I date to the early 1940s based on the stamp affixed on the back (no message or address), which I learned online was used on mail in 1942. In our youth it was still the city of trembling leaves, and actually for a city of its size (Reno-Sparks 2008: 414,784) trees still grow abundantly where desired, appreciated, and cared for lovingly.

May Reno always live up to the name given it
by Walter Van Tilburg Clark in his glorious epic novel, The City of Trembling Leaves .......


from the prelude of the book, published in 1945 (when the population was around 53,000):

THIS is the story of the lives and loves of Timothy Hazard, and so, indirectly, a token biography of Reno, Nevada, as well. Now, whatever else Reno may be, and it is many things, it is the city of trembling leaves. The most important meaning of leaves is the same everywhere in Reno, of course, and everywhere else, for that matter, which is what Tim implies when he calls moribund any city containing a region in which you can look all around and not see a tree. Such a city is drawing out of its alliance with the eternal, with the Jurassic Swamps and the Green Mansions, and in time it will also choke out the trees in the magic wilderness of the spirit. In Reno, however, this universal importance of trees is intensified, for Reno is in the Great Basin of America, between the Rockies and the Sierras, where the vigor of the sun and the height of the mountains, to say nothing of the denuding activities of mining booms, have created a latter-day race of tree worshippers. Furthermore, to such tree worshippers, and Tim Hazard is high in the cult, the trees of Reno have regional meanings within their one meaning, like the themes and transitions of a one-movement symphony. . .

[descriptions of each region of the city follow, culminating in the following, at the end of the prelude. . .]

There is also, of course, the treeless center of the city, which we have worked all around, though not without hearing it several times, in sudden shrill bursts from the brass or deep mutterings in the rhythm section. This, however, is the region about which the world already knows or imagines more, in a Sunday-supplement way, than is true, and it will do, for the present, to suggest that it is not unlike any moribund city, or the moribund region of any city. It is the ersatz jungle, where the human animals, uneasy in the light, dart from cave to cave under steel and neon branches, where the voice of the croupier halloos in the secret glades, and high and far, like light among the top leaves, gleam the names of lawyers and hairdressers on upstairs windows. In short this is the region which may be truly entered by passing under the arch which says, RENO, THE BIGGEST LITTLE CITY IN THE WORLD.

Yet there is one important difference between even this region and the truly moribund cities of the world, the difference which makes Reno a city of adolescence, a city of dissonant themes, sawing against each other with a kind of piercing beauty like that of a fourteen-year-old girl or a seventeen-year-old boy, the beauty of everything promised and nothing resolved. Even from the very center of Reno, from the intersection of Virginia and Second Streets, and even at night, when restless club lights mask the stars, one can look in any direction and see the infinite shoals of the leaves hovering about the first lone crossing light.

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12 comments:

dmarks said...

I've been to Reno a few times, but have never seen this sign.

laughingyogini said...

Hi Lydia, Love your postcard Wednesdays!

This post about tree worshippers in Reno touches my heart because trees are incredible beings.

You may enjoy the book, The Attentive Heart, Conversations with Trees by Stephanie Kaza.

Erin Davis said...

I never knew it was called the city of trembling leaves...such a poetic name!
I've tagged you with a meme on my blog (if you haven't already done this one and if you are interested and if you have time)...

Lydia said...

@dmarks *(and anyone interested in the history of the Reno Arch)*- The Arch shown in this postcard stands downtown over on Lake Street. In a previous post showing the Arch at night, I wrote this:
The famous Reno Arch, first erected in 1927 with different wording to commemorate an exposition held there, was reconfigured into the one shown here around 1935 and didn't change until 1963. I hated the one that replaced it. As a native Renoite I absolutely loved reading this short but excellent history (with photos of each of the versions) of the Reno Arch.

Kim said...

Yes! Another Old Postcard Wednesday! And Reno is a town I've always wanted to visit. Something about Lake Tahoe and Reno draw me.

Lover of Life said...

OMG - I was born and raised in Reno, too!! Living in Incline now. Small world!

Lydia said...

@laughingyogini- Trees are a part of our family and I wish more people realized it. I have noted the book you recommend, as it sounds wonderful.

@Erin- I'll come take a look but I have a sneaky feeling that it might be the one that I must work on tonight given to me last week. If it's not a dup, then I'll do the meme at your blog too. Thanks for thinking of me. :)

@Kim- I hope you have an opportunity to visit both Tahoe and Reno, with some time to spare so that you get around in Reno to some beautiful sites away from the gambling theme.

@Lover of Life- I am smiling. :)
Left a message at your blog after you won Blog of Note (can't remember which post, tho') and said I was from Reno and had best GFs who lived at Incline but who were bussed down to school in Reno because there were no middle or high schools there at the time.
Wooster, class of 1969 here.....

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

For some reason talk of Reno makes me think of Bruce Springsteen songs about smalltown boys with big thoughts

The sign looks like the old film studio signs abouve the doors

The size of a city doesn't really matter - it's more about how big your ideas and thoughts are that count. Sadly the area i live has always been quite introspective.

Postcardy said...

If you use your permalink like this on Postcard Friendship Friday, then it ill link to the right postcard post:
http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2009/05/old-postcard-wednesday-reno-arch-on.html

Lydia said...

@Pixies- That's an interesting Springsteen connection you have with Reno. Actually some of my best friends in that town have gone on to realize their dreams after leaving Reno. I'm sure some did it right there too, though, as there always seemed to be big dreamers in Reno.

@Postcardy- I appreciate this tip, and I did try that a couple of weeks. The problem was that some people still clicked on my name, which takes them to my main page. Maybe if I do the postcard link first thing, before any comment, that might work. In any case, I really enjoy visiting the blogs that are a part of PFF. :)

Mark said...

Thank-you for sharing this. This is one of the cities that I have missed in my travels and one that I would love to visit, even more now after reading this excerpt.

Lydia said...

@Mark- With your attitude you'd be one of those who would seek out and discover the hidden treasures of the area.

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