When I started writing the post last night about the disappearance of a favorite bookstore, my intention was to write about another disappearance: a favorite restaurant in Vacaville, California.
When I was a young housewife living in the suburbs, I would often drive to Reno in the summer to visit my grandparents. After getting through the East Bay and crossing Carquinez Strait, I drove straight up I-80 through some beautiful countryside, looking forward to stopping in Vacaville for the best hamburgers in the world at the Coffe Tree (across the highway and a smaller version of the Nut Tree). That was my routine. The Coffe Tree was my treat away from kids and husband and any responsibility.
So when my cousin died and I was making plans to go to his memorial service in Berkeley with my sister, I suggested that she pick me up at the Sacramento Airport and we could drive south and stay in Vacaville and have a good meal at the Nut Tree or the Coffee Tree. I made my reservations, picturing the Nut Tree I knew from about 30 years ago.
There is still a place called the Nut Tree, and it sits in the exact spot where the photo above was taken. The web site even calls it "California's Legendary Road Stop," leading one to believe that the Nut Tree is still there waiting for me and others who look forward to a cool break from the hot roads. Those liars.
This Nut Tree is just a little shopping mall like all the other little shopping malls, with some big box stores and a coffee place or two, some fast food, some ice cream, and one or two chain restaurants. This Nut Tree is decidedly not that Nut Tree. And I am pissed off.
I think what riles me the most is the effrontery of using the cache of the old Nut Tree to make people think they're landing in a spot that was and will always be "legendary," a place worthy of nostalgia. And that is simply not true. Got nostalgia for a Starbuck's? There's one on every corner in many places in this country and beyond. Ever long for the sight of a blue-vest-clad oldster offering you a cart at a certain big box store whose name begins with a W and ends with a mart? Walk into any one of those places across the country, wander around thinking about other things, and then quick, answer this question: what city are you in? What state? I once walked out of a Wal-mart here in Colorado and was surprised to see that I was not in Indiana, where I often shopped with Dad when I'd visit.
To the Nut Tree "premium outlet" folks I send a big raspberry for pretending to be what they are not.
To everyone else, I can only say that I wish you had known it then. Thanks for the memories, Nut Tree.