Sure signs of summer: baseball, butterflies, lemonade stands, 9 p.m. sunsets, neighbors who think 6 a.m. is a great time to mow their lawns, and, of course, good ol’ fashioned summer kickoff block parties.
The family who lives across the street from my mom in Double Diamond has had one going for four days straight. She’s been texting me with regular through-the-blinds updates. A lot of reggae and skunky smells.
But Margot, my partner in love and crime, and I attended a summer kickoff party ourselves back on June 9. The annual Tri-Lab street party is a fundraising event for a few local nonprofits—the all-ages arts organization the Holland Project, the Reno Bike Project, and KWNK, a community radio station. The section of Martin Street in front of Craft Wine and Beer was blocked off for food trucks, vendors and a KWNK DJ booth that was bumping a weird variety of choice selections. Lead Dog Brewing had a signature beer for the event, a Czech lager with a slick label designed by local artist and literal sheep-shearer Sarah Lillegard. This year’s event was the fourth annual.
A couple of bands played in Craft’s back room during the event, but I was only able to catch one set: Clarko, a Devo-inspired post-punk band. The music was terrific, and singer-guitarist Clark Demeritt’s onstage banter was hilarious: “I’m Clark and this is my band, Clarko. That’s right. I named the band after myself. Like Beethoven.”
We had a blast. It was the kind of fun, exciting, community-oriented event that would make you fall in love with a city, if only you could afford to live there.
And the best part of the night? The conversations. Here are some samples:
“I was happy to see the RN&R back in print!”
“I saw the RN&R is back. Are you involved with that at all?
“I loved your piece in the new RN&R!”
“Man, I gotta tell you, it felt really good to pick up a new issue of the RN&R, and actually hold it in my hands.”
I’m not deluded enough to think the RN&R was the only topic of conversation in the valley for the first two weeks of June, and I know that some of that chatter was just people making small talk with a face they associate with the paper. But it was still good to hear.
At that point, I still hadn’t even seen a print edition. Craft had a stack earlier in the week, I heard, but they were out by the time of the party. I’d been keeping my eyes open, but I hadn’t stumbled upon one yet.
A few days later, I was talking to my friend Josh, and he mentioned that he’d just picked up a copy and had it with him. I asked to see it. I held it in my hands.
I don’t want to fetishize newsprint. It’s just paper. But holding an actual printed edition of the newspaper, smelling the smells of ink and paper, seeing the little imperfections in the printing, gave me an unexpected rush—a mix of nostalgia and excitement. It’s a lot like what some serious record collectors might feel when they find some rare 45 of unusual, magical music.
“Can I have this?” I asked, mouth presumably agape.
“Well,” he said, “I haven’t finished reading it yet.”
So then I had to ask around, and stop by a few questionable establishments, just to find a copy. But it was pretty satisfying when I finally did find one—a kind of satisfaction nearly forgotten in today’s age of instant internet gratification.
And then I read it. Besides my own column, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d already read a few of the pieces online, like Frank X. Mullen’s news stories, but it was exciting to see so many familiar names, writing to their strengths: a theater preview by Jessica Santina, an art story by Kris Vagner, a movie piece by Bob Grimm, a food review by Todd South. Photos by David Robert! A Tom Tomorrow cartoon!
I was glad to read Frank use a line that I’d often say: “A print newspaper should be a mirror of the community it serves.” And right now, what does that mirror reflect? Anxiety. Anxiety about the future. Anxiety about the price of housing in this community. Anxiety about the rate of development. You can see that anxiety in Frank’s feature story last month. And in my column. And in Alicia Barber’s guest comment. Reno feels anxious. But there’s also hope.
Back in 2020, when we closed up shop and lost our jobs, I didn’t think we’d ever see another new issue of the RN&R. I was the editor of the paper at the time, and I felt like the final captain of an ancient, storied vessel, about to go down with the ship. It was a dark time.
So, it’s a bright, but minor, miracle that the paper is back. Kudos to Frank for carrying the torch during those dark times, and massive props to Jimmy for reviving the paper. Thank you, fellas.
And Reno? Don’t take this for granted. Value it. Cherish it. It’s free to read. But it’s not free to make.