Kevin Courtney

Napa Valley Register City Editor Kevin Courtney.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Thank heavens for birthdays. Thank heavens my daughter lives as close as Sacramento.

She’s an elusive one. She won’t make phone calls, she’s skimpy with emails, her texts are beyond terse. But she’ll happily let me hang out with her.

It took five weeks for our schedules to align, and, not coincidentally, for Cheryl to be away at a seminar.

Sacramento, here I come!

Birthday daughter lives in a Korean neighborhood near Midtown. She pays less than $400 to share a top-floor apartment with two other women. The price is exactly right, but can it last?

Expensive apartment and “loft” developments are going up nearby, accompanied by cool coffee houses, restaurants and bars. There’s a palpable sense that gentrification is coming Jenny’s way.

Believe me, I worry about this, but not this day. This day I have Jenny all to myself.

I consider myself fortunate. Not all dads enjoy that privilege with their adult children.

I don’t recall just hanging out with my own dad when I was a young man. Men of his generation didn’t hang, they played golf.

I didn’t hang much with my mom, either. And I when I did, there were always squabbles.

Over the 15 or so years of my Sacramento visits, Jenny and I have established certain rituals. There’s breakfast or lunch, a sightseeing walk through older neighborhoods, maybe a visit to the Crocker museum. And always time at a coffeehouse.

And while we’re eating and walking, we’re talking. Talk about little stuff, big stuff, ridiculous stuff. It just bubbles up.

This visit stayed true to form. Pancakes at Orphan, a cafe on C Street. A stroll through Midtown and Downtown — areas with magnificent street trees. Then a visit to California’s domed Capitol, as impressive a civic building as you’re going to find this side of D.C.

As always, there was a demonstration underway. Last visit it was a protest against fracking. This time, political oppression in Cambodia.

Fifty or so Cambodians held signs written in Khmer, protesting strongman rule in their home country. We paused and felt sad for the Cambodians. Was anyone besides us hearing their voices?

Once we passed through airport-like security, we roamed the Capitol for free. Jenny spied dragons built into the Capitol’s light fixtures. And ferocious lions insinuated into wall ornamentation.

Could anything be more “Game of Thrones”? she asked.

As someone mid-way through Season 7, I froze for a second. No spoilers!

When we left the Capitol, the Cambodians had broken for refreshments. We were offered donuts.

We trekked south and installed ourselves in an Insight coffeehouse for two hours of talk over cappuccino (me) and kombucha (she).

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I listened to Jenny’s accounts of childhood, cats, her brother, her mom, the dynamics of her work situation. My curiosity was without limits. What a great thing to be a father, to be sharing my Bicentennial daughter’s life.

There are very few people on the planet that I would willingly listen to for two hours without fidgeting. But my own flesh and blood? Not a problem.

In the late afternoon we made our longest walk of the day, from Insight to Zocalo, a Mexican restaurant in an ornate former Hudson car dealership built in the 1920s.

Frugal dad ordered off the happy hour menu. Birthday girl got the $20 salmon.

Sacramento evenings are gloriously warm and pleasing. The long walk back to Jenny’s place was the sweetest stroll of the day.

I felt a tinge of melancholy at saying goodbye. Father-daughter days such as this are too rare. We were about to return to our distant, so very separate lives.

When I pulled into my Napa driveway, there was Cheryl, just getting home herself from a day in a hotel conference room in Oakland.

How’d it go? she asked.

Very nice, I said. You can’t beat a day in Sacramento.

Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.

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