I must say, the old Register building was looking surprisingly youthful last Tuesday afternoon.
Standing at the corner of Second and Wilson, I admired the purple lantana overflowing the planter box by the entry. Painted grape vines wound around the column at the top of the stairs, potentially enticing passersby.
Memories flowed. I’d worked here for 43 years. There was practically no nook or cranny on the Register block that didn’t trigger recollections of times past.
I recalled the publisher who ordered up the painted grape vines. He once called a newsroom meeting and, with a weird urgency, advised us to read the bestseller, “Who Moved My Cheese?”
Change is coming, he said. Get ready for it.
His advice was prophetic on so many levels. Soon after his spiel, his corporate bosses moved his cheese and he wasn’t publisher anymore.
Then the Register got hit with two epic cheese-moving events. First, the digital revolution that swept over the newspaper industry, eroding the old business model. Second, the South Napa earthquake of August 2014.
Change has always been a staple of the news business. The Register was experiencing it in spades.
The facade of normalcy at the corner of Second and Wilson last Tuesday afternoon was a sham. Just beyond my view, an army of demolition equipment was gutting the building. Interior walls and ceilings were being ripped apart and heaped up like so much garbage, leaving the shell of the exterior that would be next.
None of this was pleasing to watch, yet I managed a small laugh. Mechanical monsters were devouring my cheese.
I’d come to this site in 1973 as a young reporter. The sprawling Register building had opened just seven years before.
The carpeting was a snazzy green, the desks goldenrod. You couldn’t get more modern than that.
The quake of three years ago was an improbable event. A big shake in Napa wasn’t on anyone’s Most Likely list.
For two years the newsroom operated out of FEMA-like trailers in the parking lot along Seminary Street. Then, last July, we all picked up and moved to modern offices at 1615 Soscol Ave.
When the old site got sold for redevelopment, I was actually excited. The plan for 51 townhomes and street-level commercial — what a fine example of the city reinventing itself.
But when the demo planned for this spring got delayed, I briefly entertained the hope it wouldn’t happen. Prisoners on death row sometimes get last-minute reprieves, don’t they?
Such sentimentality surprised me. I’d thought 1615 Second was dead to me.
The arrival of Demolition Day prompted a flood of memories. I’d worked with so many people over the decades in our virtually windowless newsroom. Smart people, quirky people, some real characters.
There were Als, Alexes, Annes, Anns, Brians, Beckys, Bills, Brookeses, Bens, Chrises, Carloses, Dawynas, Davids, Dereks, Dianes, Dianas, Dougs, Ethans, Erins, Franks, Heathers, Imrans, Jans, Johns, Jerrys, Juans, Jorgens, Jesses, Jillians, Janelles, Jeffs, Jacks, Keranas, Lynns, Louisas, Lisas, Lilys, Maralyns, Michaels, Mitches, Mikes, Marshas, Marilees, Markes, Natalies, Nicoles, Pams, Roseanns, Riches, Rebeccas, Seans, Steves, Toms and Vivies.
And that’s for starters.
With such flux, I’d become practiced in saying goodbye to coworkers. And besides, there’s now Facebook.
But how to say goodbye to a building, my home for four decades? To watch it torn down and hauled off?
Last Saturday evening, before the wreckers went to work, I parked my car on the street next to the old Register, then walked extra blocks to the Judy Collins concert at the Uptown.
Cheryl questioned what I was doing. Why were we parking so far away?
It’s hard to put into words, I said. Because this spot feels comfortable. Because the next time we park in downtown, the Register won’t be here.