When I first saw its name, I laughed. In California, in the year 2021, when colleges are being renamed, statues righteously taken down and Disneyland reimagined in the furtherance of anti-racism and inclusion, could there really be a beloved Bay Area institution called “Al the Wop’s”?
Staring at it on an online map of the Sacramento River Delta, I zoomed in on Locke, Calif., population “between 70 and 80 people.” Something about its location — on the dry side of a levee, amid a tangle of root-like tributaries, surrounded by towns I’d somehow never heard of — seemed mysterious. I was overcome by a desire to get in my car and drive. But the state was in the midst of a COVID surge and vaccines weren’t yet widely available, so my visit would have to wait.