At just past 8:30 a.m., the neon sign flickered to life. Guthrie's Alley Cat had put out the welcome mat for the morning beer-and-shots crowd.
The bar sits on Wall Street in Bakersfield, a narrow piece of concrete near downtown. My wife, Donna, and I are not nursing a nascent alcohol problem, nor are we particularly fascinated with people who prefer beer to bacon, or cocktails to Corn Flakes.
We are attempting to document California's Wall Streets, places where people get their mail, go to work, meet their friends, and, generally, live their lives. Not the "Wall Street," where faceless investment bankers, accountants and — let's face it — thieves make billions, not by producing anything, but from the manipulation of money itself.
There are at least 19 cities and towns in the Golden State that possess a Wall Street. Some, like San Jose, are large. Others, like Independence, nestled in the shadow of Mt. Whitney, are tiny. In some of these places, the streets are more than 10 miles long — as is Wall Street in Los Angeles. In others, like Placerville, Wall Street is little more than a dead-end alley.