Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fresno, Fresno, oh how I love thee…

How did I end up in this place and what do I really think about it?

I was actually born in Los Angeles to a poor family who gave put me up for adoption. My Mom and Dad adopted me through an agency, and when I was 6 months old, I became an East Coaster. At first we lived in Willingborough, New Jersey but Dad worked for US Steel as a lead project manager, so we ended up moving quite a bit. We lived in Jamaica New York, Levittown Pennsylvania and finally ended up in Coram New York (Out in Suffolk County on Long Island).

My Dad worked on at least one famous project to people who live in the NYC area.

When I was 12, my first job ever was working in a comic book shop. How amazing is that? Peaking career wise at 12.

Anyhow, by the time I was thirteen, my Dad had passed on and my Mom decided that we should visit my Sister, who, at the time, was married to a Navy man and lived in someplace called Lemoore California.

This was Christmas 1982. For some reason, I packed two suitcases. One full of clothes and one full of my most treasured comic books. Knowing my Mom, I had a creeping feeling that she secretly wanted to move there. By this time, I had been living in New York for 8 or 9 years and I had zero desire to move to that wacky California. But once I thought about it, I could see the obvious advantages; I mean this is CALIFORNIA right? Beaches everywhere and the weather is always nice. Also, like most New Yorkers, I was sure tired of shoveling snow in the winter. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Well I learned very quickly that when people talk about California they really mean everything in California on the coast south of San Francisco. We flew into California via Fresno. The first thing I noticed from the airplane window was this:

Fog. Fresno was socked in. Lemoore is about 30 miles from Fresno and en route to Lemoore, I found out that in Fresno, there was a lot of this:

Rain. Fog and rain in the winters. At first I was ok with it since it sure beats snow, sleet, and ice. Of course then the summer came. The 110 degree summers. This was not the California I was promised! There were a lot of other things about the Central Valley that weirded me out:

Where are all the black people? When I went to school in New York, I would say one third of my class was Black, one third whitish, and one third Puerto Rican. My first class in Lemoore was entirely white except for a few Mexican kids. In my entire class there were 5 black kids. Fresno is more diverse than Lemoore. Fresno has large Asian and Mexican communities. Lemoore not so much. Homogenous. I also learned that Kings and Tulare counties were home to some large KKK branches. Yikes!

The schools have breezeways instead of hallways. I went to Longwood High School in New York. The school had a huge fence around it and we had security guards on premises. Also each teacher took a shift of hall patrol. At Lemoore High, the campus is totally open. The classrooms open to the outside and you walk across courtyards to get to your next class. You can also walk across the street to the little store or even hop in your car and drive to downtown for lunch. I felt so unsupervised!

People spit. I mean seriously. Lemoore is largely made of Navy personnel and farmers. The farmers spit. A lot. Even if they don’t chew tobacco (which a lot of them did) they spit. Little puddles everywhere. For a polite Italian Catholic boy, I was grossed out most of the day.

Lemoore High School had a paddling policy. Yes paddling. If you got in trouble, you could take detention, suspension of a whack across the ass with a wooden board. When I heard this I was totally amazed. In New York, if a teacher touched a kid and it was a huge scandal.

There once was a six car traffic jam on one of the main streets because tumbleweeds were blowing across the road.

So High School was a big change in culture for me. I was known as the city kid. I survived and went to the local community college. I graduated, got a job at the IRS, and moved to Fresno (long story short there but this is running long). Fresno is definitely an upgrade from Lemoore. As I said Fresno is much more culturally diverse. If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco or any other major city, Fresno is always going to be Smallville. This despite the fact that Fresno is the 36th largest City in the U.S without counting Clovis, Fresno’s attached little brother city. So Fresno is a larger city than Cleveland, Miami, Oakland, St. Louis, Pittsburg and Newark. We have no professional sports teams here. We for have a minor league Arena Football team though! Go Coyote’s!

Everything in Fresno revolves around the weather. Seriously. The summers here are murder. In New York the summer got hot for sure, but it occasionally rained. Here, sometime in May or June, the temperature goes over 100 degrees and stays there through September. Even at night, it sometimes does not go below 90. And no rain. Twenty years ago, Fresno had a rainy season that ran all winter. Not so much anymore. We have been in a drought for over a decade. So now, our winters are dry but bitter cold and foggy. In other words, Fresno weather is nothing like the California most people dream of. This tends to mean that people stay indoors a lot. There really are not a lot of outdoor geared attractions. We have a Zoo which is small. We have very few parks.

I know I have been sort of down on the Central Valley up to this point but seriously, I love Fresno. Sure the weather is a challenge. Sure there is a lot of backwards thinking individuals around here. We call Fresno a little bit of Oklahoma surrounded by California. Hell we have multiple rodeos.

But for me, Fresno is a great mix of small town coziness with a little big city attitude. The people are pretty friendly. The streets are easy to get around. The graffiti team keeps the place from getting too ghetto. We have Alan Autry for a mayor! Bubba!

He’s buddy with the governor so we get plenty of love from the Govenator.

The cost of living is the big draw for Fresno. The cost of living in the Los Angeles or the San Francisco area is just amazing. Rents for small apartments can be $1500. So a lot of people buy houses here in Fresno and commute the 180 miles every day to the big cities. It is actually cheaper than living in those cities. For 1500 you could rent a house here. Plus as you can see, it’s about three hours to Los Angeles or San Francisco, 4 hours to Lake Tahoe and about an hour to Yosemite. Great location! It makes it easy to plan a day trip for fun.

We only have one decent comic shop but at least it’s an awesome one.

So yes, this displaced New Yorker is living and loving his new hometown. Stop by for a spell but dress in layers! And bring a sports team of two please…

1 comment:

Ron said...

Hey man You probably should be in Fresburg. Lemoore is better off without someone as down as you. Have a good life.