ARCHIVES: Time flies when you’re having …

This pre-Franorama World post was posted on my MySpace blog March 23, 2008, 11:28 p.m. PST, on the fourth anniversary of my move to Fresno:

March 23, 2004 … Tuesday … the day started before dawn at a motel down the road from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks (just northwest of Hartford, for the non-Connecticut readers). It was 23 degrees. One last hassle from the nazi security guards to remember Connecticut by (pulling me back to search my suitcase because I had the gall to fly one way) and I wasn’t looking back.

It was 1:30 p.m. Pacific time when the plane touched down in Fresno, and it hit me — “Well, boy, you’re on your own. You ain’t going back — you’re on your own. This is that new chapter of life you’ve been wanting.” It was 81 degrees in the Big No. I caught a cab down the La Quinta Inn on the southeast edge of downtown, my home for the next three days until my stuff arrived at the house Friday morning. No deadlines, no work schedule — well, no car, either, until I rented a silver Dodge Ram that afternoon at the Enterprise on Abby near Olive.
And that’s how it began.

The van pulled up Friday morning. It took about a month for me to get situated, between unpacking, shuffling stuff to the garage, and buying new furniture when Sue, my girlfriend at the time, came out from Long Island on her spring break from school to help me a week or so later. I started work the following Monday, getting used to a totally new job position and a different way of doing things after 11 1/2 years. Getting used to being a speck in a huge pond after being a medium-sized fish in a smaller pond for so long in New Haven.

And suddenly, it’s four years later. Christ, where did the time go? And what am I doing here?

Still in the same house — Eddy and his wife, Marieta, have been much more like family than landlords, and the house is nice; serious ’50s California architecture. Still at The Fresno Bee, still an assistant features editor. Still trying to dig out of the financial hole I made for myself by moving here — and digging in the midst of the worst economy since 1929. (Let’s just say it’s a lot harder when you’re single.) Still occasionally look at these two spindly, tall palms swaying on Olive Avenue, headed westerly toward my house, and occasionally say to myself, out loud, “I’m living in California.” And still in The Big No — one of the weirdest planets in the solar system, especially if you’re from east of the Sierra.

It was a gorgeous anniversary — a gorgeous Easter Sunday, near 80 degrees — and I celebrated by making a few phone calls back east, to family and friends, and then going for a bike ride (about 8 miles). But I’ve been feeling rather weird all day. (I know — that opens up an entire barrage of “But Fran, you’re weird every day!” I deserve that.)

As a card-carrying Gemini, I reserve the right to look at the glass as half-empty and half-full at the same time. On the half-full side: I’m three hours from San Francisco. I’m an hour from the south gate of Yosemite and another 90 minutes to the floor of its valley. I’m about two hours from the coast — Monterey, Santa Cruz, etc. I can go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival (it’s overrated, but I can say I went three times, and have the bobbleheads to show for it). I’ve been able to solve almost all of the health problems that started in New Haven and blew up in my face once I moved here; for the first time in ages, I can say I’m seriously making progress losing weight. I have lots of flat lands on which to ride my bike. My poker game has vastly improved, thanks to my semi-regular games with the Bee sports crew. As the editor of BackTalk, the Sunday features page written by local high school students, I’ve been lucky enough to work with about two dozen of the best and brightest students in the central San Joaaquin Valley. (One of my movie reviewers just found out two days ago she’s been accepted into the screenwriting program at USC Film School — only 24 students are chosen every year. It’s soooooooo cool!) And I got a best friend out of the deal. Heather’s a redheaded postpunk Maureen O’Hara, a fiery redheaded Irish-Scottish pirate wench broad with a heart of one part gold, one part mush — totally accepting of me for all I am (totally platonic from day one, BTW), and would give her life for a dog if she had to. Too bad most of you back east won’t get to meet her.

The half-empty side: I’m in the Waterbury of California; all of Cali knows this, but no one east of the Sierra does. I’m in a city that’s centrally located in California, but far enough away to be far away — three hours from SF and Sacramento, four from LA, six from San Diego. Too far to go unless you do a little planning. And the isolation isn’t just geographical. Lots of right-wing radicals and lots of forms of what is called Christianity, including in the highest levels of government. Lots of old-boy politics (different from and more brazen than the old-boy politics in New Haven). Little emphasis on education (but they spend tons of money on superintendents and a few ex-superintendents, too, yet the elementary art and music programs were elininated years ago). Save for a few pockets of resistance, the city has as little intellectual curiosity as Bush, if that’s possible. The newspaper business is in the toilet at the moment, and even though I’m a cog in one of the best companies in the business (McClatchy), I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. The city has a beautiful downtown that’s gone to seed because the social climbers keep building outward and plowing under farmland to build thousands of big, generic homes on postage-stamp plots. (Downtown, BTW, rolls up about 4:30, same as Hartford.) The smog is usually neck-and-neck with LA for worst in the country. (Figure in three solid months of 100-plus degrees in the daytime, plus the pollution from cars and agricultural dust and cow farts and cowshit, and consider that all these poisons are trapped in the valley by the Sierra on one side and the coastal ranges on the other.)

Also, the pollen from all the plant life really does a number on you. (I needed an inhaler for the first time this year.) The pizza absolutely sucks (though in my case, maybe that’s a good thing — one less temptation). There is no cohesive music scene, and club owners are too slack to even let people know when they’re having shows. How they stay in business, I have no clue. (I usually hear more about shows in Visalia, 45 minutes south, than I do at Club Fred, the club in the Tower District, where I hang out. Apparently, they haven’t heard of fliers.) And even among the so-called liberals, there’s a faction that makes you feel that if you haven’t lived here your whole life, then you’re an outsider and always will be. It’s probably why I haven’t been able to get involved in community radio here. (This ain’t no WPKN, pal!)

So my four years here been a mixed bag. Then again, so were my years in New Haven, and I remember enough of why I needed to leave New Haven to know that I don’t want to go back there. I think, above all, there’s a loneliness here that I’m not able to shake. Then again, I felt that in Connecticut, too, believe it or don’t. I was just a higher-functioning form of hermit. Plus, I need that special someone in my life. The personals are mighty slim out here, to boot. I think I just need to be somewhere where I can go out and play and find someone who’ll accept me. Like in the Bay Area. That’s where I think I’m headed next. I didn’t move across the country to dead-end in Fresno. But I don’t forget that I moved for a reason, and the move saved my life, and if I had to do it all again, I would. So, onward into an uncertain year five …

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