For those of you who are not originally from Fresno, you may have had the same experience upon moving here that I had. I was advised to move north of Shaw, anything south of Shaw was dangerous. I wonder now at the people who advised this, what they could possibly know about their hometown.
I took the advice and moved to a little apartment at Maple and Herndon, which I liked. But I hated Fresno. I couldn’t wait to get out. I looked for jobs outside of the city and even outside of the state, traveling for job interviews, and eventually landing a good position in Fresno. That was okay because the company I worked for was large and had locations all over the country. I knew I had a good chance of being able to transfer once my job became open at another site.
Then I met Hank, a Fresno lover. I asked him what he could possible love about Fresno. It was boring, new development everywhere, chain restaurants, nothing to do. “Oh,” he said, “I’m not talking about North Fresno, I’m talking about Fresno, Fresno.”
Now, to be fair to North Fresno, we have had some fun there. I have to admit that I occasionally shop at River Park. I love Michael’s, I’ve had fun at Boomers, Wild Waters is a pretty fun water park, there are some good libraries, Sal’s Mexican restaurant has the best salsa in town, and my own engagement ring is from a shop in North Fresno.
A lot of people live there. And that’s about it.
Hank lived in the Tower. I had heard about “The Tower.” It’s a dangerous place to live, with lots of crime. The weirdos, liberals, and gays live there. But I was curious to see his place, so one evening I went over to see his house. It was surprisingly charming, and I felt completely safe there.
When we got engaged and began looking for a house to share, we started in the Tower. We then asked our real estate agent to find some good matches closer to the CSU Frenso campus, where Hank works. We hated them. We went back for a search in the Tower.
People were concerned. “It’s so dangerous.” “You can’t stay alone when Hank is traveling for work.” “Don’t you want to at least look in Clovis?” I started looking around my neighborhood. I saw lots of McCain signs, and Yes on Prop 8 everywhere. I knew I didn’t belong in North Fresno anymore.
We found a house that we loved, and I recognized it the moment we walked in, as my “dream house” (quite literally, a fireplace I had seen in a dream of an older, brunette me, with children. I am now a brunette, and older, and children are looking imminent). I feel safe here, and I now see campaign signs that match my own political views.
But that’s not why I love Fresno. I love Fresno because there are things to do. Sure, there’s Shakespeare in the Park in North Fresno once a year, but we constantly have plays at the Broken Leg Stage, 2nd Space Theater, Roger Rocka’s, and other venues. We could go to Applebee’s Bar and Grill on Friant, or we could go to The Landmark, Livingstone’s, or Starline. There is a lot of live music, or we could have a quiet dinner at Rousseau. There are shows at the Tower Theater, locally owned interesting shops on Olive, from games, to witchcraft clothing, to antique shops, and more.
We live on a block with a variety of colors and styles of houses. Some are pink, or the lawn is littered with statues, or it’s like a forest in the front yard, but there is nothing identical or similar from one house to another. They all have character and individuality, just like the people who live there. On our block are teachers, graphic designers, other professors, and an architect. There’s a couple of guys, I like to call “the homeboys” around the corner, and I don’t know what their occupation is, but it must be great, because they are always hanging out in their driveway smoking and drinking beer in the middle of the day. I love those guys.
Why do I love Fresno? In addition to the things I just mentioned, how about the Rogue festival, Wednesday night swing dance, Willey Farms, PechaKucha, CSU Fresno, Creative Fresno, Tri-Tip contests, Fulton Mall, comedy night, Fresno Film Night, Battle of the Bartenders, Arthop, the Saroyan theater, Monster’s hockey, and Reel Pride, just to name a few?
And I never would have discovered all of this if I hadn’t traveled south of Shaw.