Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Love. Hate.

How can one place change so much from day to day?

Fresno is a place of extremes: Highest level of concentrated poverty, 80 miles from the tallest peak in the lower 48, a few hour’s drive to the lowest point in North America, the drunkest city in America , #1 in US auto thefts. Living in this place of extremes has shaped my feelings towards it in the same fashion. I love Fresno. I hate Fresno.

Don’t be misled by the order in which I listed “love” and “hate”—one is not felt more frequently than the other. However, right now, I have been loving Fresno. My friends here are amazing people, and over the past few weeks I have been occupied with day drinking, lawn games, bbq, climbing, partying in San Francisco, hiking in a redwood forest, amazing weather.....Apart from these blatantly fun rituals that would bring elation if practiced anywhere, I have also found myself being entertained by the not-so-nice parts of Fresno. It’s that sort-of endearing feeling you have towards a place when you see all of the negatives and you acknowledge their blight, but you still want to identify with them. It’s a shit hole. But it’s my shit hole. You see the homeless teenagers hanging out at the community garden and you identify their stories of broken homes and drug addictions and admit that their existence on the corner is a sign of the poverty that plagues this poor city…and yet you recognize them as what gives Fresno its distinction. Same with the leather-clad bikers who pull up to Bobby Salazar’s every evening; or the band of kids who play along the canal that’s overflowed with old tires and styrofoam packaging. Yes, there’s poverty; but there’s also grunge. And grunge is what makes a place uniquely grungy. Uniquely and grungily yours. And unfortunately, it’s difficult to maintain the grunge without the poverty.

But I know, this feeling can shift towards hatred at any moment. My emotional analysis on what I see in Fresno alternates from the endearing to the depressing. And when the depressing hits, it hits hard. There are homeless everywhere, constantly bombarding you with “Sir, can you help me out with some change for the bus?” Then you hear about the statistics: gang violence, domestic abuse, foreclosures, budget cuts on education and social services, etc. etc. etc. And suddenly those teenagers by the garden are exactly the reason why you never want to live in Fresno ever. You feel overwhelmed because you want to help, you really do, but the poverty is just too well established. And it’s not endearing; this city has just gone to shit.

This back and forth got me to thinking. Fresno isn’t changing. Those teenagers don’t alter their behavior at all. The homeless never take a break from peddling, and gangs don’t choose to murder or not to murder according to whether you’re feeling affection towards Fresno or not. No, none of that’s true. It’s me. I dictate what Fresno looks like to me. I can only see through my own eyes and my own eyes can only be persuaded by my own emotions. The internal shapes the external (to a certain extent). The elated mood I’m in after playing polish horseshoes with friends on a gorgeous day undoubtedly vivifies the lenses through which I see the rest of my surroundings. I realize I can’t always make myself happy so that I always see Fresno as a cool place to call home (temporarily). But it’s nice to know that even the most degenerate places can be seen in a positive light. Even if I find myself in a city I don’t like or a job I can’t stand, I feel reassured that all it takes is a 2 hour climbing sesh to flip around my perspective on my surroundings….And I’ve been climbing a lot in Fresno.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I need to do some more climbing in Portland. Preble St. is looking grungier and grungier..