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Hollywood gives Fresno Notoriety! by Shirley Kirsten
Not to be a stage mom, but my daughter, Aviva is having a good time doing her thing archiving Hollywood movies that more than mention Fresno. (She's just released, "Did Somebody Say Fresno?!" Part V.) Producer/video editor all in one, Ms. Kirsten makes a blockbuster cameo appearance in the opening, evoking Alfred Hitchcock's movie-making days.
In some of the featured clips, Fresno's bashed outright. More often, the city is casually dismissed as a train stop on the way to Bakersfield. ("not a place to take a vacation," snatched from The Pentagon Wars.)
Our Mayor, Ashley Swearengin, has a recorded announcement at our "International airport" known as the "dullest" (double entendre for Dulles - excavated Smothers Brothers footage from Speed Zone, included in my daughter's series, Part II)
Tourists and other visitors are informed that our city is the "Gateway to Yosemite."
"Pardon me, but I have to take the next train, bus, or plane to my real destination."
Here again, one has to be going somewhere else to enjoy a passing moment in Fresno.
(By the way, Bakersfield, absorbs its fair share of ditching, when Fresnans need relief.)
But honestly, Fresnans are usually their own worst enemies. They'll complain about the weather. (100 degree plus temps for 6 to 7 months per year) and about the bad air. Yet if you ask them why they're still living here after 50 years, they become outright defensive.
Watch out for a broom battering if you happen to be in a dusty driveway, complaining.
Funny, that Fresnans are more friendly than most people I've bumped into in the Bay area, or elsewhere. (And that's coming from me, an ex-New Yorker who arrived in the promised land, about 30 years ago)
Walgreens on Palm and Bullard, for example, is a popular social hub. The employee in suspenders, who saunters between the photo counter and the front cashier area, is a throwback to the 50s. He'll dispense all kinds of free, long-winded advice as if time were suspended.
To the contrary, if you want to meet up with a friend for lunch, she'll usually be on call waiting, planning a trip "down south." Where's "down south? Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia?
It didn't take me long to figure out that Palm Springs is down south.
There's no way anyone in my circle of friends would bump me for lunch to a catch a southbound Amtrak train to Hanford or Bakersfield.
The Mayor, as mentioned, is convinced that most visitors to our city are headed for Yosemite so she politely asks them on the public address system, to spend a few bucks at our airport. (It's added "International" to its name?) On what basis? Is everyone going to Greece, Armenia, or just to LA on the way to Palm Springs? Actually flights to Las Vegas have spiraled out of control. That's another sanctuary where what's brought from Fresno, stays there, no questions asked.
While waiting to board the next plane, a tourist can always snag a Fresno Bee, that's shrunk to the size of a Whole Foods flyer.
The newspaper can also double as a place mat on a Southbound train.. Free-Bees, anyone?
I've scribbled blogs on Amtrak dispensed napkins while doing the Bee puzzle. Time flies that way and I get to the Richmond station without a hassle, letting out a big sigh of relief once there. It's because I've been holding my breath here in the Central Valley to keep airborne poisons at a safe distance. In reality, you have to live with the toxins, allergens, etc. and make friends with them. Otherwise you can go insane thinking of the disease consequences in the short and long run. That alone, will kill you.
The allergists love it here because they're financially secure for life.
When it comes right down to it, I stay here in Fresno because it's home to my students and pianos (though ill-maintained) And we have the prized Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series that features pianists who stop off in our city, between performances in L.A. and San Francisco. Here again, we seem to attract the vagabonds who really don't want to make any long-term commitment to us.
As intimated, this is definitely a great place to be if you happen to be a piano. Low, stable humidity promotes a very long life span, that's if you add in decent maintenance.
OOPS.. did I say piano maintenance? piano tuners, piano techs? and anything walking around with a Verituner, machine job that tunes while the tech goes off and grabs a snack out of a metal lunch box. He probably retrieved it at a yard sale or flea market.
You can always find these homespun sales, a dime-a-dozen any day of the week in Fresno.
My neighbor had one just the other day. But he had NO garage to spread his wares. Basically, he put a variety of 50's army posters out on the front lawn in front of his townhouse.
Add in fatigues--and some old posters of Uncle Sam saying "I Want You!"
He also rigged up some kind of Etymology exhibit with a list of pesticides put out by the Department of Agriculture.
It's common knowledge that Fresno is big on crop dusters, so my daughter didn't skip a beat finding a film clip mentioning that very undertaking. I think a cuss word is bleeped out. (The movie source was Air America starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr.)
Fresno has an anachronistic character. Whatever is innovative in these parts, has been long abandoned in the bigger cities.
Re-invention is the word over there. Status quo lingers here..
Yet California Magazine published a spread on Fresno some years back, that described a city where "construction had gone wild."
For God sakes, why not build a pretty park and play area on the corner of Palm and Shaw instead of another mega- Walgreens that looks like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
I'm not really complaining about Fresno, because it provides an easy ride to anywhere of importance in this town.
For me its' Bally's Total Fitness, the AT and T Store, and the old Walgreens where I socialize at the photo counter.
Otherwise, if I'm home, I'll tune into my daughter's latest video offering that bashes Fresno, and chuckle while downing a container of carrot juice bought at Whole Foods.
(P.S. Not to forget that three-time Tony Award Winner, Audra McDonald, was born, raised, and groomed for greatness in Fresno. (The Good Company Players) So the place can't be as bad as depicted )
Link to parts I, II, II, IV and V
"Did Somebody Say Fresno?!"
Aviva Kirsten on IMDB (Internet Movie database)
Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California