Entertaining the Seattleite Relatives in Fresno

The Valley breeze blew with perfect velocity all weekend, showcasing the Valley’s utter pleasantness when under a constant flow of refreshment from the Pacific. Were it to stop, the dreaded brown cloud would form over the checkerboard of green irrigated crops and sprawling city streets and the temperature would escalate to the lower 100s. My aunt and cousin were quick to note Fresno in summer is usually not so pleasant. Well, actually, early June is normally breezy. Great time to have weddings here – I call them the “wedding breezes.”
Actually the occasion was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Who knows how many times Fresno had hosted family visits over the years – this family has called Fresno home since 1970. And yes, much of Fresno is dirt poor and unpleasant. Even its street trees don’t receive much care, and those trees, many of them removed, had the potential to leave Fresno a much more pleasant impression on visitors. Fresno trees, incredibly, are not cared for, often let go, then cut down. Fresno, let me ask you: how many business opportunities have you squandered for lack of upkeep? Your bad impressions, they have left a lasting impact. Just like people, cities have to dress for success.
My aunt’s family had ascended the locational ladder over the years. They used to live in Twin Falls, Idaho, then Eugene, Oregon, and now Seattle, Washington, one of the most prosperous (and well kept) metropolitan areas in North America. The neighborhood they come from is a garden-covered, conservative area called Mill Creek. The developments there are so new, when you walk about, you can still find the stumps of trees they felled to build the subdivision. Everything is new there. New cars, new roofs. All the dogs are fancier breeds. Afghans, Cavadors, Spanadors, Groodles. And to their credit, Seattle area forests, which grow all the way down to the shores of the Puget Sound, have been protected. Many forests still standing undisturbed and in the path of future development have received local protection.
The areas of sprawl-borhoods of deluxe homes are vast up there, with street layouts that boggle the mind – but fire trucks now have Garmin to get them to an address, so there’s no need for simplicity with streets.
My Aunt and cousins from Seattle had a bit of “slumshock” when they came down to Fresno for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my parents. They were wondering why the area lacked the sheen of their area, and why everything looks so old and worn out here. What can I say – most of the homes of my area haven’t been improved since they were built and some are practically in ruins – waiting for meth users to set it ablaze or to be condemned. That’s this area, the 93726 south of Fresno State on over to Blackstone Avenue. On Gettysburg Avenue, the sight of a once proud rows of plush Japanese Pines and these huge plush round-shaped pine trees – they are all dying, and getting felled as they succumb.
I debated to myself whether I should take my relatives to only areas north of Herndon to impress them when we went shopping – that’s where the post eighties Fresno is built. While it’s all high end housing the sort of which they are used to seeing, that area obscenely sprawls over once genuinely beautiful and productive agricultural lands. Orchard and ranch once covered the rolling hills that graduated in undulations as far as the eye could see until hitting the foot of the mighty Sierra Nevada, the largest single range in North America. Now it’s all new apartments, shopping centers and deluxe homes.
So why am I going to try to impress them with Fresno’s sprawling north side when its an abomination to me? Besides, could it really impress Seattlites? It’s still tawdry compared to the Seattle area. There’s no Boeing or Microsoft in Fresno to give this area reams of fancy estates – so what’s the point?
You know what Fresno was going for at one time? A call center. We wanted a call center to locate here. They rejected us. Good thing anyway, because you know what happened to call centers – they were a passing fad. They would have moved to Jamaica or India in five years.
So, this is the area I showed off! I showed off this crumbling area built in the 50s and 60s. You know, it’s got its hidden treasures. It makes award winning wines (Fresno State wines) and has great burgers (Dog House Grill) and superb local goodies (Sierra Nut House, Fresno State Corn on the Cob, Vineyard Farmers Market, Casa de Tamales and Fabiano’s Coffee – the only vendor I know of that buys from Coffee Kids, a source superior to Fair Trade.).
The award-winning Muscat Canelli from Fresno State I brought home could not have been as good as a Washington wine as far as they were concerned, however. Which is fine – I was uninterested in Washington wines – except when up there in their neck of the woods. They took a taste. “Too warm. It needs an ice cube — trust me!” I have no idea the proper temperature for a bold Italian varietal white that goes best with hearty, spicy foods. I don’t care where it came from, it was an interesting, yummy wine. So anyway, Freno State Muscat Canelli – fail. We went to the fancier location of Sierra Nut House, the one in the “Villagio.” Yes, that’s the name of the shopping center out by the river. Unfortunately not as nice as the simple old original shop out by Fresno State. They sell bowls, baskets and stuff along with their nuts – unfortunately all of it ordered from China. We left the Sierra Nut House – but I made sure to grab a good Californian red. Haven’t opened it yet! WOT THA!
Well, let’s open this thing. Check it out: “Herman & Hooker’s Shebang! North Coast Red Wine.” It’s a fun non-gourmet easy drink that tips its hat to the early days of California wine: the JUG WINE! Made by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson. 87.4 Points. Not bad a score for a jug wine. I find it deliciously fruit-laden, minimally “winey,” medium in its richness, down the hatch easy drinkin’. It’s quite pleasant, though not a knockout like Clos du Bois. Geesh, not harsh at all. Finally something perfect for just drinkin’. It isn’t even making me desperate for hors d’oeuvres. In other words “Almost too easy-drinking” about sums up its character. I bought it as a $14 750 ml. bottle. Its normal packaging is as a $16 1 Liter even jug.
Somebody was saying to me how much they miss their favorite wine, Almaden! That is California wine as it was known in the 70s. Cheap jug wine!! Well, I guarantee that person would love Shebang!
What they finally got at The Villagio was chain restaurant desserts at “The Elephant Bar.” They were hilariously awful – constructed on overwhelming the diner with pure sugar, fat. And I don’t mean in an elegant way.
Finally we made it out to the Vineyard Farmer’s Market. It’s small compared to farmers markets located on the coast, which go on for blocks, but the selection of items is terrific. They must have loved the Ferry Farms of Woodlake orange juice they sampled there. That stuff is off the scale. Finally I think they were impressed by the gourmet tamales from Casa de Tamales at the Vineyard Farmers Market. They wanted pineapples and fruits not in season in the Central Valley. What we grow here in summer is stone fruits. Therefore, what you should be looking for is stone fruits. It’s what’s grown here. Okay, we’ll go to Save Mart.
They looked online and wanted to go downtown to Arte Américas to see a Brazilian music show. You know, for months I’ve been studying that web site’s events and had nobody I knew of here in town whom would even be ASKABLE to do such a thing. “¿Would you like to go to ‘Nights In The Plaza’ conmigo?” Nobody I know is into that! Suddenly this cousin from Seattle shows up, she finds it herself, and it’s on! ¡Nos vamos! My dad was demanding they all stay at the house to help move more furniture and construction materials left by the roofing workers. That’s right, my parents were in the middle of having their roof redone. Enough had been done to spiff up the house – it was time to see what happens in Fresno on a Friday night, for real.
“Nights on the Plaza” turned out to be quite nice, for real. Home made tortillas and tacos were being sold for eats. If given the right attitude, a night out in little ol’ Fresno, even a charity fundraiser, can shine! There was even a safe place to park near the museum, the 1st Presbyterian Church parking lot. Er, relatively safe! A small band of bulldog gang members was prowling the lot when we came out of the show. I’m glad my Seattleite family didn’t think of “yipping” back at them. Those are real hoodlums. Very dangerous.
My parents stopped attending that church, First Pres, because it left the PCUSA. The PCUSA voted to be open and affirming for gay couples, prompting the downtown Fresno church to leave the Church network it was affiliated with. Numerous other Fresno churches did the same, leaving their respective church networks over their national assemblies voting to be open and affirming.
Speaking of, the next morning, I missed church. I thought they’d wake me. No big. They sort of look down on me for missing church. It saddens them. What’s the point. Well, when you go, you donate to the church at collection time. Collections fund real activities people would otherwise not be engaged in, leading to a dearth, a hole where something ought to be. I guess the actual point of church is you’re doing it for others. Ball games don’t qualify because you are doing it for yourself. They are something I like, and I enjoy seeing people from my family get into a ball game, all nine innings. Same goes for how my aunt and mother would feel if I came to church. All nine innings of church.

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