Reflection from Walk #5 of year 2 began at the Food Maxx in West Fresno, at Fresno and Hwy 99. Six FMWalkers met at 8 a.m. on a beautifully cool October 31 morning. While gathering in the parking lot, a female yellow Labrador looking for food wandered the parking lot. She was a bit thinner than she should be, and we could tell she had recently birthed pups and was nursing. Some walkers were conflicted about whether we should do something or not.
This walk stretched out to 2 hours and was over 5 miles. We strolled down the majestic wide palm-lined Kearney Blvd., then turned into neighborhoods and headed west. Each block had interesting sights and contrasts, unique elements, surprises for walkers such as schools, churches, parks, and front yard living. Walkers met residents on this walk, and later reflected on how little it takes for people to open up and share. Just a greeting, introduction, or hand shake, and neighbors were happy to talk about their neighborhood, their homes, and they asked questions about why a group of 6 women, whom they didn’t recognize, were walking their streets.
Words used to describe this walk: intriguing, inhabited, lived in, connected, mix, open, a mosaic, dogs on dirt behind fences, so much to take in, contrasts, and variety. Walkers talked about all the Halloween decorations and wondered if the streets would be full of tricker-or-treaters tonight.
Walkers met Carlos who was in front of his open garage door with an insulated coffee mug. Inside his single-car garage, Walkers gazed at the european sports car that was partly assembled, and garage walls that were covered in old license plates. He described his hobby, especially on Saturday mornings, and explained that he was mechanically inclined. Carlos says he’s lived here 40 years, and knows all his neighbors. The new renters he only knows through brief greetings. He told us that people often think of West Fresno as full of “gang activity,” but that’s not all it is, and he’s lived here 40 years. He seemed proud to call this his home. Carlos says there will be many kids out tonight, and some will even come from other neighborhoods. He will open one of the gates in his full-perimeter fence and also put his four little dogs in the back of the house. (see photos of Carlos)
Walkers met Sarah, and her mother Josephina, at George Marcus Park in the middle of the neighborhoods and at the edge of the ponding basin. Sarah gently controlled her small shepherd on a leash while watching her 3 nieces and nephews who were playing on the equipment. They told us they walked here from their house, and this is their second visit to this park. Sarah graduated from Edison High School and finished Fresno State with a degree in graphic design. She has a job at Five Creative Group in Riverpark. She loves her job, but misses her friends and academic schedule at Fresno State.
Walkers met Jesus who was working on his car in the front yard, with two of his school-aged sons. He says he has five more. They live near Teilman and Eden, across the street from a new large building with manicured landscaping. The building didn’t have a sign we noticed, but Jesus says it was some golf organization. (A google search revealed it is the Len Ross Jr. Golf Learning Center, with the goal of providing full service golf lessons and experience to boys and girls who would not otherwise have access to golf.) Next to the golf building is a Buddhist temple. Jesus described his neighborhood as a very interesting and busy place. He asked who we were and why we were walking here, and we explained FMW. He said everyone is asleep on Saturday mornings. Jesus said that we would not be safe to walk these neighborhoods at night, and he makes sure his children are inside by 10 p.m. He said there are drive-bys in this neighborhood. We asked Jesus about kids out for Halloween, and he said his kids will go out, and there will be many kids out tonight, but people will respect the time that children can be out. His kids told us they were going as ninja turtles. Then after 11 p.m, it’s “adult halloween.” Walkers talked later about what he meant by adult halloween.
At the corner of Teilman and the main thoroughfare of California, we met Alex who was setting up for a yard sale. He had repaired appliances and was selling them. He told us we could walk through the property and see all his chickens, roosters, ducks. He said he lived across the street but worked there. In the back were a couple of men burning trash. Many abandoned cars. A shed and small travel trailer and single-wide mobile home. We met Alex’s son, Luis, who was working around the yard with the other men. Luis attends Washington Union High School.
Walkers talked about the surprise of seeing a Buddhist Temple near Teilman and California, the same area where Jesus told us there were drive-bys. Two walkers entered through the open gate and strolled the compound to see marble floors and ornate shrines. Two monks–a man and a woman who did not speak English–pointed them toward the exit.
Sights: FoodMaxx shopping center, small planes, helicopters, loose dogs, front yard fences, dirt yards, dogs in front yards, dogs on chains behind fenced in properties, Halloween decorations, front yard furniture/seating, churches, couple of nice parks, busy corner market, large mature trees with shade, Buddhist temple, boarded up houses, parked cars in disrepair, sagging roofs, empty swimming pools, Chandler Airport, people at bus stops, Kearney blvd palm trees, yard sales, steps up steep front yard, Sunset Elementary FUSD School, Edison-Bethune Charter Academy, field of daikon radishes. Also saw large older well-kept homes, well-kept housing/condo complexes, and woman pushing shopping cart of recyclables.
Sounds: small airplanes, helicopters, car loud music, dogs barking, people, children laughing, birds, chickens, roosters,
Smells: dust, marijuana, smoke from small garbage fire, breakfast foods cooking, BBQ at Kearney market, dog pee/poop,
Feelings – Walkers described this walk as an overwhelmingly positive feeling. People were open and friendly. Many people were out and about, sitting in their yards, some with children playing. People were waiting at bus stops. One Walker said that this neighborhood was not what she expected. She has lived in Fresno all her life, and is often downtown Fresno, but had not been in these neighborhoods. She was expecting it to be all run down, but there were many beautiful homes that she could tell were part of Fresno’s history. Clustered around Kearny Blvd were large homes, some well-kept and others showing their age. Large trees shaded sidewalks and streets. There were many unique and interesting aspects to homes in these neighborhoods. The people we encountered were friendly and so willing to tell us about their lives and what it is like living here. Walkers shared that they were happy to see well-kept parks with signs that the parks were actively used.
At the same time that Walkers talked about the positive feelings and sense of community here, we also discussed the poor conditions. While some yards were well-kept and pleasant, most were just dirt and the dogs ran along front yard fences and kicked up dust. These neighborhoods had more than their share of boarded up houses, ironically many on “Eden” Street. Both Carlos and Jesus specifically mentioned issues with crime and gangs. However, they were still living here and had seemingly adapted to the criminal elements. Sarah who was with her mom, small shepherd, and nieces and nephews at the park, charmed all of us with her story going from Edison High School, to a degree from Fresno State, and now a professional career in graphic design.
Walkers came away with a more complete experience of this part of Fresno. There is a rich history in West Fresno that is apparent in some of the homes and streets around Kearney Blvd. There’s also a history that led to concentrated poverty, neglected infrastructure, and racial and economic segregation. In spite of all of this, people are making the best of their lives. These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.This entry was posted in Uncategorized