Reflection from Walk #7, Yr 2, November 14, 2015, 8:30 a.m. Five FMWalkers met at Denny’s at the busy corner of Blackstone and Herndon. We headed south through neighborhoods tucked up against Hwy 41. We walked through mobile home parks, condo and apartment complexes, then through retail on Bullard. Just west of Blackstone were older welll-established neighborhoods with well-kept yards, mature landscaping, and signs of remodels and upkeep. There were a handful of garage sales with customers, and a few morning walkers. Walkers stopped at Barstow and San Pablo and stood over the home-made memorial to the young Ford brothers shot and killed in this spot just a month earlier. Tall glass candles were surrounded by empty tea lights and empty beer bottles.
Walkers talked about how none of us was familiar with the streets between Hwy 41 and Blackstone even though we regularly drove within a block of here. Walkers talked about the consequences of a highway that cuts through established neighborhoods. While Hwy 41 has been here 30 years, the blunt stumps due to the highway cutting through is still disconcerting. The loud hum of highway noise is a constant soundtrack to these tucked away streets. Walkers strolled through a well-kept apartment complex that bumps up against Hwy 41. One walker had spent time in these apartments making home-visits to high school students.
Walkers described this walk this way: there are well-kept, quiet, and established neighborhoods close to the busy and gritty retail of Blackstone. One Walker was surprised that so few children were outside on a beautiful Saturday morning Conditions change so quickly from corner to corner in these neighborhoods. Within the few miles of this walk, there was a mix of all conditions in Fresno. Within 100 yards, Walkers observed people living in an abandoned house, while across the street, walkers stopped to look at the sticker price of $90 thousand dollars on a shiny black Cadillac. One walker mentioned that a friend’s home is in a pocket of nice homes where we walked, and she worries about the safety of her place.
Sights: work trucks parked in front of homes, self-employed business signs, front yard seating areas, tree swings in front yards, custom home-made mailboxes, vacant home with swimming pool in backyard, a number of boarded up houses, two burned out houses, full shopping carts, visible trash piles, people living on the street with pile of personal belongings, people walking and talking to themselves, flood control area open for parks, dog walkers, razor wire atop chained link fences, parking lots, retail under construction, wide variety of retail, tall mature trees, Fresno Rescue Mission temporary thrift shop, apartments, condos, mobile home park.
Sounds: birds, store music, car music, dogs barking, Blackstone traffic, buzz of freeway traffic on Hwy 41, motorcycles, airplane, guy talking to himself, neighbors talking, garage sale chatter, people speaking Spanish. No chickens or roosters.
Smells: trash bins, gardenias, sage, gingerbread from house, cooking grease, churros, acrid smoke from fire, cigarettes.
Walkers felt a sense of community in the mobile home park of single-wide mobile homes near Blackstone and Sierra behind the DMV. While Walkers had driven by here many times, none realized this close-knit community was tucked in here. Neighbors were out chatting, music was playing, people sweeping and talking from front porch to front porch. Dogs roamed from neighbor to neighbor. It seemed these people knew each other well.
Walkers met two men who were cleaning out overgrown shrubs against the back block wall of a car dealership at the edge of a small pocket of homes between Hwy 41 and the dealership back lot. The gardener told us that the neighbors had all signed a petition and turned it in to the City of Fresno, and now the city required that the car dealership clean up the overgrown shrubs. The neighbors were concerned because desperate people had moved in to this area and were living and sleeping behind the shrubs. (See photos of shrubs being cleaned out.)
One FMWalker lives in the neighborhoods just west of Blackstone, and was proud to let us see her area of town. The Walker says that while there is some negative thoughts about this area, overall, her experience is that it is a decent area with good neighbors.
As is often the case, Walkers talked about how easily people offer a friendly greeting on Saturday mornings. Even the toughest looking person responds to a greeting with a smile and “good morning.” This walk was a good reminder of the vast and complex living conditions in Fresno. These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno, and whether we would choose it or not, all of our lives and futures are tied together.