A Very Fresno WeekendGavin McKeen, McMeekin and McMeeking are all glad to be from Santa Barbara. Spell his name wrong at [email protected]
Wednesday, September 27, 2000
Every once and a while you are treated to a special moment in life.
What I'm talking about is that brief period of time when you achieve transcendence - a rare event that represents more than just itself. Some would call it an epiphany, but I'm not into that hippie crap.
I'm talking about a moment like the moon landing, which was more than just some guy walking on dirt, but represented America smacking down the commies. Take that, Ivan.
Last weekend I had one of those moments.
It occurred at the corner of Blackstone and Griffith in the city of Fresno, California.
My moment of profundity was watching a friend of mine trying - and I emphasize trying - to throw up in the parking lot outside of a Carl's Jr.
As I stood there in the baking sun, standing on dusty tarmac, surrounded by places with names like "Tin-Roof Furniture: Open to the Public" and "Sav-mart," it hit me.
Fresno is more than just a place. Fresno is a state of mind. Fresno is feeling like you are going to be sick. Fresno is boredom and despair and everything in between. Fresno is a hangover. Fresno is not what God had in mind.
Among the billions of good things Fresno lacks is the absence of tall buildings. This sucks because the city has a tendency to make you want to jump off of them.
Like a cancer, Fresno had a point of origin. But it's spread all over the world now. You can find Fresno in Modesto, Turlock or Delhi (pronounced 'Del-High'). You can find Fresno in New York, Paris or New Delhi (pronounced 'deli'). You can find Fresno stuck on the bottom of your shoe when you get home at night.
Now back in Berkeley, I can still feel Fresno inside me. Its dust is choking the life out of my lungs. I can't get rid of it. It is destroying my soul.
Last weekend was very Fresno. I tagged along with the football beat writers and a photographer - I call them the serious journalists, you can call them what you will - to the Cal football team's road game against the Fresno State Bulldogs.
The Bears lost, 17-3.
But far, far more happened last weekend than the football game. The "serious writers" were there for the game. I was there for the experience. And what an experience it was.
When we drove into town, we took a wrong turn and drove out of town. We didn't realize it for 15 minutes because there weren't any buildings we could see from the highway.
That's the sort of place Fresno is. Fresno has no center and it has no edge. It kind of starts just outside of itself and goes on forever.
We eventually found the hotel - why are there hotels in Fresno? - and checked in. We carried in our supplies - Natural Ice and Budweiser from an AMPM in Turlock - through the lobby and into our hotel room.
We watched some football on television. Then we decided we had seen enough football and went to see the Cal-Fresno State game. That certainly wasn't football.
The two writers and I went up to the Bulldog Stadium press box. I sat down at the table, where it said Gavin McKeen. I assumed this was meant to be me. There the football writers - lots of them now, from all over the area - wrote notes furiously about the events on the field below us.
I scribbled down things like "I want a churro," and "Boring" on my Simpson's notepad. I watched the commercials on the press box television and took notes on them. Occasionally I told my neighbor who I thought made a tackle or something, but mostly I drank lots of free soda.
When the game finished I was standing on the sidelines. I watched the Fresno State crowd swarm the field celebrating their biggest win of the year.
I watched the students burn a Cal hat at the 50-yard line in celebration.
I heard far too many "Who let the dogs out" cries.
I got lost trying to find the place where you talk to players after the game. None of the Fresno State officials could tell me where I was supposed to go.
I watched some blonde in a pink tank-top frantically waving her Ramada Inn hotel room card at several of the Cal football players.
I spent the next 30 minutes laughing about that.
I spent the rest of the night wishing I was on the football team.
The next day we drank more beer on the way to lunch, packed in the back seat of a Pontiac, morose and woeful. We had Carl's Jr. for lunch. The food was cold and the root beer was broken on the soda machine. It was fitting.
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