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Fresno Activities In May

May 13-27 (I think), 2017
Written May 22+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

OK, this is my diary-of-not-much-happening.  It will not live up to the last diary (Rocky Mountain National Park) for general interest or the one before that for family interest.  It's just keeping a record.  Our record.  As it is.  Permission granted to ignore.

No sooner had I returned from Colorado than we had a neighborhood-related social event: a charity auction dinner for the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.  This is a do-gooder group that locks up local land from development.  The idea is to preserve the current rural character of foothill land in this way.  They currently have 28,000 acres under conservation and use fund-raisers like this to expand the protection umbrella. 
Neighbor Jon is on the Board of the Conservancy, so he sponsored a table for us.  Thanks.

We did our part by successfully bidding for a couple of the donated treasures.  An iron-and-forks cross was, understandably, the cheaper.  The other is a guided Yosemite tour, a dinner coupon, and a night's stay in Mariposa.  Now we need to plan the time for the visit. We will, of course, report in these diaries.

The next day was Mother's Day and we celebrated with a patio dinner with Marianne's mom, sister, and brother-in-law.  It was a nice meal, with three of five guests being honored mothers.  (Ruben and I just stayed quiet.) Mamo appreciated her new summer "jacket".  As hot as Fresno is in the summer, air conditioned restaurants and shops make a light jacket a requirement.

The rest of the week held nothing exciting, or at least that's my memory from a few days later.   In retirement, my agenda remains pretty blank.  Most days have gym-time, walking-time, a few chores, meals, and little else.  Such activities certainly blend and fade from any specific memory.  Or, maybe it is aging after all.  Nah.

On Sunday (May 21) we drove over to Cardella, our currently-favorite winery.  We belong to their wine club and they sponsor their "Schizzo di Vino" twice a year, when wine club purchases are distributed.  ("Schizzo" means a splash or squirt in Italian. Who said wine wasn't educational?)
Mr. Cardella (blue-check shirt), our favorite hostess Suzanne, Marianne, and afternoon music.

We have become more politically active in our new Fresno home.  I'm not sure if this is the impact of last year's presidential election, something that demanded action, or just that we can now see local effects.  The politics that seems most local to us now concerns our neighbor, Fresno City College.  Earlier, we had joined our neighbors to voice our concern over plans to add parking at the end of our perfect, historic, street.  In trade for keeping new parking away from us, some of us joined the effort to pass a school bond issue for the local community colleges such as FCC.
The bond passed, but now the school politicians are really determining how to spend the money and we need to keep track that old parking plans do not resurface.  The good part is that the school holds "Good Neighbor" meetings to get input.  Of course it's a question if they will reflect that input, but so far so good.  On Monday, we had another input session.  Interesting.

d170522_10_trees.jpgMy current objection to plans centered not just on parking, but also the project to cover the FCC parking lots with solar panels.  In our last Good Neighborhood meeting, I learned that 90 trees would be sacrificed to install solar shades along two sides of the campus. I called it cutting down an urban forest to potentially save a few dollars.  Not my idea of good priorities.  Besides, those shades are  industrial-ugly.
FCC President Carole Goldsmith opened the meeting saying that the campus improvement plans funded by the bond issue were still in the "input" stage and that no decisions were final yet.  I later learned that the ugly, tree-sacrificing, solar program had proceeded past that stage, but was encouraged to continue to express my concerns.  I will.

d170522_06_citizens.jpgd170522_08_ourplan.jpgMost of the meeting concerned major efforts to add FCC facilities, including parking, but much more too.  The planning architects had come up with a series of options around which neighbor input was sought.  I'm not sure how, or even if, they will change their own preferences, but it was an opportunity to try citizen input.

Interestingly, all the options carried the sense of moving the "front door" of the campus over to Blackstone Avenue, away from our neighborhood.  Yeah!  Many neighbors wanted the FCC expansion to sponsor even more neighborhood development than just their own facilities, but no one knew how that might get funded and accomplished.  Neighbors don't need to sweat the details.

We will continue to stay involved.

The other thing that happened on the weekend was that one of my teeth fell out.  Well, actually it was just an old crown, but this would change the week's activities substantially.  First, I simply went to the drug store for "special" glue and came home and replaced the tooth piece.  It seemed ok, but since we had vacation time coming up, I decided the drug store fix might not be enough.  It was time to go to the real fixer: son-in-law, Mamal.

d170524_02_dentist.jpgHe was good enough to create a Wednesday space in his agenda, so Marianne and I made the three-hour drive down to Monte Sereno.    I went off to the doc's office.  He looked at my problem and concluded that all that was needed was removal of my amateur glue and reapplication of real stuff.  Twenty minutes later, I walked out of the office with temporary padding and new glue.  Glue I can depend on.

Back at the family home, things were far from normal:  Sam was having a birthday party!  We had missed the family gathering the day before, his actual birthday, but we got to join the dozen or so friends in their fun.  And it was fun!  Lots of activity and plenty of pictures - my fun.

Started with a history sign and some pre-party baseball - and posing.

Ava had volunteered to be the face painter.


The big activity was this GIANT bouncy house and slide.  All of Sam's six-year-old friends enjoyed it, but so too did Ava and her eight-year-old friends.

Food - pizza was the plan, but the table was abandoned for towels.  Easier clean up.


After healthy pizza, it was time to line up for ice cream and all the toppings.

Finally, a formal (more or less) picture


All this partying was squeezed into just two hours, because this was also swim practice day.  Ava and Sam are both on the country club swim team and coach Chris runs a pretty serious program for his young athletes.  (Chris Cavanaugh is himself an Olympian swimmer with a gold medal from the 1984 4x100 relay team.)  Despite the previous two hours of at-home activity, Sam and Ava had enough energy for another half-hour of cold-water swimming.  Congratulations.

Back home, it was time to open presents.  Sam's job was to rip open the paper and ribbons and squeal at each present.  Ava's job was to make the list of gifts and givers.  Both did a wonderful job!
Somehow, the kids kept up their activity level in order to play with a remote-control car that had arrived among the gifts.  I watched for awhile as brother and sister shared driving duties with remarkably little friction, given the exhaustion that was setting in.  Their mom has done an excellent job of training them to amicably settle disputes between themselves and the training kicks in, even after a very full day.  Congratulations to all.

d170525_04_pomflower.jpgThursday we drove back, accidentally avoiding a major accident scene on Highways 152 and 99.  We had gone south a bit, via Firebaugh and through a different swath of the San Joaquin Valley farm land.  We saw thousands of acres of nut trees, fruit trees, vineyards, and row crops of berries and veggies.  It seems to me that each part of the valley has its own range of crops, but all depend on irrigation, abundant this year, but risky other times.

Speaking of risky, we stopped on our way home to look at new houses.  Why?  Because they are there? Background: Fresno was founded in the mid 1800's and has grown largely by sprawling north, decade by decade.  This process has gutted the central city and three or four each-more-northern commercial centers, including The Tower District, our neighborhood.  We center city residents sometimes ask why people have been committing this city suicide, over and over.
Nowadays, the most northern spread is a grand, planned, development so far north it is classified as Madera, not even Fresno.  And we went to look at the new model homes, just as folks have done forever. 

Here is what we found:
Good Ideas
Every home had a generous kitchen pantry (left).  Every home had generous, shaded, outdoor living spaces called "California Rooms" (middle).  One model had a laundry/mud-room with a dog-washing basin. (right)
Not Good Ideas
Of course, there is the whole question of nice, flat, productive farmland being gobbled up with houses (left).  The other pictures try to capture the massive scale of the "great room" center of various house models.  All were too big, sometimes ridiculously so.  Meanwhile, the non-master bedrooms were not much bigger than a bed itself.
My Conclusion
The houses we looked at ran from $320,000 to about $500,000, bargains by coastal California standards.  De facto, they set the upper limit for houses in our own inner-city neighborhood.  Americans, or at least Fresno-folks, will opt for new versus need-to-be-maintained old homes, even if the process perpetuates the urban decay everyone whines about.

After touring the nicely shown new models, I have to admit our 83-year-old house looked a bit shabby, but I think it is our shabby-chic so, for now, we will stick with The Tower District.

For our afternoon exercise and evening meal, we walked up to the beer garden at Gazebo Gardens.  In the three years we have lived in Fresno, this venue has gradually gotten more popular and now it is a real neighborhood event.  Nice.
The gardens are nice; the beer fresh, local, and on tap; the food also local and imaginative; the music ... free.

Now it is Friday.  I am doing this diary and then heading to the gym.  Back to a normal schedule, but surprised at how active this diary period has turned out.

What else? Who knows?

Stay tuned,



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