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Today was a Fresno sort of day. Although Fresno has for years been the butt of late-night television jokes and bad sit-coms, it is one of my favorite cities. I moved to Fresno in 1969 to finish college, ended up spending twelve years there, spanning my first marriage, first child, and first divorce. My cousins used to refer to it as “Fresno, the armpit of California” or “the wart of the world”, but I always found it filled with beauty.

Now, some 33 years later, I still enjoy my visits to Fresno. Each one becomes a small trip “down memory lane”, as I consciously travel certain streets to see what has changed — nearly everything — or what is the same — precious little. The street where my aunt and uncle live is a cul-de-sac of lovingly cared-for homes built in the early 1950’s; several of the early owners still live there, and the neighbors look out for each other. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by several blocks of gang-infested neighborhoods that make me nervous for my family’s safety.

The 1920’s Victorian that was my first home purchase still shows signs of loving ownership. She is quirky, full of personality, and calls me to drive out of my way to cruise past and say “hello”. I would move back to the Tower District neighborhood in a heartbeat if my family chose to do so. Unfortunately, Fresno holds no charms for them.

The Fresno State campus — the focus of my Fresno life the first few years — is still achingly beautiful, with tree-filled vistas and vineyards of grapes that make award-winning wines. Fresno State was the first university campus to have its own viticulture department; the campus store also sells delicious “home-grown” ice creams and other dairy products, as well.

Today was our doll club meeting, so I once again visited my aunt and uncle, so fittingly turning down “Home Avenue” to get to their house. We spent several hours together playing dolls and visiting, and then I headed back down Highway 99 in time to take Granddaughter #1 to ballet.

From my Visalia vantage point 50 miles away, I still follow Fresno politics and crime stats, delight in her home-town heroes, and root for her Bulldog sports teams. My years there were a magical time, and Fresno will always hold a special place in my heart.

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