What I Want From Where I Live

Posted in About Me, Get In My Head, Urbanism on June 1st, 2002 by Дмитрий

I’m among the pickiest of people when it comes to choosing where I want to live. Usually, I do a big cost-benefit analysis when thinking of the subject, which usually results in deciding Fresno is the best, considering it’s where all my history is buried, where my family lives, where the rent is cheap, and where the weather is at least tolerable.

Fresno isn’t so much a trap or a prison as it is a really easy living solution. Unless you absolutely must live somewhere that everybody recognizes, Fresno pretty much has everything you need. There is a varied economy, a relatively rich semi-urban culture, heavily weighted on the less-affluent Latino end of things, lots of local art and talent (very little of which is publicly financed), a very high restaurant-to-population ratio, and enough complexity and intricate sprawl to let you explore and lose yourself even if you’re a native. Fresno isn’t nearly as wealthy as most large cities its size, and it also doesn’t have a very good selection of high-end jobs found in the big metropolises, but if you aren’t entirely qualified for such a thing, it’s a great place to grow roots.

About once each year or so, however, I get that nagging desire to get away from this home of mine. Being in comfortable surroundings and close to friends and family is wonderful, but it’s also something that has never quite been as rare as it should for me. I often long for the true independence and solitude afforded someone who lives a more substantial distance from friends and family. The loss of convenient meetings and scheduled get-togethers both helps filter out the superfluous people we tend to build up in our lives, as well as making one more appreciative of the ones that really matter.

I’ve never traveled much, of course. Out of all the cities across the country or world, I couldn’t honestly say I know the exact one in which I’d most enjoy living. But I do know some of the traits of my own city and the ones I’ve visited that I’ve liked, and what I tend to look for in a city. That’s what this essay’s supposed to be about.

The first thing I notice about a city is its weather. This is probably a bad thing for the casual visitor, since the weather you get when you visit a city can make an impression on you that is totally contrary to the majority experienced in that particular place. For instance, when I visited the Northwest, you would never have known that it was the humid temperate marine climate it is, since the majority of the weather I experienced there was warm, dry, California-style. This, of course, colored my impression of Portland and Seattle in a very positive way, but didn’t really give me a feel for how comfortable my average day would be were I to move there.

In general, I enjoy Mediterranean climates. My health, psychological well-being and habits are best served by the relatively mild weather I grew up with in Fresno. I enjoy warm summers, mostly year-round sun and an almost nonexistent winter. Too many days of constant rain or grayness brings me down and makes me almost claustrophobic. On the other hand, the oppressive sun of the Southwest kills my pasty skin, as does the constant need for air conditioning and antiperspirant. On the other hand, I turn into a useless wad of gum when faced with the excessively humid climates which dominate America, as well as the harsh winters of the continental interior. Basically, I’m sturdy in the dry heat and tolerant of winter in small doses. This pretty much limits me to the west coast of North America and the east coast of Australia. Since I doubt I’ll ever be willing to emigrate, chances are I’ll spend most of my life in the same general locale in which I currently reside.

Unless I can find a place with attractions which outweigh climate. That’s where secondary factors play in. I like cities more than the countryside. I don’t, however, like cities that are incredibly far from the countryside. Even though I don’t necessarily want to hear the cattle and sheep at night, I also want to be able to escape their human counterparts with relative ease. I’m not too eager to setup house in the Northeast or Southern Californian megalopolises, but I also don’t really want to be in a cookie-cutter suburban fringe or in one of the maze-like squatter settlements of the Southwest and Southeast, where everything is made of wood and paper and less than 10 years old.

I once heard it referred to as “texture”, and I agree: I look for a certain varied conglomeration of styles, periods, and histories in a city. I like Fresno because it has experienced immense growth in recent years, but much of its historical cultural and architectural record is still intact, from the faux-brick 1920s skyscrapers to the cute characteristic 1940s suburbs to the 1960s downtown redevelopment to the stucco castles of the 80s and 90s. I like a city which doesn’t manage to totally recreate itself every couple decades (even if it tries to), and which still has a bit of laissez-faire randomness to its development, whilst still being cohesive and well-put-together.

I like a city which doesn’t obsess over being a “center of culture” or constantly try to become a “thematic” city. That’s one of the few things which turn me away from Los Angeles, which, despite it’s varied economy and cosmopolitan population, still can’t shrug off the Hollywood costume. I like a city which is unselfconsciously diverse, both culturally and socially. I like to be able to drive through the rich neighborhoods and still do a bit of benevolent slumming. I like to have shopping and services within a reasonable driving distance, and to have a variety at that. Nothing bugs me more than cities that don’t let the Wal-Marts or the Best Buys in, but still manage to have disgustingly overpriced boutiques around every corner. I don’t need to be in walking distance to pubs, restaurants or shops, but it’s always nice for them to be in walking distance from one another.

I don’t like cities which are obsessed with being “cute” or attracting tourists. I remember back when you lived in a city because it was the best way to work, trade and live, and you vacationed in the countryside. Now it seems almost every city fancies itself a tourist destination, and as a result totally ignores the needs of its own residents. I don’t want to live in Disneyland. There’s a reason Disneyland calls itself the “Magic Kingdom” - it’s not supposed to feel real. Real, functional cities, on the other hand, are.

I like to be able to look at a city from a distance and see a cohesive whole, even if it is somewhat segregated and convoluted. The best cities I’ve seen are the ones which seem like some thought went into making them, without looking like the over-planned corners of Hell which are most of the Bay Area or desert Southwest. It’s good to have the choice between a house and an apartment without having to choose between radically different neighborhoods and having to feel segregated. It’s nice to have the choice between a new home, a 20-year-old home and a 50-year old one. It’s nice when a city isn’t so obsessed with “historical preservation” that its 50-year-old homes are gaudy caricatures which cost twice as much as new ones.

Most of all, I hate cities which spout their mottos or themes every time their name is uttered. A city should speak for itself, and should be fun to explore whether you’re on foot or in a car, whether you’re downtown or in the suburbs, whether you’re on a bus or a train, in the shopping district or the commercial district. I like a city with smokestacks and factories, dumpy neighborhoods and ethnic ghettos, ritzy shopping centers and hordes of Sunday soccer moms in their minivans. In other words, I wanta city which has everything. Is that too much to ask?

From the limited traveling I’ve done, I’ve yet to find that city. But I’ve found a few that come close; either they have a great climate combined with lots of the other factors or their cosmopolitan, textured intricacy makes their climate secondary. Fresno is one of them, and it’s why I’ve stayed here so long, and still don’t feel the need to flee in terror as many people have. From where I’ve traveled, I could describe a few more: Monterey, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle… They all differ widely, but when I weigh their factors against my very strict ideals of metropolitan perfection, they sure come damn close.

But the search does continue. I have already chosen a favorite from the list above, but I think I still need to see more. I want to venture further from the west coast and find out if the awful climates in other fascinating cities are compensated by interesting and amazing new opportunities to explore and find new adventures. I also don’t think I’ll ever want to plant permanent roots, unless they are back here in Fresno on some distant future date, when I’ve done my exploring and lived around more. I want to setup house in the cities which intrigue me, explore them intensively, and move often.

I want to see the neck-straining skyscrapers of Chicago and the squalor of Detroit. I want to navigate the intriguing infrastructure of Baltimore and experience for myself the congestion and headache of Atlanta. I want to feel the gothic doom of New Orleans and the snobbish conservatism of Denver. I think I can do it. I just need to learn to take a chance, cut the roots, and not let them grow too far into the ground for as long as I can…

The Jocobsian Spark

Posted in Urbanism on June 2nd, 2002 by Дмитрий

I finally finished The Ominous Parallels today (it took me almost a year of stop-and-go) and started The Death and Life of Great American Cities this morning. I’ve already polished off the first four chapters. It’s probably the second greatest book I’ve ever read… In my endeavor to avoid the specticle of Pride Weekend here in Fresno’s Tower District, I decided to do my reading downtown at Kern St Coffee house, where the Jacobs’ narrative was given even more life in the context of a still-unfolding vision’s movement.

I realize when I visit downtown Fresno that my city’s old downtwon is far more funtional than most of the city planners and city residents make it seem. The place is teeming with life and wonderful to wile away a Saturday midday in the oppressive June heat. Not because of all the recent redevelopment, but in spite of it.

The Fresno city planners are perpetually disappointed with downtown. This is why I wonder how often they actually spend any appreciable amount of time there. Sure, the people walking its streets on a daily basis may not be of the economic or ethic class that the City Council envisions, and it is almost always difficult to take part in a conversation with a stranger without knowing at least some Spanish. But I love it there.

Fresno, largely because of perpetually depressed real estate prices, has an abundant time capsule of architecture. Everything from 1920s brick-clad high-rises to 1940s teal-painted office buildings to 1960s brutalist pillboxes to 1990s stucco nightmares is represented. It’s absolutely beautiful. Where most downtown malls across the country failed and have since been removed, I’m beginning to believe that Fresno’s Fulton Mall should stay as it is. It may not have the high rents and wealthy inhabitants Mayor Bubba wants, but all the shops are occupied, they do a brisk business in discount and ethnic goods, and they survive without subsidy, unlike most businesses in “renewal” areas. They pay their taxes and they keep the place safe and enjoyable even at night, with their busy Latin discos and edgy casinos.

I would hate to see City Hall move in and try to turn this into another “renewal project” as they propose. I see a bright future for downtown Fresno, provided it is left alone to develop in the organic and characteristic way it has the past decade or so. In fact, it’s recent development has been almost entirely self-motivated. While City Hall has spent years trying to figure out how best to “revitalize” downtown (and done nothing more than build an odious stadium and raise the parking fees across the board), the city has gone ahead and grown and developed without any real decisions being made on the part of the local government. I kind of hope they keep it up. Let the bureaucrats spend many many years more trying to figure out how to bring suburban connectivity and Disneyland glossiness to downtown. So long as they are locked in their offices debating the issue, neither of these dubious goals will be accomplished, and downtown Fresno will flourish with the wonderfully dynamic atmosphere it has already…


Posted in Family on June 3rd, 2002 by Дмитрий

I’ve always hated drama. Whenever there’s drama in my life, I start to feel like a cliche, or like I’m wearing my friends thin. Thus the past couple weeks, and their attendant family dramas are really getting on my nerves. The weekend passed in a relatively non-threatening way. I think everything will be OK. More than anything I think I just need to make sure I don’t drag other people into potential dramas. I for one know how trying that can be on a friendship. Specifically, I don’t want it to wear on David, who has been admirably patient with me.

Pay day today, on the new pay schedule. Follow-up check with Doc this morning. He says my blood pressure is better than it’s been in 5 years (114/74 for those who are keeping track). So apparently the Accupril is working. He says I can do a bit of booze. “You don’t want to get really drunk, that’s all…” He says I may even be able to experiement with dropping the drugs in a year or so, since he suspects that much of the hypertension is stress-related…

So now to work on passing this horribly long week. Miss you terribly, baby.


Posted in A Life More Boring on June 6th, 2002 by Дмитрий

Apologies for being such a dud this week. I think I’ve been a little preoccupied with keeping myself from going crazy after not having seen my baby for almost 2 weeks. The amount of masturbation is getting ridiculous, I say…


Posted in Health on June 6th, 2002 by Дмитрий

Superfluid show tonight. First one I’ll have seen in many many months. I’ll be recording it, of course. Maybe video even.

Whilst dressing tonight, I realized that the new up-sized wardrobe that I invested in less than 6 months ago is already too tight. It’s time to definitely start watching what I eat… At least to save money…


Posted in A Life More Boring on June 7th, 2002 by Дмитрий

Things I should not do on a Thursday night if I plan on being at work Friday:

  • Drink more than 2 beers 
  • Stay up after 1am 
  • Set my alarm for the usual extra half-hour earlier than needed

Things that would greatly improve my day:

  • Food. Lots of it. 
  • Snogging with my baby for a few hours 
  • Sleep. Lots of it.

The latter will work best in that exact order, I think. With maybe a few more sprinklings of “Food.”

Das Auto

Posted in About Me on June 10th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I, of course, had another wonderful, cozy, cuddly, relaxing, but all-too-swiftly-passing weekend with David . Now if only I hadn’t developed this horribly persistent gastrointestinal ailment…

The car is in the shop for it’s 120,000-mile service, as well as service to a persisting ABS problem. I feel fortunate to be able to say that I’m the one who put all of those miles on it. I bought that car (a 1994 red Chevy Beretta ) brand new waaaay back in February 1994. I have put quite a bit of money into it as far as repairs and maintenance goes, but I think the investment has resulted in an admirably reliable vehicle, for its original cost of around 12 grand. That car took me to-and-from high school for 4 months, to-and-from college and part-time jobs for 4 years, and to-and-from college and full-time jobs for another 3.5 years. It’s taken me to Las Vegas, Bishop, L.A., Cambria and San Francisco uncountable times, San Jose many times when my sister lived there, Sacramento and Santa Cruz for Creatures concerts, Mountain View to see New Order, San Luis Obispo to see the nearest premier of Female Perversions, and on a round-trip vacation to Portland and Seattle. Even Andrea commented on the memories of that car when I was driving her around Tacoma and Kent.

It’s been hit by an uninsured little dipshit outside the Wal-Mart, by a drunk while parked outside my home, by a dump truck during neighborhood clean-up, and I’ve even put the odd nick or dent in it. But it sure has kept ticking strong. I like my car. I should give it its own feature here soon…

And so I’m stuck here at work for the time being. I’ll probably be stealing a company truck for my lunch break. But I just thought I’d reminisce. Until recently , that car has been one of the most reliable, enjoyable long-term parts of my life.I’ve got a lot of history wrapped up in it, and I hope to hang onto it for years to come…


Posted in A Life More Boring on June 10th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I had the privelage of stepping outside with the welding mask and observing the eclipse this afternoon. Much fascinated and entertained was I.

I am really glad I got my medical insurance back in February. I have been using the hell out of it. My latest ailment is a combination of gastrointestinal problems which together result in much unpleasantness. I also really appreciate having a doctor who was willing to squeeze me in this afternoon rather than making me go to the urgent care ward. I’m very fortunate to have such an awesome Doc. He will be much missed when I relocate.

I obtained a new stack of tapes for my Siouxsie list. If anyone wants to trade, check out the list in the next day or so & I should have them posted.

And a big huge THANK YOU to Duncan for the birthday present: Dr. Stragelove - another one of my all-time favs. For those of you who haven’t sent your presents yet, hurry! Only 20 days left!


Posted in Friends on June 11th, 2002 by Дмитрий


Car still in the shop. I have a zippy little Chevy Prizm rental in the meantime. She’s smooth and quiet and feels suspiciously like a Carolla inside and out, but she gets me around. A thousand apologies to Andrea , who beat Duncan to the punch on the birthday present , but didn’t manage to get it from the list …

Them Wish Lists are convenient for advertizing your desires to far-away friends, but it sure don’t work well for inter-friend communication unless the rules are followed… And it will never be perfect until Amazon starts offering one-on-one naked sessions with porn stars… Or even run-of-the-mill celebs for that matter…


Posted in A Life More Boring on June 12th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I still love my car, but she can sure be a bitch sometimes… She took my entire July paycheck, damn it.

Looks like the marriage may have to be put on hold for another month or two, baby.

Inconveniences Abound

Posted in Food, Friends on June 14th, 2002 by Дмитрий

A very dry past couple of weeks here, I admit. I just don’t have much to say other than the complaints about the really inconvenient happenings in my financial world. And those are boring to anyone who isn’t dependent upon said world. I hung out with Lauren last night. We were having fun eating sammiches and watching the satellite, but by 8ish we were also about to pass out. Maybe Subway spikes their bread with hash or something…

So tonight I should finally get to see my baby . That should greatly improve my mood - at least for the weekend - none of which any of you will read about, since I don’t plan on being back to this page until Monday. Everyone have a fun weekend. Have you hugged your father lately?


Posted in Family, Friends on June 17th, 2002 by Дмитрий

A snarky, vapid piece on the front page of Saturday’s Chronicle inspired me to write my first new rant in a long time, regarding the recent debate on hate crimes legislation. The author advocated mob rule through unchecked democracy, and hate crimes legislation as a just means of enforcing official government ideology. “Democracy” and “hate” are call words which make the brainless ballast of society perk up and start their shrill screaming; but actually making people understand what they’re screaming about is seldom the point of journalism. Would that journalists were more interested in reporting unslanted news and rational arguments than simply contrubiting to the ever-increasing shrillness of the screaming.

In other news, I had yet another wonderful weekend with David . We ate. A lot. We shopped. And we finally managed to meet up with Sister Betty Does . Much fun was had. I even managed to drink half a beer without feeling like crap the next day. Sunday involved a refreshingly drama-free barbecue with Dad. Tritip, potato salad and pork-n-beans. I’m still feeling the effects…


Posted in Site News on June 19th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I’m going to be moving my site hosting to Pair over the next couple days. The site may be down for a few hours while I get everything transferred. If you want to get in touch, use my contact form rather than my email until the switch is complete, sinc my email accounts will also be down during the switch.


Posted in Food, Friends on June 24th, 2002 by Дмитрий

So I finally got everying working here on Pair . Soon I should have the forwarding working for the other domains. Then will come the project of another refurbishment, starting with changing that damn navigation graphic. If only I currently had an adequate image editor… If anything seems out of wack or disfunctional, let me know .

In other news, the past weekend included the following:

Catching up on sleep 
The Penninsula 
Impulse purchases 
Home cookin’ 
More home cookin’ 
More driving 
More sex 
Assistance from a real web designer

You’ll notice it was a rather depraved weekend. But At least now I have some tips for improving this site a little. And I have discovered that you Netscape users really need to Switch . Now. Why anyone is still using Netscape, I still fail to comprehend.

David and I drove down the peninsula after a hearty breakfast, taking the scenic 280 route, stopping by a killer old Dairy Queen , thrift shops (where I still failed to find any good work clothes), and Fry’s . We shamelessly caved in to a bout of consumerism. Then back up the 101 to the ghetto Safeway and home in time to start the pork roast and watch some Cops. Sunday’s drive was to the Über-Longs in Oakland, followed by a short tour of the seedier side of said city, lunch at the Emeryville Food Court (DO NOT get the Mediterranean food from the front counter - I got ripped off and accused of stealing!), and a loop through the downtown of San Francisco, where we reflected on the empty space where the Embarcadero Freeway once stood…

Only one week left to get your presents sent. My birthday is officially next Sunday, 30 June. But I’m holding the event this coming Saturday 29 June at Club Fred . Actually, for those who may be in the Fresno area and would like to attend, here’s the low-down: We’ll be starting with a pizza party at the Tower District Me-N-Ed’s around 8pm on Saturday evening. Then we’ll stumble on over to Fred’s, where the agenda includes Sippy ,Bowling and the 69ers . The Fred’s line-up is a coincidence, but it’s sure convenient. Everyone who wants to come along and celebrate the beginning of my second quarter-century is invited to attend the pizza party. You can contact me if you need better directions…


Posted in Fresno on June 25th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I changed my mind. Superfluid is playing Tokyo Garden the same night. This will help me with my sociophobia and claustrophobia, as well as allow me to remove the public part of the birthday party in favor of a more intimate thing. 

I can tell you’re all heartbroken…

In Dog We Trvst

Posted in Americana, Economics on June 27th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I agree with the Court. The majority of lawmakers and the majority of Americans think the 1954 version of the Pledge is better. This is because most lawmakers and most Americans are faith-based ballast. America is a secular state, and its laws should all be secular. America should have no institutions, laws or representatives that make reference to or base their policy upon faith or values which contradict the constitution.

I wrote an essay last October about how wrong I felt it was for the post-9/11 political rhetoric to make so many references to God - “God bless America” was the song of the year. That really disturbs me, because America is a secular nation. No legal system can survive without a secular morality, especially if it hopes to be free and noncultural. With every call for “In God we trust” and “God bless America”, we buy into the morality of the terrorists and dictators that want to destroy us.

People should keep in mind that Eisenhower changed the Pledge in ‘54 as a reaction to the “Godless” Soviet Union. In reality, Soviet Russia had a more faith-based and mystical government than America has ever had. Eisenhower and MacArthur were convinced that the fight against communism was about God - rather than about economics or philosophy, like it really was. Communism didn’t fall because America and the West became more Godly, it fell because it ate itself alive - like any cannibalistic slavery-based system would. The reciting of the Pledge should not be required of teachers, students or any other American in the first place, with or without it’s ‘54 addition. If only that had been the basis of the court’s ruling, rather than just toying with the syntax.

In other news: MCI Bye Bye … As if everyone didn’t see that one coming. The most disorganized, horribly mismanaged telecoms company - which as far as I’m concerned has been a laughing stock for years already - announces that all their plans for reorganization and better management resulted in the discovery of even worse management . If I was working on that sinking ship, I’d have bailed 2 years ago. I’d like to see Sidgmore try to find a job paying more than minimum wage the rest of his life (if he’s not in jail). Funny Andersen was WorldCom’s accountant as well - maybe Enron wasn’t as evil as we assumed - maybe it was Andersen all along?


Posted in A Life More Boring on June 28th, 2002 by Дмитрий

I’ve made a few changes, you may notice. New pic, no more annoying plain text in the navigator column, and a few clean-ups throughout the site. I finally finished my Bookstore , and now have no remaining “incomplete” pages. Of course, every web site is a work in progress, but I do dislike having pages with obvious unfinished bits.

I also have found that regarding the Pledge drama, sometimes the simplest statements say it best…

Now to reflect on the fact that my birthday party will in fact be a small affair but at least it will include my most beautiful boy , a seedy little downtown restaurant, one of my favorite local bands and maybe even some liquor.

Finally fixed up all the Pair accounts, and hopefully soon I have some content going at the other sites (right now they all just forward here). I’m also waiting with baited breath to see if I get commissined to host the web site of a particular band I happen to be working on something for right now…

Second birthday surprise comes courtesy of Chuck, who managed to forward a wonderfully cheesy e-card. A man of my own heart. Here’s to a nonthreatening twenty-fifth.

Here’s to a few more enjoyable quarter-centuries…