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  • Writer's pictureClair Whitmer

Once Upon a Time in Fresno

I'm having so much fun with my college-age kids this semester: my son, my daughter and I are all taking the same creative writing class at Diablo Valley College. We read Octavia Butler and Earnest Hermingway and then we write "sketches".

This week, I had to take a break because I'm moving.

Today is the very last day of my FUSE Corps Fellowship in the City of Fresno. I've been commuting here from Vallejo for two years. It's time to go home.

I don't know how to express what my Fellowship has meant for me. FUSE Corps changed my life. Fresno changed my life. My boss, Lupe Perez, changed my life. I met my new boss, Tara Gray, in Fresno and she is undoubtedly going to change my life some more. I just love not knowing what's going to happen next.

I was born and raised in California but had never set foot in this city before my first day in City Hall. That day, Fresno was not my California...and now it is.

My first day on the job, Lupe made me climb into the sidekick seat in her little sports car, rightsized for her and too small for me, and she drove around downtown and told me stories. This building, that building, this project, that project, this is my favorite statute. We're going to put a bakery in here. Wait, I gotta take a picture of that for Fres-Go. Oh, I know, let's go to Chinatown. These are the best tacos in town. We'll come back to tour the Buddhist temple.

Telling stories about Fresno is her favorite thing.

Lupe's stories made me want to stay for two years. Today my California is bigger and better and I'm more proud of it because Lupe gave me the opportunity to tell my own Fresno stories.

So back to creative first assignment was to write a 300-word description of My Workspace. Here is what I wrote.

My Workspace

My workspace is an island in an ocean of almond trees. It’s hard to get here and, once you get here, it’s hard to stay here and, once you get used to it, it’s hard to leave.

Sometimes it smells like precious water soaked into the ground. Sometimes it smells like garbage left out under the sun. All the time you can feel the drought dust catch in your nostril hairs on the way into your lungs. When it’s lunch time in my workspace, it smells like taco trucks that are so much better than taco trucks in other places. It’s uncomfortably hot all the time but my co-workers like to say it’s a dry heat. We talk about weather a lot, like uncomfortable people do.

My workspace is messy. It’s messy because it’s full of people and people are so, so messy. Some of the people have needs that never get met and some of the people have preening privilege that never gets satisfied. They all have fears that make lots of noise, in Spanish and Hmong and Punjabi and English, and they all have dreams that mostly stay quiet but are always staring at you, waiting for you to notice them. Some of my workspace looks neat and tidy and expensive. But open the drawers and lots of times the mess just got shoved inside.

One time I was walking through my workspace and I found an eyelash, just one super long feathery fake eyelash, heavy enough to stick to the sidewalk. Lots of people I work with wear fake eyelashes. It made me feel sad that someone I might know had to walk around with only one eyelash after they lost this one.

But, oh well, my workspace is full of lost things.

My workspace has long, long streets running through it. The streets used to be highways and still stretch out like highways and the people drive them as if they are highways still.

In the very middle of all the streets is a train station, the very first opportunity in the pipeline. They’re building a new train station here now but some people say the trains on track to this station are headed to nowhere. But how can that be when they will come here? Here I've learned that nowhere is the same as everywhere.

This place is the City of Fresno, my workspace.

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Sep 17, 2021

Love the shirts!!! You will be missed Clair! Best of luck to you.

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