Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Same old-same old one more time

Back to flying. Flying itself has become same old-same old, I’m on a plane right now heading to San Francisco from Bakersfield. It’s one of those annoying Skywest Embraer turboprops, so not the quietest, most comfortable or fastest flight on the planet. I was on another flight this morning from San Francisco to Bakersfield.

I spent the day in Kern County. If you know me well, you know I know Kern County well. Over the last 13 years, I have led the majority of the transit plans in rural Kern County. Talk about same old-same old. But the nice thing about Kern County is that I’ve become a bit of an expert on it. I can describe, in detail, the transit services in each community. I can talk about the lay of the land, the economic trends, the political climate. I’ve attended dozens and dozens of meetings in Kern County, had a flat tire in Kern County, been in a blizzard in Kern County, had my car nearly overheat in Kern County, eaten bad Chinese food in Kern County, eaten great Mexican food in Kern County (today), ridden buses in Kern County, stayed in dumpy motels in Kern County, been on an Air Force base in Kern County, shopped at discount stores in Kern County, had a fling with a mortician in Kern County, seen tremendous poverty in Kern County, flown in and out of two different airports in Kern County… the list goes on. It has become one of those reliable places that I know well. I suppose that’s one good thing about doing the same thing over and over: it becomes very comfortable. Even if it’s not the most spectacular place, it begins to feel like home. People get used to their homes, even if they’re not the most incredible places.

My coworker and I spent some time today in McFarland, Wasco and Shafter. McFarland is one of the most depressed communities I’ve seen in the US, making even some rural Georgia towns – and rural Mexican towns – look good. The streets are in disrepair. Stores are boarded up. Houses are covered with faded Christmas lights: the ugly dangling icicle ones. Some of the houses appear to be as small as my bedroom, and I suspect about eight people reside in even these tiny abodes. Eighty-five percent of the population is Latino and most of them speak Spanish at home.

I could live there. Whenever I’m in Kern County, I look at the ugliest apartment building, usually a two-story building on the wide road in a small poor town. These buildings often have a large banner hanging on the side: “Two months free rent!!” I could live there. I could just pick up and move there from San Francisco and settle in to my new apartment, maybe paying $350 a month. If I were to move to McFarland, my days could be spent shopping at the Palace Market and Lupita’s 99 Cents More or Less store.

When I want a generic sanitary meal, I could drive to the McDonald's and get a Fillet-O-Fish Sandwich. I would have nothing to do in the evening unless I wanted to drive to the local bar.

But I couldn't really live there. It would be very depressing. I would end up eating too much and get really fat and then go on a Splenda diet and get a horrible rash all over my ass and have to spend my days in the Dollar Tree store so I wouldn't have to sit. Or I could go back to my depressing apartment and roll around on my stomach hoping to push out some of the Splenda-saturated cake from my body so I wouldn't get cancer. That would be my life. Dollar Tree. Palace Market. Ass rash.

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