Return to Fresno by Matt Carlson
The first thing was the smell. Kind of grassy. Dirt smells too, then some indescribable odor of pollen. A mix of what? Acaccia and…? I longed to hear the Amtrak train leave out a forlorn cry, but to my ears there were only back ground sounds of cars in the distant night air. Out here in North Fresno, there were no trains. The trains were in the south… We’d been picked up at the airport by my little brother who had as promised brought: dog food, water and water dishes, blankets and a towel for clean up just in case. He arrived in some humungus SUV or jeep/tank, all new and shiney. I wondered how short people got inside – I’m not short and had to give it a good hop to get to the passenger seat. “Ohh, I-HOP”, and suddenly I’m thinking of pancakes! Wondering if it’s still as yummy (short stack) as it used to be. Without the bacon, of course.
It was all good. The dogs had survivied the ordeal and seemed just fine. There wasn’t even any pee-pee in their temporary housing that they had had to stay in during the fourteen hour flight. And “No”, I repeated, each time when one of the airport attendants told me to put my dogs back into their cages. “I’m not doing it,” I said. “They’ve just spent 16 hours locked inside!” (I’d added a couple of hours to my original assessment which was actually more accurate…Flight plus pre-flight and after flight time.) With one woman who apparently didn’t like dogs, and as I battled with my guitar, two dogs, two empty cages, and four bags, I replied while lifting everything ever-so-gracefully on the sliding coveyor belt to be scanned, “If you want to come over and do it – you’re invited.” My sarcasm was truely a glorious weapon at times like this.
Getting back to the stress of the flight, I’d been probably stressed out enough for the three of us, certainly enough for the dogs. But it was the only way to get them here: by plane.
“Here” was to my roots; where I’d been born. To come back before I couldn’t do it anymore. Exactly like a salmon swimming up stream! I wanted to at least give it a shot to see if I could somehow fit in back here one last time – though I had never fit in here. Why would that be different now? I was in reality a very different person than who I was at 20 years of age when I’d first left….On top of that, I was seeing the clock ticking away. In ten years I wouldn’t be as spry as I am at 56. In ten years I would be (gasp!) 66 years old!! So if I wanted to have this experience in my lifetime, it had to be now or never. I chose now, not interested in having regrets.
I came without expectations, which is a good thing. I am observing, but not judging. People are saying things that they do not do or mean. While eyes are looking into mine, words are spoken, but eyes do not lie. People are much more what they do and much less what they say. I know this and yet in the beginning of my trip, I had forgotten. There are few people from my past that I knew I wanted to spend time with – and others I haven’t remembered yet.Those that I’ve thought of have given me one day, or one afternoon, perhaps a dinner or a phone call with, “I’ll call you next week.” Fortunately, I’m making new friends, unexpectedly, because those promised phone calls are not happening. But I’m not waiting by the phone either. I get it. Life goes on.
My new story is coming along well and I’m ready to get back on stage. In the meantime, the neighbors, the gardners and especially the dogs are my audience. No complaints so far!