The Armpit of California, Teletubbies, and Skinheads


Dad and I left Las Vegas about 11 am (I never thought waking up at 8 o’clock would feel like sleeping in–hello working world) after some breakfast and a swim with the sharks.

We finally entered California by way of the Mojave Desert an hour or so later, which was an easy, breezy 104 degrees. And I can see where my New York born mother, who twenty some odd years ago entered California by way of the Mojave, was incredibly non-plussed as Dad fist-pumped out his driver-side window, excited to be back in his native California. Mom told me that as they passed over the state line and into the desert she thought, This is California?…. oh. my. god.  And I can’t blame her—if anyone who thinks about California envisions palm trees and ocean surf, this route is sure to disappoint.

Hot, hot

The Mojave pretty much fits the description of a desert: dry, dusty, and sandy brown. But even so, there is a barren kind of beauty about it. The Joshua trees are sentinels. It is so still.

Favorite Mojave Desert Sighting:

Man in Full, White, Teletubbie-like Suit (Strange Antennae Included) Wandering in the Middle of Nowhere & Sand with a Metal Detector

The view stayed dusty and dry until we reached the outskirts of Bakersfield. Desert became blonde hills dotted with green brush, and tiny quilted squares of farmland began to appear.  Dad pointed out rows of almond, orange, and pistachio trees. Finally, at about 5 pm we reached Bakersfield, or known to some as: The Armpit of California.

Though I have been visiting family in Bakersfield since I was little, I took it upon myself to do some research about living in the city. I learned from helpful travelers and heated discussion boards on the topic that I would be sure to love Bakersfield if I had any affection for the 3 following things:

1)   Buck Owens, Bakersfield Bred Country Western Star

2)   Meth Addicts

3)   Skinheads & White Supremacists like Lynx and Lamb Gaede  (also born and bred in Bakersfield)

I am not a fan of any of the three. And I have to admit, the venom of some of Bakersfield’s residents surprised me. Perhaps if you live anywhere too long, or in the place you were raised too long, you begin to resent it. I have great childhood memories from Bakersfield. I have memories of picking tomatoes barefoot in my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Dave’s backyard with my cousin Jarrett—the dirt was so hot we hopped back and forth, alternating feet, as we hurried to pick enough tomatoes for dinner.  I have memories of the first time I ever rode on a motorcycle with my Uncle Kelly. I have memories of swimming in my cousins’ pool and rubbing my big toes raw on the diving board so that they bled, I have memories of family reunions, of Portuguese sausage and family feasts, and of driving to Tulare to visit my grandmother.  I have wonderful memories from this city.

So my plan is to find a job here for a spell, in the “Armpit of California,” and go make some more memories. But I will probably try to avoid making friends with the meth-heads and white supremacists.

Though who knows, I may develop a liking for country music……

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