Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections on Bakersfield

     I first became aware of Bakersfield, CA when I was a sophomore in high school. My dad got a job for the Kern County Department of Airports and his new office was in Bakersfield. I don't remember much about the first couple of weeks I was in Bakersfield, except that it was hot and I spent much of my time around the pool in our apartment complex. I had been there about 6 weeks when I met Doug (my husband of 38 years.)
     Doug and I were married 3 years later and we set up housekeeping in Bakersfield for 2 years. We then moved to the Central Coast, where we currently live. We returned to Bakersfield many times in the following years to visit his parents and mine, until his dad died and his mom moved to Visalia, CA and shortly thereafter my dad moved to the Central Coast also. So, we no longer have family, per se, in Bakersfield, but my best friend lives there now so, I continue to make the 2 1/2 hour trek to see her. You know it's a good friendship when you will go into 110* heat to see a friend!
     Anyway...I was on such a visiting trip earlier this week. There are a couple of really strange things I noticed about Bakersfield. And yes, it was hot!
     As the city of Bakersfield has grown it has been necessary for new roads and major highways to be built. It used to take me 15 minutes by freeway to get from Oildale (which is in the very northern section of Bakersfield) to the Valley Plaza on Ming Avenue (which was almost the south end of town) to go to work. Now I don't think you could accomplish that task in under 30 minutes (too much traffic) and there are scores of neighborhoods build west and south of those areas now.
     In the expansion of the city the highway department has laid out the roads tying them into existing older roads but trying to accommodate the larger population. So, what they have come up with are major roadways that go from 2 lanes, to 3 lanes, back to 1 lane, returning to 2 lanes with a turn lane, and intersections that when you cross them you have to turn almost a 45* angle to stay in the lane you started in. It is all very confusing. They also have wide roads with large V-shaped areas with one lane on one side and another lane veering off to another side. Man, if you don't watch where you are going, you could really end up in a mess!
     Another thing I noticed this week while Nancy and I were driving around (yes, we actually go out in the just can't sit at home all day, every day. Thank goodness most of the stores and business are nicely cooled, so if you can survive the hot car and the trip outdoors between stores you're o.k.) is that a lot of people, I'm talking A LOT of people, have fountains in their front yards and businesses have fountains and waterfalls in front of their offices. Well, you think, that's nice. Running, splashing water at least gives the impression of coolness, even in 110* heat. But here's the funny thing: none of the fountains and waterfalls are working. No splashing water. No sun through the water droplets forming rainbows, no relaxing streams of cool water flowing over dark, wet rocks. Nope. None.
     Is there a water shortage? Fountains and waterfalls recirculate their water. You do get some evaporation but I would think that would be a small price to pay for the enjoyment they would bring in the hot weather. Is the electricity to run them too much to add to an already over-burdened power bill in the summer? I know my dad's electric bill was well over $300 every month, every summer, and he didn't have a fountain or waterfall.
     So it begs the question...why do people in Bakersfield HAVE these fountains? If there's not enough water and they cost too much to run, what's the point of putting them in? It is a nice concept to have all these oases of cool water running water, but if the water really never flows it becomes more of an oddity. So, all you people in Bakersfield, or other hot towns and cities: turn on your fountains. Let them splash and shimmer! Give the eye a cool place to rest in the summer heat because fountains and waterfall features that are not running look, in my opinion, just a little sad.

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