by Tom Sims
Tom Sims covers the Tower District, Downtown Fresno, and Old Town Clovis in his monthly column Strolling the Town. We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling!
It was a Monday night in late June and I was preparing to leave for the Holy Land, and I took a stroll in the Tower.
Strolling is what I do, sometimes slowly, soaking in the images and sounds around me. I want to experience where I am and who is around me. It takes time.
Do you ever just stroll – not for exercise or necessity – just for the sake of strolling?
So, I went to dinner and I have already written about that wonderful place.
So, I approached them and they all stopped to talk with me.
“Hi, I’m Tom. I’m just strolling out here. What are you doing?”
“We are doing much the same,” they replied.
“Who are you and where are you from?” I really wanted to know.
“I am Terence King,” said the leader, extending his hand and giving me his full attention. “We are a group of young people called G7. We like to come out here once a week and walk around our neighborhood together.”
“ What does G7 mean?” I sensed they must have come from a church, but I wanted to hear it from them.
“It means, ‘God completes,’” Terence said. “7 is the number of completion. We believe that God makes people complete.”
We talked a while and others chimed in. They are from a church and Terence is the leader of the youth ministry of “16-30 year olds committed to being completed by God.”
They consider the Tower their home because it is where their church, True Light International Church, is located.
So, they stroll too. As they stroll, they enjoy each other’s company, meet their neighbors, pray for the neighborhood, and just enter into being present. Community service is a key component of their mission statement.
A young man crossed the street to talk with me. I had heard the story before. It was old number 46 … or was it 39?
I can’t remember, but you know it. He came to town with his wife looking for work. Everything fell apart and he is stranded. He needs X amount of money to get to his dying grandmother …. Or something … I can’t remember all the details.
“Where is your wife,” I asked?
“Over there,” he responded and pointed.
A rather bedraggled looking young woman waved at me from across the street.
In a moment of weakness, I did what I do not recommend and seldom do unless an impulse hits me. I gave him $5 and a mini lecture.
He took the money, endured the lecture, and shouted something to his “wife.”
I cannot be sure.
It is Monday night in the Tower and some folks were gathering.
The “wife” shouted something back to the young man.
Later, I found her crying in a doorway and asked if she was alright. She shook her head, but did not engage in conversation.
“He didn’t share the money with you, did he?”
The negative was an affirmative.
I moved on. Dusk is a nice time to take pictures in the Tower. It was getting to be dusk and some more people were gathering.
I had dinner and then walked some more. The young man approached me knowing that I knew he had scammed me and knowing that I had probably known it from the beginning and there was no pretense.
“Have you seen my woman?”
“ Yes, she was over there crying when I last saw her. She seemed pretty upset with you,”
He said nothing and started walking “over there.”
It just takes people time to get home, change, and come back out.
I am not a night life sort of guy. I like to be home before dark and it was after dark. So, I stopped strolling and started walking toward my car. Walking and strolling have similarities, but different intent.
Monday night from 5-8 in the Tower is alive, but not boisterous. If you stroll, you see more than you would if you walk or drive.
It is a real neighborhood with all sorts of real neighbors that gather around creative shops, lively pubs, enticing bistros musical venues, and theater.
Outside the businesses and public houses, people run, walk, gather, meander, pray, panhandle, live their lives, and stroll.
I only noted a small and contrasting slice of life here, but there is much more. If we only drive in, get out, and rush into our destinations, we don’t experience all that a neighborhood is about.
My suggestion is to leave plenty of time, park far away, and stroll in, planning to walk some streets you have never walked before and explore on your own.
The Tower is a fascinating neighborhood and for every stroll, I think I can guarantee at least two stories.
As I was leaving, everyone else was coming.