Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Armpit of California - Bakersfield

When people told me Bakersfield was the worst place in California, I didn't believe them.  I thought they were lying to me, or it was a matter of perspective.  It still might be a matter of perspective, but I'm more inclined to side with the people who gave fair warning.

My parents, being the good parents they are as well as withholding judgment until they experience something for themselves, decided we would take a drive to check it out.  Bakersfield was one of the shops that was looking for a master-tech, and it's better to get as much information as possible. Man, am I glad I actually checked the place out because wow - I'm convinced.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate flat.  I also hate dry.  Driving to Bakersfield along the 166 was beautiful, until we hit the farm land.  Rows and rows of artificially organized citrus lined the slender line of asphalt.  We turned on to the 99 and made our way into town.  We had already gone through several whistle stops that made my mother groan and say "God this is sooo depressing!".  I figured, Bakersfield is a big city.  It will have something worth seeing.  Something will be interesting about it.

Thing was, there just wasn't. 

Going into town, there was a large community of large houses that were priced in the mid 100s. That should have been our first clue.  We found one of the malls - it was all average stores - forget designer.  There was, of course, only one major university there to service a city of over 300,000 people. In addition to the lovely culture, education, and shopping available, I was disturbed by the apparent lack of zoning in a large metropolitan area.  Houses were next to businesses and industrial areas.  Classic "American Lawn Art" was everywhere in the middle of the city.  One of the malls actually had boarded up windows!  An entire shopping mall had become empty!  It just looked trashy and rundown - the entire city looked like it had taken on the full brunt of our economic troubles. 

I thought Phoenix was hellish, and that is all I can say about it.  It is at least hellish.  Bakersfield might actually be hell.  I'm not sure.  I guess it depends on how you think about it.  If Hell is meant to have some beauty about it, something insidious about it, then Phoenix is Hell.  You have some art nights, some cool clubs, Tempe, and Scottsdale.  If, however, Hell should just be the most depressing place you've ever been in your life, then Bakersfield takes the cake.

All I know is, even though the closest Nordstrom to Troy NY is in Connecticut, I'd rather have the mountains and the Hudson River than dusty flat uber-farms and Frito Lay factories of Bakersfield.

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