I Didn’t Come to Bakersfield to See the Sights

Here is just one remarkable view outside my train window, somewhere outside of Fresno.

Here is just one remarkable view outside my train window, somewhere outside of Fresno.

I backpacked to Bakersfield for the annual Cal State University, Bakersfield, Alumni Swim Meet. That event, and that I’m too poor to travel out of state, inspired my plan: why not take a backpack and public transit, and feel like a world traveler? I could kill two birds with one stone.

Here to our left is just one sampling of Central Valley scenery as recorded on my cell phone from my window on the Amtrak San Joaquin.

I did not do as much sight seeing as I had hoped, though late Sunday afternoon, my good friend and hostess Mickey took me to downtown Bakersfield for a digital photo shoot. All of these photos are currently on her husband’s, and my other good friend, Chris’s camera, which is likely still on his kitchen counter, and this is just a friendly reminder, Chris, if you’re reading, do you think you could forward those on? I do have a fan base. I mean, Ed just texted me. He said he’d like to see them.

I met all of these people eighteen years ago. Eighteen years ago! For you see, eighteen years ago, I went to Bakersfield with a dream, and that dream was that I was a swimmer. I was twenty years old, I was finally fast enough to swim in Coach Steve’s Senior Group, I had two years of junior college swimming under my belt, and I felt I was now ready for the big leagues of NCAA Division II swimming.

So that’s how I met Mickey and Chris and Diedre and Mo and Trish and Dawn and Frances and Coach Pat and Barb and Ed and Chuck and all these other characters who somehow shaped me into being who I am today. For you see, despite having landed in Bakersfield, a town rich in oil fields, strip malls, subdivisionsl lined by sound walls, and dirt lots, CSUB Swimming and Diving marked the dawn of a new beginning for me, when Katie became officially “kinda of funny”. And happy.

I was shy in Pleasanton. Stuff happened and it was bad. I don’t want to talk about it.

The way the CSUB Alumni Swim Meet works is that we, the elder, wiser athletes are supposed to somehow “compete” against the younger generations, and show them that we’ve still got it in the pool, to humble them and earn their respect.

That’s pretty much why we cheated in the 200 Free relay. I missed the start of all my other events. Oh well. It’s not like anyone noticed. No one noticed we cheated (we did 25s while everyone else did 50s), and no one noticed we won, either. There was no need to gloat in our superiority in the water, either. We had much reminiscing to do.

One really nice thing about reminiscing with very old friends, particularly with those with whom you’ve developed a sort of schtick, a Laurel and Hardy routine, as it were, is that you can continue on with your comedy act pretty much at the same place where you left off fifteen years prior.

You can even take it up a notch, and incorporate developing technologies into the routine, like text messaging on the phone, as illustrated in the following example.

Ed and I were downtown, on the hunt for a lively night spot. Mo and the rest of our possee were on their way to the Basque Chalet on Oak and Brundage, to dance the night away to a country and western jukebox (because everyone knows that is traditional Basque music), having been frightened from all the people dressed as pirates downtown.

“Amy Grant playing downtown,” I texted Mo late Saturday night. Her name was on the Fox Theater marquee. Was Amy in on our joke?

“Oh my God! Amy Grant rocks!” Mo texted back. This was right on cue, exactly what she was supposed to say.

Of course, I realize that this joke would take a lot of set up to illustrate exactly why it is so, so very funny. It all started on the swim team van, and this song came on the radio, and Frances said-

On second thought, there is no possible way I could ever explain why that was funny. Just know that it was funny to Mo and to me, eighteen years after it was funny the first time. It really was. You just had to be there. And be Mo or me, probably.

This is one reason why we need old friends.


About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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3 Responses to I Didn’t Come to Bakersfield to See the Sights

  1. lauren says:


    and i didn’t realize you were 38! you’re almost my age!

  2. katiekelly says:

    Dear Lauren,

    You are very lucky that I let this post through, as it breaks the “Age Privacy Clause” as stipulated in fine print somewhere on these pages. But I’ll let this one through, just this once, because one week from today, it will be inaccurate by one year, and yes, that is a hint, dear readers.

    Thank you,
    The Management

  3. Kelly says:

    i’ve been on that train! way to pick your good times

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