Photo Gallery: It’s Fulton Mall

Gosia WozniackaUncategorized

Drive to downtown Fresno early Saturday morning and you will find more than cement and tarmac worthy of revival. At 8 a.m., when shadows creep along shuttered storefronts, walk down Fulton Mall. You will meet a Latino man who sweeps the unpeopled street with a toothless smile and two Mexicanos solemnly claiming their benches, as if they had not moved from their spots for weeks. Others are pulling suitcases, pushing shopping carts, hooking arms around buldging plastic bags. Men and women on bikes swish across fading murals on the walls of crumbling department stores, and a grandfather in a straw cowboy hat walks slowly, hands clasped behind his back. Keep on. At the plaza’s mouth, a thin woman pushing a stroller and manning a black and white chihuaha mix on a long leash starts talking on a cell phone. You may wonder whether someone’s on the other line. At the plaza, don’t miss El Diablo, a Tejano, and his friend from Jalisco warming benches under the Payless Shoes awning. No, you won’t miss El Diablo, he has an unforgettable face. You’ve already seen him, riding his bike all morning. And, he’ll promptly inform you, you are beautiful but he already has a girlfriend. In the plaza’s opposite corner, Jesus is charging his monitoring device and fiddling with his walkman. Out of prison and on parole since January, he’s been unable to find a job. It’s hard, he says, when cops monitor you whether you visit the latrines or the liquor store. Jesus says: In one year, I will be free. You shake his hand, wish him luck. The sun starts pouring down through the trees. A crowd gathers in front of Fulton Mini Mart (“Discount Cigarettes, Check Cashing, Pay Bills, PG&E, Cell”) and disappears inside as soon as shutters go up. Within minutes, they reemerge with grocery bags, hot dogs on a plate, a soda can. Two men, brothers, tell you they play harmonica and base at Bobby Salazar’s on Olive Street, and you promise to go hear them play. Then keep on walking, to where a man is feeding a scrawny tabby cat with a piece of shrimp. The cat declines the treat. Follow the cat and see it slip through a broken glass inside an empty department storefront littered with cat food. And now store owners (3 Hermanos, Discoteca Sinaloense, Sugar Sugar Grand Opening…) lift their shutters, sweep, lug out manequins and signs. From a distance, ball park speakers belch out game announcements. As you step off the Fulton Mall, don’t miss these sidewalk gifts: a belt, an empty casette of Garth Brooks and a book: Philip Yancey’s “What’s so amazing about grace?”

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