It’s not often that you have a memorable evening in Fresno. Honestly, other than the joys of great Mexican food and the thrill of finding your car unmolested after leaving it overnight in a public parking lot, Fresno lacks a reputation for singular events. However, this past week, I experienced one of the most surprisingly rewarding evenings of my life.
The unlikely place: the lobby bar at the downtown Fresno Radisson. I found myself sipping pints of Tamarack pale ale, the flagship brew of the Sequoia Brewing Company (aka, the other reason to go to Fresno), and engaging in lively conversation with my fellow lobby bar patrons. The gentleman next to me, a middle-aged African-American gent with a penchant for arguing politics while taking very few sides, seemed familiar. It took me three pints to finally figure it out, but my bar mate was none other than Federal Judge Morrison England. Yes, that Morrison England.
When I finally realized this, I went a little bit fan-boy on him, telling him gory details about the trial he presided over in which I sat as a juror. I also told him I had written a piece on him for a local blog, to which he said, “The Sac Rag?”
Yes, I told him, the very same.
“I was wondering why I had that site saved as a favorite on my computer,” he replied.
Well, to say I was tickled pink is an understatement. I was molested chartreuse if anything. I didn’t bother to tell him about our non-legal coverage of such things as car crashes and vegan street fights. Instead, we chatted about things Sacramento, dipping into a fewÂ more pints, when, and I’m not kidding, Professor Harry Edwards walks into the bar.
If you don’t know who Harry Edwards is, here’s the quick C.V.: Sociology Professor, UC Berkeley (I had a transformational class with him my freshman year); former Black Panther; consultant to multiple sports entities including the ’49ers; 6’7″, maybe 225, shaved head, enormous goatee, and permanent sunglasses. To say he is impressive is an understatement. He’s just one of the most impressive people you’ll ever meet.
As they are wont to do, the two top-tier personalities in the room gravitated towards each other and got to talking. It was rather incredible to see not only two of the most important African-Americans in the country gabbing away, but on a more personal note, to see two of the most impressive men that I had ever come into contact with in the same night, at the same bar, in FRESNO.
So, next time you’re in our agricultural cousin to the south, you might want to stop in at the Downtown Radisson, grab a pint of Tamarack and see who shows up. Odds are it’ll be a tour bus-full of South Koreans on their way to Yosemite, but you never know. Fresno might surprise you.