Places and People
Where you are dropped, as the saying is, is who you are, at least in a certain limited sense. If you are dropped in Bitlis but are soon taken to New York, Bitlis is less who you are than New York is. But the place you knew first is at least a large part of who you are. Places make people. They very definitely do, almost physically. Places procreate. They are part of the human procreation process. There are many men and women who wouldn’t think of engaging in the procreative act in certain places of the world, and there are other places in which nothing seems more right and pleasant. There are places that are all business, and places that are all fun and frolic, and still other places that are all light and song and the senses and love.
After the World, after being anywhere at all, my place was Fresno, and as far as I am concerned it was the very best possible place for me to be----and for this reason: that’s where I was dropped. The minute we met, that was it. We belonged to each other. Forever, It was a fact.
I was born there. I wasn’t born in Bitils, Marseilles, London, New York, or anywhere else. I was born in Fresno. It was my place. I loved it. I hated it. But had I been born in Paris, I would have loved Paris, and I would have hated it. Fresno had great early appeal for me. It had a fine smell of dust, of the desert, of rocks baking in the sun, of sand with cactus growing out of it, of water flowing in rivers and ditches, of leaf and blossom and fruit. It also had all of the smells of rot, decay, and ferment: the great heaps of grape pulp and skin at the wineries sent a smell all through the town if there was a little wind stirring. There were also the magnificent smells in the house in which one did one’s early time: the very walls themselves, the people who lived in the house, and the things they cooked or baked: Armenian bread, for instance, in the three popular forms prepared by the Saroyan family: the round, wafer-thin flat bread, the oval loaf bread only an inch or two thick, and the diamond-shaped little loaves of butter bread. There was also always the smell of various green things, or growing things----parsley, mint, basil, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on and so forth.
All of these things were a part of the place, and very quickly a part of me. Fresno was my place, and my family was my place