Red Wave, Fresno
Fresno does love its Bulldogs. The 'dog logo and the school color (red) are seen throughout the city, but (of course) even more near the Fresno State University campus. There’s a bar across the street from the school, next door to a store selling textbooks and Bulldog paraphernalia. The bar is called Red Wave.
The entrance isn’t clearly marked. We weren’t sure we were even on the right side of the building until we saw the bouncer, a uniformed security guard, at the door. We showed our I.D.s and went in to find the bar quite busy and noisy, with many people watching either (or both) of the two games on a number of screens. One of the games turned out to be the last game of the Celtics/Cavaliers playoff series, and the other was a soccer game on Univision that was viewed with much more enthusiasm.
We found two seats at the bar and asked about ciders, because as we’ve mentioned more than once, we are not beer fans. I had an apple cider, Mindy had a pineapple cider. From what we could see, though, most people were drinking beer -- particularly red beer, beer with Clamato juice.
In fact, the first person we asked our bar questions (“What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”) was drinking red beer. Kinte, who was sitting next to Mindy, said that’s one of the things he likes about Red Wave. His first answer about what makes a good bar was “the environment.” I asked him what he meant by that, and he said he liked the crowds, the people, the different kinds of music. And watching sports was another attraction. And in general, at a bar, he likes having “some kind of food.” Just about then, he got his plate of tacos -- it was Taco Thursday.
We asked Kinte what made for a good church, and he admitted he hadn’t gone to church for a long time. But he said he liked churches better in the South. “It seems more social in the South. In the South, I mostly go to Baptist churches. I think the choirs are better. I like the bands, you know. It seems like it’s more meaningful.”
Shortly after we arrived, we’d noticed Sam, who was wearing a cross, as he talked to various people about the games playing. He quizzed the guys to one side of us about the soccer game, asking who was playing and who the guys were cheering. He also talked about the upcoming NBA finals (“It’s on now, baby! June 1st!”), admitting that since he was from Ohio, he’d be rooting for the Cavaliers. (Kinte is also a Cavaliers fan. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising finding Cleveland fans at a place with “Red” in its name.)
After awhile, I went to talk to Sam, telling him I was a Golden State fan. He said that it was all good, sports was just fun. We talked basketball a bit, and then I asked him our two standard questions.
As for what makes for a good bar, he said, “A family atmosphere. I’ve been coming to this place 25 years. It was a little place, a hut, but they built it up. I know the family that runs the place; I’ve watched the kids grow up here and then start working here. The mother, Maria, is a wonderful woman. I heard a story about how she went to a butcher, and the butcher asked her why she didn’t get cheaper meat. If she bought something with more fat, she could stretch it out more and make a bigger profit. But she said, “I’m not serving that to my patrons. I know’em all. And my family eats that food.”
As for what makes for a good church, Sam said, “I was raised in the church. I’d go back to where I started. A family atmosphere, with love, trust, those values. It’s what I get here as well.”
I told him we’d been visiting churches and bars; he was quite enthusiastic about the project. “We need to link people in the two together. There are spiritual people in bars, and there are people in churches that don’t drink but would understand the people in bars. If we could find a way to pull the two together, be on the same page, we’d have a better world.”
He said, “God is good,” and I answered, “all the time.” So he responded “All the time…” and I finished it with “God is good.” He said God had brought us together and that if Mindy and I are ever at Red Wave again, we should come over and talk with him.
On the way out, we stopped to talk to the security guy, Greg. We asked him what would makes a good bar, and he said a good environment, “not a rowdy place, safety and good prices.” He had just started working at Red Wave again after three years of working at other places. I asked it there were places he’d worked that weren’t so safe. and he said he’d ended up in a hospital after an incident at another place he’d worked.
As for what would make for a good church, he said he hadn’t gone to church since he was 17. Still, he said, “Not so much pressure, just easy, laid back church sounds nice.”
We may take Sam up on his invite to return Red Wave, maybe when Fresno State is playing. As they say in these parts, “Go ‘Dogs!”