Attorney James Pixton Takes a Bankruptcy Trip from Oakland to Fresno on Amtrak

I had a morning hearing in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case I’m working on in Fresno today. Rather than drive for four hours to attend a short hearing and then drive another four hours back, I did one of my favorite things and hopped on Amtrak. Even though I had to leave at 5:30 in the morning, I slept for a couple hours before taking care of phone calls, emails and case work (Amtrak has wi-fi). I love not having to drive and in this case it was kind of a necessity: I probably would have fallen asleep on the drive down this morning.

Here are some pictures of the ride. Nothing big, but they do cause some nostalgia for me. Fresno is home of the federal courthouse where I had my first job as a bankruptcy lawyer.br />
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One of these days I want to take Jen on a cross country trip by Amtrak. With the wi-fi, we would both stay connected to work and family and would actually be able to enjoy the trip. Funny, I break out in nervous sweat at the thought of not having access to email. Maybe it’s not so funny.

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Isn’t there something other-worldly about train stations. Incredible things happen in them. Sometimes kids get magically transported to Narnia. Other kids go to Platform 9 3/4 and hop the Hogwarts Express. I just got on a train going to Fresno. No magic at all.

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Just like the train sets I used to play with as a kid.

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Plug the iPad into power strip, agree to some wi-fi access legal disclaimer that no one has ever actually read, and it’s just like being in the office–except for the fast-moving landscape.

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I don’t like to admit this, but the iPad has significantly improved my quality of life.

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Fresno is surrounded by vineyards. When we lived there in 1996-97, we went at least once to the LDS Church’s vineyards to harvest grapes. I hasten to add that, being Mormon grapes, these ones were destined to become raisins, not wine.

We each had a harvesting knife to cut the bunches off the vine and then we’d lay them out on a long roll of drying paper that ran down the rows between the vines. I’ve experienced some harvesting in the vineyard–and come to think of it, it was the Lord’s vineyard.

About the harvesting knife, I took it home and stuck it in the bottom of my toolbox for several years. To this day, my toolbox reeks of manure which come to think of it is what the vineyard smelled like. That sure explained the healthy size of the grapes.

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The train doesn’t go through the nice parts of town. This is one of Fresno’s finest graffiti art galleries. Sadly it gets more visitors per day than my websites!

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All the conveniences of the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex except the hot, buttered popcorn.

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There seems to be a connection between train tracks and junkyards, backyards filled with broken-down cars.

By the way, the hearing in Fresno went way better than I expected, making this trip very pleasant. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t hit a cow on the way back to Oakland-Jack London, my origin and terminus of my journey into the Valley–fondly referred to as “the Other California.”

The Downtown Parking Garage: A Glorious Monstrosity

I remember the protests and the threatened (and actual) boycotts. I remember the op-ed pieces for and against. I remember neighbors and neighborhood taking sides. “It’s going to destroy the small-town feel of the Park Steet corridor!” “No, it’s going to revitalize Park Street–bring it back from the dead!”

My law office is just up the street from the garage on Oak Street so I’ve watched its effect on Park Street from a ringside seat. My first observation is more of a recollection. When my wife Jennifer and I first moved to Alameda in 1998 with our one-year-old (he’s now a freshman at Encinal!), I remember driving down Park Street and remarking that other than for a haircut or Asian food, I had no reason to set foot on Park Street. I’ve since gone bald so if things hadn’t changed I would never go to Park Street at all because Asian food doesn’t always agree with me.

I also remember driving down Park Street after sundown and thinking it looked like a ghost town. It would have been perfect for a zombie movie.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’ll be the first to say that the yeasayers were prophetic and the naysayers lacked vision. Since the parking garage and the attached multiplex opened, I can count on one finger the number of times our family–with three more kids now added to the mix–has left the island to see a movie.

With such convenient parking we have also focused our dining attention on Park Street with enthusiasm. I admit that the restaurants have always been more diverse than I used to realize, but it took that parking garage for us to start exploring.

Mission accomplished! The Pixtons are staying on the island to spend our money. My wife says half jokingly–and I know she’s not the only one–that if we just had a Target, we’d never leave the island. I think if I dig deeper I can get everything I might find at Target in the local businesses we already have just up the street or avenue in Alameda.

And the garage itself simply doesn’t look that bad. Does anyone remember that shack on the corner of Oak and Central that housed Video Maniacs? How about that oddly-paved parking lot where the careless speeder could easily drop a transmission? How could this not be an improvement?

The only gripe I have concerns that infernal elevator. Someone should call the folks at Guinness because I think we might have the world’s slowest elevator.

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