(This column was tweaked from a version that ran on Sept. 4, 2013).
Journalists, by nature, tend to be a very cynical lot.
We try never to be gullible because there are people who want to be taken at face value when they are bending the truth for their purposes. At the same time, we shouldn't be cynical about everything that is said to us. We're constantly trying to read people so we don't fall for spin.
But if you ask me, we all should adopt this approach to life: Don't be so gullible.
Kick the tires.
Watch and examine.
Don't rush into things.
Believe that if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
Follow the money.
Forget branding. What's actually inside?
Permit me to have a little fun as I put on my hat of cynicism.
Just because somebody names their group "Citizens for Ceres," don't believe that's what's actually inside. Check your suspicions that such a group is a special-interest group with a narrow interest in fighting Walmart but would be damned okay with Target.
Labels don't mean a whole lot any more. In the old days - I'm talking way back in the days of the Bible -- names actually meant something. There was deep meaning in names. I wasn't until my 30s when I learned that Jeffrey means "God's peace." I'd like that to be the case but I'm sure He might have something different to say about my uptight nature.
Nowadays names are chosen not for the meaning but because they appeal to the ear. That's certainly true in the world of cars and real estate with high dollars at stake.
Let's start with one Ceres park: Roeding Heights Park. I cannot for the life of me find the mountain or hill it's perched on. Ceres is about as hilly as a table top so I don't know what the namers of the park were trying to do there.
Take names of highways and streets. We knew how to name roads in the olden days. In California we have the El Camino Real (Spanish for "The Royal Road.") The Pacific Coast Highway conjures up mental pictures of a ribbon of asphalt snaking along majestic creases of land dropping off into a rugged foaming coastline and tranquil sea. And it should. The name aptly fits.
Somewhere in developers' quests to market subdivisions, they've really stretched with street names. Possibly out of boredom they've concocted out-of-the-box names for Ceres streets like Podocarpus Drive (yes, it's in Eastgate).
Some names, however, are hardly reflective of conditions in the area. Pleasant Avenue really is one of the worst areas in west Ceres. I'm not kidding. I'm a little puzzled as to why St. Gotthard Way was chosen or Nimrod for that matter.
What do you think of when you hear names like Pine Ridge Drive, Salmon Cree Drive, Rocky Brook Drive, Blue Falls Court, and Mountain Ridge Drive? Can you smell the air of Twain Harte or Pinecrest? Hear the fish jumping out of the water? Nope, these are names in middle-income neighborhoods in the flat vista of Ceres far where you can't water your grass but for two days a week.
You won't find any rolling vineyards around Merlot Drive, Sauvignon Drive, Chardonnay Court or Zinfandel Place. There's no smell of wine on Colombard Way or on Bordeaux. But you might hear an old lady getting attacked by a loose pit bull.
Folks, we aren't even remotely close to Oz yet we have Munchkin Drive, Wizard Lane, Toto Court and Yellow Brick Road. Nope, that's around the corner from the wine streets.
Then there's Matterhorn, Zurich, Bern and Jura. Nope, we're not talking anywhere close to Switzerland. There isn't even a view of Half Dome let alone the Swiss Alps but you might be able to see the top of Walmart to the west.
The comic side of inside me proposes we get a little closer to reality when naming streets. Hear me out. The Valley is clearly a desert without irrigation and it has its problems. We are also a farming area with all of its blessings as well as pratfalls. My sick sense of humor has developers picking out street names like Malathion Way, Pesticide Place, Sweltering Summer Avenue, Almond Tree Dust Street, Dead Possum Circle, Cropduster Court, Nematode Avenue.
How about Drought Gully Drainage Basin for the name of a park?
We are 3,851 miles from Hilo, Hawaii, but we have Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Banyan Court. We are, however, in an impoverished area, but we're not likely to see the Chamber of Commerce smiling at streets named Panhandle, Unemployment, Upsidedown, Foreclosure or Bailout.
The county's auto theft and meth rate have us in the nation's eye as one of the worst so why not dispense with nice names for subdivisions like Davante Villas and go for reality. Maybe the next subdivision should be named Probation Villa with streets of Hotwire Road, Tweaker, Vagrant Lane, Stupor Road, Curfew Drive, Parole Place, Dirty Needle Court and Blight Road? Crystal Meth Manor could be a theme for a new gated community with street names such as Cannabis Court, Drive-by Drive and Norteno Lane (intersecting with Surreno Street), which is right around the corner from Blood Alley, Shell Casing Boulevard and Meth Cooker Court, which is one street over from Lo-jack Lane.
Alright, alright, just kidding, just kidding. I do appreciate the difficulty in coming up with creative street names that aren't ridiculously mismatched while sounding original. For the most part, Eastgate or even Westpointe and other areas have street names with nice rings to them. But namers of future Ceres streets might want to peruse the many names of historic figures from Ceres' past to borrow for uniquely local street names, including Averill, Barbour, Baldridge, Caulkins, Craig, Doolittle, Gartin, Ham, Hanscom, Helsley,Ishida, Kaiser, Shrider, Salter, Triplett, Tupper, Vilas, Vincent and Wagener. There's many more for anyone who would be willing to delve into local history.
Like anyone, I like nice sounding street names. I just wish that neighborhoods in the Valley lived up to those nice rings.
It would be nice for the Valley to change what it's become: A place that Forbes Magazine deems is one of the worst places in the country to live.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org