Last week, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Stockton, California, one of my favorite towns.
I was the crime reporter there for the Stockton Record from 1988-92.
This time, I met with students at San Joaquin Delta College, the area community college, in a class taught by poet/instructor Pedro Ramirez. We were talking about writing and how they could tell their own stories — part of my Tell Your True writing workshops.
I’ll be posting some of them soon on my TYTT storytelling page.
The town has taken a lot of hits, entering bankruptcy in the wake of the housing collapse — which seemed reflected in the tales the students wrote, most of which were pretty grim.
Cops have left for departments elsewhere — Oceanside is one, I understand — when they lose their houses due to their salaries being reduced. Crime is again on a track to break records. I did notice a lot of the parolee/addict/hooker kind of folks downtown.
One of Stockton’s problems is that, by design or not, it is within a hundred miles of something like half the prisons in the state: this includes Folsom, San Quentin, Deuel, and the new prisons down by Corcoran/Delano, as well as a women’s prison and a youth-authority prison. That’s a lot.
But there’s a backbone to the town that I always liked, and a down-to-earth quality to folks that I did not feel, for example, when I moved to Seattle for my next job. (Civil folks, those Seattlites, but not at all friendly. And then there’s the rain, or should I say the constant drizzle.)
In Stockton, I note still a lack of graffiti, which is good. When I was there, it was the graffiti that most seemed to drag down the town and give it a defeated/defeatist feel.
These photos suggest the town’s stiff upper lip remains.