A year older; wiser?

Ah, nostalgia! This week’s Guest Comment sure takes me back, to my very first weeks in Chico … lo, those 12 long months ago.

Lani Cox came here to find “a beautiful setting where the sun shined and the people reflected the sunny disposition…. My experience thus far has been that the people who reside in Chico are friendly, helpful and considerate.”

Awwww …

Was I that gushy a newbie? Let’s check the archives:

• “I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome to my new home. At the mall, downtown, at the CAMMIES, Chicoans have been unanimously gracious. I am excited to be here, and I’m glad you’re happy to have me.”

• “My newcomer experience isn’t wholly cut from the cliché cloth. It’s not quite Green Acres, but I see a lot of green acreage. And the bounty thereof.”

• “Maybe it’s just a newcomer’s wonder that has me waxing poetic. But based on the passion and variety of conservationists I encounter, I have plenty of wide-eyed company.”

• “Seventeen years in one place have gotten trumped by 30 days in another. Familiarity goes to Riverside; fondness flows toward Chico. The greenery, the eateries, the warm and friendly vibe—my new hometown has won me over in sudden, deep ways.”

Yikes! Even more gushy!

I’m not as sentimental these days. I don’t compare the small city to a bigger city as much as I judge it on its own merits. I’ve peeled back the gingham veneer and seen another side of Chico:

• We have gangs. (All the graffiti doesn’t come from paint-store pranksters.) Chico police have identified around 800 gang members in Chico—many Norteños, but Aryans and other rivals as well.

• We have drugs, and not just the leafy-green variety. Methamphetamine is so pervasive that a dozen agencies have joined forces to combat it. Cocaine and black-tar heroin have surfaced in Chico—on top of the aforementioned marijuana. (See Newslines)

• We have neighborhood decay. Potholes are just the concave tip of the iceberg. Infrastructure needs abound, yet the city budget is stretched to the point of snapping.

• We have prejudice. Two brothers got attacked at Third and Wall—in the parking lot outside my window, around 12 hours after a Saturday Farmers Market—by thugs who presumed them gay. More widespread is the acceptable prejudging: the labeling, the pigeon-holing, the passive-aggressive cheap-shotting.

Am I jaded? No. I still think this is a fantastic place to live. I feel a lot like Lani Cox: “I may be idealistic, but I’m not naïve.”

News(photo)flash: The final member of our summer internship class is set to come on board. Andrew Boost, wrapping up his junior year in Chico State’s Journalism Department, will be our photography intern, joining five writers.

Shout-out: Belated thanks to Peet’s people for my gloriously caffeinated days as Customer of the Week. Couldn’t help but notice there hasn’t been an Employee of the Month this spring. So, returning the favor: How about Jenna?