Fiction 59
Thanks to all the writers, young and old, who entered the contest! Click the links below for the winners and “Editor’s picks"—personal favorites that fell a vote or two shy of official honors.

Last Friday, I had lunch with 16 Orovillians. I’d say I ate lunch with them, but I did more talking and listening than eating. (That’s not a knock on Checkers’ catering—the salad, chicken and cake all were delicious in the sporadic nibbles I got to take.)

I was there to learn more about the city. I’ve been to the County Center many times, downtown quite a bit, the lake on occasion; none of which makes me think I know my southeasterly neighbor. I know there’s a lot I don’t know, and the best way to fill gaps is engaging people who are “in the know.” That’s how I proceeded in Chico, then Paradise, as a Butte County newbie.

My initial contact was Oroville Hospital CEO Bob Wentz. A natural question after meeting someone, of course, is Who else should I talk to? Rather than simply answer, he offered to gather some of them. Thus my lunch with two city councilmembers and other business leaders/civic-minded individuals.

What struck me deepest was the rooted emotion about this paper and the city in our name. I’m used to hearing complaints and characterizations of the CN&R … just not ones dating to the 1990s. I’ve been privy to Chico-Oroville fissuring, too … yet, until Friday, I didn’t realize just how seriously some people take these cracks.

If ignorance is bliss, I’m blissfully ignorant, because I judge things for myself. I haven’t had cause to carry lead weights of derision into the village of gold.

I’ve gone into parts of Oroville that remind me of the seedy corridor in Riverside, dicey blocks in East Palo Alto and drive-by-fast ’hoods in L.A.

Know what? I get the same déjà vu in places on the Ridge and (gasp) in Chico. I’ve gotten it in Palm Springs and the O.C., too.

Know what else? I’ve seen some cool things in Oroville. That’s part of the reason we added Best of Oroville as a companion to Best of Chico last fall. Here are three: the Axiom teen center, Forebay Aquatic Center, Long Creek Winery.

Maybe I’m missing something. Long-time locals, please help me out. <script type="text/javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,101,118,97,110,116,64,110,101,119,115,114,101,118,105,101,119,46,99,111,109,34,62)); document.write("E-mail me"); document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,47,97,62)); }</script> answers to the following:

• Chicoans, what’s wrong with Oroville?

• Orovillians, why do Chicoans see your city as a punch line? (Feel free to share the jokes, funny or not.)

• Ridge folk, what’s up with these people?

As I’ve written before, one of my volunteer efforts is the Butte Pioneers Regional Leadership Development program. The paradigm is simple: Issues of common interest transcend lines on a map.

Is economic development just a city matter? No—a new factory in Oroville means home sales in Paradise and retail sales in Chico, too.

Is water just a city matter? A county matter? An aquifer matter? No—it affects cities and counties beyond the Tuscan recharge zone.

Times are tough, bound to get tougher. Chico, Oroville and Paradise have interconnections. (We can talk South County another time.)

Let’s get the preconceptions out in the open. My request above wasn’t rhetorical—I’ll put readers’ responses in next week’s column, anonymously. Hopefully by sorting the petty differences from the profound, we can move toward truly making a difference.