25 Chico years
The year was 1989 This Friday, Aug. 1, will mark 25 years since I moved to Chico. I was reminded of this by a phone call I received from Duffy’s Tavern co-owner Doug Roberts this week to tell me about the bar’s 25th anniversary coming up (Sept. 27), and I remembered that Duffy’s and I have parallel histories in this town.
For the week leading up to bar’s anniversary, Roberts said they are planning multiple events, including a resurrected version of the famed Duffy’s Gong Show on the actual anniversary date. And they need contestants! If you have an entertaining act, or just some completely messed-up talent, stop by and let ’em know you’re interested, or call 343-7718. Also, anyone who has any old stories, pictures or videos related to the colorful history of Duffy’s (the more incriminating the better, I say) is encouraged to drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Hell, send ’em my way, too: email@example.com).
I have a lot of memories connected to the place—two of the biggest being that my old band Pinecone opened for Pavement in the bar’s old Whispering Clam Room side room (where Melody Records is now), and the fact that my wife, Connie, worked there as a bartender for the first couple years of our marriage.
As I’ve reflected and cyber-reminisced on my own 25 years here this week, I came across the column I wrote in this space on the occasion of my 20th anniversary in Chico. Even though a lot has happened in my life during the five years since—buying my first home, hitting my 10th CN&R anniversary, meeting hundreds of CAMMIES bands, and making many new friends—I was glad to see that the reasons I gave for living here haven’t changed. So here it is again. Same as it ever was:
Why do I stay here? What is it that makes this the place that I’ve decided to call home? The park, the trees, the taco trucks, the flatness, the Sierra Nevada Brewery … sure, those are the givens. This is also where I met my wife and it’s where she was born and raised—that all matters. I also like the heat. I really do. It slows life down and gets me outside at night, and it feels like the whole city is in it together. The heat also reminds me of one of the things I loved about my hometown … I mean, where I grew up … Redding. But it really does come back to the music. There were those first Wall Street Center for the Arts shows, then great shows at the Burro Room, Juanita’s and Blue Room. Later yet, I rocked out at Chico’s constantly replenishing succession of quasi-DIY venues—from Moxie’s to the Maltese Bar & Tap Room.
But even more than the regular and inspiring consumption of the noise made by visiting bands, the consistent, and No. 1, selling point for me personally in Chico has been that I, too, have been able to take part in the show, along with most of the friends I’ve made along the way. Most every friend I’ve made and every wild character I’ve encountered has come from the constantly shifting but always interconnected network of music types, and by extension the rest of Chico’s artistic freaks—from poets and painters to thespians and hippies.
But this look back isn’t meant to just be a rumination on the supposed good ol’ days. As great as the memories are, the advantage this combo rural/college town affords remains: I can still do anything I want. Chico is small and laid-back enough that no matter what your artistic aspirations are, there are always open doors (however small) for energetic art makers, and the college brings enough outside cultural influence to ensure that there will always be something new and always be a handful of people around to witness your art.
While I still have my gripes about living on this island and feeling so far away from everything, that’s what makes me love living in Chico. That, and the heat.