I’ve written three stories in the last three weeks about downtown businesses closing. What does this mean? Is this a trend or merely a coincidence? Who knows? The owners or managers of the businesses gave reasons for their demises, and all sounded plausible. I don’t pretend to understand the dynamics of business. In fact, I had a woman call and leave me an angry message a few weeks back when I tried to make the satirical argument that lengthening the library hours at the Chico Library had led to the fall of Tower Books. The woman said she couldn’t believe how stupid I was and that she was embarrassed for me. Then she said she would never read this column or this paper again. Fair enough.

Jeff Dow, co-owner of Sierra Stationers, raised a good question: What will move into the spot Sundance Records has vacated? Dow’s store is next door. We joked about it. I said a strip joint. He countered with tattoo parlor. Later, I thought of other possibilities. How about a donut shop? That would ensure a constant presence of the local law enforcement. (A strip club would do the same thing—see below.) How about a video arcade? A Jiffy-Lube? An art museum? A lawn ornament shop? Shoe store? A Fred Meyer outlet?

This week I came across the agenda for the Associated Students Business Committee. The financial report included this statement: “The committee was advised that Off Campus Books, their off campus competitor, is in financial difficulties and is considering closing or selling.” I called OCB offices in Davis and left two messages with Ron Tinsley, founder of the store that moved here two years ago to give the A.S. bookstore some competition. Tinsley did not return my calls by press time. OCB is located on the corner of Second and Main streets.

What about the children? When Chico schools Trustee Jackie Faris-Rees called me and bawled me out back in 1998 for having the audacity to write a story that suggested the Chico Unified School District sprayed more herbicides on school grounds than were necessary, I was stunned but did feel a tinge of guilt. Faris-Rees was furious, because the story came out right before the vote on the school bond. The publication of my story could very well scuttle the passage of the bond measure, and we wouldn’t get our much-needed school. We’re all in this together, she said. I defended my story but must say I was real happy when the bond measure passed. Now, three years later, where do we as a community pulling together sit with that school? Let’s see: one land seller won’t cooperate unless the approval to construct a bunch of houses on environmentally sensitive land is included in the package. Now, when another piece of property is brought up for consideration, the owner, our local nonprofit hospital, says it wants to make sure it can squeeze as much money as it can out of the property. I don’t feel so guilty anymore.

Looks like a Carl’s Jr. will not be built on the corner of Mangrove and Vallombrosa any time soon. The architects sent the city a letter asking to withdraw their application for a use permit on the site. Carl’s Jr. wants a drive-through. City staff has recommended against it, arguing it will adversely impact traffic there. Does this town really need another fast-food restaurant? I think we should have a moratorium on such businesses in light of the fact that we let that god-awful retro McDonald’s get built a little father up the road on Mangrove. Don’t let that mistake be in vain.

Finally, we have to wonder about all the energy and excitement burned by local law enforcement in busting the First Amendment Club nudie bar last week. Keepin’ a pretty close eye on, uh, developments out there, huh boys? Making the county safe for the rest of us, right? I can hear the undercover cops now, telling their wives, "Uh, sorry honey, got to go out again tonight. Undercover stuff, you know. Nope, can’t tell you why. Top secret. Let’s just say I don’t want to compromise the safety of you and little Timmy." Word of advice to strippers in Butte County: Before you take off any clothes or do any gyrating, make sure you count the number of mustaches in your audience.