Culture vulture

A Test of Chico
It’s kind of fun(ny) to go to a fully sanctioned downtown event. The watermelon one, the Christmas preview and this week’s biggie, A Taste of Chico. The downtown area gets all gussied up like a debutante and invites us all over for some small talk, a snack and to hit us up for a few bucks. It’s as cute as it is contrived, but Culture Vulture is a fan of contrivance for the sake of propriety, even though we really prefer the raw, inebriated honesty of St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.

Be that as it may, we decided that a full Taste of Chico experience was called for and set our course for downtown at 11 a.m. to take full advantage of the festivities and food. We should have taken “Chico time” into consideration; even though it took at least half an hour to wander from our public-parking spot—overlooking the sadly neglected and unattractive “Lost Park” section of Chico Creek—to the ticket booth at the corner of Third and Main, many of the food booths still hadn’t actually begun serving food.

No biggie. We just did the sensible thing and located the “Cantina,” where local wineries and brewers were dispensing their wares in an area that a companion dubbed “Prison Drinking.” For some reason the organizers of the event decided that the people sipping from thimble-sized plastic cups of wine or beer needed to be segregated from the people nibbling treats in the streets. No telling what might happen if a grammar school principal or newspaper reporter got out of control on two thimbles of wine without being separated from the general populace by portable chain-link fences and a phalanx of gate keepers, I guess. Oh, wait, having downed our samples we exited without incident. I don’t think anyone even noticed our freshly inflated sense of bonhomie and patronizing, know-it-all attitude.

It would have been nice, and civilized, to be able to quaff and nibble at the same time, but such is the wisdom of the powers that be in downtown Chico. Even given these seemingly pointless restrictions, it couldn’t have been a lovelier afternoon for strolling with friends and admiring art and eating great food. Along with my thanks, the only thing I can offer the event organizers is a suggestion that they relax a little and trust the fine citizens of Chico to behave like proper ladies and gents when throwing a public celebration of our town’s gentle spirit. And maybe issue some bigger cups.

Where I was
My mother-in-law called and asked if we had the TV on. The first plane had already hit, and by the time we had the set warmed up and the rabbit ears adjusted the second one had impacted. It appeared fake, like a special-effects extravaganza a la Jerry Bruckheimer. The collapse of the towers was so perfect it looked like they’d been designed for just that purpose. It was impossible not to feel the absolute horror of the people trapped inside the towers and to know that this was the opening act in a new and dismal era in U.S. history. Feeling nauseated, I turned to my wife and said, “I really hate thinking this, but my gut reaction is that Bush’s handlers did this to distract us from whatever they’re really up to.”

I still hate thinking that.