Five Chico truths
The sooner you accept them, the sooner you can live with them
Having lived in Chico for nearly six years now, I consider myself somewhat settled in. Of course, to local farming families and the like, anyone here for less than three generations is a newcomer. But I have learned enough about what makes Chico tick to pass along advice to you, the new student, that may save you some stress as you get to know your new home. Listen, Grasshopper, to the wisdom of ages:
1. When they say it’s hot, they mean it.
“Sure, yeah, whatever,” I told the editor interviewing me for a job on a pleasant September day, as a light breeze wafted through the valley and the late-summer sun glistened through the oaks. “I can handle hot.”
OK, so it’s not Africa hot, or muggy Arizona hot. But Chico summers are oppressively, depressingly overheated. I’m talking clothes-stick-to-your-back, change-your-underwear-twice-a-day, stay-indoors-until-midnight hot. If you don’t have air-conditioning in your car or, God forbid, your home, double everything I just said.
For those of you who, like me, think you know what it will be like because where you came from it got to be over 100 degrees a couple of days in the summer, you’ll be eating your words, because 107, through some twist of meteorological nature, seems twice as hot as 100. If you run into one of those kooks who say they don’t mind the heat, throw a bucket of water on him—if you can rouse the energy. It’s really hot.
2. Chico State will always be “the party school.”
It doesn’t matter how many national baseball championships are won, how many academic departments are ranked at the top, or how many graduates go on to snag prime jobs. Chico State is “the party school,” and the sooner you accept that, the better. After all, you knew the rep when you decided to come here, right? Case in point.
Cruise Fifth and Ivy or downtown some night, and you’ll see it’s somewhat deserved. But it’s the images from the Pioneer Days riots in 1987 (people overturned cars and set fires for no other reason than that they were drunk) stick in people’s heads, as does that pesky No. 1 party school award from Playboy magazine that drew MTV and scores and out-of-towners to town to ruin it for the rest of you.
I went to Humboldt State, the “stoner school,” so no matter what accolades my alma mater may receive, some people will always picture me getting my diploma with one hand and grasping a bong in the other. This falls under the category of “their problem.”
Now Playboy is set to rank party schools again, and the university is hoping to lay low. In any case, take a cue from President Manuel Esteban, who tells teasers that Chico State students aren’t party animals, they’re just very social—a boon to any potential employer.
3. Kiss that security deposit good-bye.
I don’t mean to be cynical, but the chances of your seeing all—or even most—of the precious hundreds of dollars you forked over to the landlords is about that of having Annie Bidwell as a roommate.
No matter how hard you try, there’s going to be something wrong when you move out, and believe me, you’re going to pay for it. You can tip the ratio more in your favor by: not hosting any Who concerts in your apartment; documenting existing damage when you move in; and cleaning like you’re on crystal meth when it’s time to move on. All this effort may save you, say, a dollar. Students—or their mommies and daddies—find themselves making angry calls to property managers to try to get more of their money back.
A few years ago, a class-action lawsuit against a since-sold rental agency charged that fraud was routinely committed as renters were overcharged for maintenance and repairs or charged for work that wasn’t done at all. The case was settled out of court, with the owners blaming “bad press” all the while.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get your deposit back; I just wouldn’t hang your summer vacation money on it.
4. Chico will make you fat.
Forget the freshman 15—Chico tacks on a few extra pounds just because it knows you’ll have to dress light in the hot summer. In my first five years here, I gained more than 30 pounds, much of which I attribute to working conveniently near downtown, with its host of tasty treats. It’s just too easy to bop off campus and grab a cheesy bagel or a scoop of ice cream. Before you know it, your high school clothes don’t fit anymore.
Body image and PC comments about societal pressures aside, if you don’t want to pork up nicely, watch what you put in your mouth. That, and take advantage of the bike trails and other natural exercise opportunities to be found around here.
5. You can never leave.
It’s like that Eagles song, only this is Hotel Chico.
You’ll start to hear hints about the phenomenon—the adage that once fate lands you in Chico, there’s a good chance you’re here to stay. You may discount this theory, but as your stay lengthens and you start noticing the same aging frat boys and the same bands holding yet another “farewell” concert, you’ll believe. Chico is some kind of vortex in which people wake to find themselves 35 years old and working in a coffee shop just so they can stay here.
Sure, a few of them leave, albeit temporarily and often to the mystical world of “Portland.” But they’ll be back. And you might be, too.
Maybe that’s because Chico is the best there is.