Getting too comfortable

If you’re not careful, you could end up liking it here

WHO’S WATCHING THE ROAD?<br>The writer pilots his trusty Vanagon through the Sierra Buttes.

The writer pilots his trusty Vanagon through the Sierra Buttes.

Photo by Josh Indar

Forewarned is forearmed.

That’s the saying, anyway. But how to arm oneself against hay fever? Against heat? Against relaxation?

What, for instance, would I have done if someone had told me that Chico is such a bad town for allergy sufferers that even people who have never had allergies in their lives come here and start tearing up and sneezing and feeling like their heads are full of cottage cheese as soon as April rolls around? I still would have come. I wouldn’t have worn a gas mask. What difference would it have made?

I already knew about the heat. My mom and step-dad moved here during the spring when I was 3 years old, but we didn’t stay long. The summertime sun must have melted their wills, because after about eight months we moved back to Southern California. So I knew all about the merciless, paint-peeling Augusts, and yet I came here anyway.

It’s not like I wasn’t cautioned. My friends made sure I knew what I was getting myself into. They said I’d get nauseated watching the party dudes drive by, bass beats thumping from their knobby-tired mud machines, baseball caps barely peeking above the driver’s side door, and one gangly, sunburnt ape-arm dangling from the passenger side like a pendulum in the breeze. But it’s just like anywhere else. The young emulate the tough, and the average watch them with scorn or ambivalence.

Being removed from the equation myself, they don’t bother me at all—so who cares?

Who cares, for that matter, about the doe-eyed, white-skinned, short-shorts females who, as they ass-jiggle down Main Street, cause cyclists to wobble feebly into parking meters? How do you prepare for something like that? It’s distracting, sure, but there’s no defense for it. You just have to wear sunglasses and keep the ogling to a minimum if you can.

And bad drivers? Seen ’em. Expensive cable? Know about it. The rising cost of health care, child care, housing, food, gasoline, drugs, pistol ammunition? It’s no different than anywhere else. If anything, Chico is an island of relative sanity and prosperity in a California that starts resembling Appalachia as soon as you get a few miles north of the Bay Area.

Someone could have filled me in about Halloween—I guess there’s some big party that takes over the whole town—but I assume I’ll live through it. St. Patrick’s Day was no problem. I learned a long time ago how to step around vomit and avoid drunken frat boys.

All this is not to say that I know all about Chico. Actually I seem to know less and less about it every day. The truth is, I haven’t been here long enough to learn what this town is missing. If anything, I’m surprised I like it as much as I do.

I came here five months ago with an agenda—finish school, continue writing and get my family out of the crime-ridden neighborhood we used to live in. I didn’t come here to hear the wind rustling through the treetops or stare mesmerized at soft, orange sunsets. But that’s what you end up doing here—you can’t help it.

So if there’s one thing I wish I had been told before I moved here, it would run something along the lines of what a long-term Chico transplant told me the other day: “Chico is like a big easy chair,” he said. “If you allow yourself to get too comfortable, it sucks you in.”

And that’s why a huge percentage of people who come here, like I did, to escape the city, to get an education, to party, to relax—but just for a while—end up staying in Chico for the rest of their lives.