Loving Chico

Appreciating this little town

Editor’s note: Anthony will return with new insights next Thursday. For now, enjoy this column from 2008.

I love Chico. I’m a little surprised, yet I do.

Chico’s not too big. Everywhere is accessible by bicycle. I can ride to a library or a movie or a grocery store. I don’t ride all that much, but I like knowing that when gasoline gets to $20 a gallon, I’ll still be able to ride. When I moved to the Twin Cities—that’s Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minn.—I reveled in what seemed like their manageable size, fewer than a million people altogether. I didn’t have a car at the time, and life was still workable. Minneapolis seems like Gotham now. Well, maybe not Gotham.

Chico has lots of trees. I love trees. When we drove into Chico from Minnesota five years ago, Chico’s greenery exploded across Highway 99, and I think I might have smiled. An oasis. Thank you, John Bidwell. Now I’ve been here a little while and found out what 115 degrees is like, maybe are like, because when it’s hot I feel each degree, and it does get hot in Chico. Seriously hot. Bring it on.

I love One Mile. One Mile reminds me of parts of the waterfront on Lake Michigan in Chicago when I was growing up—completely public and completely free. You might see anybody there, all kinds of people. Like the plaza, which I also love because although the plaza is kinda stupid and paranoid, it’s doing the best it knows how, and it’s completely public and completely free. There’s always surgery.

I love the park that I think may have been Community Park or 20th Street Park but now has a name that includes Martin Luther King. I love big open spaces like that. Wildwood, too, and kites.

I love KZFR, where diversity of thought is assumed.

I especially love Chapmantown. When we bought a house, we thought it was in Chapmantown, but actually we’re next to Chapmantown, which will have to do. I love the way there was obviously no city planner within shouting distance of Chapmantown. It just grew. Any block can have the nice houses fairly randomly cheek by jowl with the unfortunates. I love that. No ritzy neighborhoods, and no slums.

Riding around Chapmantown, especially where the streets don’t line up, is a dizzying experience for me and makes me feel like a confused old man, which is much better than I would have thought.

I love downtown, in spite of itself. I love the Pageant.

I love the orchards, because trees are quiet. I love Chico State in spite of its greed. I love the farmers’ market.

And then there are all the people I love. You know who you are.