Amazing how much the downtown skyline changed with the removal of the elms from the Downtown Park Plaza. The remaining trees look pretty scraggly now. Maybe they should go, too, and we could just start over. I know, one of them serves as the downtown Christmas tree and gets decorated and lit-up every year—sort of like some friends of mine—and makes for good holiday video clips for the local television news. But as I am always one to search out the bright side of an otherwise sad story, consider this: Chicoans validate their lives here by what they’ve seen and experienced while in Chico. For some old folks it would be like telling the story of being a kid and getting chased out of the Bidwell Mansion yard by a shotgun-wielding Annie. For others it would be getting treated for buckshot to the butt (after playing on the Mansion grounds) at the old Enloe Hospital on Flume Street.

More recent arrivals tell of shopping at the J.C. Penney’s store when it was located downtown in the now-vacant storefront on the corner of Third and Main Streets. Or how about tipping them back at the Canal Street pizza parlor where Ron’s Used Books now stands? Ron’s, of course, was once located on Broadway in what is now the Birkenstock Store. Who remembers when trains still ran right up Main and onto The Esplanade? Those tracks led to many a bicycle spill. Remember the Ping-Pong Palace, which hosted Los Lobos one year? Now we have a new watermark to use as a measuring stick for “long-timers,” among which I count myself because I remember when the downtown park had these towering elm trees that were planted 130 years ago! Such stately trees were these. It was said that it took five large men, arms outstretched, barely touching fingers, to circumfuse one of the tree’s trunks.

Legend has it that the locals used to gather in that park, under those towering elms, for Friday night concerts in the park. The bands, ranging from rock to brass, played on a wooden gazebo and the people would dance or sit on blankets and eat picnic lunches. There was even a time—oh, you have to go back a way for this—when alcohol consumption was allowed and concert goers would bring coolers of beer or bottles of wine and imbibe without fear of arrest or social rejection. But time moves on, tracks are pulled up, stores shutter their windows and trees are cut down. Still, anyone here as recently as two weeks ago, now has a decided edge and legitimacy to citizenship, at least compared to those who’ve arrived in the last few days.

OK, so 40 percent of the voters say no to the recall. That is a vote for Gray Davis, right? With at least 150 candidates, chances are the person who gets the most votes among them will garner, at the most, 30 percent. So Davis gets 40 percent and the next closest gets 30. Guess who wins? Is that how it is supposed to work? Is that what a $60 million election gets us? I thought the idea was that the most votes win—unless you’re running for president and then it depends on which candidate’s dad has the most pals on the Supreme Court.

I want to thank Anna Talbott for sharing her brother’s letters from Iraq with the News & Review for this week’s cover story. As of Aug. 13, she still had not heard from him, but is working to get together a care package to send to him and the other soldiers in his platoon. If you’d like to donate you can send money or items to P.O. Box 5024, Chico, CA, 95927. Here are some of the things the soldiers want: Powdered drink mix, beef jerky, energy bars, Maxim-type magazines (no porn allowed), nuts, hard candy and cigarettes. For more information call 892-2749 and leave a message. Thanks.