Our Best of Chico
The News & Review editors pick their favorites
One of the things we who work here like most about the annual Best of Chico issue is that we get to sound off on our personal picks for the best things about our fair town. Plus we get to make up our own categories. As you will see from the selections below, it’s a great opportunity to have fun, share some laughs and turn our readers on to some cool things they may not be aware of.
Best place to get your buckle polished
Diamond W Western Wear
The new Diamond W store downtown is a sight to behold—all gleaming copper and polished wood, and filled with fine Western-style clothing and accessories. Owner David Halimi has gone all out to create this remarkable retail space, in which items are artfully arranged—check out the hundreds of hats arranged on pegs by color—and easily accessible. Western wear is perhaps the only distinct fashion style in Chico, and Diamond W does it up grandly. As evidence, check out the belt rack: You won’t see belts like these elaborately decorated beauties at Mervyn’s.
Best place to get cut down to size
There are a number of excellent alterations and tailoring services in Chico, but none has a story behind it quite like Milena Vrnoga’s. She and her husband Rudolph and their three children were living in Sarajevo, Bosnia, when war broke out. When their son Vladimir was conscripted into the Bosnia army, they decided to flee.
Rudolph and the couple’s two daughters went to relative safety in Croatia, but Milena stayed behind to make sure her son was OK after deserting the army. When she got word that he’d made it to Croatia, she left. It was November, and she walked 30 miles in the snow over a mountain pass before catching a ride on a bus. Bombs were falling and her legs were freezing, but she trudged on. She had no papers, but a friendly bus driver let her pretend to be the ticket-taker on the bus, and she got through the border checkpoint safely.
Sponsored by Rudolph’s cousin Ned Vernoga of Durham, they eventually made their way to Chico and a happy life that still seems amazing to Milena. She found work doing alterations at Corwin & Son and then last year opened her own shop next door, above Inspirations by Id. Her kids, she says, “are real Americans” now, and she herself is studying to become a citizen. Oh, by the way, she’s a terrific seamstress and tailor who can adjust, repair or make from scratch just about any piece of clothing.
Best new sandwich shop
Fresh-baked bread from the French Gourmet Bakery, quality lunch meats and cheeses, a slew of beverages, an assortment of chips and salad-sides, plus home cooking products—such as olive oil, for example—and friendly, meticulous service are only a few reasons why this place in the brick building at the corner of Main and West Eighth streets is the boss sandwich spot.
You can order a full- or half-size sandwich on wheat, sourdough, French or rye, which you can draw for yourself from the clear plastic box near the foot of the old-fashioned deli display case with a pair of tongs. Half a sandwich usually supplies sustenance for most starving customers, but the advantage of ordering one of these full-size edible masterpieces is that one is left something with which to clobber those mid-afternoon munchies.
There’s a nice dining area toward the rear of the building if you want to eat there, or you can have owners John and Dara McKinley wrap up your feast in old-style white butcher’s paper to take with you; they run a quality-conscious ship over there.
Best transportation deal
Free CATS passes for students
Students at Chico State University have it made when it comes to getting around town. All they have to do is flash their student ID cards, and they can go anywhere they want on the Chico Area Transit System at no cost. The deal is thanks to an arrangement between CATS and the Associated Students designed to enable students to live in Chico without owning cars and also to cut down on traffic—and pollution—locally. So, Chico State students: Try riding the bus. Once you do, you’ll discover that it’s easy and fun. And the whole town will benefit.
Best political slogan
“When was the last time you got stuck in traffic on Otterson Drive?”
Ah, to revisit the No on Measure A campaign. Who can forget the rallies, the posters, the signature-gatherers posted in front of so many supermarkets? We think this slogan, though, really summed up the anti-bridge folks’ stance succinctly. After all, who in the heck drives out there, anyway? And the signs with this slogan—and variations of it—were placed so well. Take East First Avenue, for example. It’s a traffic nightmare near the freeway every morning and every evening. And all those people stuck there got an eyeful of signs that read, “You’re stuck in traffic on East First Avenue—not Otterson Drive.”
No wonder Measure A lost.
Best underground travel adventure
This little Thai restaurant in the basement below the Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works on Second Street is a wonderful getaway from life on the street above. It’s cool and quiet, the decorations are suggestive of exotic Thailand, and the spicy smells that greet guests are wonderful. The place beckons them to slow down and savor their meal, and the food doesn’t disappoint. For example, Chada Thai offers an inexpensive combination lunch that features a delicious soup with hints of coconut and cilantro, a small, colorful green salad with a sweet-and-sour dressing, spring rolls, steamed rice and a wonderful entrée, all for $7.95—a dollar less for vegetarian. It can’t be beat for value or flavor.
Best place to get in touch with your inner artist
If you’ve always hankered to create beautiful objets d’art but have never done it, now’s your chance. At Glazed Creations, in the Senator building on Main Street, you can select from a variety of paints, applying them artfully to clay mugs, plates, little ceramic animals and so on. A few days later, go back and pick up your fired creation. It’s really fun. Glazed Creations is becoming the hot spot for bridal showers and kids’ birthday parties and a place to drop in and relax while you make a gift for yourself or someone else.
Best place to escape the heat, meet with your secret bee club and get a book about mummies
Butte County Library
Sometimes in this age of electronic gadgetry we tend to forget some of the simpler pleasures that have been with us for a long, long time. The Chico branch of the Butte County Library, like libraries around the world, is a good example as well as a remarkable institution.
You go there, walk up to the front counter (shh, keep your voice down), ask for a card, and they give you a form that is really easy to fill out. (If you’re a kid, you need your parent or guardian to sign the form.) Just as soon as you sign your name, you can borrow books—as many as you can carry (only two of one specific subject, though). And there is no rental charge like they have at Blockbuster. The rent is free and you get to keep the books for three weeks!
And the selection! Stacks and stacks of books on just about any subject you can think of. And it’s not a bad place to meet your friends to study something like bee behavior or King Tut. Check it out.
Best all-purpose gift store
Bird in Hand
What’s not to like about this store? It’s so Chico. Owners Bob and Barbara Malowney have been an integral part of this community for many years, and their store, which is celebrating its 20th year in business, reflects both their personal interests and their sense of what Chico is all about.
When we say personal interests, we’re talking most of all about the National Yo-Yo Museum tucked into the back. It’s a real homage to the yo-yo and its history, complete with a huge collection of classic yo-yos, photos of famous yo-yo experts, the world’s largest wooden yo-yo, and even one of former President Richard Nixon, no less, spinning a yo-yo.
But the rest of the store is fun too. It’s got an astonishingly wide variety of goods, from cool toys in the back to a sophisticated selection of Tommy Bahama clothing up front. There’s a great selection of Chico T-shirts and sweatshirts, candles, Hawaiian shirts, fishing caps—gosh, what doesn’t it have? There are a lot of birds in this hand.
Best pending retirement
Bruce Sessions, KPAY
While it may be a coincidence that good ol’ Bruce Sessions announced his retirement at about the same time as Sen. Jesse Helms, we kind of doubt it. Sessions, of course, is the radio talk show blabbermouth heard every weekday at 3 p.m. on KPAY ranting about “weird hippies” and everything even moderately liberal. Lately, he’s been hot under the collar about the referendum of redistricting Plan 5 and has lobbed softball questions like, “So what do you think Jane Dolan has to hide?” at people like Republican consultant David Reade—who was happy to speculate.
He may be retiring from radio, but you haven’t heard the last from ol’ Bruce. Word is, he’s applied to be Sheriff Scott Mackenzie’s new flack—a job that (believe it or not) we bet he’s got a good shot at getting, given his friendship with the sheriff. And that’s a possibility that would be hilarious if it weren’t so frightening.
Best place to get into a pointless but fun intellectual conversation
Having spent many a beer-lubricated evening verbally dissecting the universe and all it’s worth, there are those of us who know that, while the way to a man’s or woman’s heart may well be through the stomach, the way to a man’s or woman’s deepest reflections is through a pint glass!
Alcohol is a double-headed creature of both great beauty and profound horror. Used moderately, it well lends itself to conversation. Of course, numerous and recent studies have supposedly scrapped the time-honored (if not previously tested) vain notion that alcohol frees creativity (we all know who’s behind these piebald lies, don’t we? It’s those elephants, I tell ya … those damn pink elephants!).
But why Duffy’s, you might well ask? Why there? Why not a little coffee house or a bagel joint or sandwich shop? Why that particular, nearly modest little tavern as a spot for communing with like minds in the upper stratosphere? That last word suggests it, friend. Atmosphere. Plus, assorted individuals. Varied opinions. An immeasurably vast spectrum of experiences and observations. Besides, some of the patrons are just plain characters. Now, excuse us—Dionysus was just explaining how he adapted his life’s story, substituted a Middle Eastern name for his own, and created a new religion. …
Best use of your tax dollars
The Sheriff’s Department surveillance and bust of the First Amendment Club
Here’s a job for you: Spend several weeks getting paid to hang out at a strip club with a sheaf of taxpayer-supplied dollar bills, stuffing them into strippers’ gyrating G-strings. Sound like a dream? It’s not—that’s exactly what several Butte County sheriff’s deputies did for several weeks this spring. They even videotaped themselves at the club, waving naked dancers over to their table with money.
Imagine what these guys told their unsuspecting wives when the gals asked where they were so many evenings—"Sorry, honey, got a big case. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.”
Best place to buy jelly beans
You don’t need a full-on candy store to feed your mid-day sugar fix. Mosey on downtown to Brayton’s Hallmark on Main Street and choose from among its many varieties of Jelly Belly jelly beans. These are the real things, folks. You can mix and match, and the friendly people there will even suggest delicious combinations. They even warned us against a particularly dastardly concoction once. Leaving the card store armed with a little plastic bag of jelly beans is rejuvenating, we promise.
Best stupid human trick of 2001
The flying car
For whatever reason—one suspects alcohol had something to do with it—21-year-old Ricky Laniohon last month tried to drive his car through Depot Park, across the railroad tracks from the Amtrak station at Fifth and Orange Street. Problem is, there’s no road through the park, so instead Laniohon flew over it. Literally.
According to a report on the incident, Laniohon was driving his vehicle just before 2 a.m. at a high rate of speed—150 mph was the astonishing figure given by the Enterprise-Record—westbound on Fourth Street when he came to the end of the road, and Depot Park, at Orange Street. The car plowed through the Amtrak parking lot, flattening several shrubs and a light fixture, and then went airborne as it crossed the railroad tracks. It plowed through the Depot Park fence, smashed another light, and then hit a concrete retaining wall.
That collision launched Laniohon’s car into the air once again, and it twirled end over end until hitting a sycamore tree about a dozen feet above the ground. It then fell to earth, landing right side up at the curb on Cedar Street. Except for being pointed in the wrong direction and a bit far from the curb, it was neatly parked. Laniohon suffered only minor injuries. More important, he didn’t kill anyone.
Best laundromat where you can be accosted by religious zealots
Flume Street Fluff and Fold
The laundromat itself is fine, just fine. But there’s something about the location that draws the “faithful.” And if you’re alone in there, early in the morning, it’s as if a bleeding man were thrown in the waters off Florida, ‘cos those folks smell vulnerability quicker than a shark smells supper (who was it said, “As a shark to a drowner, so a saint to a sinner"?). And they’ve always got to tell you why their version of Jesus is so much better than anybody else’s. It’s as if you were forced to take the Pepsi Challenge or something, only there’s no sleazy-sweet beverage to chug as paltry consolation. Fortunately, the good news is that once the fall semester has progressed a bit further, some of this nefarious proselytizing will taper off. Side note: Buddhists don’t believe in proselytizing, it should be pointed out; they say, “When you’re ready for us, you’ll come to us.” Now, is that sane or what? Now, the rest of you leave us alone; we’ve got to contemplate the subtle divinity of folding our socks.
Best place to bounce on the bed
Square Deal Mattress
It’s been around for more than 80 years now, and the Humboldt Avenue shop is one of Chico’s family-owned institutions. It’s where the true locals buy their beds, and for good reason: excellent construction, good prices and friendly service. The folks at Square Deal also let you make yourself at home, flopping down for a simulated sleep on the display mattresses and explaining the virtues of pillow top over regular, and vice versa. Try getting that kind of expertise at your chain retailer.
Best reason to get it in writing
The Cohasset tree-cutting debacle
Could the Chico Unified School District have bungled this one any worse? On the advice of a logger who happened to know the then-principal of Cohasset Elementary School, more than 250 trees were cut down with no contract and without so much as a word to the school board. Now, the district is scrambling to make good on the admitted mistake, which will likely cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Whether or not the trees were diseased and needed to go is not even the issue anymore. It’s a public-relations nightmare that will take the CUSD some time to climb out of. And the trees won’t be growing back any time soon, either.
Best reason to get it in writing, part two
The high-school-site debacle
Where, oh where is Chico’s fourth high school, which was supposed to be up and running by 2002 and now is delayed until at least 2006? Held up because of environmental constraints due to endangered species on the chosen property in Southeast Chico. Should the district have asked more questions of the property owner? Or not trusted the federal agencies to smoothly pass the wetlands fill permit application along? No one knows, including the thousands of students attending overcrowded high schools in Chico.
Best place to buy new age products— and porn
Need an aromatherapy candle? How about some scented herbal lotions? Your inner hippie in want of some incense? Or maybe, say, hot, naked sorority babes?
In an interesting move toward diversification, the smartly arranged downtown shop that features jewelry, clothing and various tasteful gifts also has a wide selection of adult videos. We’re not saying that’s wrong; just interesting. Kind of your one-stop shop for the man who has to buy his wife a gift and needs a little something just in case the gift doesn’t do the trick.
Best place to see the future of Chico
Thursday Night Market
The Thursday Night Market has become one of Chico’s most popular events—and also, we think, most representative of the changing makeup of this town. Whitebread Chico is becoming a spicy, colorful multicultural mix, and that’s nowhere more evident than at these weekly community get-togethers.
That’s partly because the Thursday Night Market attracts a lot of teenagers. It’s become a gathering place for them. And nowhere is Chico’s—and California’s—changing demographic more evident than among kids. Chico’s growing number of Hispanic and Asian families come out in force for these free and festive evening markets and in doing so point to the future of this increasingly diverse and eclectic community.
Best excuse to sleep in
Chico school district’s “too-tired” staffers
For a few brief moments this year, the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees considered moving its long-held meeting days from Wednesday to Thursday evenings. The main reason, said Superintendent Scott Brown, who suggested it, was essentially that school administrators were so drained for the rest of the week that the district office became less productive. If the board met on Thursday, he figured, they would be exhausted only on Fridays. (Also, the board could—although it wouldn’t be legally required—conceivably have an extra day with the agenda.) Now, we never saw the staffers dragging their feet any day of the week, but it was a weirdly reasoned suggestion that quickly disappeared from discussion after none of the trustees stepped forward to support it. We just felt like reminding you.
Best place to buy a zafu
House of Rice
“Zafu” is the Japanese word for a round cushion on which people sit for meditation, and in particular Zen meditation. As far as we know, House of Rice is the only store in town that carries these cushions. We’re not surprised House of Rice has them: This charming little store in downtown Chico has always been full of unusual but valuable items.
Owners Harold and Catherine Park, originally from Korea, have operated their store for 29 years now, 18 at the current downtown location. Chock full of intriguing and beautiful goods imported from Asia, it’s an excellent source of decorative items, from ceramic ware and shoji screens to bedspreads, Japanese lamps and flower vases. It also carries an array of teas, cosmetics, Asian food items and clothing.
In fact, there’s so much good stuff in this store that it would take half the space in this newspaper to list it all. Visit House of Rice—it’s like taking a little vacation to the Far East.
Best place to get a parking ticket
Around the News & Review offices
Come on down to our offices at Second and Flume streets and see our forgetful staff members rack up the parking tickets. Some of us have been known to get two or three in one day by overstaying the two-hour meters on Flume. Even the area across from Annie’s Glen, on East Second, is not a safe haven. Sure, we deserve it, when we’re too lazy to walk three or four blocks from a free space, but we just thought we’d whine a bit.
Best place to have a baby
Feather River Hospital’s Birth Day Place
For pushing a baby out of your sweaty, pain-wracked body, there’s no better place than Feather River Hospital’s Birth Day Place. You’ll labor in a large, sunny, comfortable room that you’ll have all to yourself. There’s even a little patio off your room! The nurses are friendly and efficient—even though everyone in the building will pull up your sheets to “check” you. Best yet, you get to deliver your baby in the same room that you labored in—no big move to the delivery room for the big moment.
There’s an extra bed in the room for your partner, and all babies “room in” with their mommies. Very comfortable.
Plus, the food (which, by the way, is almost all vegetarian) is pretty good, as these things go. Our advice is to stay away from the cottage cheese ball stroganoff, though. It’s, well, about like it sounds.
Best hopes for our own Austin City Limits
Sierra Nevada Big Room
It would be totally sweet if we had a PBS-affiliated program that bought legendary music figures to perform locally in the gorgeous, acoustically well-equipped showroom at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. The 400-seat venue already has had a number of well-received shows (and has been used for weddings and special events), but a regular live music program would really be something all Chicoans could be proud of.
With names like Tom Waits and Neil Young being brandished about as possible future coups, this type of venue could really put Chico on the map in the entertainment business—not to mention all the joy it would provide local music lovers. How about Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch or Steve Earle? Ooohh, the possibilities are endless. The good news? The brewery and others are working on it.
Best place to watch art being made
Satava Art Glass Studio
Chico is a world-famous center for art glass, and locally two studios, one large, one small, offer visitors an opportunity to watch their beautiful products being made. Orient & Flume, on Park Avenue, is the larger and more famous of the two, and a tour of its studio and adjoining retail store is always a fascinating event.
But we’re especially fond of Satava, at the corner of Ninth and Wall streets, where Rick Satava and his small crew work their magic. The al fresco setting here is casual, the conversation with the artists flowing.
Both companies date from the 1970s, and both offer their wares for sale on site. Call O&F at 893-0373 and Satava at 345-7895 for more information.
Best place to meet women
Sure, there are lots more thrilling places to go trolling for fish, but the basics are there for a reason. Single women who go to the market do so to shop. Just be sure to make yourself that special sale item they simply can’t do without.
As a historical side note, it’s interesting that Ovid, a Roman poet who was basically the Woody Allen of the first century AD, also advocated meeting women in “market places.” In The Art of Love, ancient Rome’s equivalent of How to Pick Up Women (and, frankly, a damn sight funnier than that whiney modern primer), Ovid suggests you strike up a conversation over whatever produce she’s handling. Even if you absolutely hate the fruit or vegetable in question, always talk like it’s your favorite. Food talk leads to dinner talk leads to talk talk leads to wine talk leads to pillow talk. Maybe not every time, but sometimes.
And not much has changed in the nearly 2,000 years that have passed since Ovid scrawled his observations in bold Latin script. So don’t go west, young man, so much as go best.
Best up-and-coming local theater group
One should seriously check out the Chico Cabaret over in the Almond Orchard Shopping Center on Pillsbury Road, across from the North Valley Plaza Mall. Owners and operators Phil and Sue Ruttenburg have been offering quality productions of such notable plays as Lone Star, Laundry and Bourbon, the recent Ashland hit Fuddy Meers, and the zany psychological comedy Beyond Therapy, to name a few.
The theater also houses the youth group Theater on the Inside Out, which offers a creative outlet for local teens and also has presented many fun children’s productions, including “The Ginger Bread Man,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Rumpelstiltskin” and more, further offering acting workshops for school-age children.
Most of the adult shows feature the option of enjoying a choice meal created by Guzzetti Catering, provided diners schedule matters at least 24-hours in advance. Dinner and a show under one roof! Pretty nifty.
Best place for a hot dog and philosophy
OK, so you have to ask for the philosophy. Val Montague, who with his wife owns the eatery in the Garden Walk Mall downtown, sends an e-mail newsletter out sharing his thoughts—in exhaustive detail—on such burning questions as the origin of the asterisk or squiggly in the Wal-Mart (or is it Wal*Mart?) sign. He also passes along business news and sometimes just crazy stats about National Toilet Paper Week. This guy’s scooping us, for goodness’ sake. If you just want a Zot Dog without the commentary, have at it. We also recommend the French dip, Krab sandwich and filling-and-affordable salad bar.
Best place to hear jazz weekly
5th Street Steak House
Local jazz giants Charlie Robinson and Charles Haynes perform here weekly, often with their own bands and sometimes together. Other great regularly appearing performers include Holly Taylor and Eric Peters, Tropical Expressions, The Higgy Learner Quartet, and many more. The food is a bit pricey but worth every cent since the establishment cooks some of the best steaks anywhere.
Hot on the heels of the Steak House, Moxie’s Café and Gallery over on Broadway has been scheduling a lot more jazz nights during the week, featuring such notable luminaries as Dave Elke, Taylor and Peters, and Jazz Laboratory—to name but a few—regularly creating some fine and scintillating music.
Best cheap fun
Even if you don’t own a titanium-framed, rut-gouging, H-bomb-resistant mountain bike, you can still get a few boredom-pummeling kicks from pedaling your regular-type bike around Chico and cruising through Bidwell Park. Yes, go gliding through the park, the gentle hum of your tires on the tarmac, that green canopy overhead alternating with patches of blue sky like an organic checkerboard, the verdant bushes and shrubs to either side, the crystal-clear creek snaking into view and rushing over muted, multi-hued rocks in its bed, the relaxing sound of natural running water: These are the dreams that make up reality. Plus, it’s fun, good for you and as a rule doesn’t cost a cent (apart from the usual bike maintenance and registration fees, of course).
Best misplaced organ
The Centennial Organ
Originally this amazing organ, built from scratch as part of Chico State University’s centennial celebration, was to be placed in Laxson Auditorium. That didn’t work out, but by then construction was well underway, and a new site had to be found. Unfortunately, the best place available was behind the stage of the Harlen Adams Theater, among the flies, lights and other backstage equipment. Acoustically, it’s a perfectly good location, and the organ, which is three stories tall and equal in quality to the great cathedral organs of Europe, has thrilled everyone who has heard it. It’s truly amazing. In other respects, however, the venue is unfortunate: It’s hidden from view, it has no permanent seating, and visually it’s, well, backstage. Which may be why almost nobody besides theater and music majors even knows the organ is there.
Best new video store
Manny and Nelly Gonzalez are trying to remedy the woeful state of commercial video rental here in Chico. While the selection in their new store is still working itself out, with support from the public, this may become a legitimate alternative—like the Pageant—for those who are sick of the standard Hollywood crap available at chain rental stores with no foreign sections, no cult sections, and too many late fees. Cheers for the thought to the Gonzalezes.
Best local baseball story
The Chico Heat came close to gaining its second Western Baseball League championship but came up a game short. The real baseball story this year is the success of former Hamilton High Braves star athlete Kyle Lohse, who on June 22 at the age of 22 was called up from the triple-A Edmonton Trappers to join the starting rotation of the Minnesota Twins. At the time the Twins were leading the American League Central Division in a tight race with the Cleveland Indians.
Lohse’s first three starts were victories. But then the Twins went into a post-All Star break tailspin, and Lohse lost his next six out of seven starts. For the most part Lohse pitched well in those games; he just didn’t get the offensive support he needed.
A three-sport star at Hamilton and member of a family of outstanding athletes, Lohse should be around for a while in the big leagues. Oh yeah, he’s got a younger brother named Eric who is also in the Twins’ organization; he started the year in the Rookie League but by the end of the season was moved up in the minor system.
Best way to bring a community together
Split it up with redistricting
When Butte County rookie Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi unveiled his personal—and tardy—plan to redraw the supervisorial districts of the county, he unleashed a firestorm of protest. His plan, which he named the “Return to Fairness,” would, if adopted, effectively split Chapman, that funky, self-possessed community south of Chico. The residents came out in force at the supervisors’ meeting where the plan was initially adopted. One after another they voiced their opposition to what turned out to be the deaf ears of three supervisors—Yamaguchi, Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen. One Chapman resident, Ron Angle, told Yamaguchi at that meeting, “It took a county supervisor from Paradise to bring this community together.”
Best use of Lindo Channel
At a recent City Council meeting discussing how to solve the problem of encroachers into the city-owned Lindo Channel property, the idea of the land reverting to Indian control was introduced by Les Gerton. His argument was that, according to Annie Bidwell, who donated the property for public use, as soon as whoever was in charge of the land at the time—in this case the city—stopped using it as parkland, ownership would revert to one of the Bidwell heirs. Gerton says that breach of promise has taken place and that he ran into a Bidwell heir who happens to be a Mechoopda Indian. We don’t know how the folks who live along—and in some cases encroach upon—the channel feel, but some of us wouldn’t mind not having to travel all the way to Oroville to see the likes of Robert Goulet or Blood Sweat & Tears.
Best way to piss off a DCBA official
Use the word “drunken” instead of “tipsy”
This year we ran a story in one of our Back to School issues called “Bottles, cans and binging.” The story argued that changing Chico’s drinking habits would be about as easy as steering the Titanic around an iceberg. In other words, a lot of effort and a span of time would be needed. In our story we noted that “even the comparably tame A Taste of Chico … is often marred by drunken revelers.”
That observation caused one official of the Downtown Chico Business Association—who shall remain nameless and only be described here as a downtown copy store owner who looks a lot like Wilford Brimley—to pop an ink cartridge and accuse us of “yellow journalism.” We marveled at the sensitivity of the issue, especially considering that DCBA officials chose to advertise the event in a local drinking guide, just a few pages away from a story that explained how to best fold a brown paper bag over a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor when drinking in public.
Turns out, said another DCBA official, that A Taste of Chico drinkers get “tipsy,” not “drunken.” We must have been drunk ourselves to make such a gaffe.
Best tranvestite grudge match
John Ball vs. the News & Review staff
It was a weird day at Second and Flume. A flash of a blonde wig in the hall—who was that? Outside, a local everyday cross-dresser named John Ball (a.k.a. Amerika), wearing high heals and the aforesaid wig, was getting on his bike with a camera bag stolen from the CN&R offices slung over his shoulder. Things got physical when Ball hauled off and, in a very unladylike manner, slugged our inquisitive photog, who was merely inquiring what the nice lady was doing with his camera. Then our music coordinator came karate-kicking in, only to be struck over the head with the sharp end of one of those stiletto shoes and bitten on the arm. That wicked girl! A man driving by in a truck thought it was a domestic dispute gone nasty and stopped to rescue Ball, but the astonished fellow quickly backed off when the wig fell off his damsel in distress. Ball put up a fight worthy of a muscular she-man, and it wasn’t over even when it was over. Assault charges were filed, HIV cocktails were taken, and a despondent Ball tried to eat off the end of his finger in jail. As we said, it was weird.
Best place to buy tires
Commercial Tire Warehouse
The workers don’t come jogging out to greet you and try to sell you something you don’t need as soon as you pull into the driveway. And they don’t offer you a freezer full of red beef along with your tire purchase. No, the folks at Commercial Tire Warehouse, in that old corrugated metal building on the corner of Orange and Eighth streets, sell tires. The waiting room is old and funky, and owner Steve Stalions has a photo of his family and a separate photo of his dog hanging on the wall. The warehouse is what you’d expect it to be—dirty and full of tires.
Pull in, tell Stalions what you need, and he’ll give your car the once over and sell you just that—what you need, nothing more, nothing less. And the tire men themselves—hey, just look at the photo, that’s all you need to know. There is no BS or frozen beef at Commercial Tire Warehouse.
Best place to escape the bar scene downtown
Hey, even though it seems like this town is full of ignorant morons spewing on themselves and brawling every night of the week, there are plenty of young people who don’t follow the herd. And one of the places you can find interesting discussion, maybe a chess game, and certainly a decent cup of joe, is the Naked Lounge in the heart of downtown. Cool, relaxed, artsy atmosphere, too.
Best tofu sandwich
Vegetarians out there already know this, but the fine folks at Humboldt Café make some seriously tasty grub. And our favorite tofu sandwich in town may just be the California Tofu (what’s in that marinade?), which proves that vegetarian food doesn’t have to taste bland.
Best place to feel the folkie love
Chico Women’s Club
It’s a sweet little venue tucked away on a scenic street, and it’s been the venue of choice for quality artistic events, benefits, and assorted arts programs for years now. With its large wooden doors opening onto a back yard, the Women’s Club is a wonderful gathering spot, and many are the Chicoans who’ve listened to great music and danced with the loves of their lives in this wonderful space.
Best place to pretend you’re in the city
This new sushi spot has become quite the place to impress a date, no doubt because everything here is upscale, from the creative presentation of the food to the interior décor. It seems modeled after a Mission District sushi place, but remember that for the delicious food here you also must pay a city price. They’ve got a friendly staff and the occasional guest DJ, not to mention those huge sushi portions. So far, most people don’t seem to mind the $$$.
Best pro sports team rivalries
Giants vs. Dodgers and Kings vs. Lakers
Nope, they’re not local rivalries—not the Chico Heat vs. the Sonoma County Crushers or the Chico State Wildcats vs. the Humboldt State Lumberjacks. It’s the professional teams, after all, that bring hordes of screaming fans into the sports bars like the Graduate and Team Players to yell for their teams. Here in Chico you get either diehard L.A. fans (rooting for the Dodgers and the Lakers) or the real fans—those who don’t go to games to be seen talking on cell phones and then leave before the halfway point. I guess you can see that the sympathies of our editorial staff (those who care, anyway) lie with our semi-local pro teams, including such championship contenders as the lovable NBA darlings, the Sacto Kings, and the butt-kicking Oakland Raiders. And we can’t forget the SF Giants, with their homerun chasing Barry Bonds.
Best new addition to Bidwell Park
Bench in honor of Jonathan Studebaker
The 1,380 acres the city added to Bidwell Park in 1995, while rather expensive in the long run, are nice. But they’ve led to bickering over how best to use them. And the goat patrol added three years ago to help combat non-native invasive plants was nice, as well. But for our money, nothing tops the Jonathan Studebaker memorial bench being installed in Lower Park. It sits near the new swing and slide near One-Mile. Though he would have never used it, seeing as how his butt was pretty much permanently planted in his wheelchair when he was out and about, Jon would have liked the idea of a bench with his name on it, located as it will be, to provide an optimum view for people watching—particularly, if we knew Jon, pretty women.
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