Poker, SF and Mom

Chico’s provincialism, the city, and a shout out to my mom

I may be an outlier here, but I think that a card room on the so-called derelict block of Main Street, between Third and Fourth, wasn’t a bad idea for downtown Chico. I mean, we’re not talking about an Old West saloon with whiskey-guzzling gunslingers chewing on cigars. From what was presented to the City Council last week, the plan for that poker room and its adjoining restaurant seemed pretty innocuous.

In fact, if you walk along that stretch of Main Street, it should be considered a significant upgrade. Parts of the block, the empty storefronts in particular, are an eyesore in an otherwise vibrant commercial district.

Last week, I gushed over the things I love about living in Chico. The decision on the card room, however, falls into a category of the things I dislike about Chico—its provincialism. This is especially true in the case of downtown. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city center. Between attending the university and working at CN&R for nearly eight years, I’ve spent a good portion of my life in the region. Even when I worked at the local daily over in big-box-ville, I headed downtown nearly every day for lunch and then after work for entertainment.

Over the years, I’ve watched businesses come and go and been confounded by certain ones that manage to stay. The spot where the card room and eatery would have gone have been revolving doors since the old Gina Marie’s closed. As former CN&R Editor Robert Speer put it the other day when I talked with him about the situation, that location “is where restaurants go to die.”

In short, I cannot help but feel that the council’s decision was some sort of classist garbage. I’m not much of a gambler myself and I’ve never played poker at a casino or card room, but even I know that the game is wildly popular and attracts players from all walks of life.

Speaking of diversity, my husband and I spent a few days taking in the holidays in San Francisco last week. We ate at one of my favorite restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf, Scoma’s, spent hours in the mist at Golden Gate Park, and walked giddily in the pouring rain through beautiful Russian Hill on the way back to our hotel after seeing my favorite singer-songwriter, Ryan Adams, who’s on tour. We hadn’t been to the city for quite a while and had never been away from our toddler for more than a night.

I have my mother to thank for allowing us this respite. But I owe her for much more than safeguarding my little boy for a few days. That’s because Henry’s a medically fragile kid. He was born with a heart condition that corrected itself over time. But by the time he could walk, he’d already had three surgeries for other issues, mostly respiratory. At 3 years old, he’s battled pneumonia five times. My mom has lent a helping hand far too many times to count.

Until our recent trip, we hadn’t left Henry’s side much over his short life. We had a blast in the city. Thanks, Mom.