Miserable? Not me.

A final word about that Forbes ranking

Valerie Fioravanti is an author of fiction and essays who runs the award-winning Stories on Stage reading series and teaches creative writing from her Midtown apartment.

The day Forbes magazine listed Sacramento No. 5 on its “Most Miserable Cities 2011” list, my dinner companions, dejected California natives all, expressed variations of the same sentiment: “No way we’re worse than Bakersfield!” They seemed to accept the basic premise, while I, a native New Yorker, believe Sacramento is far too livable a city to register on any self-respecting misery scale.

I’m not making light of anyone’s economic woes. I’m a working artist, or perhaps “working” artist is more appropriate. I struggle, but relocating wouldn’t solve my financial issues. My income would certainly improve, but my cost of living would explode, and this would affect my emotional base line. In New York City, every form of pleasure is within reach, but only if you can afford it. While I was contemplating relocation to Sacramento, publishing executive my friend told me, “Do it. I make six figures and I still have to live in fucking Queens.”

My current apartment, while neither large nor lush, is five times the size of my last NYC rental, for a bit more than half the rent. New Yorkers are fast, knowing, smug, but we’re usually complaining about something, blowing off frustrations related to the sensory overload of living in such noisy, crowded, time-pressed environs. Post-move, I was stunned by how often I thought about not being unhappy. “What’s it like?” my friends asked me and, “I’m not angry five minutes into my day!” became my standard reply.

I live in Midtown, and I have trouble making time for all I could do. Mati’s Indian Express, my favorite family-owned Indian restaurant, recently relocated to 16th Street, and I’ve been bringing friends by in twos and threes. Shine cafe spent the last Second Saturday handing out free lattes. There wasn’t a dyspeptic face in the crowd. The high was 66 degrees that day; NYC had 36 inches of snow in January 2011. Now that’s misery.

I’ve been disappointed on and off Broadway, but I haven’t missed a play by the Big Idea Theatre group in months. I’ve fallen out of my chair laughing and taken an elbow to my sternum. Their last production, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, got me both ways. I wouldn’t move to a city without an Ethiopian restaurant, and I’m a frequent flyer at Queen Sheeba’s vegan lunch buffet. My upscale splurges are rare, reserved for celebrations with friends, but the local scene is impressive. When I spent time in Napa with some generous foodie friends, Mulvaney’s Building & Loan set—and held—my excellence bar.

I’m fully aware of what Sacramento is not. I enjoyed the Sacramento Ballet’s choreography competitions, but a spectacle like Carmina Burana belongs at Carnegie Hall, or its West Coast equivalent. As delighted as I am with the success of Stories on Stage, the reading series I began last year, it won’t prevent me from taking a day trip to San Francisco to see NPR’s NYC-based Selected Shorts when it pops into town. Proximity to other great places, in all directions, is part of Sacramento’s livability. If you have time to be bored here, get your DIY on. Change what you don’t like, add on rather than tear down. If there’s one thing I’d like to see evaporate from the Sacramento ether, it’s the rampant second-city insecurity these lists engender.