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The Top 5 Reasons I’m a Terrible Chico Resident

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I may be a terrible Chicoan, but I love my Chico house. Here is a picture of Violet as she helped us move in back in 2009.

Chico, California: I have never lived or visited anywhere like it.  Although it may have been strange events that brought me here (accepting that premature marriage proposal I received when I was 14), this month marks 15 years of my Chico residency!  That’s the same amount of time I lived in Lancaster, CA, so it’s weird to think that I will soon be more of a Chico local, than a Lancaster one.  Yes, this town is great; it has a mild-ish climate, lots of nature to explore just minutes away, and it’s located within driving distance to the capitol, San Francisco, Lake Almanor, Santa Cruz, etc.  But there are also a few things synonymous with Chico that I still just don’t get, or sometimes, just don’t like.  Yes, if you are a blog-follower, you may already have noticed that I am not in ca-hoots with the whole, ‘raise your own chickens’ trend or the ‘everybody’s who’s hip rides a bicycle’ thing that is super popular with normal Chico people.  But, here are some more things that set me apart from the average Chicoan.  I like to call them: The Top 5 Reasons I’m a Terrible Chico Resident!


#1: Sierra Nevada Beer

Their brewery may be located on 20th Street, just a short hop, skip and a jump from two of my favorite places: Costco and Target, but Sierra Nevada beer and I just don’t jive well.  True…I pretty much dislike any and all beers, but my Sierra Nevada distaste comes from the entire branding that seems to permeate our city.  Are they super energy-efficient with their snazzy new solar panel-covered parking lot and ‘green business practices’?  Well, yes.  And since I’m not a total freak, I can’t say that I dislike those things about the company.  But as a gal who started out her Chico-life as a Chico State student, I will never forget the craze that centered on the stereotypical, hooded Sierra Nevada sweatshirts.  Oh, my word…I can still point out freshman students by their brightly colored, ‘still-so-brand-new-that-you-can-see-their-folded-creases’ Sierra Nevada sweatshirts!  They make each sweatshirt a different color, based on what flavor(?) of beer it is advertising.  They have navy blue ones, brown ones, maroon ones, cream ones, etc…It seemed like everybody on campus had these sweatshirts, and that everybody was going along with the underscored theme of ‘Woooo….look at me!  I’m underage and promoting a BEER, but since it’s local, it’s the cool thing to appear to care about!’  Ugh. So lame.  Even today, I saw a 40-something dad with a mustache, pumping gas into his car wearing a Sierra Nevada t-shirt.  It was featuring the ‘Old Chico’ style brew.  That’s another crazy thing about this town…they freakin’ LOVE themselves!  Anything ‘Chico-themed’ is here instantly a hit!  People proudly sport ‘Chico is My Hometown’ bumper stickers as if anyone outside of our small city limits would see that and think, “Well, golly!  I’d better get their autograph since they live in the best town ever!”  I don’t think I’ve EVER seen people brag about their town on their bumper stickers as much as Chico people, unless they live up the hill in Paradise, or a few hours up the 5 in Weed, CA.  But those are funny-slash-cliché-ish names for a town, so I put that in a whole different category.  Anyway…Sierra Nevada has a fancy restaurant that I have enjoyed a few times, and even hosts events and musical shows in its creatively named, ‘The Big Room’.  {Insert sarcastic eye roll HERE.  Seriously?  ‘The Big Room’?  That was the best you guys could come up with?  Who was in charge of naming that?  Ralphie from the Simpsons?} I have yet to attend a show there, and maybe because I’m still bitter that I missed when Alison Kraus performed there.  I love her.

#2 Farmer’s Markets

Oh, man!  I can hear you locals shouting at your computer screens, now!  “WHAT?!  She doesn’t like Farmer’s Markets?!  What is wrong with her?!”  Ha ha ha…you should see you faces!  Here’s the thing: Chico hosts a few different Farmer’s Markets.  Year-round there is the Saturday morning market on the edge of downtown, and then April – September, they host another Market in the center of downtown.  Both offer various assortments of local goodies like fruits and vegetables, local olive oil, local honey, local flowers, local, local, local…you get where I’m going.  When Dave and I were first married, we often went to the Thursday Night Market and walked around.  We would usually run into someone we knew.  We’d grab food at Chevy’s (when it was still around) and have a good ol’ time making fun of our waiter for his inconsistent use of the Spanish accent.  Sometimes, if we actually had any cash on us, I’d talk Dave into buying me some $5 flowers, and then we’d head home.  It was chok-full of good times.  Now, as a parent of two very spirited youths, the Farmer’s Market on Thursdays only brings on high-blood pressure attacks and some mild hyperventilating.  There are bounce houses that cost an ungodly-amount, plus bouncy slides that we have been talked into numerous times.  Also, my kids usually want to run and touch stuff, which usually ends up in them poking a hole or squeezing the random produce, to the Hmong immigrants who are usually selling it’s, dismay.  I have often shamed myself into buying the fresh produce (which is often double what I would pay than at the cheapo grocery store where I shop) and then I bring it home and put it in my fridge-where it rots, in a matter of days/hours.  Poof! All my healthy good intentions go up in smoke!  It’s true.  Vegetables and I don’t have a good history, and unless I have a recipe that I am shopping for a specific thing for, a random vegetable ‘because they looked fresh and pretty’ will almost always be a waste of money for me.  I really don’t need any more occasions to see the hippie segment of town of my town strut around in their tie-die wardrobe, dreadlocks and ratty sandals.  Crystal deodorant just isn’t my thing, and if that’s the Valley-Girl snobbish-nish coming out of me, then I will just have to embrace that.

#3 Klean Kanteens and Chico Bags

Three cheers for the locally made products that Chico has been famous for!  Do I like high quality things?  Yes.  Am I glad that those items have provided maybe 10 jobs for people in the city?  Absolutely.  But what kills me is how freaking astronomically the darn things are priced.  Shouldn’t I get a ‘locals’ discount or something?  It’s not like your outlet had to pay for shipping or anything.  $24 for a fancy Klean Kanteen is a bit steep, and the darn thing gets so cold, I don’t even want to hold it!  In comes the neoprene ‘sleeve’ they now have to keep my hands from getting a chill.  Ta-dah!  That will be $10 extra bucks please.  Ugh!  Why does supporting local have to be so expensive?  I know, I know…they don’t have the buying power or cheap factory labor that big companies have, so their costs are directly affected, but it still does not fit into my budget.  I am continually amazed to see so many kids at Jack’s hippie-school who bring them to lunch with them.  Wow!  My kid would lose that ON THE WAY to the car!  I will have to stick with my cheapo Target versions that I can replace for under $6.

$5 for a reusable shopping bag (a.k.a ‘The Chico Bag’) isn’t too bad, but still…it’s a reusable bag, for goodness sake!  I have 10 reusable bags that I got from Costco for $11 that are bigger, stronger and prettier than the boring ol’ Chico bag that happens to come with a keychain (so you’ll never leave it at home).  I think I would have an aneurism shoving that bag back into it’s miniscule pouch after every shopping trip, and then you have to remember to actually re-clip it back onto your keychain!  No thanks.  I’ll stick with my dorky zebra-print bag.


#4 Swimming in Various Holes

Alligator Hole, Bear Hole, Brown Hole, Salmon Hole…so many holes!  Tying back into the whole ‘close to nature’ thing that I mentioned before, Chico has a ton of little swimming holes that can be enjoyed.  Even in my 15 years, I have never been to one.  Now this may be due to the fact that usually someone drowns at one every year, and I had a friend who watched as a fresh-faced hiker was crossing the creek, slipped on a rock, and BOOM-sucked underwater in a current.  Dead.  Yikes.

I know there are perils at every naturally wild place, but even if I put those aside, I am just not into the rocky, smelly, dirty swimming holes where there is a high chance you will stumble upon someone naked.  (And not the attractive type of person…but usually the hairy, leather-skinned, round, mountain man who is embracing his patchouli and nakedness, at the same time.)  The only place I’ve enjoyed swimming in that was in the wild was the beach in Cancun with Dave, and once in Lake Oroville for my friend Beth’s birthday party.  Neither were smelly or rocky.  Both were super-fun and very memorable!  Pools are usually my go-to for a cool down.  The one at Mandalay Bay that I got to go in with my friends, Shane and Jolene, was probably one of my top 3 favorite pools ever!  But that is another list for another time!

Here's a glance at what the boxes used to look like, as well as a shot of my unattractive gardening hat. Maybe that's why the natural-life isn't working for me...I need a better outfit!

#5 Gardening

What do you know…a girl who dislikes vegetables doesn’t like gardening?  Get outta’ town!  It’s true.  This house we live in right now came with two semi-raised garden boxes.  (I say ‘semi-raised’ since they are only 5’’ off the ground, so I don’t want you to get the idea that they are luxuriously high or anything…).  Anyway, when we moved in, the boxes were used for a giant leaf pile and were also the final resting place for two old and petrified Christmas trees.  Yuck.  I worked my butt off to get everything cleared off (even borrowed a friend’s dump truck to haul it away!) so I could embrace my Chico-ness and plant a garden.  Year 1, I planted tomatoes and cucumbers.  I hate tomatoes and thought my husband would like them, but he disliked the variety that I had chosen, so even though my 4 plants made about a jillion tomatoes, not one was ever eaten!  The cucumber plants were cool, but the 3 cucumbers I got tasted so gross, I had to spit them out.

Year 2 came and I thought I would try strawberries, corn, bell peppers, lettuce, carrots and pumpkins.  The strawberries only produced 5 berries; the corn plants looked awesome, but I had no idea when to harvest it, so all 14 ears I got were too past their prime to actually eat; we actually ate a few of the lettuce leaves, and the pumpkins (although they took over my entire garden area) were what we ended up using at Halloween, so that was cool.  I would call this a mild success.  This year, I was too busy in the spring to really pay any attention to anything, so the strawberries from last year are there, just taking over everything.  If they had a TV show about garden makeovers, I’d sign up.  I know gardening is good, it’s just something I suck at, and since I have this ongoing ‘avoid-things-I-suck-at’ theme in my life, I have a feeling it may be something I just never really get into.  Do I think growing your own food is a good idea?  Totally!  Way to go 99% of the people I know who do this, and do it well!  I just can’t seem to make a go of it, where it is cost effective and realistic for my skill level.

So there you have it, five more things that set me apart from the normal people around me!  Chico really is a great town and I am so grateful to get to live in it.  And even though I am super-cynical and can make fun of the hippie-lifestyle, or obsession with it’s own localness, there are many things that I love about this place!  I love that all the residents got to bond together over local-boy, Aaron Rodgers, when he led the Packers to a Superbowl victory!  I love that when Jack graduated from Kindergarten, we saw Aaron at In-n-Out and he congratulated Jack on a good school year.  How fun and low-key is that?

When Chico-gal, Shawntel was a contestant on the Bachelor, she did a great job of presenting herself as a Chico-girl who was down to earth and genuine.  (I still think she was way too good for the actual Bachelor, and I hope she finds someone who will be a perfect match for her beautiful heart and family.)   I love the rain we get in the fall and winter and all the blossoms you can see on all the almond orchards around town.  I really dig our church (as imperfect as they may be at actually connecting with us at times) and I would be at a loss if we ever had to pick somewhere else to go.  I met my husband here, got married here and had both my kids here – this is something that many so-called ‘Chico locals’ even shy away from, taking their pregnant bellies up the hill to Paradise to have their kiddos there.  (No offense to the lovely town of Paradise, I just figured I’d use the hospital in my own town, since it was just down the street and all…)

So, happy anniversary, Chico!  I hope you still like me after all these years, too!

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

9 responses »

  1. I love this so much! For so many reason! You rock!

  2. jenny – I love the honesty. I often find myself on the opposite side of popular opinion and you know me – I’ll talk about it anyways! Way to go girl! (though I personally like ‘some’ of the stuff on your list – i love this blog!) I’m TOTALLY with you on #3 – TOTALLY.

  3. Again Jenny, great job…is job the right word? I agree with so much of what you said with the exception of the swimming holes. The only reason I disagree is I and all my friends and family were using those swimming holes way back in the ’40’s and ’50’s when they weren’t smelly dirty and no naked girls (Damnit). I grew up in a Chico with no Sierra Nevada Brewery, no freeway, no stop lights, no one-way streets and no dial phones. But then, I’m quite old. I never-the-less love it and moved back here to raise all my children and have been here for the major part of my 70 years. Cute picture of Violet. Love the writting as usual Jenny and am waiting for the next blog. Stan

  4. I find it quite amazing that leaving chico puts me in a completely different category. However, I find that I am that person that wanted a sweatshirt and couldn’t afford it. I didn’t drink beer in chico let alone alcohol very much either. It is when I left chico that I felt the “go ahead” because I knew I would be safer outside those city limits. I have seen too much in that town to let myself go crazy. Tangent. Sorry. But the swimming at the various holes is something that I could always do that made me happy. I still miss that free swimming holes everywhere option. Maybe I am just more outdoorsy? But I have to admit I have bought the stickers and put them proudly on display just because it is the place I still call home. It is the only place I have lived for 10 straight years. Gardening well, I have 5 plants that I have not killed now and they are all the same species. BUT I do have to say that when I visit friends that love gardening it is like christmas morning everyday. What will you get? What surprises will you see today that you didn’t see yesterday. AND when you have no life it is a great way to spend your time. Cathartic too. I LOVE your writing. Keep it up ! Your great at that! And a lot of other things.

  5. So funny about the Sierra Nevada sweatshirts! It took practice, and now I can tolerate at least some of their beers (not Pale Ale, though). And I can respect that you don’t do the Farmer’s Market thing, especially with little kids in tow. But even though I know you don’t like vegetables, I have a firm belief that your garden will grow again. Your pumpkins and corn last year inspired me and we planted both this year. We got enough corn for about three meals, so it was kind of cool and two of our pumpkin plants are taking off to cover some bare dirt, but so far we only have two pumpkins. Still exciting though. Yes, I predict you’ll grow again! Great writing, as always!


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