Downtown Chico on a bender

30 Jun

I had a good shock last night – I went Downtown for Thursday Night Market. I wish I had taken pictures, but we had out-of-town guests, and I was embarrassed of my town.

I realized, I hadn’t been to TNM for probably 10 years. There used to be more fruit and vegetable vendors, with some local “artisans”, people we knew who sold T-shirts and other sundries they’d produced.

Last night I felt like Arlo Guthrie – I never saw a face I knew, as I went ramblin’ round. I remembered how many complaints I’d heard, how our friends one-by-one had let go of their Thursday night booths after years of dealing with Downtown Business Association, who runs TNM.  Too much cronyism, too much infighting, and they had rules they used selectively, like who was allowed to sell oranges, and who wasn’t.

As the number of produce vendors declined, and the number of crap vendors – just junk they buy wholesale – increased, we walked away. Downtown became increasingly unfriendly too – I won’t use the word “homeless” for these people, they’re just a pile of criminals and creeps. Our kids were pre-teens, we felt Downtown was no place for families, particularly after 6 pm.

So, what were we thinking when we took our out-of-town friends with two teenagers to TNM? We were thinking, there’s not much to do in this town, and we’d been holed up with them in the air conditioning all day.  We didn’t dare take them to Bidwell Park – besides the triple-digit heat, there’s the bums, bum crap everywhere, sleeping bags and old drawers hanging from the blackberry vines, etc.  They’d driven four hours to get here, so we hesitated to take them on a driving tour. We knew they wanted to get out and get some exercise before they got in their car again this morning, so we thought, “how bad could it be?” These folks live in a big city, they’ve certainly seen urban images.

It was me who was in for the shock. 

We arrived Downtown just before 8pm, parked at the parking lot that hosts Saturday Farmer’s Market, two big spaces right next to each other, we thought that was a good omen.  As soon as we got onto the sidewalk headed to Main Street, I realized we might have made a big mistake. The sidewalks are dirtier than ever, and wow – those fancy garbage cans the city installed, those cement receptacles that cost who knows what – they’re all beaten to a pulp! Looks like Barry Bonds had a steroidal fit with a titanium bat ( I love you Barry, but yeah, you had a bad temper when you were on the ‘roids!)

The sidewalks were crowded, mostly with transients walking around in various states of filth and intoxication. We had to walk single file, and the noise level made conversation uncomfortable. As we rounded the corner onto Main, we saw what was left of the produce vendors – one or two stalls with peaches and nectarines. If I’d realized that would be the only produce I would have stopped, but the teenagers were hungry and eager to get to the food wagons.  I had heard good stuff about the food wagons, and we’d eaten at one or two of them at other events, so we hustled along.  I did see the Bordin’s, with their honey, but that was  the last of the produce stalls as we wandered into the crap vendors’ area and on to the food trucks.

The live band at the Plaza was very annoying. I’ve heard all that 70’s and 80’s rock – why bother with a band, why not just broadcast Thunder? And does it have to be so loud as to necessitate repeating your order and your name multiple times to the food vendor? 

There we were, right next to the Plaza. At first I could see some families with kids – like us, they seemed to be looking for a safe place to get out at night. But the scene changed rapidly, before my eyes. At 8:30, the macaroni man handed my friends his last order and abruptly closed the door and window on his truck. The other food vendors started to do same. They seemed eager to get the hell out, which was weird – the event is supposed to last until 9 pm, and there were still people all over the street. 

The food area was quickly un-staging, people who looked like transients with “event” shirts were picking up trash  and dragging garbage cans away. I was still holding the trendy cardboard container and plastic forks that came with my Maria’s tamale (bland dry corn meal, stringy shoeleather chicken, flavorless rice, dry pasty beans), so I ran along after them to throw it away. As I walked back to my group, I could see, they were surrounded by drunken shirtless men making their bed on the Plaza grass. 

The band had packed up and split, and suddenly I felt insecure – it was like a scene out of “Escape from New York”.   So we split, ferrying our friends back to their hotel, hoping nothing weird happened to them there.

 I’d bet my last five dollars, after that freak show, they will tell us to visit them next time. 

Thursday Night Market? How about “Thursday Night Mayhem”?  I don’t patronize businesses Downtown anymore because it’s just plain unpleasant. The sidewalks are filthy, my friend was wearing very pretty open-toed shoes. The vandalism – everywhere – is hostile, you feel like you’re walking right into a war zone. The smell of garbage permeates the air – we walked by so many overflowing garbage cans, right outside restaurants, I don’t know how they keep the flies off their customers. And on every sidewalk, we had to walk single file, to keep from literally bumping into dirty, disheveled, intoxicated creeps.

Downtown Chico is in trouble, and no district is going to save it. If you’ve paid attention, you’ve seen one after another initiative that’s been taken, public money thrown in, to bail out a retail sector that refuses to take care of itself. Downtown businesses are not special, they’re not a charity, they’re not a public institution. They make bad decisions – like Thursday Night Market and Friday Night Concerts – but they are continually bailed out with public money. Now certain business owners, led by Ann Schwab’s husband Budd,  want a district with fees directed toward Downtown clean-up and more cops – when will we all be expected to form districts to get city services that we already pay for? 

Wake up Chico, you are being had.







4 Responses to “Downtown Chico on a bender”

  1. Jim June 30, 2017 at 6:30 am #

    I really dislike going downtown at all and haven’t been to the TNM in over a year. After reading this, I don’t think I’ll go again, same with the Friday night concerts. Downtown just isn’t fun anymore.

    • Juanita Sumner June 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

      Thanks Jim, I agree. And it’s not a particularly important part of town, no more important than North Valley Plaza, or Mangrove Plaza, or Chico Mall. If you really want a shock drive the college ghetto in West Chico, or that neighborhood behind East Ave Mickey D’s.

      All Chico is suffering from the poor judgement of our elected leaders and the corrupt and self-motivated guidance of staff. It’s like we’re under some sort of curse or spell – the pensions. We must fund the pensions, or we will all die a horrible molting death. I already feel like I’m being pecked to death by public employees who feather their own nest with tax funds instead of providing the services for which they are paid.

      • bob July 1, 2017 at 10:16 am #

        Don’t worry, I’m sure the business tax increases the crony crapitalist and rent seeker DiGiovanni is scheming will fix everything.

        This weeks Snooze and Review made it sound like he’s the second coming of Christ and the new bureaucracy he and his cronies are creating is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      • Juanita Sumner July 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

        It’s like a sci-fi movie.

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