For me, the best ritual of summer evenings in Chico might very well be riding the cruisers downtown to the Bear, sipping on a pitcher of some variety Sierra Nevada beer while the sun and heat die down - and waiting in anticipation for the Thursday night market to roll into action.
The utter sampling of cultures, classes, colors, and creeds; the music, the smells, the fresh produce that is taken from the rich and beautiful North Valley dirt; these are the reasons that I am in love with Chico.
I made a hard decision to split my time in 2006 between Chico and the Soul Desert (a.k.a. Silicon Valley), and seeing the opening of the market pass by makes me think hard about the decision I've made.
It is a vastly mistaken viewpoint that the Bay Area is a cultural melting pot. On the contrary, the Bay Area in my eyes is a monoculture of the worst degree. Everyone is an engineer, a designer, a product manager, or analyst in some tech company. Everyone is after a fleeting dream of owning an overpriced plot of dirt in an overcrowded area. And the result of that monoculture is exactly opposite of what the Bay Area purports to be. The result is grumpy people with various skin colors - with no patience and a general unwillingness to be kind to each other. It is even difficult to pass someone on a sidewalk in the Bay Area and get a returned smile... or eye contact. I understand and very much appreciate the ocean of financial opportunity in the Bay Area, but a melting pot it is not. It was at one time of California's history, but that time has long since passed.
I'm not sure if that general unwillingness and strain is due to people being so damned busy trying to make ends meet that they can't, or if it is that I simply am unable to comprehend urban culture dynamics. Whatever the case, it simply doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps it is because everyone thinks everyone else is out to get them for something - or that hyperliberal politics have finally started to backlash, and people are trying dearly to protect themselves and their wallets from each other. Who knows.
In the long run, I know what I'm doing is the best choice but oh, how I will miss thee this summer, sweet Thursday night market. The good thought about this is that I figure in 2007, the market will still be there. :-)