Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Number One with a Bullet

Forbes Magazine announced the "winners' of its annual top ten list of America's Most Miserable Cities. Coming in at the number one spot this year...

Stockton, California!

Yeah, the old hometown took the crown this year after last year's second place between Michigan's two finest-Detroit (#1) and Flint (#3), making it one big miserable sandwich. Yeah, good ol' Stocktonville pulled an upset over Chicago, Cleveland and even Miami. Woo-hoo! The ghosts of Victoria Barkley and Charles Weber are smiling from above.

Forbes’ criteria for this dubious honor was based on violent crime, unemployment, income tax rates and commute times. It’s also Ground Zero in the housing market with the highest foreclosure in the country.

I’m not gloating. Just because I hauled my ass out of Fat City ten years ago doesn’t mean I wish ill on the place. As a matter of fact, the whole thing saddens me to no end. I may have severed my ties with Stockton, but I’m not in denial either. I was born there. I grew up there. I spent most of my life in that town.

But the truth hurts, baby.

Stockton has never taken care of its own. It’s like one of those smokers who’ve been puffing on three packs a day for the last fifty years, despite all the warnings, then threatens to sue Big Tobacco because he gets lung cancer. Then when he wins his lawsuit, he still continues to smoke because now he can afford to buy more cigarettes.

When I visited last year, I barely recognized the place. It was though I was driving in and about Greater Kabul after a rocket attack. To this day, I still haven’t shaken the feeling of dread I had while I was there. I was watching a relative on life support dying a slow, painful death.

And I also thought about my family and friends who are still living in Stockton and wishing I had the resources to airlift them the hell out of there once and for all. For now, I can only hope for the best and that they’ll come out of this okay.

Hey, Modesto, just down the road from Stockton, placed fifth on the Forbes list, more than likely since it is the car theft theft capital of the country. Well done! How proud do you think Modesto's favorite son,George Lucas, is at this moment?
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