Of Mozzarella and Municipalities

This is the second part in my Failure Fresno Trilogy. Last time I discussed a bit about why complaining isn’t ipso facto funny. Next time, I get personal.

Arguing about which city is better is like arguing which pizza toppings are better. Are you going to convince your uncle who loves Hawaiian that it’s intrinsically inferior to Meat Lovers because “pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza”? It’s doubtful. Hell, you could make a really good argument about how he likes linguisa way more than Canadian bacon, but guess what? He still wants the Hawaiian. And—if you leave aside the hackneyed snark—we all have to admit, that’s just fine.

Because pizza, like cities, is always—always—a matter of pros, cons, and priorities. In a word: opinion.

Even “objective” measurements like crime rates boil down to personal experience. Go ahead and comfort Jimmy of Blogsville, MI—whose car has been broken into three times in three weeks—with the fact that the rate of car vandalism is four times higher in Tweetsburg, PL—where his friend Johnny has lived for 20 years without once becoming a victim.

Subjective experience plus priorities is what it’s all about. It’s pointless to try to convince people who like their city that they shouldn’t (and that’s what your complaining is; if you’re not trying to improve it and you’re not trying to convince someone, then you’re just whining, which nobody likes).

Just the same, it’s pointless to try to convince people who have decided to not like their city that they should. And I say “decided to not like” because if a person isn’t sure yet if they like their city, you can direct them toward aspects they may enjoy; if you direct them toward things they won’t enjoy, you’re a sociopath.

“Trapped”

Listen. I have a minor in psychology, so let me break it down for you.

If you really hate Fresno, you’ve got some issues. I’m not saying it’s unreasonable to dislike Fresno. After all, it’s just an opinion. But if you find yourself hating a city—so much so that you create an unfunny anonymous Twitter account to call attention to the fact—we need to take a look at what’s going on under the surface.1 (Same deal if your hatred of BBQ chicken pizza reaches these levels.2)

It no longer surprises me that so many of those who hate Fresno respond to the obvious question—”Why not move?”—with a variation on the following.

“I would, but I have to take care of a sick relative here.”

Or, “I would, but my baby’s mama is here.”

Or, “I would, but my boyfriend doesn’t want to quit his job here.”

Or, “I would, but I’m on house arrest for selling drugs to school children.”

What do these things have in common? Hint: nothing to do with a longitude or latitude.

We interrupt this blog post for a TICN exclusive interview. We’re here live with Charlie Grumble, who has been rescued by federal agents after his abduction and twelve days’ captivity at the hands of some bad people. Charlie, tell us about your harrowing experience.

“It sucked, dude. The rope around my wrists and ankles was just really shoddy quality. It was real itchy. Oh, and the lighting conditions in the basement were subpar, at best! I could barely see the notches I marked on the wall to keep track of the days. And the dust down there did a number on my allergies! The entire setup left a lot to be desired, let me tell you.”

Yes, but what about your captors? The ones who locked you up? Those who are actually responsible?

“Oh, them… well, whatever.” [shrugs]

OK, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

You don’t have to have a minor in psychology to recognize the classic displacement defense mechanism. If you’ve ever observed ten or twelve minutes of human interaction, you’ve seen people taking out frustrations on some less threatening scapegoat, rather than the source of the frustration.

It’s cool, I can dig it. When I lived in SF and was hating life, it would’ve been easy to inflate my daily irritations into full-blown animosity.3 Luckily, I had no problem blaming my job and myself (that stupid asshole!) for my discontent, so I bear no ill will toward the great City by the Bay.

As I said, I’m not going to convince anyone who hates Fresno that they shouldn’t. If anything, I’m just offering myself as another target for their displacement. That’s alright.

My goal is just to point out why I don’t want to engage in any more “Does Fresno suck?” debates. If anyone wants to have some thoughtful conversations about improving the community or discovering the cool things that are already here, I’m all for it. On the other hand, it’s OK with me if you want to leave. Perfection is impossible, but if you find a city you think is perfect for you, by all means move there and enjoy.

Subjective experience.

Priorities.

Opinion.

Pizza.

  1. There’s also more to it if you find yourself absolutely wet-your-pants in love with a city. It’s more likely that you just love your life while you’re there. (If you love a city you don’t live in, well, that’s not love. As with people, you can’t really know what love is until you share a bathroom.) []
  2. Although, a Twitter account dedicated to bashing BBQ chicken pizza actually could be funny. But the humor would come from the fact that it is an obvious overreaction. It would be funny because we’d recognize that a person would have to be pretty screwed up to be sincere about such a thing. It wouldn’t and couldn’t be observational humor, as some city-haters have attempted. []
  3. “I’ve been waiting 45 minutes for this supposedly every-15-minutes bus. Oh, thanks, Sixteenth Street BART station: now I have human feces on my shoe. Please don’t smoke crack on my doorstep, miss. Rain-soaked grocery bags break open on the bus spilling my shit everywhere–with plastic grocery bags outlawed, only outlaws have plastic grocery bags. What is that smell? What is that smell?!“ []