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Stockton? America’s most miserable city?

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POSTED February 19, 2009 4:50 a.m.
I’m almost proud to say that I live in America’s most miserable city.

Forbes Magazine just came out with its list of 10 worst places among the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., with the rankings based on unemployment, violent crime, weather, commute times, corruption (criminal conviction of government officials in the area), and high income and sales taxes.

Stockton headed this list and was followed in this order by Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Modesto, Flint (Mich.), Detroit, Buffalo, Miami and St. Louis.

Several things we do know about the Port City: It is No.1 in the nation in home foreclosures; some 15 percent of the adults living there are with a college degree; and unemployment is expected to reach 15 percent in another a year.

You really want to hear miserable?

On numerous occasions, I’ve driven underneath the Interstate 5 and the Highway 4 cross town freeway where reports include an encampment of over 70 homeless folks.

At least that’s the unofficial count.

They’ve taken refuge there for nearly a year and were asked just last week by Caltrans officials to clear out their belongings underneath freeway crossing and Mormon Slough. Included were tents, lawn chairs, and old sofas and recliners.

Now having seen ground zero of the worst section of the most miserable city – that’s if you believe the Forbes Magazine article – I really can’t consider the rest of Stockton to be all that bad.

I know the deal when I step into certain parts of town. Just the other day, for example, we had dinner at the Nena’s Restaurant on Waterloo Road near Wilson Way. No surprise here that we encountered a panhandler by his lonesome just outside the Mexican food establishment. But rather than fret I reached into my pockets and handed him some coins.

I don’t think I would have done the same had it been New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, or New Orleans. I only take care of some of my local panhandlers.

I know of friends and acquaintances who have visited these aforementioned places yet were limited to within touristy areas perhaps for fear of venturing off the beaten path.

Not so for me. I guess growing up in the “most miserable city” makes every place I’ve ever visited sort of an upgrade.

In fact, I like staying off the beaten path. Take New York City, for example. Most visitors I come across prefer staying in Mid Town. But I’ve had more fun in the Bowery or the East Village, where the accommodations may have been inexpensive while the experience of hanging out that way being second to none.

And then there’s the Big East, where my buddy and I once stayed in a hostel situated a few miles from the French Quarter and near one of the street car lines. We mostly walked, venturing off in areas of New Orleans perhaps not even mentioned in my Fodor’s or Frommer’s travel book.

There were also those times of visiting Washington, D.C., where my friend’s apartment was situated near a fast food chicken restaurant and liquor store. Talk about two types of businesses usually found on what many might consider the bad part of town.

Well this area in our nation’s capital was no exception. Yet we still found ourselves walking around that area during the wee hours without much concern about our surroundings.

So you can either buy into what you read or hear. I know I’d rather experience life because it makes for a better story.

But so do lists such as the recent America’s most miserable cities.

I’m certainly not going to let the Forbes Magazine story get me down. Nor would the likes of the wealthy Spanos family who not only live here but strongly support this place they still call home.
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