I should be an expert on misery. That’s what I get from Forbes’ list of America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities.
I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., which is no. 8 on the list. I also spent a summer in New York City (no. 16), and from 2000-2005 I lived in Youngstown, Ohio (no. 18). In total I lived in Ohio for a decade, during which I also had occasion to spend time in Cleveland (no. 1) and Toledo (no. 15).
Since 2005 I’ve lived in Stockton (no. 2), and for the past year or so I’ve also been covering entertainment in Modesto (no. 11).
So according to Forbes, I should be desperately forlorn.
Here’s the thing, though.
I’m actually pretty happy.
In fact, most of the cities I’ve lived in have been, in general, pretty happy places. Sure, it snows in Buffalo, and our major sports teams haven’t won a championship in a few decades (although at least one of our minor sport teams is awesome.) And Youngstown has problems with crime and unemployment.
But both cities also are home to many friendly people. Buffalo has a growing biotech industry, many great dining options and a cool nightlife scene. Youngstown, meanwhile, has an excellent museum (the Butler Institute of American Art, photo at right from Wikipedia Commons), a big, beautiful city park and some incredible Italian restaurants.
Cleveland also has a good nightlife scene, a cool public market and one of the best basketball players on the planet (which Forbes purposefully omits), while Toledo has a nice little waterfront that’s fun to visit. And New York City has everything, which allows you to make whatever you want of your experience there. If you’re looking to run a marathon then spend $200 on Indian food, you can do it.
I also love Stockton and Modesto, both of which are home to many friendly people, a diverse array of restaurants and growing entertainment scenes (more on that later; 2008 photo of the Stockton Empire Theatre at right by Clifford Oto / The Record.) In Stockton’s Miracle Mile neighborhood alone there are two upscale restaurants and a brewery as well as establishments offering pizza, sushi, chicken wings and Mediterranean, Chinese and Mexican food. And each restaurant is within walking distance of the others.
Of course, Stockton and Modesto also have their share of issues. And those issues are how Forbes determines whether or not a city is miserable. The magazine uses a misery index which takes into account unemployment, commute times, violent crime, taxes, crime and how its pro sports teams have performed, among other factors.
But it’s unfair to imply that those issues make an entire city miserable. It’s impossible to generalize unhappiness.
Particularly when some of us are pretty darn happy.