26 May 2013

I don’t live in a small town.

Vacaville is not a small town. It used to be, when my family moved here in 1982. It hasn’t been for years. The last census, in 2010, put the city’s population at 92,248. That makes Vacaville the 315th largest city in the country; bigger than Chico, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Napa, or Palo Alto. Or, if you wanna compare other states, Boca Raton, Florida; Sioux City, Iowa; Portland, Maine; Trenton and Camden, New Jersey; Santa Fe, New Mexico; or Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Yet people think it’s small ’cause they’re comparing it with other cities: Sacramento (#35, pop. 466,488) to the east, San Francisco (#14, pop. 805,235) and Oakland (#46, pop. 390,724) to the west, San Jose (#10, pop. 945,942) to the south, and Vallejo (#225, pop. 115,942) and Fairfield (#257, pop. 105,321) in the same county. There are also the various things Vacaville doesn’t have, like a new-books bookstore (other than the Christian bookstore, which doesn’t count), an IMAX theater, an indoor shopping mall, a Noah’s Bagels or Trader Joe’s, a daily newspaper (it dropped Mondays), or a decent public transportation system. And the city’s civic leaders have done their darndest to manufacture a small-town feel, what with the Town Square and Creekwalk and various community events and traditions. So it fools the locals into thinking Vacaville is still small.

But it’s not. I’ve lived in actual small towns, like Dixon (pop. 18,351) or Scotts Valley (pop. 11,580). Those are 2010 population numbers, by the way; they were smaller when I lived there. But notice how Vacaville’s current population is five times as large as theirs, or bigger.

Don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not bragging about how big my city is. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Santa Cruz is smaller and has a way better cultural scene, although fewer Christians. (But then again, fewer hypocrites.) I’ve lived in small towns, and some of them were interesting, and some were incredibly boring. I’ve lived in San Jose and Sacramento, and big deal. My point is that Vacaville is not as small as people assume. I don’t live out in the middle of nowhere. (I did, once; in southern Nevada County. That was really nowhere.)