Merced got rated America's 3rd Most Miserable City by Forbes Magazine earlier this year, and then again the worst place to do business a few months ago. Mostly, this leads me to believe that the people at Forbes Magazine are very likely dicks, and are penalizing Merced heavily for being a poor & somewhat high crime area in a relatively liberal state. Finally! Proof that left wing politics is the enemy of prosperity and innovation. Never mind that the Silicon Valley shares all the same taxes and regulations.
That, or there are no truly miserable places to live in the United States. Why not take the optimistic view?
I'm still figuring Merced out. One thing I haven't quite gotten my bearings on yet is what it means to be living in a place that isn't a world-class city, but isn't a suburb either. The first thing I noticed coming into town was that there seemed to be two whole streets worth of downtown. I've heard people complain here about how little there is to do, but in the town I went to high school the only entertainment type businesses in town were a movie theater and a bowling alley, and both closed by my senior year. The only place open past eleven was the 24 hour Safeway. I suppose there were also bars, but being in high school those weren't really on my radar. And I can't really promise there are a lot of great late night restaurants in town here, because I am old now and past eleven is no longer on my radar, but I'm pretty sure there's at least a Denny's. Maybe it's just a case of the grass being always greener, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather live here.
It's kind of surreal how much is going on here in Merced actually. There's a playhouse downtown and free Shakespeare in the park (we went last night, it was quite decent), plus the theater programs at the high schools and community college, and then live music and other cultural events going on besides. And this is all before UC Merced develops any kind of meaningful arts program. Our new chancellor is featured in Downtown Life Magazine (Merced has a magazine about downtown life!), and apparently one of her accomplishments at her last institution was locating a campus theater building in the heart of downtown. I hope they consider doing something similar here. I loved going to plays and art performances at UCSD, but the isolation of a college campus at night just can't compete with the atmosphere that downtown theaters have. Not to mention the advantages for downtown businesses.
(For an angrier, but kind of awesome, defense of life in miserable Merced, go here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2011/08/20/2011267/jonah-owen-lamb-a-land-of-fierce.html)