The song "Stuck in Lodi Again", while quite popular, always stuck in my craw, even though I have always loved Creedence Clearwater Revival. But after reading Joe Guzzardi's column recently, it took me a while to come down from the ceiling. So let me rant for a bit.
Lodi has a small-town atmosphere, boasts friendly and courteous neighbors, and offers many small businesses where, for the most part, service, quality and products received are first-rate. There are few places that I know of other than Lodi where you can be on a first-name basis with people all the way from the young man or woman who bags your groceries, to your district congressman, Jerry McNerney, who will meet you "On the Corner" to address your concerns.
When I take my walk to the Downtown area several times a week, it is refreshing to have motorists stop before the crosswalks to let me pass. Try that in Stockton. Or Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, I'll bet.
In the past few years, we have seen the growth of many fine small restaurants, which adds to the number of excellent ones which have been here for years. Wine and Roses is now a destination for wine country visitors. The newer restaurant Crush offers cuisine that you would have to search to find in bigger cities, and rivals those in San Francisco. There are more than 50 wine-tasting rooms in the greater Lodi area, and our own Downtown boasts a new one, Jeremy Wine Company on Pine Street.
Lodi begins the winemaking season each September with the Lodi Grape Festival, which attracts thousands each year and offers impressive exhibits, from table-place settings to meticulously decorated fruit and vegetable tableaus. Lodi has become a wine center, producing more wine than both the Napa and Sonoma valleys combined. On Sunday, there will be a "Lodi Wine on the Water Festival" at Treasure Island in San Francisco, where 100 Lodi appellation wines will be paired with wine country appetizers.
The Lodi News-Sentinel provides us with national and community-based news and events. Although all may not agree with points of view on the editorial page and in letters to the editor, it is clear that the newspaper has made a sincere effort to try to offer balanced points of view. A good example is the paper's decision to print Mr. Guzzardi's column in spite of the fact that the column would likely be met with many contrary opinions by readers.
And in response to Mr. Guzzardi's complaint about foreclosures, I would suggest that this situation is not an issue that affects only Lodi.
I found some of Mr. Guzzardi's criticisms quite bizarre. For instance, he complained about pregnant women pushing strollers, suggesting that they were taking advantage of welfare programs. First, I do not know how he knew whether or not all these mothers are on welfare. But this comment sent me back to my own father's history, his teenage years during the Great Depression. His father (my grandfather) died when my dad was 16, so he had to quit school to work to support his mother and two sisters. There was no safety net then, no assistance for his mother. The U.S. Constitution specifically states that the country will not only provide for the defense of our country, but will also promote the general welfare of its citizens. Mr. Guzzardi, there will always be welfare cheats, but in this economy there are many who are without jobs due to no fault of their own.
I also wonder if Mr. Guzzardi remembers the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which states in part: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Sure, there are illegal immigrants in Lodi, as there are in other states, and steps should be taken to address this issue. But there are also plenty of new immigrants who have now become citizens and who have adopted the U.S. as their country. They are working, paying taxes, learning English and adapting to a new culture. It should not be surprising that we hear foreign languages in our diverse society. My own grandfather spoke only German when he came to this country a century ago. If Mr. Guzzardi reads history, perhaps he will recall that Italians, the Irish, the Chinese and many other groups have been discriminated against when they first came to this country. But like many others, apparently now that Mr. Guzzardi is safely here in this wonderful country, he would like to pull the ladder up to prevent anyone else from coming.
So Mr. Guzzardi, I am sorry you did not stay long enough to look around you and see why we call our town "Livable, Lovable Lodi." But unfortunately, I feel that if and when you do come back, you will still not see the Lodi that I see.
Cynthia Neely is a Lodi resident and retired city attorney.