Stressed to the max: Antioch and Richmond. Two poles on opposite edges of Contra Costa County that share a great deal in common, including persistent problems in crime and higher poverty levels than most other area cities.

And, apparently, they share something else: Stress.

The two cities recently surfaced on an unenviable place, a top 10 list of the "most stressful cities in California."

The list, compiled by creditdonkey.com (bear with the Eye, the name may not inspire confidence, but the methodology seems reasonable), scored Antioch and Richmond as the sixth and seventh most stressed cities in the state, respectively, right behind such stress havens as Victorville and Inglewood.

The reasons? Well, it seems that both are dogged by high crime rates, lengthy commute times and expensive housing. Of Richmond, the study's authors said, "The odds of being a victim of violent crime are 1 in 92 residents, the worst on our list. If that's not enough to deter would-be residents, locals have been fighting against local refineries and factories because of harmful toxins in the environment." Yeah, major bummer.

Antioch piles on the stress by being the list's second most dangerous city, and had an even worse average commute, at about 39 minutes per day on crawling freeways.

But divorce rates in Antioch are lower than Richmond, so bravo for it.


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One criticism of the methodology: It didn't take into account Richmond's City Council meetings, which the Eye unscientifically estimates last an average of nearly six hours and feature a couple dozen profane screams per meeting. The Eye needs meditation sessions to cope, but the gray hairs continue their advance.

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE: With all that stress in Antioch, it's nice to hear that a local has found a clever way to keep his yard drought-resistant and spread a little neighborhood cheer -- mowing a smiley face into his once-green front lawn.

Two months ago, Thomas Rodriguez noticed that passers-by in front of his downtown home kept walking by with angry, sad or sullen looks on their faces.

"I wanted to try to do something to put a smile on their faces, maybe put them in a better mood," he said.

An admitted green thumb who likes working with his hands, Rodriguez mowed the pattern and has just let it turn yellowish-brown.

He's also tried to craft black circular cutouts to place over the eyes to give it sunglasses.

A picture of the smiley face lawn can be found on the Contra Costa Times Facebook page.

BURNER BARGAINS: The Discovery Shop in Walnut Creek, which touts its merchandise with the slogan, "A unique quality resale experience," is reaching out to Burning Man enthusiasts for its sale this weekend.

The American Cancer Society-operated store sent out an email to shoppers earlier this week touting the sale as a "Burning Man Event."

"Whatever your tribe," the email says, "you'll find an array of quirky clothing, shoes, boots, jewelry and accessories to build your best burner outfit ever."

Burners (and those who just want to shop for unique outfits even if they're not planning to attend the big Burning Man event next month) can shop at the store from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1538 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.

Burning Man is an annual event where tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance, according to the Burning Man website. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.

More information is at 925-944-1991 or http://discoveryshop-walnutcreek.org.

Staff writers Robert Rogers, Paul Burgarino and Theresa Harrington contributed to this report.