Thursday, October 8, 2009
Main Avenue, U.S.A.
My rural town is a bit off the highway and it's distance helps it keep an insular, Mayberry like quality. It is known for its very friendly people, its proximity to Camp Pendleton and a few other peculiarities. Until recently, one of the most notorious racists in the country, Tom Metzger lived here. Once upon a time, some great pot, fallbrook redhair, was grown here. And there are a lot of artists and retirees living here. It's not pretentious and is also known for mostly lousy restaurants, although you can get some pretty good cheap mexican food here.
I have served on several boards in the town and just gave up a seat on one because I didn't have the commitment to do the job it required. I was asked yesterday to help a group that wants to combat blight that is evident in some parts of town.
What once was a lovely north entrance to town is now a hodgepodge of rundown trailers, hispanic markets, tattoo parlors and junky looking stores. When I came to town 29 years ago, it was much peppier. You now pass a rotting closed up nursery on Mission that was once called Nickerson's on the way in as well as a huge grove of Avocados that burnt up in the fires two years ago and probably won't be replaced.
In a way I like living in a funky town without pretensions. It's cheaper and it cuts down on traffic. But the merchants on Main St. are closing their doors and pulling in their shingles one by one. People would rather shop at the big box stores. So like what is happening in many towns across the country, Main St. or Main Ave. in our case, is suffering. We want to sell the town, but there's more sizzle than steak.
So I don't know. One of the ways the town has changed has been with a great influx of illegal immigrants. You don't think those avocados pick themselves, do you? Now you can find caravans of strollers of miztecos and guatemalan women crossing the street at many weird angles, multiple babies in tow. The hispanic immigrants to Fallbrook seem to be a law abiding bunch for the most part, although they have a strange notion of what it means to drive a car at times, either driving exceedingly slow or racing out in front of you like its the survival of the quickest.
I had a woman and her daughter in the other day who moved here from the exclusive community of Rancho Palos Verdes. I asked the comely daughter what she thought of Fallbrook and she said, she liked it but parts of it were "ghetto". The schools, which were once the pride of San Diego County are now a source of embarrassment. Much of the decline is attributed to students curriculum getting bogged down by those students who do not speak english as a first language.
Anyway, my answer to this woman was that Fallbrook was just like Palos Verdes, only the people who did their landscaping work in P.V. went home to Compton or wherever at night. Our working and labor class lives with us. And while some citizens would frankly wish that the labor force would disappear out of sight at night, in reality that doesn't happen.
So what we have are two worlds that coexist but don't commingle. There is a minimal amount of social interaction between the worlds. I don't know if the hispanic community is monolithic, stratified, or has any internal representation. For some reason I doubt it. But there is a definite cultural disconnect between anglo and hispanic. My hope is that we can join together to make this a better place to live for all of us.
I know that a rising tide lifts all the boats. There are a lot of white owned businesses that are getting semi slummy as well. A recession will do that. Here's to a recovery.