El Cajon Travel Blog› entry 16 of 20 › view all entries
January 16th, 2010 – by: cneoridium
But, I was thinking as I drove through today, if you're visiting from out of town, it would actually be a lot more interesting than the cosmopolitan coast. It's actually not bad in the winter, surrounded by mountains with a small town feel that's missing from the coast. Head out there if you want to see real America! This is what the 98% of the non-coastal country is like. It's the kind of city that gets stuck in a period of time... and in this case a series periods in time, from the western pioneer cities of the 1930s to the industrial development of the 60s and 70s, to the cheeziness of the 80s.
The demographic is a mix of ranchers and mullet-wearing jacked-up-pickup truck-driving good old boys, construction workers, the elderly, new immigrants, and basically people who can't afford to live in San Diego, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
I remember going out there in the 1980s and watching it degrade from a perfectly preserved transplanted rural town from the midwest - complete with a main street called... Main Street, with family groceries, vacuum cleaner repair shops, shoe repair places, livestock supply companies... - to abandoned storefronts and gangs. By the 1990s, Main Street was repopulated by "thrift stores" selling used clothing and donated goods, biker bars, hot-rodding garages, and surviving old dinners where the old folks could hang out.
I make it out there every couple years. Last time downtown was under redevelopment. They seem to have gone in and closed all the junk shops, used book stores, and thrift shops and torn down some of the buildings in the worst condition.
This time, they'd built a few brand new "business centers" that sort of don't fit with the rest of the town and renovated the old storefronts for new tenants. This newest version of Main Street has evolved into Little Bagdad! That's what I'm calling it anyway - so much better than the past iterations! There are Iraqi markets, halal meat shops, no less than six kabob/Iraqi restaurants, Iraqi layers, Iraqi hair dressers... Everything! I bought a whole carload of dates and Turkish coffee and spices and foods that I can't get anywhere else - I think I'll go out there more often now.
Anyway, if you come out to San Diego, you really should cruise out to El Cajon to see it if you have a car... It's straight out the Interstate 8 freeway, about 20 miles to the east.
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