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When awesome lacks, go downtown

Posted: October 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows, downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close, downtown
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place, for sure
Everything’s waiting for you. ...

— “Downtown,” Petula Clark

Two years ago, SCV’ers woke from sleepy commutes to a large electronic sign on Interstate 5 announcing the newly christened “Awesometown.”

At first, most motorists thought it a prank, but as the days passed and the sign stayed lit and “Awesometown” popped up all around on buses and billboards, we came to learn that our beloved hometown had been pimped out in a real estate marketing campaign.

It’s no secret that most of us moved here because we liked the place. Santa Clarita, for having being carved fresh out of barren high desert hills and valleys, has a lot going for it.
(Relatively) clean air, (mostly) temperate climate, (fairly) academic public schools, and (particularly) beautiful landscaping.

We’re right to be (modestly) smug about our town. Palmdale it surely isn’t, nor the SFV. We’ve done better than anything immediately to our north and our south, and to our east and to our west.

But “awesome” has a bothersome sense of overreach.

Last Sunday’s Detroit Lyons’ game was awesome, with a virtually perfect last 60-second drive.

Some faithful speak of an “Awesome God.”

Santa Clarita is special, but we’re not equal to the best game in football, nor are we yet reaching for the divine.

Still, awesomeness is according to taste. We’ve got awesome entertainment if awesome is two Edwards mega-plexes running identical mass-consumption movies generally hawking sex and violence requiring no greater than 75 I.Q. points to appreciate. We’re got awesome restaurants if awesome is plates full of food measured by width, height, and depth rather than taste, and where so much of it looks so much the same from one chain to the next that reasonable people conclude that buried deep inside our city there is one central kitchen supplying them all through tunnels buried under our prolific parking lots.

Our appreciation of things awesome is constrained by the fairly narrow band of the human experience to which we’re exposed within the mountainous rings of this bucolic valley.

Santa Clarita is surely one of the very best modern, centrally planned, relatively ivory-conservative, middle-class suburban towns around.

But if our awesomeness ever falls short and you ever get an itch for something different, or wonder what awesome elsewhere implies, or dare venture how non-Disney, non-gratuitous violence, non-English speaking movies might seem, you’ve got to follow Petula Clark’s enduring advice and go ... downtown.

Downtown, there’s another whole, bigger awesomeness much different than our own.

And so, two weeks back, Carrie and Sandy and I dropped down the subway in North Hollywood (yes, there really is a working subway in Los Angeles) descending into a world far, far away from the seven tones of beige approved for our lives by Newhall Land.

Cascading levels of escalators enters a world looking like the London Tube meets the United Nations — and isn’t anything at all like the Valencia Town Center.

Deep down there, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, as we stand out from others in our obvious suburbaness — every bit as much as the kid with steel spiked tennis shoes with an Afro Mohawk and riding a micro skateboard stands out to us.

It’s a great hodgepodge of humanity down there — a pulsing, swaying, reading, studying, rapping, joking, singing throng of what the greater portion of Los Angeles really is — once you pass beyond the mountainous gates guarding our suburban isolation from the greater world.

For an incredible five- or six-hour vacation with a global twist, drop down and give our subways a spin to any stop downtown and pop up for a view and a meal or a movie or just a stroll.

We popped up at Wilshire and Flower and discovered a sushi place up on the 21st floor overlooking all of a glittering downtown.

Fellow foodies, know that we try hard here in Awesometown, but we don’t serve fish here like they’ve got there, and while we may dress stylishly we don’t do hip the way the L.A. trendies do who filled out that bar.

There is simply a bigger world out there we sometimes lack in our smaller world here.

And while the food was fab, the real thrill is the subway ride — and our ride back at late evening didn’t disappoint.

The mom with the prolific eye, ear, and lip piercings pushing the double baby stroller looking all the world like a domesticated Darryl Hannah Blade Runner Replicant was just frosting to the tasty cultural dessert of a ride home.

Our Awesometown trendy moms have a more mass-produced blonde tone; more reflective of the Disney moms we’re repetitively sold in movies at our two Edwards theatres. After all, you do what you know and you copy what you see.

And maybe that’s exactly how we like it and how it should be. But sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t, and there are movie shows downtown and places that never close and people to meet — and when too much suburbia overwhelms, you can augment your human experience, drop down that subway, and enter a world much more like the rest of Planet Earth than our more limited suburban enclave.

Just remember to buy a return ticket back to Kansas.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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