Laura Dvorak 5:47 p.m., Dec. 6
The sounds of Sprinter train, crying babies and mariachi from taco shops and apartment windows make up the usual soundtrack of San Marcos at daytime. It's fairly quiet at night, aside from the traffic noise. To think of it, even police sirens are not that common. May be it's my luck, may be it's my idyllic perception of the population of this corner of the neighborhood - they seem hard-working, law-abiding, polite and family oriented. No domestic or drunken party brawls, and no one blasts radio after 9 pm.
I've lived here for nearly 7 months now. The first two bills from SDGE and Time Warner - before I switched to online billing, - the first two truckloads of junk mail - before I unsubscribed from it all, - and he occasional personal snail-mail envelope, which I still receive these days, - all have "San Marcos, CA 92069" as the last address line.
Does this make me a full-fledged San Martian? Er, San Marcian? Figure that one out. Theoretically, yes indeed. The problem is, I don't feel like I'm fitting in. The feeling of disconnect from the core of San Diego proper is inevitable and overwhelming, because I still don't drive. If I did, I'd probably only spend the nights here, at my sleepy little neighborhood. The carless lifestyle, though, gives me a unique perspective. A chance to see what the driving folks don't - a slice of life at a different angle, in the midst of and from the point of view of low-mid-class workforce segment, but with somewhat more aspiration and far more restlessness than this segment typically possesses. Don't get me wrong here, I honestly believe the aspiration to feed the family is a noble one. It's the lack of drive to climb higher up the Maslow's pyramid that's sort of disappointing. To a degree, of course. To each their own. My neighbors are sweet and friendly, and I respect their choice to be content with working hard and raising kids, and not complain when the dryer in the community laundry is broken, and never, ever leave this little corner of North County.
Don't judge San Marcos too harsh, I remind myself. It's an affordable housing community, don't you forget. Just how much you have probably saved by living in SM as opposed to somewhere more exciting! And by the way, it boasts two colleges, damn it! Palomar College and SDSM, if you please... Some interesting restaurants in the Old California Row (even if the food served at the most famous one, The Vera Cruz Fish house, tasted unadventurous enough that it could be safely served at a long term care facility)... The town even has its own unique brewery, The Lost Abbey. And a transit center to boot. The hills and the lake are gorgeous. There's a lovely biking/skating/strolling alley along wide stretches of Mission Ave, between the road and railroad tracks, wide and safe enough to even take little kids for a walk. Besides, it's only about 12 miles inland. Just hop on the Breeze bus #321 (which runs only a few times a day, only on weekdays, and is about to be discontinued altogether if the recent NCTD Mobility 2011 Plan proposition goes through) and you're right smack at the beach. That's Carlsbad beach we're talking about, but still. Other ways of getting out of SM and to within a walking distance of the coast are taking #304 to the final stop at Encinitas Transit Station (weekdays only, but Mobility 2011 proposes to add Saturdays) and the Sprinter all the way to Oceanside Transit Center. From OTC it's only about 10 min walk to the Oceanside pier...
A wail of Escondido-bound Sprinter takes a stab at drowning out my stereo, though with my window closed the Sprinter loses out. I have mixed feeling about that beast. Its path from Oceanside to Escondido snakes at roughly 90 degrees to the coastline, impaling the desperately suburban Vista and San Marcos en route. It's comfortable, reliable and fast (except when it rains for two weeks straight), and an excellent link in local public transit system. On the other hand, I'd suggest a day-time Spinter ride to a tourist who wants to see the unglamorous, the real North County. Looking out the Sprinter window, I am relieved and grateful for having chosen San Marcos over Vista. Vista offers some of the most depressing, bleak, frightening "vistas" by a long shot. Ironically, the crime statistics from a recent Coast News issue back that up (total numbers of crimes in one week in 6 categories including petty and grand theft, vandalism, assault, robbery and car theft: Vista - 40, Oside - 25, SM - 19, Encinitas - 3, Carlsbad - 2, Rancho Santa Fe - 1, Solana Beach - 0)
All things considered, I feel this neighborhood is not my cup of tea. Which one is? I wish I could try a few on for size... but the commute to work and back will surely kill me. Maybe, just maybe, I will take the Breeze 304 westbound one way, and give its final destination a shot... of hope.
Sunset at Palomar College transit center, San Marcos