Mission Valley
  • Mission Valley
  • Image by Robert Burroughs
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It’s a difficult thing for a man to admit, but I’m going to have to come clean: I’m an unadventurous person. It’s unfashionable, non-PC, and virtually ensures the end of any social life I might have, but it’s time for me to admit it.

I’m dull.

I’m one of those people who love to eat in chain restaurants, who shop at big-box retailers, who get excited when a new outlet mall opens. I can ooh and aah over a review of a daring new Brazilian-Thai fusion restaurant while I’m eating at KFC, and I’ve been known to check out online samples of hot new goth bands right before ordering the new Celine Dion CD.

So it’s only natural that I’m drawn to Mission Valley.

If you placed all the malls and chain stores in the world end to end…but, hell, they already have, haven’t they? Restaurants, bars, clothing stores, multi-multiplexes, all of them nationally known, with convenient parking, strewn along Friars Road like hookers lined up in front of a Navy base. I spent today running from mall to mall, from Fenton Marketplace to Rio Vista Center to Park in the Valley to Mission Valley Center to Mission Valley West to Fashion Valley. I’m exhausted but high, as if I just ran the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon.

I’m not the only one. Based on the ever-present traffic, with more and more condos being built (and what are condos but the chain-store version of home ownership?), there’s a whole population out there who not only worships at the shrine but wants to live next door.

Mission Valley during the day is for amateurs, though. Hit Bennigan’s or In Cahoots on a Friday night, say seven-thirty, and you’ll see the valley at its wildest. Both Caminos Del Rio are packed, every parking lot is full, and every restaurant and bar has a line out the door. And for what? The same restaurants and bars are duplicated all over town. Why here?

It’s the mating ritual of the urban heterosexual. Not a game I play, for assorted reasons, but certainly a popular one. You might not have to wait for a table at the T.G.I. Friday’s in Rancho San Diego, but there won’t be as many cute singles at the next table to flirt with either. There are enough happy hours in the valley to keep every man, woman, and child in San Diego County ecstatic for life.

In his 1991 book Edge City, Joel Garreau described places like Mission Valley as the cities of the future: urban/suburban hybrids where people live, work, and play, all of them designed to resemble malls (even the condos look like shopping centers), every inch connected by wide, crowded roads. Be honest — does anyone take the trolley into Mission Valley? Garreau’s vision of the future was bleak, a picture of identical urban sprawl from coast to coast. And Mission Valley fits that description.

So what? I say. Bring it on! Pave every freakin’ inch! I’m not the only one who feels this way, or else it would have failed years ago. Let the hipsters go to Hillcrest or Del Mar; Mission Valley is ours. It’s safe, predictable, and comfortable, and you know exactly what you’re going to find wherever you go. Hey, no one goes to McDonald’s for the taste of the food; we go because TV commercials tell us to.

Mission Valley is one big McDonald’s — supersized. Now excuse me while I line up for my Happy Meal.

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