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Poway: “The City in the Country.” I was born and raised in Poway, and I can tell you that the slogan has never been accurate. At the time of Poway’s incorporation in 1980, any passer-by could spend all day searching for a city. By now, the country is the elusive part.

Due to its split personality of both city and country, Poway exhibits interesting contradictions. Rusty pickup trucks share the road with BMWs and the resident Ferrari. Hicks and yuppies pick through fresh produce together. In addition to a Target and a Wal-Mart, there is a feed store, a stable, and random chickens. Housing ranges from mansions to mobile homes to the token homeless man.

The best way to describe Poway is in moments — both Kodak and daguerreotype. Five Christian churches share a short stretch of road, their signs declaring the righteousness of each over the others. The nostalgic apparition of the old Applebee farmhouse stands alone in a barren field, a fading memory of Poway as it once was. I remember wading through Rattlesnake Creek in red rubber boots, collecting rocks and planks to build rickety bridges, enjoying the squelching mud, forests of reeds, and darting tadpoles.

Near the creek is the Poway Valley Riders Association arena and stables. Poway horseback riders create demand for a snaking network of horse trails, and their horses supply the perpetual peppering of droppings that adorn so many east Poway sidewalks. Due to rural residential zoning, people can keep horses in their back yards while leading an otherwise suburban lifestyle within stuccoed walls. East Poway is dominated by such people.

On the flip side, a nearly unchecked onslaught of tract houses provides the support necessary to maintain Poway’s three Starbucks. These houses would be pleasant enough, were it not for their chillingly identical design. My friend Courtney remembers a man who stayed three minutes in her house before realizing that he actually lived two doors down.

Overlooking everyone is the land of the very rich, consisting of million-dollar dream houses, tennis courts, and automated gates. The gates are successful in keeping out alien vehicles, non-fence-climbers, and the mentally impaired.

Perhaps the best illustration of the contradictory nature of Poway is its treatment of the city mascot, the Poway Oak. Once a venerable living landmark, it was suffocated and killed by nearby road expansion, a most ironic demise. Other strange occurrences take place as well — a strangled duck made it into the crime log, a skateboarder jumped a flight of stairs and hit a horse.

Throughout the contradictions is a basic understanding that Poway will always have trees, numerous parks, and bare ridgelines. Of course, the parks range from simple baseball diamonds to campgrounds, and some hilltops have begun sprouting tracts.

Eventually, the “country” part of the Poway slogan will seem like a joke. You can no longer scoff, “It’s Poway” and leave your car unlocked, and many of the creeks are now paved over. Perhaps the slogan will become “the City in the Suburb,” with a hardier mascot — a Starbucks or an SUV.

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