I am staying in Escondido. I am unfamiliar with this town (which is called a city) and so I set out to explore on a Friday night and a Saturday afternoon. For purists who demand a strict adherence to Friday-night leisure guidance, I plead disqualification and, with any necessary apology, suggest that you are on the wrong page.
I began walking west on Grand: plan A was to cover a live hip-hop group at the Metaphor Café at Second and Juniper. This proved impractical for obscure political reasons regarding my landlords and a previous owner of the Metaphor. It is uninteresting and unclear. Never mind. This particular Friday night in May, five acts were featured: Koncept Lost, Suspekt Styles, Identical Opposites Krew, 33rd Infantry, and the Lost Angels. I thought it might be funny — you know, a kranky[sic] old guy who hates rap torturing himself at his own expense. I contented myself with speaking briefly, outside, with 20-year-old Billy Valdez, the “main man” and son of the owner. He told me about the $7 cover charge and how the 8:30 show would be kicked off by DJ Sinn. An exquisite pleasure, no doubt. I’ll never know.
Back to Grand. The storefront cop shop is next door to the F Street Bookstore for adults. This produced an inward grin, as I recall. Across the street is the LLL Reptile store. Didn’t go in. I’d wake up screaming: lizards, boas eating live hamsters, maybe. Back on the north side of the street is A Bird Haven, if birds are in short supply in your life. On either side of Grand are coin stores for the numismatic enthusiast, and Escondido Coin & Loan might lend you money.
Escondido Joe’s Coffee Shop (north side) has two computers available for maybe half an hour, free with any purchase. You might meet Christina Santana, a pretty 24-year-old usually behind the counter in the mornings, but not necessarily. Santana has been slinging joe at Joe’s since she was 17. If she can’t make you smile, double up on your Prozac. She told me popular items at the shop are Boba drinks. Apparently these are tapioca balls one drops into a drink for a novel flavor. Don’t ask me any more about them. I’m just saying...
There are two bars in the immediate downtown area: O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub and Steak House (Live Music) and Pounder’s. I explored neither for more than political reasons.
At 121 Grand is an art gallery of the same name. The show I checked out, “Kids Kaleidoscope,” is no longer there. It was more than remarkable, the talent in these very young renderers. That presentation is replaced by “Noah’s Art,” a benefit for the Humane Society. Can’t tell you firsthand, but I’m thinking it will be depictions of lovable animals. Joan Segel, a pleasant and enthusiastic senior, is the gallery coordinator there.
If you live in Escondido, the library at Second and Kalmia is free. If you don’t reside in the city, it is still a very good library to check out. I checked out a VHS of Zulu Dawn with Peter O’Toole and Burt Lancaster, a movie I haven’t seen in almost 30 years. Also, George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman on the March. Once hooked on the Flashman series, one becomes a slave: and I was unaware of this recent (2005) installment on the exploits of this wonderful, simpering coward.
Two blocks north of Grand, along Escondido Boulevard, you’ll find the Regal Cinemas with a Cold Stone Creamery next to it in a not-so-mini mini mall. I watched Angels and Demons in there — wonderful, distracting nonsense, comfortable seats.
Finding little offbeat in downtown Escondido this particular weekend. That may be due to the plentitude of policemen on-beat up here. One is constantly reassured that law and order is a priority in this community by the regularity of passing marked cruisers, the ubiquitous uniforms in coffee shops, diners, and the 7-Eleven. If you intend to so much as scoff at a minor city ordinance for your Friday night or weekend amusement, I would do it elsewhere.
I nearly forgot to mention Elaine’s Book Mark, a mostly used-paperback bookstore in the heart of downtown. Half price, they are, with a $2 minimum for a book, if you find an old one with a cover price of, say, $1.95. In Escondido one may find oneself with an early night on one’s hands, and a book may be just the thing to cap it off in this Mayberry with cell phones.