I'd been to the Palmdale/Lancaster, Antelope Valley area enough over the years whether it was for something job-related or my friend wanting me to go with him to visit his family. I know about the avenues named after letters in the Alphabets (ala Wilmington, incidentally), the tons of "undeveloped" land, the predominance of big boxes, and how lots of poor people live there and may commute to jobs in LA. My family had been seriously contemplating a move there before settling on a house in the San Fernando Valley.
Once while I was working deep on Pearlblossom highway in the middle of nowhere, I once asked a co-worker how people lived in the area. Where was the nearest supermarket? How did they get their power? She responded "by hooking it up to a cactus."
I'd learned somehow either through my research and/or hearsay that a lot of the people in this area had been moved from their areas in LA; the Antelope Valley, 50-60 miles Northeast had been a sort of exile away from "real" LA. I haven't really talked to many people in the area so it's hard to say who or what they actually are or have been.
Can't say I've ever been impressed by the place.
Till a few days ago.
A few days ago, Lancaster seemed to hit upon every LA-bred, if not every urban planning sensibility I have.
I came in to Lancaster very early in the morning. 6AMish. It was something of a relief to see lots of lights in what I'd previously thought was the middle of nowhere. Much as I'm not one for chain stores, they do bring some familiarity to an area; seeing a familiar chain store in an unfamiliar area is like seeing the "My Computer" icon or using the Ctrl + Alt + Del function on a PC whether they be a crappy e-Machines or a Lenovo. So that was a good start.
I worked my couple of hours and even had some downtime which I used to explore some of downtown Lancaster in pursuit of its public County of LA library. I didn't even know Lancaster was big enough for a "downtown."
But lo and behold, it is, and I think they hit upon every new urbanism trope that I could think of and even adding some. I love that they encourage hanging out and the simple concept of "play"
I watched a lot of people walking and simply "hanging out"; didn't necessarily involve shopping
There was the MOAH, a wannabe high-brow art place.
There was a functional piano on the street for anyone to walk up to and play
I loved this playground not tucked away just for a park, but in front of a restaurant.
The most impressive: one-lane streets with parking on a center cobblestoned island with sharrows, though I did notice that a lot of bicyclists still used the sidewalk.
After spending time at the County Library, a pretty nice one with separate bathrooms for adult men and women and children (boys & girls), with no apparent sleeping gestapo (this despite what appeared to be plenty of homeless and services-dependent people and a heavy Sheriff presence sitting in the Central area) and plenty of plug-in space, I went off to Apollo Regional Park near an active airplane field.
The most striking thing upon entrance: the large number of ducks. Lots of people liked to feed them; made me wonder about why people can easily feed these animals for recreation but not other humans.
The scenery seemed to be all designed for lascivious picture-takers like me.
I came away from the Antelope Valley and the 50 miles that separates it from what I call "civilization" for once thinking, "that wasn't so bad."