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No place like home

Downtown Fallbrook (all four blocks of it!) is incredibly quaint. And I’ve come to appreciate its charm and character over this summer. A speed limit decrease of 10 mph from the typical suburban drag with its chain restaurants and grocery stores signals your approach to historic shop fronts housing quaint eateries and appropriately overpriced boutiques. Parked cars always line the narrow street, and since Fallbrook has quite a few vintage car collectors, you can usually spot an old-fashioned vehicle somewhere.

A variety of people lounge outside the coffee shop, their dogs leashed to the leg of their chairs. Next door is the Irish Pub which boasts live music on Friday nights, but is quiet during the day. On the right is the town square where a farmers' market occurs on weekends. Not every shop has survived the economic recession, certainly. But there's the same jewelry store, shoe store, and gift shop that have been there as long as I can remember.

And then in the blink of an eye, you’re past the cute part and within a block you find yourself on the “east” end of town. Ghetto Little Mexico, as I call it. “Got Holes?” a tattoo parlor advertises on the left, while on the right a Hispanic market and rundown liquor store are highly frequented.

But for me, the center of downtown has always been Yogurt Palace, the best frozen yogurt place EVER. YP is my first love when it comes to this popular food group (yes, I realize I just called frozen yogurt a food group). They rotate their flavors daily, hanging quaint signs in the window so you can look as you drive by. But a true Fallbrook resident has it all memorized. You know that Monday is Cappuccino and Tuesday is Oreo day, while the rest of the week trails off in an uninteresting parade of fruity flavors.

But it isn’t just the excitement of making it there on your favorite flavor day (as well as the additional danger of the finicky machine not working), it’s the ambience of the little place. They have no need for wallpaper, instead decorating the walls with polaroids of their customers throughout the years. I can show you where my aunt and cousin have their photo on the wall as well as half a dozen of my friends and acquaintances. It’s always been my aspiration to make it onto that wall before they run out of room.

I’ve renewed my appreciation for downtown now that I’ve taken to walking there on my lunch breaks (the newspaper office is just two blocks away). Strolling the streets is a different perspective than whizzing by in a car. Surrounded by the sights and smells, you truly feel a part of the place.

I drop by the library to browse the new book section, and then sit in the square to eat my sandwich and people watch. It’s like observing the heartbeat of our town. Moms go by pushing baby strollers and herding toddlers; a group of kids skip past with their dogs on a leash; long-haired high schoolers buzz by on skateboards with the casts to prove their daringness; two ladies come into the square for a heart-to-heart over their frozen yogurt.

I feel indescribably peaceful and content in my corner by the brick wall observing life go on all around me. And sitting there, I realize that I know the pattern of every traffic light in Fallbrook; I can tell you where to get the best fish taco (Pedro’s) and iced chai (the cappuccino cup) in town; and it’s unusual to go to the grocery store and not see someone we know.

I noticed immediately when Eric’s Automotive repainted its trim a bright (bright!) blue and the neighboring Jack in the Box repaved its parking lot. And I wonder if I’m the only one who saw that the Pizza Hut now sports a white bunny statue on its roof. (No joke! A post-Easter sale item that doubles as a surveillance camera or a practical joke by the kids from the neighboring trailer park?)

As trivial as these things might be, I like the fact that I know them. There’s a level of security in being so familiar with this place that I am aware of even the most minute changes. There’s comfort in knowing and being known. And I am thankful that I can be on hand all of this summer to track every development. No matter where I go, this will always be my town and my home.

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