You may be forgiven if, like me, you don't recall why the central valley town of Wasco, CA seems vaguely familiar. Wasco made headlines some time ago for being invaded by clowns. For unknown reasons, clowns just started walking Wasco's streets to the distress of the residents. I had forgotten about the story (and hadn't bothered learning the resolution), until I happened to get detoured through there on my drive to Bakersfield.
On my drives throughout California I've been surprised by the way individual towns have lost their identity as each town seems to have the same stores. Starbucks's are ubiquitous, as are McDonald's, Costco's, and Targets. While having these stores in nearly everywhere makes life convenient for me as a consumer (I know what's in a Target that I want to buy, just as I know what I want to order in Starbucks), they often also have the affect of turning towns into strip malls. Even the mall signs often look alike, as anyone who has driven along Highway 99 can attest.
Wasco is different. Although it was late at night as I first drove through, one of the first things I immediately noticed is that the town wasn't overwhelmed with chainstores. Instead, Wasco has it's own personality.
Although I saw several fast food chains, I also saw many private fast food restaurants, and I noted from the signs that Pastrami seems to be a very popular meat. A laundromat across from where I parked had a vacuum in the parking lot for your car's interior, just to make sure all your cleaning needs are covered.
I expected the town to be empty, since I was visiting on Easter, but it was bustling with people, and one gentleman driving by offered to let me photograph his ass. Howeve, the afternoon light was harsh, and probably wouldn't have created a flattering picture of his donkey, so I declined.
Towns like Wasco are disappearing as our cities in California become more and more homogenized, and that's a shame.