Two hours south of San Francisco is Merdec. For anyone who doesn’t live there, it’s a non-descriptive town, located somewhere between here and nowhere, in the San Joaquin Valley of Northern California. Stretching out lazily through a series of repeated clapboard houses and abandoned stores, where the town begins and the city limits end, no one can tell.
Like so many small towns in California’s central valley, named progress has been its enemy. Whereas once motorists stopped on their journey towards Los Angeles or Yosemite, now the super Golden State Highway speeds past taking most tourists with it. In this almost featureless landscape where very little offers respite, the only thing thriving in Merdec are the almond groves that line its highways, which in this prolonged season of drought ravish the land like the credit crunch from which this town has never recovered.
Off the Highway along Martin Luther King Jnr Way is Mario’s Tacos. This yellow beacon on an otherwise bleak street is easy to spot. It’s a lone kiosk opposite the Merdec Fairground Speedway, in a parking lot where most of the stores, even the local gun supplier, have gone out of business.
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