Remember when we all freaked out about Target moving into South Park? 

Six years later, it still seems funny that this was A Thing

Wow, six years. It’s been six years since Target opened in San Diego’s most stroller-occupied neighborhood. If you had a baby on the same day that Target opened, that child would now be old enough to be more internet famous than me. Remember pre-2015 when we had to go all the way to Mission Valley to buy our La Croix and novelty-intellectual-property shirts? Dark days, indeed. 

Remember all the controversy surrounding its opening? People were very upset! (Even though the 7-11 had already been there for years). Seems kind of silly to think that that’s what we were worried about in 2015. Not that I’m a Target stan or anything, but I would like to go back to the era when everyone was complaining about plastic straws and Targets, and just show a picture of the Capitol building engulfed in tear gas and tell them about 700,000 American deaths from a deadly virus. 2021, baby! 

But hey, complaining about trivial shit is what separates us from the animals. Six years later, are our lives better with South Park Target? No. But are they worse? I mean, yes, but Target had nothing to do with it. 

I was thinking about the drama the other day when I was picking up my cat’s insulin from the CVS in South Park Target, and to commemorate the anniversary of all that hubbub, I decided to revisit the story of when I was given a “press tour” of the store’s opening. 

I really like this article and even though it’s a little dated, it speaks to the timelessness of PR minutia and the protracted slog toward death that defines many press events. I also got to meet Bullseye, the Target dog mascot. Truly a high point in my life.  


Originally published October 2015 in San Diego CityBeat

Pretend you've never seen a Target before. Not just Targets, but department stores in general. Now go deeper into this fantasy and pretend the fundamental tenets of capitalism and consumerism have not been established. Imagine that the world is a cold, desolate place where only your basic needs are met through cruel and unsavory methods, and the concept of owning luxuries is but a dream.

I suspect some iteration of this dystopian fantasy had been on the minds of some people at this Target Express opening in South Park. How else does one explain the sheer hysteria?

The parking lot is jam-packed with activity. News vehicles idle in the emergency zone and white-topped tents indicate the kind of festivities reserved for street fairs. I'm already five minutes late for my scheduled media tour. I end up parking four blocks away.

Since all my correspondence has been with a third-party PR agency, I have no idea who to speak with. I retrieve the email from my phone, scanning the lines: “You're invited,” “food and drink samples” and “photo opportunities with Bullseye, Target's bull terrier mascot.” After my eyes widen briefly (PHOTO OP WITH BULLSEYE! ) I put my phone away and start asking randos in Target uniforms about press tours, always prefacing the conversation with “I'm with the press?” 

I pause to watch people taking pictures with the dog and yearn to be one of them. I see Fox 5 news anchor Kristina Audencial cut in line to interview the dog. She holds the mic next to its mouth and the dog barks. “I think we got it,” someone says.

Before tonight, I'd been pretty ambivalent about Target opening in South Park. Certainly, there's nothing punk about loyalty to a corporation, and South Park is a quaint part of town that instills in residents and visitors a vague sense of small-town-ness. I understand the trepidation that Target will change this.

But on the other hand, uh…shut up? The last thing I want to be is a spokesperson for big business over small business, but c'mon. I'm going to shop there. You're going to shop there. I could spend the rest of my word count putting Target on blast and you'd still go there.

Eventually, I meet up with Erika Winkels, a PR spokesperson for Target, and Robert Farrington, South Park Target's store leader. They're both disarmingly nice, despite the harried nature of our surroundings and their important roles within it. We make introductions and they jump right into how much emphasis was taken to make the store feel “localized.” Farrington points to a mural that lines the back wall, created by North Park artist duo Kreashun, which incorporates elements seen in the neighborhood: Captain Kirk Coffee, the clock at the corner of Fern and Grape, etc.

“Cool,” I say. I think they're waiting for me to express more enthusiasm, so I lift my camera and take a few pictures of it.

“This is where we have a small selection of electronics,” Farrington says, pointing to the glass display in front of me.

And this is the point when I discover that Target’s “media tour” just entails two people guiding me around the store and directing my eyeballs toward things that they sell. 

Again, I lift my camera and take a picture of the glass display of common electronics.

Despite the obligatory nature of the tour, I have to give them both props at how concerned they are with respecting South Park's community. There's no doubt that Farrington—a “born and raised” San Diegan who's worked for Target for more than 14 years—has only the best interests in mind. 

But their focus on community falls very low on my giving-a-shit scale. Honestly, all I really want to know about is the dog.

“What's the deal with Bullseye?” I ask.

“Bullseye's got a good life,” Winkels says. I ask her about how well she knows the dog, and she says they've been to a lot of events together. When pressed, Winkels says there are actually three Bullseyes, and this, folks, is when I hang up my press hat because my work here is done.

The tour ends. Winkels and Farrington leave to attend to vastly more important matters than showing me the inventory. I stand in line to get my photo taken with Bullseye. I get to the front. “Just you?” the lady asks. I nod. They tell me where to stand.

“Can I pet her?” I ask.

“No,” Bullseye's handler says. 

I lean in, careful not to touch the celebrity dog. They take the photo and hand it to me. It's a sad photo: a lone man, excessively happy to be next to a painted dog. It's probably just the first of many, many empty experiences that I'll have in this store.


THE WEEKLY GOODS

Donate to this

You might have heard that I’m going celebrate AWKSD’s second birthday by setting a very dignified and not-at-all-dumb world record this Friday: Most consecutive hours drawing stussies. On Friday, October 1 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. tune into twitch.tv/rybradford and watch me draw those mysterious, stylized S’s until I either die or transcend to a higher level of being (I’m hoping the latter). This is also a fundraiser/subscription drive so I can keep writing for you. Please donate to the Gofundme and thank you for keeping independent, irreverent and anxious stories alive. 

Also, I made a mock-up of a stussy-themed Dr. Seuss (Dr. Steuss) book, and when I tried showing it to the Seuss Estate, they released the hounds on me. 

Get tix to this

If you’re ever feeling down about politics (and really, how can you not?), I highly recommend putting on “The Underside of Power” by Algiers. Not only is it an electro/soul/punk anthem that harkens back to the most radical music of the ‘60s, but, damn, it moves. This Friday, Algiers is going to bring their revolutionary songs to Soda Bar, and it’s definitely one of those life-changing shows you don’t want to miss. And if you’ll indulge some bragging, I got to sing karaoke with the band after the last time they played Soda Bar, and singer Frankie James Fisher did the best rendition of George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90” I’ve ever heard. That probably won’t happen this time, so after the show you should probably just go home and watch me draw stussies.

Watch this (all horror picks until October 31) 

I have a love/hate relationship with the slasher subgenre of horror. I’ll watch any slasher you put in front of me, but I’m probably not going to like it (unless it’s John Carpenter’s Halloween, which is the best movie ever made). I mean, the ‘80s kicked that dead and decapitated horse into the ground, and you could set a watch to the sex-to-killing schedule. However, sometimes a slasher can surprise you, and Curtains is one of them. I think it’s meant to be a “slasher for adults” in that it’s not horny teens getting killed by a masked villain, but desperate, over-the-hill (and, okay yes, horny) adult actors secluded in a filmmaker’s mansion getting killed by someone in an old hag mask. Bizzare and strangely austere, Curtains is a strange footnote in the slasher canon, but it has an ice skating scene that should be as iconic as anything in all of horror. 

Share AwkwardSD


Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at ryancraigbradford@gmail.com, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford. And if you like what you’ve just read, please hit that little heart icon at the end of the post.

Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.