San Diego, California is a huge slice of middle America on the West coast.
Living in San Diego wasn’t the dream that I’d hoped it would be. I will admit to being mightily impressed by the skies that looked at first like nature’s bluest painting, but even that got old as I found myself yearning for the beastly rain. I found no comfort in the slow-talking dudes in backwards baseball caps and shorts, or the women who found it their life’s mission to be up and jogging at the break of dawn.
I didn’t like the fact that I once trailed a source of light to McDonald’s in an effort to scope out some night action. And no, I couldn’t be pacified by the idiotic cacophony of Pacific Beach, the tame movements of Hillcrest’s supposed gay district, and the unabashed pretensions of North Park’s rich hipster kids.
But of course, that wasn’t all of it. There were mountains and hiking trails that made for sweaty and thirsty afternoons, a few interesting (though not very welcoming) intellectuals, a fisherman who also happened to be a Lucero fan, and a smart world-traveling cook whose friendship I later gained.
True to SoCal’s reputation, San Diego’s got some fine sights and hiking available. You can move from ocean to mountains in half an hour, and find yourself truly mesmerized by jaw-dropping vistas. Some are much harder than others (El Capitan for instance), but many aren’t that difficult to hike.
The second largest state park in the US lets you camp not just in the predetermined campgrounds but anywhere safe you desire. The dry air combined with the total lack of artificial lights visible from most of it lend a whole new meaning to stargazing. Be careful going off trail though, every single plant here is thorny and sharp. Watch the agave in particular, it can seriously cut you. And I’m still getting jumping cholla spines out of my jeans and boots half a year later.
Almost Perfect Weather
No seasons – hardly any rain and lots of sun. Almost never cold, almost no humidity.
Chicano Park Murals
Great (in both quality and size) works labored on by great artists. Chicano Park has a bunch of them in a small area, and they’ve just been restored. Do not listen to rumors and Yelp allegations about this area being dangerous, it just isn’t.
Russian-Georgian restaurant so great it bears a special mention here. There was a pervading sense of glory and wonderment every time I found myself in it. I can only hope to give this restaurant the righteous ode that it deserves at a later post.
The old Yellow Food Truck
Maybe it was wrong of me to assume El Jefecito’s California Burrito was portentous of many more great eats to come in San Diego, but alas it was one of the few. I’ll never forget the beefy deliciousness, the boiled (not fried!) seasoned potatoes, and the tasty avocado all rolled up inside the comfort of a warm flour tortilla. It was a Mexican gastronomic milestone that I kept hoping to make more of but just didn’t despite all of my attempts. I can’t make any guarantees as to their latest parking spot but my last taste of their shrimp burrito (after a separation of over a year) was in front of Kenwood Market in Spring Valley.
If you only have one chance to drink coffee in San Diego, you must try Cafe Virtuoso. And make sure to ask for their Amaro Gayo and coconut muffin if they’re available.
In my almost two years of living in San Diego, I have only managed to jump into the water a grand total of an hour. The water had often been too cold that everyone else was just parading their nakedness, or apparent laziness by laying in the sand close to the seagulls. I never did get the point of walking that 15-minute steep trail to Black’s only to nap by the unswimmable beach.
I have talked to two d-bags in New York so far who claimed to have visited San Diego but could only remember this overhyped spot found in every tourist brochures that no one should listen to. I stand by my once irreverent renaming of this touristy area (which smells like French Fry oil BTW) to “Asslamp Quarter: The Historic Fart of San Diego.”
Balboa Park Gardens
While some desert plants are cool, this was just really dry and the Australian garden was a construction site.
I really wanted to check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park but with tickets between $44 and $599+, I just didn’t have time for that nonsense. For comparison, the Bronx Zoo in New York which I have yet to visit is priced at $16 for adults.
This bummed me out to no end every time I’ve had to look at another misspelling, deal with the lack of bookstores, or notice the kids at the library not giving one fuck about the books to be found in it. One time I was corresponding via email with a clueless college student who claimed she searched high and low for my company website which also happened to be my email domain name.
Bland People Culture
This blog does not mean to get political but it’s safe to say I couldn’t identify with the band of bros, untalented hipsters, rich hippies (let that sink in for a second), and Americanized immigrants.
No Coffee Culture
As someone who’s worked in a coffee truck, people couldn’t have been more eager to tell me how to make their favorite McDonald’s shake, or their “grande” Starbucks vanilla caramel macchiato.
And so much of it everywhere you go. You can try introducing the people to better foods, but nothing will get as warm a reception as a deep-fried giant hunk of something with a cheesy “lean” meat filling slathered with that extra sweet mayo or ketchup-based sauce. I think it’s safe to say that’s every successful food establishment’s formula for gaining the local seal of culinary greatness.