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San Diego, California. Looking out over the harbor, runway, freeway from the elegant little house on Thorn Street. Scott and Sandra go to work early so I have these mornings to think about California and family and my life. You can join me if you like for a few sessions of nostalgic sharing.

San Diego was home for a while in the 90s. I actually lived up in Escondido, commuting down here to the city for that MSW I used so briefly and for several of my various jobs—the most interesting of the latter as a night supervisor in a halfway house for men getting out of the pen. My security weapon being one of those giant flashlights that could easily render a large meanie unconscious. The residents were an interesting lot, from the OCD bank robber who stayed up scrubbing floors most of the night to a Charles Keating son-in-law caught up in the Arizona Savings and Loan scandal whose perfectly blonde, tan and expensively garbed wife came to pick him up for weekend leave. The work I did here, both the internships and the survival positions, were uniformly interesting: halfway houses and homeless shelters and soup kitchens and they deserve a blog all their own.

The 90s could be characterized as my furlough from Albuquerque, first to San Francisco then Minnesota and back to California, San Diego this time, and finally to Minnesota. It was a time of professional and educational adventures (and misadventures), financial angst, and personal awkwardness. In many ways the most difficult time was the three years here in this idyllic southland of milk and honey or, better yet, sushi and chardonnay
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The California coast in all its perfect foggy rugged beach-rimmed beauty is no place for people in some sort of mid-life crisis to start over. It’s just too pretty and costly and dreamy and fast and self-conscious and self-assured all at once. I couldn’t keep up. I had long passed the blonde beauty on the beach phase of my life (it only lasted a short Florida moment after all) and I had a BS degree in Teaching/Social Studies with experience running small performing arts centers. Not exactly poised for social or economic success in sunny SoCal. I was in this particular place at this particular time to be around my new grandchildren and poor grandmas just aren’t your most desirable immigrants in any location or culture.

Still, there were the good times and even some very good times. The best were with Teresa and Steven. Teresa and dance events and eating out with my friends and both kids and small picnics and a train trip up to Union Station in LA. And for me, driving up to LA land to visit friends and conduct little investigations of that mythical magical place was the best. Kathy and I ate at the pizza place where Nicole had her last meal; and every chance with a visiting friend I drove Sunset Boulevard and up into those famous canyons; and sometimes I just drove up Pacific Coast Highway to feel like an old fashioned pre-freeway Californian.

San Diego doesn’t have that LA magic but I loved a lot of things about it. Downtown, which is now the place to live, was still a bit tattered but Hillcrest was always interesting. Teresa and I roamed about there from time to time looking for book and paper items to which I like to think I addicted her at an early age. San Diego State sat in the hills just northeast of downtown where I dutifully pursued a master’s in Social Work, thinking somehow it would make me financially stable while doing interesting things. Yeah, and how did that work out Marjorie? Well it did in the end I suppose since it’s partly why I have my present generally wonderful job.

There is a magic about this coast. I am forever hooked on the light, which unlike New Mexico’s relentless brightness, is always at least slightly tinged with fog, smog or some kind of cosmic oceanic reverberation. And the built environment is all bright and shiny…at least where we usually view things—from the road. Increasingly all sightlines are filled with red-roofed neat and new and clean malls and the golden hills just behind are increasingly carpeted over with…

Little Boxes Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990. Malvina and her husband were on their way from where they lived in Berkeley, through San Francisco and down the peninsula to La Honda where she was to sing at a meeting of the Friends’ Committee on Legislation (not the PTA, as Pete Seeger says in the documentary about Malvina, “Love It Like a Fool”). As she drove through Daly City, she said “Bud, take the wheel. I feel a song coming on.”

2 thoughts on “SoCal

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