Went down to San Diego to cover the Dodgers for my KABC radio show. Really caught a break. The weather happened to be good the three days I was there. Talk about living right.
The city that once billed itself as “America’s last resort community” (without realizing there were two ways to interpret that) has really been built up over the last few years. More Radio Shacks and Targets in the ‘burbs and a huge renovation project downtown where the Gaslamp District has become a late night restaurant and bar Mecca. This is not the sleepy provincial San Diego I used to know. Last call is now 11:15!
A big reason for the Gaslamp renaissance: Petco Park, the new downtown home of the San Diego Padres. Folks now have something else to see in the district besides drunken sailors urinating.
Stayed at the team hotel conveniently located right next door to the park. Even the rookies were able to find it. I was assigned a smoking room. I realized this when I opened the door and it was like I had entered Fidel Castro’s mouth. There was not a non-smoking room available, the desk clerk told me moments later. I was desperate. Utility infielder Pablo Ozuna passed by and I almost asked if I could room with him. Handy travel tip: Threaten to sue the hotel for the cost of the iron lung you will need. A non-smoking room was found.
Petco Park is one of those “new with a nod to the old” ballparks. The four-story brick Western Metal Supply Company warehouse remains wedged down the left field line. Also in tact from the original 1909 design are the twelve party suites that were a big part of the Western Metal Supply Company. The outfield dimensions are wacky. There’s like a little jury box that juts out in right field. On one hand you could say it gives the ballpark character. On the other you could say, “Why???”
One concession to the modern era is the signage that is everywhere. I’m surprised the first and third base coaches aren’t obligated to wear sandwich boards. The facades of every level are covered with neon ads. In left field there is one for “Bimbo Bimbo”. I suspect that section is reserved for the players’ first wives.
The Padres still have Hall-of-Famer Jerry Coleman behind the mic. The Colonel is now 84, God bless him. Jerry is famous for classic malaprops. When I broadcast Padres games with him in the mid 90s he had my favorite. “There’s a fly ball to center… foul!”
There’s a statue across the street of former Padre, Tony Gwynn, one of the two greatest citizens to ever come out of San Diego (the mascot Chicken is the other).
For reasons I do not understand there are tanning salons in San Diego.
Went to the nearby Hard Rock Hotel for breakfast. I recommend their signature “hash & eggs” imported directly from Columbia.
The Chargers are the only NFL team that did not sell out their home opener. Make no mistake, San Diego is a big league sports town. But the sport is Boogie Boarding.
A Fischer-Price “Loving Family Dollhouse” in La Jolla now goes for a million-five.
They tout all these great family attractions in San Diego but I was not allowed to tour the guided missile frigate USS Gary at the San Diego Naval Base. Zoos and Sea Worlds I can see anywhere.
You turn on the radio and everything is in Spanish. The only English speaking station I could find was from Tijuana.
Had the ballplayers known there was a nude beach in La Jolla (Black’s ) a group of them might have gone there rather than Legoland. I skipped it as well. Once you reach 30, Black’s Beach is the Gentleman’s Club of the Truly Pathetic.
I did make it out to Pacific Beach however, where old hippies go to die or surf. It’s hard to tell what did more damage, the drugs or the sun. Stores in P.B. include: Big Ass Wheels and Tires, House of Flys, Magic Market, Pink Zone, Atomic Trading Company, Sauce Goddess, Spirit Halloween Superstore, and of course Toxik Shock. But it’s nice that there’s at least one San Diego beach that isn’t gentrified, yuppified, or hotelified. And you can still score some righteous hemp!
My stay was short but as always, I love San Diego. And weather-wise I got out just in the nick of time. Pulling onto I-5 to drive back to Los Angeles I thought I saw a cloud.