Wednesday, September 10, 2008

America's last resort community

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.


Anonymous said...

Went to the nearby Hard Rock Hotel for breakfast. I recommend their signature “hash & eggs” imported directly from Columbia.

Columbia Pictures has their own drug lab?! Cool!

Doktor Frank Doe said...

I thought that was you walking past my house in Pacific Beach! Who though were the three lesbians you had with you?

Anonymous said...

Share your love of SD. I lived there for ten years before moving back to L.A. in ’93. The people love to hate Los Angeles for many reasons, the Dodgers being the main target. You could get elected to city council in the 80’s by denouncing the “Los Angeles-ization” of San Diego. All that was for naught; it appears that the building contractors & real estate interests have taken over downtown. 40 story condo towers everywhere. BTW, Amtrak is still the best way to get there.

rob! said...

i've been to san diego a few times for the comic con...i still want to go back there, but this time skip the con!

Dana King said...

I'm very disappointed in you. Not to disparage Tony Gwynn or The Chicken, but Ted Williams was from San Diego.

Annie said...

Writers can't thrive in San Diego - it's an angst-free zone. Except for the Padres. But then there's a difference between angst and just plain stinky.


Tallulah Morehead said...

"it was like I had entered Fidel Castro’s mouth."

"Memories light the corners of my mouth..."

And just when did you enter Fidel's mouth to make the comparison? Fidel entered mine once, but I never went into his. Talk about a Bay of Pigs!

You know, if you put lipstick on a Bay of Pigs, you'll find a dental bridge to nowhere.

Oh, and everyone who lives in San Diego is an expert of foreign relations, since they're so close to Mexico.


Michael the G said...

Nice travelogue Mr. Levine,

All jokes aside, if you want a nice beach in SD you have to hit Torrey Pines. Public, cheap, surrounded by state park. No amenities other than showers/bathrooms though so pack a cooler. Bonus, hike through Torrey Pines state Park in the morning while it's cool and then get down to the water once things heat up. Also, a really accomplished swimmer can go from there to Blacks beach for a little new-di-tay ;)

Anonymous said...

yeah, I bet drug production in DC is huge

Anonymous said...

The Yankees' announcing team of 1967 that included Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Garagiola (telling his Yogi stories) was the all-time malapropism annoucing team (which since the Yanks finished ninth in the AL that year, they really needed as some sort of diversion).

Michael Hagerty said...

Every time I go to San Diego, I want to stay...sometimes for a few weeks...sometimes (in the 70s) for a few months. It's amazing how different a place it is from the rest of Southern California.

And Ken, those stations all went Spanish because you weren't on the air attracting listeners anymore (say it with me now, Kay-Eff-Emm, BEE-Eff-Emm, San Diego...B-100 with Better Boogie and Beaver Cleaver....)