Thursday, March 04, 2010

San Diego adventures

Yesterday morning was mostly spent on attempts to get through the crowds here in San Diego that had gathered because of the Chelsea King story. It's very weird to happen by sheer chance to be a block away from the city hall and courthouse where a story that's making national news (and that I'm reading on WCAX's RSS feed) is happening. To get to the store to buy bus passes I had to pass, several times, through a stretch of sidewalk that was thronged with national press with their mobile news vans spiked with satellite dishes and boom mikes, and clusters of crowds, ranging from the anguished San Diegans who are reeling from this tragedy, to bearded men reading from Bibles and ink-stained notebooks about how this is all the fault of Howard Stern or Barack Obama or the false Pope, to the angry people who are shouting about the appropriate poetic forms of justice that should be visited upon the alleged perpetrator (and these people are neither shy nor squeamish about their gory ideas). One whole block was cordoned off in downtown just to bring him in for arraignment while ensuring the crowds didn't skip the legal process, in fact.

I hope this sounds neither trivializing nor condescending, but coming from a town of a few thousand to a city where a dozen buildings within sight of my window each have a population of several thousand every day, I am a little surprised about how personal San Diego is taking it. The photos I've seen on newspapers of the obviously heartfelt candlelight vigils, and the way I've heard locals talk about this, defies the way we who come from small towns where you don't have to lock your doors think that people in cities of a million people deal with crime. Surely, there are many crimes which the people here will shrug off as "that happens every day here" that would be shocking in Montpelier and lead to profound reactions from the community. But the Chelsea King case crossed a line that stirred up these people to an extent that it's easy for small-town folk to imagine cityfolk can't reach anymore, so jaded are they. I guess I shouldn't sell them so short.

During the afternoon we took the bus to Coronado Island, which is not actually an island, but a peninsula. A lot of it has a very strong suburbs feel, and the main drag is quite touristy, with a lot of restaurants and the kinds of shops that sell things no one would ever buy if they were near where they lived. We had a lovely lunch at La Terraza, though it was a bit upscale and expensive, and walked along the shops, then to the beach by Hotel Del Coronado, the huge, sprawling, iconic hotel on the beach that's famous for (amongst other things) being where Some Like It Hot was filmed.

We walked on the beach for a while, during which I stupidly got my shoes and socks wet, so spent a while barefoot while getting them mostly dried. In March, the ocean is too cold to swim in, though sure enough there were some people doing it anyway, and the inevitable surfer. But it's not too cold for wading. Heck, it was about the same as the beach in Maine in the low season.

The architectural style is distinctively southwestern with lots of that "adobe" style of building -- I don't know the proper names for it, but you know the look. For a while I was having mixed reactions, as if the whole thing were an affectation, which is obviously absurd: this is where that look comes from. I eventually realized why. My only other exposure to being amongst this architectural style was a business conference in Disney's Coronado Springs resort in Florida, which (obviously) was just layers of affectation on top of contrivance on top of fakery. The similarity of name is perhaps no coincidence: I bet whoever designed Coronado Springs was familiar with Coronado Island, since more than just the style matched, there were specific things that seemed to match up. Or maybe I'm reaching. Coronado is after all a pretty obvious name, and maybe the specific layouts of markets and restaurants I saw are simply more of the same style.

Dinner was at Miguel's Cantina, and mostly very good. The chile relleno was well-done; the tamale, a little bland, though the gravy on it was excellent. All in all, it was more like the Tex-Mex standard, complete with all those "combination plates", than like authentic Mexican. But we're supposed to get some of that tonight.

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