San Diego: Nothing to hate here.
After I'd written about a January trip to Florida, a reader chastised me for using such experiences to put down other places while exalting my love for Oregon.
Who, me? Love this state? And confess it in print by lording our virtues over other places' deficiencies?
OK, maybe it's possible. So, I decided to experiment. Now that I'm back from San Diego - friends' daughter's wedding - I'm going to tell you only what I liked about the place, with no comparisons to that, uh, other place where the state flower is roof moss.
Ten great things about San Diego:
1. Eating outside in April. On Sunday afternoon, the downtown's Gaslamp Quarter was full of restaurant-goers eating not only inside but out. On sidewalks. Patios. Decks. Balconies. And, of course, at Croce's Restaurant & Bar, run by the late singer Jim's wife. It all gives you that "time in a bottle" sense of life.
2. Stuff that floats on water, namely ships, boats and surfboards. We had a wonderful view of a sailboat moorage - from a pizza joint. We found a mid-range hotel on Shelter Island that was surrounded by boat yards, moorages and nautically themed restaurants that were a touch more authentic than, say, Skipper's. We ate in the shadow of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier and its four acres of flight deck.
3. Excitement. Everywhere you look, something is happening in San Diego. Sails are being unfurled. A ship is plying the bay. A Navy jet is roaring off the North Island Naval Air Station. Segway-riders are coasting down a sidewalk. Street musicians are jamming. And a Food Network crew is filming for a fall series on food wagons and, before you know it, you're eating shrimp curry fixed by a French food wagon chef while a camera is in your face.
4. Color. Splashes of red and orange and yellow flowers here and there. Clumps of lavender flowers pouring over hillsides like waterfalls. And, of course, those cool-looking bird-of-paradise plants.
5. Warm, ethnically diverse people. I stood on a fishing pier that was like the United Nations with bait boxes. At Sea World - once is enough, folks - our companions on the two rides we took were from Australia, France and the Middle East. Nowhere else.
Park rangers. Wedding guests. Waiters. Quilt shop owners. Virtually all were friendly. Especially the Hispanic guy on the pier who talked fishing with me, then, without my asking, tossed me a foot-long mackerel to feed to a pelican staring me down.
6. A genuine downtown. From hole-in-the-wall restaurants to grand hotels, from baseball's Petco Park to an outdoor mall (Horton Plaza, that looked as if it was built by Dr. Seuss himself), San Diego offers all sorts of reasons for people to heed the words of that '60s urbanist, Petula Clark.
7. A big-town feel in what's really a large city (1.3 million population). There's a certain accessibility to places that belie the bigness of San Diego. A walking path lines much of San Diego Harbor. You land at an airport that's practically in the downtown's backyard. And everywhere you look, you find waterfront parks.
8. A certain willingness to think big without being Texas brash. The commercial architecture pushes the edges without getting all Darth Vader on us. Petco Park may have a lame, commercial name, but you have to love how left field segues into a $5-admission "sandlot" area. There, you can watch the game on a blanket on the grass and kids can literally play in the sand or on a miniature ballfield. And, what's more, our two-story, $129-a-night hotel - hardly lavish - had a built-in amphitheater for outdoor concerts. I expected a lineup of locals. Hardly. The 2010 schedule included the likes of Lyle Lovett, Diana Ross, Sheryl Crow and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
9. Smoking is not permitted on San Diego County Beaches.
10. History. Like nearly all tourists in Southern California, after arriving we immediately headed for a quaint quilt shop in nearby La Mesa. While She Who Speaks Quilts poked around the antique-sprinkled Country Loft, I walked the nearby neighborhoods. Except for the house whose well-kept "grass" turned out to be artificial turf, I've never seen this side of Southern California: neighborhoods stitched together with century-old bungalows, touches of earthy art amid the palm trees and, my personal favorite, a 98-year-old sidewalk featuring the rusted rings to which folks once tied horses.
There, I did it.
I'm healed of my provincialism. I tell you, I'm healed!
A "music and memories" celebration for the late Peter Roberts, whom I wrote about last Sunday, has been set for 7:30 p.m. May 14 at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St.
Bob Welch is at 541-338-2354 or email@example.com.