Club Soda and Salt

No more stains

Travel: San Diego

Posted by clubsodaandsalt on December 8, 2008

Thanks to my job and my general restlessness, I get around a lot. And, thanks to my job and my general restlessness, a key part of any trip for me is a speedy assessment of the location I’m in, the key question being – could I live here? The truly memorable places I’ve been – Buenos Aires, London, or Moab – tend to be places where the answer, for me at least, is yes. This brings me to my recent visit to San Diego. I’ve visited the whale’s whatnot a couple of times now, and both visits have seen me wistfully browsing apartment listings in the Gaslamp Quarter or Ocean Beach.

If you know me, and you know Southern California, you know that this is a big deal. I’m the type of person who obsesses over subway maps, puts Streetsblog on my RSS reader, and rants about the folly of rejecting congestion pricing to anyone foolish enough to stay within earshot when the topic comes up. I complain when I can park on the street for free (no, really, ask my long-suffering spouse), and shoot unseen dirty glares at cabbies who intrude on bike lanes. I know what Barnes Dances and woonerfs are, and would love to tell you why they are great. Point is, I am a dyed-in-the-wool pro-transit anti-car blowhard. So, obviously, I feel about Southern California the way a monetary policy expert might feel about Zimbabwe, or Alan Greenspan. The fact that I would even briefly consider a move to the Mount Sinai of America’s main religion says something pretty significant about San Diego’s natural beauty, and the weather — the perfect weather. Rest assured that even thinking about the weather again has led me to fire up SD Craigslist in another tab.

The fact that every day in San Diego is sunny and 70 degrees is pretty compelling in itself, but let me share with you other tidbits from my latest trip:

I am completely obsessed with Baja fish tacos, and my wife and I got all 10 of the ones we ate this weekend at El Indio. First of all, the cod* is perfectly battered and fried, such that you get that delightful crispiness with none of the feeling that you drank a cup of whatever was in the deep fryer that so often accompanies a fried fish. The crispiness is aided by the fresh shredded cabbage, which is combined with some manner of light sauce that creates a coleslaw type of effect, but isn’t cloying in that way that coleslaw has. But wait, there’s more – the entire concoction is wrapped in corn tortillas that were made about 15 minutes before you eat them.** And the whole operation is just a 5 minute drive from the airport, making it a great pit stop upon arrival or departure. The experience is slightly marred by posters of that annoying rednecky-looking guy from the Food Network, but the fact remains that it’s not clear to me why anyone in San Diego ever eats anywhere else. I love El Indio.

I mentioned the natural beauty. There’s a lot of it everywhere in San Diego, despite the fact that the city apparently makes every effort to hide it with highways and glass condos and pointless convention centers. I’m not American, so I have to ask – why are you guys so eager to build white elephant convention centers? Did the Millennium Dome teach you nothing? I have never seen a convention center that I did not want burned to the ground. Whoever decided to block San Diego Bay from the public with the behemoth near Petco Park should be flogged. But I digress.

Most people head for La Jolla or Coronado to experience the San Diego beach culture, and those are fine places indeed. However, I think my favourite place in the city – quite possibly in any city – is Sunset Cliffs, in the Ocean Beach neighbourhood. As the name might suggest, you should go there at sunset. And, you know, the sunset will be pretty, and I could write a lot of bad semi-poetic prose to that effect. But what I really like about Sunset Cliffs is the danger. Consider this – many of the cliffs are made of sand. You can get pretty sunsets anywhere, but where else can you combine the soothing qualities of dusk with the terror that comes from noticing that a thousand little fissures are plotting to have the ground you occupy abruptly and fatally secede from the rest of the lower 48 states? Nowhere else I’ve been, I’ll tell you that much.

And it gets even better – the local surfers have upped the doom quotient by giving you the option to shuffle your way down the cliff, where, halfway between civilization and one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (and I was born in Barbados, people) you can hang from a rope – god knows when or by whom it was tied around a local boulder – and rapel down to the seaside. Along a cliff that is, you will recall, made of sand. In our overly litigious society, opportunities to endanger yourself for no good reason are precious few, and I salute the powers that be in San Diego for allowing us morons just this one. I love Sunset Cliffs.

If you go to San Diego, do these things. Avoid Seaworld. And curse the people who put decided that a perfect corner of the world should be planned by the motorheads. And then tell me if you know of any openings for management consultants there.

* I think it’s cod. It’s usually cod with these things, right? Let’s face it – I have no idea. It could be snapper.

** I don’t know this for a fact, but it tastes fresh enough that I am happy to make up a time that sounds plausible and delicious.


2 Responses to “Travel: San Diego”

  1. Jen said

    This post is hilarious.

  2. Norman said

    Hi – stumbled onto this blog from someone else’s – and you’re waxing poetic. You should convince Piyush to move down to SD!

    And at the risk of birthing a debate about transportation, I posit (without knowing much about SD) that SD’s population is insufficiently concentrated to permit subways, but perhaps only light rail or dedicated bus lines would work.

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