18 September 2006

San Diego the mediocre

If anything the last month in San Diego has been much harder than any since I moved here. This is my favourite time of year in Toronto and I can feel the pull of longing play on me. I have not only missed my friends cottage, a yearly retreat that is an excellent way to relax and reconnect with friends, I also missed the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time is six years, as well as the Canadian Opera Companies staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

I was out on the beach getting ready to do some surfing with Michael the other day when he mentioned that because we hadn’t been to the beach in awhile he started to get bored of San Diego. This raises the point of San Diego and southern California in general. If it wasn’t for the weather and the beaches it wouldn’t be worth staying here at all. Remove the beaches from California and you’re living in Arizona. I think I have found that this is just not enough for me.

I know it seems like I heap a lot of scorn on San Diego for it’s lack of cultural interest but it’s true, and the saddest part of it all is that this city doesn’t seem to care. It feels as though this city is happy to have a beach and with that out of the way it has nothing to do with itself. San Diego is a town lacking a purpose and it seems very happy with this distinction. The citizenry of San Diego are more than happy to accept what little they have in the way of cultural relevance and just push forward.

In Toronto I was always hearing about architectural or cultural projects to make Toronto a world class city, San Diego seems to have no interest in this. Maybe this is better; the city has no delusions of grandeur it is content to play a clean if not boring vacation destination that feels no need to enter the pissing match that is the quest for international relevance. This is also a tragedy because it is things like this that make cities great and define them and their people.

I should be happy, I should enjoy this. I make very good money, I live in a clean and safe neighbourhood, the weather is fantastic all year round and there is hiking to be enjoyed everywhere. I suppose this is the great problem I expect more from life. I expect stimulation of some sort, or conflict, or a goal.

There is also one thing I have noticed about San Diego that really bothers me. The homogeneous nature of this town extends to the actions of the citizenry, no one wants to stand out or be proud of anything they are beyond Americans. The Mexicans who make up a large chunk of the population be they legal or otherwise seem to want top hide their heritage and culture. Even the ones I have met who are second and third generation keep that fact behind them like a personal shame. It’s terrible if not a little bit sad. One of the few times I have felt at home was when Michael and I went to eat at a South Indian restaurant and we were the only white people there. There was an unabashed showing of cultural pride, women were in saris and speaking Hindi, it was fantastic. This is what a city is to me and always will be. It is also why in my mind San Diego will never be anything more than a clean and safe if not boring tourist destination.


At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take a mediocre San Diego any day over my now home, New York. I long for the beach and mellow people. If you're looking for people flying their cultural flags, come to New York and watch the many parades that snarl traffic and create stress. I think a look good look around will illuminate some fun cultural activities: The German Club in El Cajon or Oktoberfest in La Mesa and with TJ 15 miles away one can experience all the Mexico they can handle. I'm sure you're clued into the English stuff so check out Manila Mesa. Get out of Hillcrest and look around. HaHa
Enjoyed your take on SD Ryan


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