Herschel and Silverado, La Jolla: The buildings on this corner in La Jolla don't reek of money: a print shop, a Travelodge, It could be a corner in another part of San Diego. But the people walking the sidewalks! For some reason La Jollans lend themselves to stereotypes. Especially these fashionable mesdames. They all look as if they've just come up from the Saks store down on Girard — nice opulent pants suits and winter coasts, imported shoes and perfectly coiffed hair: a uniform. The men, on the other hand, are two types, the retiree, white-haired, suntanned but wrinkled face, cardigan sweater, baggy slacks and comfortable shoes. He's come too far and lived too long to be fastidious about fashion. And the young stockbroker (are there really more stockbrokers in La Jolla than anywhere else?) with his expensively cut suit and longish but carefully styled hair. As the bus pulls up, it becomes clear that none of these sidewalkers are going to board. Only a few women in white dresses get on.
A small-boned girl in white uniform just makes it; she throws her quarter in the change box and plops down next to a middle-aged lady with bright red lipstick and a bright red turtleneck. "I just served my last customer!" she gasps. "It's an hour-and-a-half bus ride to North Park as it is, without missing my bus." It seems as though the lady is a friend, but then the girl launches into a life story ("...and then I worked for the Navy for two years...") so the lady must be a new audience. Occaionally the black woman on the sideways seat in front of the conversation turns her head to listen more carefully, as do two grandmothers on the other side.
Girard and Pearl: The streets are bulging with busy Christmas traffic, lots of El Dorados adn Continentals. More older people get on. A tall but frail man in his eighties is led by his wife, "Here, dear. You sit over here. Where there's more sun." Are they tourists? She has three little white and red signs knitted on her blue sweater, "Vienna," "Rome," "Madrid." Two small children with straw hair bounce up the steps and into their seats clutching brown envelopes of "School Portraits."
La Jolla Boulevard: Clean apartment buildings with large bay windows, palm trees and meticulous landscaping line this coastal artery. But the giant eucalyptus dominate the street and give it real grace. Unfortunately, there aren't any sidewalks here, so a passer-by can only experience this part of San Diego with a whirring window glance. The girl in the white uniform is talking about her first day with the cash register, how she made a 20-dollar mistake, and how embarrassed she felt. The red-lipped lady, who until now has maintained a transfixed gaze, finally breaks into a small laugh, "Oh, I know what you mean." Then the girl starts reviewing her childhood, "...couldn't walk til I was two and..."
Turquoise Street at Mission Boulevard: The red-lipped lady politely excuses herself. "I have to get off now," and an older, stocky woman in another seat who is burdened with two heavy shopping bags immediately moves next to the girl and starts in about the weather. She came to San Diego from Seattle for a 30-day vacation and decided to stay. She likes it here but she misses the apples. The girl and the woman both love San Diego and they get into a discussion of what a problem i would be to marry someone who wanted to live back East. Mission Boulevard is much more commercial than its northern extension: signs for Denny's, Jack in the Box, and Motel Vacancies reach out to grab the passing traveler.
Pacific Beach Drive at Mission Boulevard: Just as the bus leaves Pacific Beach for Mission Beach, two maids get on from the Catamaran, followed by a couple in jeans and army jackets. North Mission Beach, or Old Mission, is populated with one and two-story apartment buildings. Few highrises to block the view, but not much space for yards or lawns between homes. "The serious waterbed" say the sidewalk bust-stop benches, and the small shops hugging the boulevard speak of folk music, homemade clothes and handcrafts. "The Cave" bears its ugly fangs of stalactites and stalagmites and the Get It On Shop ("your full-service headshop") flashes the infamous poster of naked Burt Reynolds and a blow-up of the ubiquitous Zig-Zag cigarette papers man. North Mission is definitely poorer than South Mission (Mission Beach south of Belmont Park) and the fact that the buses no longer stop in richer South Mission tells you something about bus riders.
The older woman is now dominating the conversation with the girl, telling her about raising sweet peas. The girl manages to get in a word about her sister who was a medic in the Army.
Midway Drive: This street must be one of the best pieces of Southern California pop art. The signs scream "Everybody Loves Milk." "Smirnoff/We invented the Screwdriver," "Taco Bell," "Chinaland." The San Diego City Council's attempt to cut down on- and off-premise signs seems designed for Midway. Some students from the Midway Adult School, many Mexican and black, climb aboard. A man at the back door of the bus who has released wafts of alcohol throughout the bus yells at the driver that he's missed his stop.
Pacific Highway: After a brief stretch of freeway, the bus heads toward downtown by way of Pacific Highway. Now the girl is talking about her life in a convent and the woman begins her reply, "gotta lotta friends that's Cath'lic." Other passengers exchange comments about the weather, gloating over their relatives in the East: "Heard it was five below zero in Chicago yesterday," a man tells the bus driver.
Horton Plaza: One of a huge crowd, I wait for the "O" bus to San Ysidro, transfer in hand. A group of Mexican ladies and I almost get on an O bus for National City by mistake. A chunky Mexican man takes us under his wing and puts us on the right bus. Within a few stops almost all the passengers are speaking Spanish and ti's difficult to understand the three sets of housewives across the aisle. One pair seems to be complaining about food prices, another discussing marital problems.