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AIRPORT

Drive the 5 from downtown and — boom! — just overhead, an aircraft with a bloated belly screams. Wheels down, tilting for landing, 50 yards between plane and road. Or how about having to yell on cell phones in Golden Hill, then pausing as jet engines roar past? That roughly sums up the essence of the San Diego airport: it's our downtown airport, not an abstract method of arrival or escape tucked away in the outskirts. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made San Diego the starting point for the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. The Dutch Flat airfield boasted a flat dirt strip (eventually the world's first lighted runway), an unassuming shack of a control tower, the original aviation radio, and a lone passenger terminal that looked like an airplane hangar.

Today, 15 million people jet through our good city's veritable hub, the busiest single-runway commercial airport in the United States, Lindbergh Field.

BORDER TOWN

Ever heard Mexico's national anthem on the radio at midnight? Noticed the strange yellow road signs in our county that depict a family holding hands, ducking and running? Tried to drive north and gotten stuck in traffic at a peculiar patrol station?

Whatever else San Diego may be, it's also a border town.

Border towns are either last refuges or first respites, depending on which side of the border you're from. With frontier status comes a special civic duty — guardianship — a source of both pride and alarm. The identity of a city is alternately clarified and confused by the way it sits along the edge of what it is not.

Our sister city, Tijuana, dates from around 1830. Once just part of a large cattle ranch, it did not become a municipality until 1917, the same year that San Diego banned cabaret dancing and nightclubs. Hmmm.

Nowadays there is something of a symmetry to the relationship. The folks from the south come here, as they long have, for better-paying jobs, finer merchandise, and safer opportunities. We head down there for cheap health care, cheap pharmaceuticals, cheap shopping, and cheap fun. (For "cheap" one might substitute "risky.")

We can cross into Mexico in 20 seconds flat. Returning might take the better part of a hot afternoon.

CHARGERS


(a play in one act)

  • Dramatis Personae:
  • KENT, a Chargers fan
  • BLUTO, a Raiders fan
  • RADIO ANNOUNCER

Setting: Qualcomm Stadium Parking Lot. Thousands of parked cars and trucks with their tailgates down. Tents set up, grills churning smoke; groups of people talking, slugging beer, and tossing footballs.

The scene: KENT, wearing a blue and gold argyle sweater, stands in line at a Porta Potti. BLUTO files in behind him, holding an old transistor radio up to his ear. BLUTO's bearded face is painted black. He wears a silver cape over an official Raiders jersey. Black weightlifter pants are tucked into his point silver boots. On his head is a black-and-silver bandana.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, does anyone else feel the way I do about the Chargers? (BLUTO snorts and suppresses a laugh. KENT notices BLUTO behind him and shifts uneasily from foot to foot.) Poor team! Wait forget that... Poor us! Why do we stay fans for..for...this? Forty-three years, one championship -- and that was in the AFL! Now we've suffered through 34 years in the NFL, with only ten division titles, on esince 1994. Twelve playoff appearances, but only one since 1995. What is this team? The Bolts or the Dolts? (BLUTO says, "Uh, Dolts?" and laughs loudly.) The San Diego Chargers boast futility like few other teams in the National Football League. (KENT glances around and tries to inch away from the situation brewing behind him.)

BLUTO: You got a problem? What you lookin' at?

KENT: (sotto voce) If I ignore him maybe he'll leave me alone.

BLUTO: What's-a matta? Can't talk smack when you a fan a da worst team in da league?

KENT: Hey. Hey now.That's enough, buddy. Let's see who's talking after the game.

BLUTO: (scoffs) You dink you'll have somedin' ta talk about aftah da game?

KENT: Well, that's why they play 'em, right? We'll just see.

BLUTO: (mockingly) Oooh. Dat's touching. You still believe.

DR. SEUSS

Of all the grand places that Dr. Seuss went,

Not Dartmouth nor York nor the city of Ghent,

Not Whoville nor Frewn nor Pelustilagoya

Was better to Seuss than the town of La Jolla.

He lived here for years in a tower and wrote

Animation and stories and books of vast note.

He spoke for the trees and the air and the beaches

And made up new creatures like Grinches and Sneetches

And Gacks and Loraxes and Nizzards and Yooks

And Ooblecks and Flunnels and Fibbels and Zooks

And Foo-Foo the Snoo and Hinkle-Horn Honkers

And Gussets and Guffs and Humpf-Humpf-a-Dumpfers.

One century ago, just this past year,

Ted Geisel was born without too much fanfare.

But now we have festivals and wide celebrations

Where people toast "Seuss" and sip tipsy libations.

EXPENSIVE

Space, energy, time, you name it: San Diegans are hard pressed to afford it. A modest, boxy house with no yard in La Jolla costs the same as an estate sprawling across numberless acres in upstate Connecticut. Gas runs 35 cents a gallon higher in San Diego than in Oklahoma City. A #1 Value Meal at a McDonald's in Iowa City costs $1.60 less than it does on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach.

One might point out that San Diegans get paid more than most Americans do, but a median income 14 percent above the national average hardly makes up for a cost of living index 40 percent higher than normal.

And why is this the case? Two words: sunshine, baby. Perfect weather. Never too hot, never too cold. We all want to live here, and we'll pay an arm and half a leg to do it.

FISH TACOS

In 1996 they were dished out downtown to the party faithful swarming around Bob Dole at the Republican National Convention. Perhaps the politicos had been hipped to the city's famed dish the year before, when San Diego mayor Susan Golding had to send muchos fish tacos to her San Francisco peer to pay off a losing bet on our beloved Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. The Padres roll them out at every home game.

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