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So although I don't remember my first kiss, I am fairly certain that the 2nd through the 78th came from him. Every one of them, in National City.

-- Jennifer C. Cooke


O.B. PARROTS LOVE BEAN BURRITOS

Half-past sleep, quarter to wake, my dreams are invaded by the noises of morning. The windows rattle with the passing garbage truck, beeps and whistles of nearby construction pierce the air, the thunder of the day's departing flights resounds low over the palm trees, and the screeching-squawking of the furious parrots puts a somnolent smile on my face. The parrots: transplants like the rest of us -- who can blame them? Waking up in Ocean Beach: the cacophony of my neighborhood in the mid-a.m.

I open my eyes. The weather will say "overcast" -- but all I see is silver lining.

A symphony such as this, what might be a headache for some, is for me a daily sacrament which gently stirs me from slumber. I sit, stand, stretch, a little downward-facing dog; I sing a little song for the plants -- and walking out among the birds, the breeze, and the local crazies, I remember once again why I call this town my home.

I say "my" home because Ocean Beach is mine. A part of it is mine, and I am an integral part of Ocean Beach. I am reminded of this fact as I meander down the street toward the plant-garlanded coffee shop, meeting friends I've seen for years without ever knowing their names.

The guy with the guitar, the iguana man, the wood-burning guy -- without them, a walk to coffee would not seem complete.

As I pass the window of my workplace, I think of how, tonight, the macabre darkness of this cave will become a carnival bazaar full of people, music, drinks, and friends -- with and without names.

"Don't give him any money," a stranger says as my friend and I pass a panhandler. "They only use it for drugs." I look at the homeless man -- he is sunburned, bearded, and sitting under an awning to avoid the blazing sun. I momentarily consider what the person says, but it's too late: I've already dropped my coffee change into his cup. The stranger, some elitist-type, shakes his head and walks away.

"To each his own," says my friend, and we continue down the street.

When we reach the beach, we practically fall over the wall and into the sand. We lumber along, saddling coffees, bags, and blankets, waving and smiling to various acquaintances, and finally meet our friends and pop-a-squat -- and not long after, taste our first delicious beer.

Almost immediately, a reddy-bearded Irishman with an enormous red satchel wanders over and introduces himself. Hand extended, blue eyes square on mine -- "Rick O'Shea!" -- he gently unfolds his sack. He tells us his story, revealing his past and his handmade crystal jewelry all at once. Rick O'Shea, noticing my friend Renee's peace-symbol tattoo, names her "Renegade, the Peace Warrior." The name sticks; it will be days before we realize his name is "Ricochet."

We walk along Newport, past shop windows, bars, and head shops -- we witness two parrots on a telephone wire who are obviously having sex; they are not being discreet about it in the least. We laugh and pretend not to watch them until they finish. One parrot squawks to the other, "So...this is awkward. I'll call you?"

I am secretly dreading going to work, and alas, before we know it, it's time. We sneak one last beer at the Pizza Place -- what the hell, we split a pitcher -- and I'm off to work the night shift.

The night begins easily enough; some friends come and go; I sneak into the back for refreshments; the patrons, though exclusively PBR drinkers, are good tippers. Nonetheless, I begin to realize I won't be walking with good money tonight.

There is a bar fight, someone is kicked out. Someone spills a cocktail, and I get to clean it up. Some asshole at the bar keeps flicking coasters at the customers. "Relax," I tell myself. "Only five more hours!"

Finally, it seems that the night is drawing to a close. I take a shot and start to think it was all a bad dream. I'm taking the final drink orders when I see a mean-looking man sitting with his ass inside the garbage can and talking on a cell phone. "Great," I think. "A drunk Sesame Street character."

"Excuse me," I say politely. "You can't sit in the trash, okay?"

"Hey, fuck you, Blondie!" he says, and resumes his conversation.

By now, I'm not only pissed but a little hurt. I get the doorman to kick him out, and after cleaning up some puke in the bathroom and counting my tips -- meager -- I'm out the door in a jacket-flap. What a night!

I wander through town. The shops are closing, the streets are clearing, everything is dark. My friends, by now, are all asleep. I had such high hopes this morning -- what happened to my perfect day? I can think of nothing more appropriate but to drown my sorrows in a bean burrito from El Rodeo. They understand me there, even if they don't speak English.

I walk, erm, stumble over to the taco-shop-slash-tattoo-parlor. I've just placed my order when I realize -- oh God, no! -- I've left my tips at work. "GOD IN MERCIFUL FUCKING HEAVEN," I cry in desperation. Looking around at the bums, the drunks, I ask myself: What am I doing with my life?

"Está bien," says a voice.

"What?" I lift my head to see the lady behind the counter handing me my burrito. "But I didn't pay ?"

She nods in the direction of the street. "He pay for you."

I turn towards the street just in time to see a man walking quickly away. Who the...? Then I realize who it is. It is the man from this morning, the "panhandler" to whom I'd given my coffee change. I smile, take my burrito, and thank the lady.

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Comments

jileen Sept. 16, 2008 @ 9:02 p.m.

So, the "Neighborhood Story" contest is over? Sorry I never saw a deadline for entries. I still have a dilly about 27 years in Escondido, the current anti-Latino City Council, and the non-existent "parking problem" they continue to pursue.

Here's a nutshell: The "Los Arboles" neighborhood (boundaries 2nd & 5th Avenues by Ash & Date) was the happy-happy/joy-joy recipient of a heavily tax-payer funded neighborhood renewal project less than a decade ago. We got sidewalks, streetlights, and water-gulping trees in what had been a hotbed of teen gang activity for years. However, those sidewalks eliminated the only off-street parking for both the renters & owners of numerous duplexes & triplexes that have existed since the 1950s.

Where city-approved expansions had eliminated the single-car garages in favor of an additional rental, only curbside parking remained. The many 2-3 bedroom triplexes suffered the same fate, but progress is worth it, right?

NOW, the rabidly anti-poor council wants to "eliminate" a parking problem the $49,000 study says does not exist. Like the landlords who were supposed to shoulder the burden of ridding Escondido of the "dreaded" Latinos, those of us who suffered through those two years of invasive & disruptive "improvements" are crying foul.

I hope someone will reply... ~jill

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Reader Staff Sept. 17, 2008 @ 9:25 a.m.

Jileen:

We've turned last year's neighborhood story contest into a monthly neighborhood blog contest. Here're more details: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2008/aug/01/neighborhood-blog-contest/

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