In the copy of SLINGSHOT Morrison dropped off for me was a piece he thought I might like (it turned out he had, in fact, read something of mine that included a description of my back porch office). The headline was “LIVE SMALL: Economic Growth Expands Into World Mess, By PB [sic] Floyd.”
It began: “Living small… the opposite of always wanting more. For people in developed countries with access to incredible material abundance, living small means using less resources, less space, and having less stuff than we perhaps could have. It can mean practicing voluntary simplicity that emphasizes free time, community, engagement, meaningfulness, stillness…not necessarily achievement, status, and constant activity.” The piece went on at some length, a socioeconomic essay that included some ecology, psychology, and other issues, but it kept coming back — or at least I did — to the phrase “figuring out what is enough.” The question was, and is: enough of what? The Friendship Hotel falls short of my living needs in only one area — well, after elbow room for guests, spotty Wi-Fi access, and the inadvisability of playing amplified guitar — and that is enough space for my books.
It has been an extremely convenient location. Within a few short blocks are Chipotle Mexican restaurant — no lard, and if not cheap, neither is it unreasonable — Whole Foods, Ralphs, Kinko’s (very handy for me), and several main bus routes that can be accessed a half-block away. If this reads like a recommendation in a travel guide, something like “San Diego on $60 a Day,” if that’s possible, so be it. If nothing else, it may serve to counterbalance an Internet site about the Friendship titled “Horror on Eighth Ave,” in which someone bemoans the lack of luxuries. Parking in the hotel lot is one (approximately $40 per week, but neighbors I’d spoken with had no complaints about finding spots within one or two hundred feet; laundry facilities were less than ten feet from my door).
During the summer of 2008, another man I knew moved into the hotel from New York. Rick Ortiz, a 56-year-old ex-amateur/Silver Gloves boxer, radio personality in Chicago, professional cook (his Puerto Rican cooking would indicate chef), and substance-abuse counselor (at Donovan State Prison, for one), checked in to write his book, tentatively titled Heroin Chronicles, about the effects of the Harrison Act in 1914. Part novel-like memoir and part persuasive document indicting the failed war on drugs, he chose this place to work. Although we had known each other elsewhere, it was, coincidentally enough, or preciously if you like, the Friendship Hotel where we became friends.
I paid $253.13 every week for my air-conditioned room with sundeck, bathroom, atmosphere, and whatever ghosts might have forgotten to check out. I think that’s the high end there. The Friendship is not to be confused with the Marriott or even Motel 6.
The Friendship has been officially declared “Historic, a ‘Landmark’ in San Diego,” Tim Winterstein, an employee and maintenance worker at the Friendship, told me. The neighbors apparently were unamused by this, the idea being that less than celebrity/wealthy musicians, writers, and artists were undesirable in their backyards, to say nothing of the fixed-income folk and/or disabled, often less-than-glamorous guests of the hotel. I include myself here, though my income is maddeningly unfixed.
Hillcrest neighbors may take comfort in the Friendship’s policy of insisting that guests check out every 28 days for 24 hours. This may be inconvenient for some, but the idea is that the hotel is not a residential hotel, technically, and this policy goes some distance in preventing court disputes with those claiming long-term tenancy.
As for a detailed history of this landmark, that may have to wait for a book, and it would likely be one worth reading.