Author: Tennyson

Neighborhood: Clairemont

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired

A rainy-day trip to Wings on Newport (amuse the outta-town guests — Seattle/Pasadena — with some local O.B. color), my oldest granddaughter approaches with an obscenely blue shell embellished with a garish Tweety Bird. “Grammy, can I get this hermit crab? I will pay with my own money! He can live at your house, here in San ­Diego!”

No! Of course I say “no.” A common character defect: I open my mouth before engaging my brain. What the hell would I want with a hermit crab? But I look at this kid — almost a teenager, on the verge of real babe-hood — and me, now 100 miles away. The lightbulb flashes: We can keep in touch; we can email about the crab soon to be known as “Bob.” So…okay, you can get him, but ditch that blue shell for a “real” one. She does, and on that rainy day, bobthehermitcrab leaves the edgy, gritty splendor that is Ocean Beach and comes to the strip-mall/tract-house haven that is ­Clairemont.

When I moved here earlier this year I wanted to live in O.B. or maybe Point Loma. Clairemont just ­wasn’t parta the plan, but houses in O.B./Point Loma were trashy or scary or too small or too expensive or not receptive to the 100-pound dog that shares housing with me (and now Bob!). So here we are in Clairemont in a condo — too good to be true. And Clairemont, well, it just is not all that ­bad.

I grew up in a waterfront town east of Seattle. Bill Gates et al. have turned that small haven into an art gallery–

infested chichi wonderland, and you need to drive to a town ten miles away to buy socks or underwear. In Clairemont, commerce that sustains real life is all around us, everywhere. I have never seen so many everyday-life stores all practically within walking distance. And the people — they are all smiling! In the Vons, the pet store, the key place — all are smiling. I know all the guys in Home Depot from helpful and happy encounters. I can see the sunset from my dining room, the bay view is a two-minute drive… and the off-leash park? Where else could there be an off-leash park with an almost 200-degree ocean/bay/skyline view like ­Cadman?

My neighbors in this tiny complex all seem to know each other, look out for each other, notice cars and wanderers that do not belong, and actually approach with a “Do you live here? May I help you?” I was welcomed with goodies. I awoke on ­Valentine’s Day to find a little bag of heart-shaped candies on my doorknob, and everything I want, everything I need is less than eight miles in any direction. La Jolla in the morning, downtown in the afternoon, Sunset Cliffs at sunset — all easy drives. And then back to Clairemont, safe and comfortable by a real fire with the big dog, bobthehermitcrab, and another email from the kid detailing the website she has set up for the care and nurturing of Bob (one section: “Bob the crab in puberty” — she adds, “if he lives that long”) and how we can blog each other re: his ­progress.

From a six-figure corporate controller to a cyberspace grammy in the suburbs — I rush too quickly to judgment. Clairemont is teaching me once again to remember the ­Stones’ profound epiphany: We may not always get what we want, but in Clairemont I just ended up getting everything I need, and I like that. Clairemont is not just ­Bob’s but my new neighborhood, too, where I am cherishing the lesson that somehow took a junk-store hermit crab and the friendly, happy, down-to-earth folks in Clairemont to help me ­see.

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Comments

seanaob May 4, 2009 @ 2:02 p.m.

Tennyson.

Welcome to the San Diego area and thank you for visiting Ocean Beach. O.B. is a destination rather than a place that you go through on the way to somewhere else, making your dollars essential for the survival of our local merchants. This relative isolation in the midst of urbanity has also allowed for the preservation of a unique character in Ocean Beach- one that you have noticed and seem to appreciate. This character has come under assault- particularly in the last 8 years.

I am asking you- no, I am begging you- not to spend you money in 'Wings' when you visit Ocean Beach, and to avoid the evil $tarbuck$ that began this avalanche on September 11, 2001, as well as the two Subways that have sprung up, and the Submarina and the Closet which have followed. I am sure there are others I could mention, but you get the idea...

A few doors up from Wings the Shell Shop- a local business that provides a far more unique atmosphere and entertaining goods than the mass produced junk you find in Wings- struggles for survival. We have wonderful local coffee shops, sandwich places, and clothing stores. In these businesses you may actually taste something new and different, or find an article of clothing you can't find at the mall or in the closet of everyone you know. When you come all the way to Ocean Beach, come to try something new- not to enter the same chains you can enter elsewhere.

I think the idea of using 'Bob' to nurture a long-distance relationship with your Granddaughter is wonderful. I'm asking that you think about where you might like to take her when she comes back to visit- do you want to show her something different? Or take her into the same restaurants and shops that she can visit on the East Coast? We too want a community with a business district that serves and represents our community just as you do. We want our small businesses to have a chance to survive. Please help us preserve Ocean Beach by supporting what makes it unique.

And if you MUST enter these places when you come to Ocean Beach, please don't write about it in The Reader. It makes those of us who live here feel crappy.

Seana in OB

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tennyson May 9, 2009 @ 9:36 a.m.

Seana:
OB to me is neither a place nor a destination, it is a state of mind, it is spiritual fulfillment and hopefully Barney, the big dog; bob the crab; and I will become more than what we now are - almost daily visitors. I do not shop at Wings, I avoid not only the OB Starbucks but all Starbucks. The kid approached me on the street with "bob" having been granted permission by the pleasant clerk. I refused to enter, her Aunt from Seattle does not share my sensitivity. I "found" OB in 1985 when my daughter entered SDSU. My return has been a long time coming and I was gratified to find that in 24 years while there have been changes, ,much of the original gritty splendor I discovered at the ol' Quiggs and in the charming neighborhoods remains and when I hit West Pt Loma after crossing Sunset Cliffs, all those 24 year old feelings still speak to me. While I have loved many, OB owns my soul.

The small village I left, South Pasadena, has no "big box" stores and has fought the powers of LA county and Cal Trans for over 50 years stopping a major connecting freeway that would dissect the city - a feat for a city of 27,000 with 3.5 sq miles and a 51% renter population. In other words, I fully appreciate both the content and spirit of your comment and look forward to joining your cause. I am however, grateful for this Clairemont experience not only because 8 miles away beats 120 miles and living here, while pleasant, well I think you can understand how my passion to maintain what OB is has become even more intense.
Tennyson Clark Tennysonclark@gmail.com

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