Miranda Mears is sitting on the sea wall at the end of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. Waves crash behind her. The dreary sky covers everything in a blanket of gray. A white hoodie covers Mears’s cropped pink hair. Underneath it she wears a colorful triangle bikini top and a blue button-down tied in a knot at her ribcage. Her skirt hits just below the knee exposing sores on her shins that travel down her leg to her black socks and gym shoes. Mears tunes her guitar while peering down at her belongings that spill out onto the sidewalk below her. At Mears’s right, a couple does yoga on the grass while an older gentleman sits in a lawn chair reading a magazine. He has a sign at his knees that reads: “SKEPTIC.” Underneath the slogan is listed all the things he does not believe in; “UFOs, Pro-Wrestling, Werewolves, Acupuncture, Leprechauns, Spoon Bending, Aromatherapy,” and more.
Behind Miranda a toddler chases seagulls that squawk and circle around a disheveled sun-kissed man who is throwing chunks of bread in their direction. The toddler shrieks in delight each time she causes the birds to flee. Two young guys sit on the wall watching the surfers, laughing when a longboarder wipes out. A couple of tourists take selfies. A guy in worn-in corduroys and a ratty T-shirt sits with two large shepherds at his feet, ropes around their necks. One dog is black, the other white. He is rocking back and forth to stay warm. The young man buries his feet into the fur of the black dog. Meanwhile, a little girl, four or five, with wild curly hair, stares at Miranda as she tunes her guitar. The girl tugs at her mother’s arm. She wants to get closer in order to hear the music. Her feet tap when Mears belts out the Janis Joplin version of “Piece of My Heart.” The mother scrunches up her nose, seemingly disgusted. She leads her daughter away, toward the pier, far from Mears. She is oblivious to the snub. She is engrossed in her music.
Mears, 33, moved to San Diego from New Orleans.
“I wanted to play music for people who were a little bit more sober. You know, less drunk and messed up,” she says with a cackle while tugging at the choker around her neck. Her voice is scratchy with a slight Southern twang.
“When I got here, I was told this was the beach to check out. I heard some of the beaches are bad — like Imperial. I don’t know,” she says with a shrug, “this whole beach life is weird. Ocean beach is artsy. That’s a big reason I’m here. I didn’t fit in on the East Coast. I fit in here.”
Mears came to this conclusion over the past few weeks. She has been in town since September 8th. Her husband left New Orleans first. He flew out last February and took a job as a mortician at a funeral parlor in Chula Vista. Apart from New Orleans, Mears has lived in Atlanta, Houston, Long Island, and Pensacola.
“My husband doesn’t have his own place yet. He doesn’t even have his own car. With the money he makes, it’s ridiculous!” Mears says, her voice heavy with disappointment. “He has a drug problem. I got here and I found that out. He is into meth and he is running around with these little gay bitches and they piss me off. He’s a gay guy. We married for convenience. He is a Republican and he doesn’t want people thinking he is gay. I married him because I knew he’d always have a job. It don’t matter. California law says if I’m married for two years I can divorce him and get half of his checks for the rest of my life, so I’m going to do that.” She laughs hard about this while adjusting her guitar strap on her shoulder and smoothing out the Hodad’s sticker affixed below the strings.
So far, Mears says that her biggest struggle is loneliness and figuring out where she is going to sleep each night.
“Mostly I sleep in hotels, or I’ll go to my husband’s mortuary. I don’t really like being there, though; it creeps me out. He rips dead people apart and puts them back together. Like, if they got into an accident and their nose got ripped off, he makes them a new one.”
Most of the hotels she stays in are on Hotel Circle.
“I haven’t had to sleep on the beach yet. I don’t worry because I know that my husband is going to make something happen. My husband feeds me. He will come pick me up down here when he is out doing a body run and get me some food.”
Mears ran into an issue last week when she lost contact with her husband. She sought assistance from a guy in Ocean Beach who hangs out on the boardwalk.
“I didn’t really know him. He helped me get a hotel room because I hadn’t heard from my husband because he ran off on a bender. I fell asleep [in the hotel room] and when I woke up and he was taking my pants off I kicked him as hard as I could and he flew off the bed. And he said, ‘You told me it was okay,’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s not!’ It still messes with me. I know I didn’t get raped but just the thought that that’s what he was trying to do. I mean, how many girls has he done this to already? I have seen him in O.B. since then. I am mean every time I see him. I say, ‘How much money you got on you? Give me some money!’ He is a predator. I told him, ‘I am going to take your picture and put it on a flier that says “the bedtime rapist.”’”
When asked if she plans on getting a job so she won’t need to rely on her husband. Mears responds,“I am doing this,” she points to her guitar, “I just need to get a box for tips. I really want a little box,” she repeats.