Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
- Community Blog
- chronicles of ob
we call it OB
"Yeah, down by the Pier.
That’s where it’s happenin’
Down at the edge of the Pacific.
Down in the corner of California.
We call it OB And that's where you'll find me.
Ocean Beach is my neighborhood. It's a small enclave surrounded by the expansive domain of San Diego. A magical place lying between the outside world and the country we’ve left behind. Those of us that live here call ourselves OBecians, we call this town OB. We are a hodge-podge; surfers, travelers, peaceniks, runaways, drunks, college kids, liberals, veterans, old-timers, squares and everything in-between. Strange bedfellows, but somehow we've figured out how to get along with each other. Tolerance is our collective middle name. We're laid-back and that suits us just fine. It’s a haven of free thought where our only enemy seems to be convention. Some days I think Ocean Beach exists only because we believe it exists. We have a catchphrase that reads ‘Ocean Beach, an attitude not an address.’ a disclaimer we’re proud of. Stroll down our main street, Newport Avenue and you'll still get a sense of true community. On this street alone there is a hardware store, affordable café’s, clothing stores, gift shops, pet stores, and cocktail bars. We even have an authentic head shop that with a little imagination transports you back to the psychedelic sixties. You can find just about everything you need in OB without trekking to the malls. This is a walk-to-everywhere neighborhood, reminiscent of years gone by, a reminder of more idyllic times, of life spent in a simpler world. If you settle here long enough you’ll soon both recognize and be recognized by others on the street. Unlike other areas of San Diego, the marine layer can often cloud our summer days; it curls around our neighborhood hiding us from the rest of the county. OB is the port to hide and shelter from the storm. We've got tide pools and hidden coves, trails and eucalyptus groves. We’ve got awesome surf breaks. We've got our own historical society and a local merchants group. We’ve got a member-owned cooperative food market that’s been serving the community since 1971. We've got annual events where we welcome outsiders by the thousands to come and share the love. We’ve got a youth hostel that hosts an eclectic mix of young backpackers from around the globe. We've got a beach just for dogs, how sweet is that! Wednesday evening we boast one of the best street markets in San Diego - The Ocean Beach Farmer's Market. Newport Avenue comes alive with the smell of tulips and sandalwood, fresh bread and piping hot kettle corn. Hawkers and traders peddle their wares. The sounds of the strolling minstrels and drummers are so evocative that you might think you are part of a modern day renaissance faire. All of OB comes out for this event, our way of paying respects to one another. This small old-time beach community and bastion of counterculture holds on. Sadly though, there are signs that our charming seaside town is changing. We are on the endangered list. An east coast souvenir chain has replaced our local movie theatre. Java Joe left, his space now filled by Starbuck's. The Arizona Cafe closed its doors after providing over fifty years of saloon solace. Affordable housing is now an oxymoron and the rents are tipping the scales. The added populace of San Diego is spilling over into our neighborhood. These are a new type of resident, eager to gentrify OB. They see funky as shabby, quaint with 'it needs tearing down', and offbeat with 'off course NOT!’ Some of them try to hoodwink us into believing that they want to preserve Ocean Beach as they stroll the neighborhood in their designer scruff, jacking up the rents month by month, pushing the boundaries of affordability. This is the antithesis of what OB is all about. I'm hoping that we'll zealously fight to protect our neighborhood. It's going to be a battle, but OB is definitely worth it. Hope we'll stand up and shout ‘j'embrasse mon rival, mais c'est pour l'etouffer' Maybe that’s just the point, we don’t speak the same language.