Don Bauder 9:40 p.m., May 21
Although I now live in PQ, I grew up in the college area and east county. When I was a kid, Rancho Bernardo was a once-a-year trek, a road trip in the avocado-colored Dodge Dart to visit some obscure restaurant my parents used to love. In my eyes, North County was a distant, barely-inhabited outpost.
Now I live there, and it still feels distant. But every time I go back to my old stomping grounds, I realize that everything has changed.
Take La Mesa. What the hell is happening to La Mesa? Is it just me, or have the nuts, loonies and otherwise wack-jobs converged on my cozy little former hometown?
The trolley area in downtown La Mesa seems to be a magnet for the worst of the weirdos. Last week I had a dentist appointment there and was waiting at a red light at the corner of Spring Street and Lemon.
The trolley gate to the right of my car was down and the ding-ding-ding alarm was sounding. I waited absentmindedly as the trolley approached, its subtle roar increasing in the background.
Suddenly a figure in dirty clothes caught my eye. A tall, disheveled, scraggly-haired man jumped onto the trolley tracks. Obviously in a world of his own, he seemed completely oblivious to the ding-ding-ding of the alarm. He veered back and forth over the tracks. He started dancing a jig, shaking his hips wildly. As I heard the trolley speed closer, I prayed for the light to turn green so I wouldn’t have to witness the apparent tragedy that was about to unfold. I knew it would be an image I would never be able to forget.
My stomach tightened and I stared in disbelief as he continued to dance, the trolley now only seconds away. Suddenly, he made eye contact with me. In an instant, there was a strange and sad connection. I could feel his despair.
He then smiled a toothless, drug-induced grin at me and jumped backward. His game of chicken was done. I’m glad he survived. My stomach, on the other hand, may take a while to recover.