Ian Pike 10:37 a.m., May 20
For a long time Ocean Beach has been notorious for the independent and rebellious spirit of its people. The countercultural mix includes hippies, bikers, surfers, skaters and artists among many others. There are political activists and environmentalists. There is an air of libertarianism that is less than subtle; I've always gotten a laugh out of seeing a 60's VW bus with a bumper sticker that reads "U.S. out of Ocean Beach" or "Die Yuppie Scum".
Also in the mix are fairly mainstream folks, even conservative folks who have been in the military and keep their lawns neat. I always found it touching how people seem to get along just fine in spite of the cultural gap. As a volunteer poll clerk for many elections, I always felt a sense of pride in my neighborhood when everyone would show up to vote whether they were wearing skate shoes or Armani loafers.
One of the interesting products of the Spirit of OB is the OB Rag, a community newspaper founded by countercultural members of the community. I'm glad to see the OB Rag has been reincarnated in electronic form as the OBrag.org blog. The people behind the OB Rag are former members of the OB Grassroots Organization, a community-based group that was politically active in the defense of the environment and social justice issues.
As OB becomes increasingly "gentrified", I worry that the Spirit of OB is being diluted by a changing demographic brought on by an economic environment that is literally pricing OB out of the range of its stalwart bohemians. Many have already been forced to move out of what was the last affordable beach community by sharp increases in rental costs. For the mostly working-class OBohemians, buying property has become virtually impossible in the hot-air bubble market of the oh-oh's.
The VW buses driven by long-haired hippies are being replaced by Hummers driven by Starbucks-binging yuppies. The charming craftsman-style single-family homes are getting torn down by the legion to each be replaced by 2-4 cookie-cutter-style condo conversions. The mom-and-pop coffee houses and eateries are being threatened by the corporate kitsch that defines the cultural vacuum of the United States of Generica.
Yet the OBohemians are not dead yet. They may smell funny, but they are still around, alive and kicking, and one place you can still find them from the comfort of your home, wherever that may be, is OBRag.org.
Check them out at http://obrag.org. If you like what they do, give them a couple of bucks. For the price of a mocha java from Starbucks you can keep the Spirit of OB alive for another day.