Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
OLD TOWN OLE I can’t get to Europe with the dollar down, so I’m wasting my easy time at a margarita bar in Old Town. There’s no café society or river Seine, but the drinks are strong and the palms provide shade. The passing crowd is no St. Laurent or Versace but they are diverse and saunter nicely to salsa and mariachi. Just a few years back this square was lonely and deserted, as a group called Delaware Inc. tried to convince everybody that the Oregon Trail ended here, and that the real natives were European settlers. That didn’t go over to big as no one looked happy dinning under Conestoga gray sails with matrons in hooped skirts serving gravy and biscuits. Recently the color came back, with the cuisine and the music. The square jumps now, glasses tinkle, salsa meets chips and are washed down with tequila. This is what the tourists want, and the regulars too, a dazzling circus of color, sounds and intoxicants.
Sitting in on this old town renaissance is a fine way to pass the day if people-watching is your thing, and the people are back in numbers. There are a lot of Chinese visitors lately. That’s to be expected because they have all our dollars. What I didn’t expect to see were large Chinese families. I see two, and on occasion three children. From what I heard 1.5 was the limit. Where do they hide the 1.5 extra kids when they return?
Perhaps that could be a new San Diego industry, taking care of the Chinese kids who exceed the limit, maybe get some dollars back. I do like seeing them there, all the tourists. Even some local Mexican Americans are returning, finding out that Old Town is not a tourist trap but good value, and very good value during ‘happy hour’. At most noon hours you can watch folklore dancers, ages 6 to 60, dance on stage in beautiful costumes. Watch as Claudia (the dance manager) gives last minute pointers to her tiny dancers on the sidelines.
I’m not sure who or what turned this side of town (Old Town near and in the Park) around, but they must have had a feel for what the people wanted, (why can’t politicians)? You won’t get your every wish here. I can’t get jalapenos at the street taco stand (Liz, while making my tacos, pleads convincingly that she asked for them, but…), and I can’t get the mariachis to add a horn player (too much noise says someone I doubt enjoys the music). I think I talked to the bosses about this (too many times) but it’s hard to tell who the boss around here is. I’m not giving up; if they add jalapenos and a horn player, I’m moving in … probably not a good idea. The folk dancers, fiestas and live entertainment on week-ends would greatly disturb my 2PM siestas and 9PM lights out.
Not everything has been a success for the new management team. Up the path, the new management runs an old historic hotel with a bit upscale restaurant in a beautiful courtyard that should be doing better. That may be the problem, not upscale, but because it’s historic. In the front, they don’t have a natural open path leading to the dining area/courtyard. Visitors to Old Town are looking for open spaces to eat and drink at, and they can’t see this open space. A visitor needs to walk through the hotel to get there. I think that discourages more people from dropping in. The managers are probably not allowed to open up this historic building to show off the courtyard but I see a way. I’m keeping it close to my vest until I get a horn player for the mariachis and jalapenos put on my street tacos in return. Just keep bringing the traditional, on the rocks, with salt, and chips on the side, until we work out the details.
Wasting away in Old Town, Miguel