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Boredom Turns to Excitement in Chula Vista

“You have got to be kidding me!”

My outburst was not at all surprising, after I saw the over-half- million-dollar price neatly printed on a colorful placard in front of the model house. My family and I were standing in front of Model No. 2, a house with a French name, on a street that sounded strangely similar to a Rancho Santa Fe thoroughfare. But we were in Chula Vista, not Rancho Santa Fe. And in my mind, a three-bedroom house under 2000 square feet, squeezed onto a lot which barely allowed a resemblance of a front lawn and backyard, was hardly worth a third of the price of a North County mansion.

“Do you still want to see the inside?” my wife asked.

“Sure, why not, as long as we’re here.” My reply did not sit well with my two young daughters. The wry look on their faces reminded me that they had preferred to be at the Chula Vista Lemon Festival, instead of house-hunting.

The house’s lovely trappings provided a momentary distraction and some amusement at how these nice things can be neatly arranged in a modest amount of interior space. Of course, it dawned on us that the price of the house did not include any piece of decor or furniture.

It was well past noon. We did not bother going into the more expensive Model No. 3, which did not look any different from Model No. 2. After a quick lunch at a nearby burger place, we headed for the Lemon Festival.

I drove my minivan westward along East H Street, and the air temperature seemed to fall a degree or two with every mile. The monochrome view of neatly rowed stucco houses eventually gave way to a blaze of colors that spanned the length of Third Avenue from G Street to E Street. We arrived at the Lemon Festival, and our daughters’ boredom turned to excitement.

The atmosphere was festive: booths and stalls sold a dizzying array of merchandise and food. There were thrilling mechanical rides and air slides, and the more sedate guided llama rides for young children. Bands played on two stages, while people of drinking age partook of beer on the tap and fried food. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves on a zigzag trail along the busy street, purchasing from one vendor’s booth to the next. And through it all, I immersed myself in the explosion of faces, colors, languages, scents, and tastes.

Then something caught my eye. There was a blind woman being led along the street by her Seeing Eye dog. It was not her surprising ease at avoiding people and obstacles that amazed me. Rather, it was the brimming smile on her face that put a smile on mine. She could not see, but her other senses took in the same stimuli that sur- rounded me, and to a heightened degree. In her mind’s eye, myriad visions were formed. Her joy was simple, and one which I, with all my senses intact, mostly took for granted.

The festival gradually ended, as the day wore on, but the blind woman’s radiant smile lingered in my mind, even as I drove the two miles back to my home: a rented duplex at the northwestern edge of Chula Vista. As soon as we arrived, my daughters quickly got out of the minivan, eager to try on the different trinkets they had bought.

“I’m going for a walk,” I told my wife.

“Off to your secret spot again?” she asked with a slight smile on her face. I could only smile back. I gave her a kiss on her cheek before I took my walk.

My secret spot was hardly a secret at all: it was the very western end of D Street. It had a couple of park benches and an old graying chain-link fence that bordered the street from the ravine and the trolley tracks below. Beyond the fence, the track, and the eight lanes of Interstate 5, there was a surprisingly lovely view of San Diego Bay. On Fourth of July evenings, this nondescript corner of Chula Vista would be full of people eager to grab a last-minute vantage view of the J Marina fireworks. On other days, young people would park their lowriders and play the amplifiers at full-bass blast.

But on that late Sunday afternoon, I was alone. The place seemed more desolate with a view of the sprawling lot to the right, which held the vestiges of a trailer park. Its residents had been told to move away, so that a condominium complex could be built where humble structures once stood.

The sun was setting, and as the wind drew the warmth from my face, I gazed out into the bay and into the horizon. The solitude was overwhelming. The day’s images and thoughts raced through my mind — the house that I could hardly afford (but perhaps someday); the myriad stories of the lives that share this neighborhood with me, their dreams and struggles; the Monday that was just a few hours away, and the working week that I had to live through all over again.

As I walked home, with the dying light of dusk and the cool breeze to accompany me, I came to one serene conclusion — that most any day in Chula Vista was neither too surprising nor blandly predictable but still gave me the simple contentment of living here rather than someplace else.

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“They always have something free going. Sausages, tacos, sliders, things like that.”

“You have got to be kidding me!”

My outburst was not at all surprising, after I saw the over-half- million-dollar price neatly printed on a colorful placard in front of the model house. My family and I were standing in front of Model No. 2, a house with a French name, on a street that sounded strangely similar to a Rancho Santa Fe thoroughfare. But we were in Chula Vista, not Rancho Santa Fe. And in my mind, a three-bedroom house under 2000 square feet, squeezed onto a lot which barely allowed a resemblance of a front lawn and backyard, was hardly worth a third of the price of a North County mansion.

“Do you still want to see the inside?” my wife asked.

“Sure, why not, as long as we’re here.” My reply did not sit well with my two young daughters. The wry look on their faces reminded me that they had preferred to be at the Chula Vista Lemon Festival, instead of house-hunting.

The house’s lovely trappings provided a momentary distraction and some amusement at how these nice things can be neatly arranged in a modest amount of interior space. Of course, it dawned on us that the price of the house did not include any piece of decor or furniture.

It was well past noon. We did not bother going into the more expensive Model No. 3, which did not look any different from Model No. 2. After a quick lunch at a nearby burger place, we headed for the Lemon Festival.

I drove my minivan westward along East H Street, and the air temperature seemed to fall a degree or two with every mile. The monochrome view of neatly rowed stucco houses eventually gave way to a blaze of colors that spanned the length of Third Avenue from G Street to E Street. We arrived at the Lemon Festival, and our daughters’ boredom turned to excitement.

The atmosphere was festive: booths and stalls sold a dizzying array of merchandise and food. There were thrilling mechanical rides and air slides, and the more sedate guided llama rides for young children. Bands played on two stages, while people of drinking age partook of beer on the tap and fried food. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves on a zigzag trail along the busy street, purchasing from one vendor’s booth to the next. And through it all, I immersed myself in the explosion of faces, colors, languages, scents, and tastes.

Then something caught my eye. There was a blind woman being led along the street by her Seeing Eye dog. It was not her surprising ease at avoiding people and obstacles that amazed me. Rather, it was the brimming smile on her face that put a smile on mine. She could not see, but her other senses took in the same stimuli that sur- rounded me, and to a heightened degree. In her mind’s eye, myriad visions were formed. Her joy was simple, and one which I, with all my senses intact, mostly took for granted.

The festival gradually ended, as the day wore on, but the blind woman’s radiant smile lingered in my mind, even as I drove the two miles back to my home: a rented duplex at the northwestern edge of Chula Vista. As soon as we arrived, my daughters quickly got out of the minivan, eager to try on the different trinkets they had bought.

“I’m going for a walk,” I told my wife.

“Off to your secret spot again?” she asked with a slight smile on her face. I could only smile back. I gave her a kiss on her cheek before I took my walk.

My secret spot was hardly a secret at all: it was the very western end of D Street. It had a couple of park benches and an old graying chain-link fence that bordered the street from the ravine and the trolley tracks below. Beyond the fence, the track, and the eight lanes of Interstate 5, there was a surprisingly lovely view of San Diego Bay. On Fourth of July evenings, this nondescript corner of Chula Vista would be full of people eager to grab a last-minute vantage view of the J Marina fireworks. On other days, young people would park their lowriders and play the amplifiers at full-bass blast.

But on that late Sunday afternoon, I was alone. The place seemed more desolate with a view of the sprawling lot to the right, which held the vestiges of a trailer park. Its residents had been told to move away, so that a condominium complex could be built where humble structures once stood.

The sun was setting, and as the wind drew the warmth from my face, I gazed out into the bay and into the horizon. The solitude was overwhelming. The day’s images and thoughts raced through my mind — the house that I could hardly afford (but perhaps someday); the myriad stories of the lives that share this neighborhood with me, their dreams and struggles; the Monday that was just a few hours away, and the working week that I had to live through all over again.

As I walked home, with the dying light of dusk and the cool breeze to accompany me, I came to one serene conclusion — that most any day in Chula Vista was neither too surprising nor blandly predictable but still gave me the simple contentment of living here rather than someplace else.

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