I realized I hadn’t eaten enough by the time we got to Ocean Beach with numb extremities. The line at Hodad’s was god awful and 4pm was an awkward time to try to eat. We ended up wandering into a Mexican place feeling like San Diego was designed for such back up plans. The weather was so perfect I felt the impending doom of getting hit by a car or having a building collapse on me. You don’t simply get to exist in a place so temperate without a price. It honestly felt like the sunlight from childhood summer camp stolen and rationed out as adults.
I ate a California burrito, which for you transplants is a burrito with a protein, guacamole and most notably french fries. Morgan heads to the bathroom and I tell his fiance this is the kind of place where you go to the bathroom and come back with a “story”. We start to reminisce about USC, growing up in the valley, the punk and ska scene and Bad Religion.
There is a jaunt to a supermarket that has the feel of the Trancas Market in Malibu after a hurricane. It is more than enough to enjoy. We pass some VA bar and see the old vets drinking hard in the middle of the day. We are buying Gatorade because I plan to need electrolytes later. I am in San Diego, after all.
We check into the Hard Rock Hotel down by Petco. I remember images of going to a Padres/Dodger game a few years back while my fiance was still an undergrad. She takes me on Cinco de Mayo, or some form of Mexico Appreciation Fireworks night. I don’t know, I drank a lot of beer. The Dodgers lost and I had a stomach ache from two Friar Franks (ironically made by Hebrew National, go figure) and was taking a lot of shit from Padre fans as we flowed with the crowd out into the glow of the Gaslamp District. I saw about 30 men in Dodger gear jumping and chanting “East L.A.” over and over. Some part of me that clearly does not listen to his mother ran into that crowd and jumped around like a fish on the dock. I thought of my hero Hunter S. Thompson’s suggestion to “relax and learn to enjoy losing”.
Due to a family connection (not mine), we get some pretty all star treatment at the Hard Rock. The room has a giant window at the opposite end and soon enough, we are all bumping Chardonnay Nights (my mixtape project) and staring out at the San Diego afternoon. People in condos are making dinner. The naval ships are in the harbor. The city turns purple and the air in indistinguishable from skin temperature. I start taking pictures because I am happy. If you know me well enough, I like to document times where there are no trumpets on the hill warning me not to fly with reckless abandon and a jack ‘o lantern smile.
Morgan has Yamazaki, really our first experience with the Japanese katana blade made of a single malt and a factory of pranksters. For relaxing times, make it Suntory time. I have fond memories of my time in San Diego as I look down from our 10th story perch and remember conversations on street corners, chasing a blonde girl through the streets all the way to Los Angeles. We kind of grew up here.
We fly right up out of downtown and make our way to Hillcrest. The neighborhood is funky and I realize I haven’t spent much time here. We load in and by this point, I am sort of everywhere at once. A familiar song in the convenience store, two purchased cigars and screaming to Morgan that this is what my grandfather used to smoke and I miss that guy so much. My college roommate and a favorite member of my fraternity. We are in a bar that is glowing red and we are all coming together. Kellen and his younger brother show up. I cannot think of the last time I saw them. I don’t know how to react, I am so glad to see this guy. I never partied consistently with him, but I consistently wished I partied with him. Does that make sense? We played baseball together and lived on one of the greatest streets in my hometown, flanked by Jon and Andy the kind of cul-de-sac meant for street hockey. He and his brother are both training to be lawyers. I am pretty sure I tell them that I will need plenty of legal advice before it’s all over.
I play the show with my eyes closed. We have time for two more even though we only have one more song on the set list. I ask Miner if we can play “Last Song During Prom on a Spaceship Headed for the Sun” because we recorded it in San Diego and I need to play something loud and big and swing my head around like a bolo in a small bar in a city I don’t live in. We do. After the show, a stranger asks me what song that was. I tell him the title and he laughs. He loved it. It is these little interactions more than anything else that keep me in a band against my better judgment at the expense of my wallet and sanity. Sometimes you move somebody a little bit and something you have been a part of making becomes theirs. Your story becomes the soundtrack to theirs.
Tequila with Feldman, that wild-eyed bastard. I could not talk to the guy for ten years and I’d see him and it’d be another summer day at the empty fraternity just talking. He is good people. Tequila is followed by whiskey with Kellen, Morgan and his brother. It is a toast to old and new friends.
By the time we step out of the bar, San Diego looks the way I remember it. A beautiful collage of light. It is living impressionism. I am made up of all the best pixels and colors. People who love me tell me I can be pretty hard on myself. Nights like this let the steam out. I forgive myself for my ambitions and painfully compulsive mind. Right now, I’m a blue-eyed lightning bolt simply trying to avoid the many bodies of water around me.
Soon enough we are on foot back downtown. This city is a mad house. The streets are teaming with humanity and beats spill out of walls onto the streets named for letters and numbers. There is a piano bar somewhere around here that I was at once. I want to go because I have convinced myself that I can play the piano. Luckily we end up eating mac and cheese and talking shit about Giada DeLaurentis. I know for certain what good people I am with when they get annoyed at her pronunciation of things like “ricotta” and “mozzarella”. It’s the kind of insecure affectation that you couldn’t even deal with if she was your mistress. Like, come on. Her food looks good though. I keep wanting to think she is pretty, but then she pronounced “ravioli” like a 6th grade Italian teacher and I snap.
We commandeer a pedicab for the ride home. I apparently video tape it. Nick is our driver. The kind of scruffy San Diego dude that you’d never meet had you not been carted around by him on a bike chariot. I am recreating the scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox where Mr. Fox sees the wolf and the wolf pumps his fist in the air. I do this from the pedicab to at least 200 people. We see a pear shaped girl in a spandex dress riding a lowrider bicycle. She leaves little to the imagination and I announce it to the city. I wonder if my friends are tired of me and my incessant babbling. I kind of figure if you are my friend, you can laugh my idiosyncrasies and constant verbal soundtrack off. Why? Because I’ll die for the friends that never make you re-evaluate if you are still friends. That is the currency of adulthood I suspect. It’s juggling. The moment you stop catching and throwing, it all hits the floor and seems like a pain in the ass to start again.
I don’t remember falling asleep, but in the morning I find the video of the cab ride home. I hear my happy, incessant babbling and see that I am smiling. So I smile again. Thank you, San Diego.