Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's the heat AND the humidity, stupid!

Gray damp skies hung over my neighborhood and the rest of San Diego all weekend, feeding the mopish mood that has settled over many southern Californians in recent weeks.

Last weekend it was scorching triple-digit temperatures that made people run for the nearest beach, swimming pool or cold shower.

Things clearly aren't as they should be.

July weather in San Diego is supposed to be nothing short of ideal. Average rainfall for the month is a nearly immeasurable 0.03 inches, and the average high temperature hovers around a comfy 76 degrees (24.4 C).

With July falling at the height of the region's dry season, humidity this time of year is "almost unknown," according to the National Weather Service.

Nothing has been normal this July though.

It actually rained yesterday! Several times! Humidity levels, at times, have topped a soggy 75 percent. And the blazing heat is suspected in more than 140 deaths across California in recent weeks.

Weather forecasters say that an uncommon high pressure dome is sitting over the desert southwest, pumping hot air into southern California like a furnace. Late last week, an equally rare mid-summer thunderstorm system in Arizona and New Mexico added moisture to the mix.

None of this would matter much if air conditioners cooled and dried every enclosed space here, but they don't. Floor and ceiling fans are usually all that's needed to circulate air through rooms to keep things relatively comfortable. But that's not working this summer.

Like many others here, we've reached our limits here in my un-airconditioned apartment. We're going shopping for a portable air conditioning unit. That's easier said than done. I've heard stories of grabbing and shoving matches breaking out over the limited supplies of air conditioners in local stores. We'll be lucky just to find one on a shelf.

80's overdose at S.D. Gay Pride

Recognize this face from the past?

I'll give you a few hints. This Long Island native exploded on to the pop music scene in the late 1980's with a No. 1 album (Electric Youth) and two No. 1 hits ("Foolish Beat" in 1988 and "Lost in Your Eyes" in 1989).

Yes, it's Deborah (Debbie) Gibson. She headlined the Saturday show at the main performance stage of the Gay Pride Festival.

For those who haven't kept up with her career, she has continued to produce music over the years and has appeared in a string of major Broadway shows.

Also appearing on the same stage were recreations of the 80's New Wave one-hit-wonder groups When in Rome and A Flock of Seagulls.

WIR (pictured above) was re-formed by the original keyboardist, Michael Floreale, with a new lead singer and two other new members after the group's only hit, "The Promise," was resurrected in last year's hit movie "Napoleon Dynamite."

WIR's new front man Jayden Frost (an actor/singer/former professional wrestler who hooked up with Floreale in Dallas) signed autographs after the show for fans who probably mistakenly thought they were meeting the group's original lead singer.

Mike Score, the only original member of A Flock of Seagulls.

Rex and his new toy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Neighborhood eateries returning to N.O.

Good news from Ian McNulty, food writer for New Orleans' weekly Gambit. He's written of late about the re-opening of numerous restaurants outside the tourist districts of the city.

Some of them, such as Elizabeth's in the Bywater and Juan's Flying Burrito in badly flooded Mid-City are among my favorite places to eat.

Eating out is a key element of life in New Orleans unlike most other places, such as San Diego, where dining at a restaurant is less a social affair and more a function of biology.

Check out Ian's take on the New Orleans eating scene here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

L.A. Times gets it right

A sad feeling of familiarity washed over me as I read a great story in today's edition of the Los Angeles Times (read it here) about New Orleans' precarious and slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The fact is scenes like this one above, which I photographed six months ago, still fill the city. Clearly not much has changed since I left New Orleans in late March for a new life in southern California.

Nearly everyone here thinks that life is largely back to normal in New Orleans and the rest of south Louisiana. And I suppose that's the same for most people in other parts of the country.

I know better, of course. There are still piles of garbage along the streets and huge clusters of flooded cars under elevated highways. The electricity still goes off periodically. The mail isn't yet reliable. Grocery stores and dry cleaners haven't reopened. As the L.A. Times says, the "new normal" in New Orleans is quite different from the normal the rest of us know.

Like many other friends of mine there, Tommy in the Bywater is trying to make the best of things. He's working like crazy to repair his flooded rental house and to deal with the fallout from a crooked contractor. In a recent email, he noted that his other rental property in an unflooded area of the city has risen in value. Despite all of the continuing problems - including the return of crime - neighbors are joining together in ways they never did before the storm to resurrect their communities. And some people who left are coming back because no other place feels like home.

"Everything isn't bad if you look at it honestly," Tommy wrote. "There is a lot of good life left in this city, but you have to look at it and acknowledge its presence."

I hope there are plenty more people like Tommy still out there.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Playyyyyy ball!

Went to my first Padres game last week and watched the local team beat the Oakland A's 3-0.

Being a typical Southern college football nut, I'm pretty much a pro-baseball novice (I'd previously been to three Astros games and one S.F. Giants game). But I really enjoyed myself and can easily imagine seeing more of the Padres.

Our seats were sweet - just behind third base at the bottom of the stadium's second tier.

PETCO Park is only a few years old and has been hailed for incorporating a historic brick warehouse into its design. Up close, the stadium is quite nice - lots of landscaped terraces, open-air walking spaces and even a few water features. But outside from a distance, the stadium looks more like a parking garage than a sports venue.