Saturday, February 23, 2008

Déjà vu

Ever gone somewhere for the first time and had the feeling that you've been there before?
That's what happened to me Saturday as we walked among the colorful murals covering walls and supports under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan, San Diego's oldest Latino neighborhood.

I just as easily could have been under the elevated stretch of Interstate 10 along North Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans in the heart of the city's African-American community.
Barrio Logan and the neighborhoods lining North Claiborne Avenue share a similar history. They were both major communities for minority populations throughout the 20th century, and they both suffered devastating declines in more recent decades after highways were cut through their hearts.

Now, the underbellies of highways in both places serve as gathering spots for what's left of the communities, and the surrounding concrete provides a canvas for vibrant murals of their heroes, histories and civil rights battles. The red tack marks Barrio Logan in this Google Earth image of central San Diego.
This gathering of indigenous Mexicans in Chicano Park reminded me of the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans who meet under the I-10 overpass on Fat Tuesday. (Here's a video of the scene during Mardi Gras 2008.)

Look here and here to read more about these two communities.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Missed me?

The last few weeks have been full of distractions. Exciting presidential primaries. Stress at the office. Out-of-town visitors. Britney's release from rehab.
So I'm playing catchup with this post. These buddies of ours escaped to San Diego a few weeks ago for a break from the misery of the northeastern winter.
One of our first stops along the Sandy Eggo tourist trail was Black's Beach, where clothing is always optional.
Next, we headed to Cabrillo National Monument on the tip of the Point Loma peninsula, which overlooks Coronado, San Diego Bay and Downtown. Visibility from the monument is sometimes restricted by a marine layer that rolls in from the ocean, but we lucked out with the weather and had a clear view of Mexico to the south and snow-capped mountains near Los Angeles to the north.

Click on the map below to locate the monument.
This old lighthouse is one of the main sights at the park.
But my favorite spot is this loo with a view.
Here's what you see when standing at the urinal inside the bathroom.
We ended our tour with a stop at the tidepools at the base of the monument.
The boys searched for trapped sea critters.
Rex was a bad Californian. He left his flip flops at home and had to cling to the dry ledge while we frolicked in the surf.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Big Fat Super Duper Mardi Gras Tuesday

This proves I was a good citizen and cast my ballot in California's presidential primary this week. It also could have gotten me a discount at the local bathhouse. Apparently, the Vulcan Steam and Spa here in San Diego was offering an election day special -- a free locker for anyone who came in with an "I voted" sticker. Californians don't hold back when it comes to encouraging people to vote.
Like more than four million others here, I get my ballot in the mail. But I just couldn't resist being part of the election day excitement, so I held on to mine and delivered it in person at my assigned polling place inside this Evangelical Presbyterian church located two blocks from my apartment.
Helpful signs like this one in English, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino) and Vietnamese reveal something about local neighborhoods.

In Louisiana, polling places are restricted to public buildings like community centers and schools, but in California people cast ballots in churches, private residential garages, businesses and other unusual locations.

OOOPS!: My buddy John in Baton Rouge pointed out that my recollection of Louisiana voting habits isn't quite right. John reports that plenty of people in the Bayou State vote in churches and private homes. Perhaps my perspective was skewed by spending my last 15 years there voting in New Orleans where those sorts of polling places were certainly out of the ordinary. Thanks John for the correction.

There's a polling place in Ocean Beach that's inside a pizzeria, and a work colleague of mine votes at a rehab center. She walked into a room at the center on Tuesday expecting to find voting machines but instead stumbled upon an AA meeting. She said the teetotalers didn't seem put off by her error and happily directed her to the right location.
They make voting easy here. Weeks before an election, booklets arrive in the mail spelling out every item on the ballot in great detail and offering an explanation of each voting option. Voting outside of your registered party is sometimes an option. And if your name doesn't appear on voter rolls for some reason, they let you cast a provisional ballot that gets counted once election officials confirm you're properly registered.
Of course, while the rest of us were fixated on the primaries, all of my peeps in Louisiana were celebrating Mardi Gras. The unusual confluence of Fat Tuesday and Super Tuesday forced the Bayou State to postpone its presidential primary until this weekend.

I forgot to mail-order a king cake from New Orleans in time for delivery on Mardi Gras, but I was able to buy this surprisingly authentic and tasty version of the Carnival delicacy from Mardi Gras Cafe and Marketplace in the Point Loma area of San Diego. The cakes are specially made for the store each year by a local baker.

This one was a big hit at the office.