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robertogreco : jimmiller   2

Cul-de-sac : Open Space
"San Diego’s always been easy to malign; but the endlessly unfurling line of sunny boosterism endemic to San Diego’s civic self-image is all wrong also. When it comes to considering “America’s Finest City”, the national imagination sways between two poles: paradisiacal invention of temperate waves, fresh-fish tacos, and soft sand; or, cultureless void, psychologies sun-dulled into a blank embrace of his-n-hers wax-n-tan salons, stucco sprawl, and the artisanal F/A-18 Hornet."



This cross-national fact pervades all aspects of life in “San Diego.” Not just a border town; a border county. (A border country?)

And yet, San Diego’s often referred to as a geographical cul-de-sac, where the high mountains to the east and the border to the south create a physical and psychological lock-in-place. Cul-de-sac: a dead end, a deadlock, literally, the bottom of the bag. Says who?

When I stay in San Diego, I stay with my partner in Golden Hill, on an actual hill above downtown, whose slopes and inclines afford views of the bay to the west and south. Once the home of socialites and philanthropists, then in long decline as haven for junkies, dealers, and of course, artists, Golden Hill is now about one-third of the way through its “urban-revitalization.” It is bordered on one side by largely Latinx Sherman Heights/Barrio Logan, home to Chicano Park, and on the other by picaresque South Park, quiet, expensive, pretty, and pretty white. Bay Area residents would feel at home wandering Golden Hill’s blocks of Victorian mansions, Craftsman bungalows, and multi-decade representations of apartment complexes in various stages of upkeep or decay. The current fashion in building, though, is for high-priced, small-scale condos (“Starting in the low $500s!!”).

I’ve located myself, I know “where I am,” but it feels sensationally, essentially, placeless.

Street names, all called after other places: Arizona, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania. Uninventively named Ocean Beach nests beaches within beaches: avenues called by the names of other beaches. Newport, Narragansett, Saratoga, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Pescadero, Bermuda. Infinite displacement. Signs point elsewhere, the same as nowhere.

Like LA, San Diego’s hot, it sprawls. But not as hot, and the sprawl is uneager, tepidly accepting of, even pleased with, itself. To the west, the sparkling sea, and to the east, waves of expensive tract housing punctuated with low-slung shopping plazas crowded with corporate chains. Post-place USA? Along the coast, each in a string of seaside villages — first increasing and then decreasing in wealth concentration from south to north — has its own distinct flavor of blowsy undercurrent.

This “city of villages” is a net or concatenation of communities built on mesas, regularly separated by canyons, crevasses, the occasional waterway or stream — and often, freeways — and these light divisions create personality and economic boundaries between them. Hillcrest, North Park, East Village (in the city), or El Cajon, Del Mar, Santee (around the county). Traveling between them, or braked for a minute at the top of a hill, I’m always sensing myself on an edge — of something. Shore, skyline, precipice, border, cliff. Of understanding? The views are often grand or sweeping, but they don’t seem to send back “possibility.” The sky in San Diego is just the sky."



"Retirees and invalids, margarita- or beer-drenched drifters, yogis and transcendental meditation addicts, real estate agents, biotech execs, personal trainers, sailors, and a multiplicity of immigrants both international and domestic — and still somehow not a city of dreams. Or, a “city of broken dreams” (Mike Davis). A city of dreamless sleep, with sunny days spent ambulating dream-slow through the enervating heat."



"San Diego has no cover, no face, or is simultaneously all face. Which?

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and native San Diegan Rae Armantrout famously, unpopularly, wrote that San Diego has no charisma, is blank. That’s put unkindly perhaps, but it’s not all wrong. She also points to the odd quiet, the deep silence beneath whatever aggressive hum. Let’s call it the somnolent subconscious / the deeply sedimented unconscious — the veneer is thin here; you can feel it.

In fact, one isn’t any one here. One’s an atom, roasting in the sun.

“Perhaps living in San Diego prepares you to become a Buddhist,” writes Rae.

Diffuse, fuzzy around the edges, thick. My mind feels like that too, sometimes — it takes longer to shake itself awake. Is it the heat, the sun-glaze, is it in the water?"



"In 2016, 34.9 million tourists visited San Diego, spending 10.4 billion dollars.

San Diego is the most biologically rich county in the continental US. And the most threatened, with nearly 200 at-risk animals and plants.

Western snowy plover, coastal cactus wren, California gnatcatcher, least Bell’s vireo, arroyo southwestern toad, Stephens’ kangaroo rat, San Diego fairy shrimp, Quino checkerspot butterfly, San Diego thornmint, Dehesa beargrass, coastal sage scrub, Engelmann oak woodlands…

Seventy-four percent of ex-offenders return to prison within two years of release, in San Diego. The state average is sixty-five.

Autobiography of a Yogi, “the book that changed the lives of millions,” was penned by Paramahansa Yogananda at his Self‑Realization Fellowship ashram and retreat center in Encinitas, in North San Diego County. Ashtanga Yoga, the practice that changed the lives of millions, also had its US nativity scene in Encinitas, when K. Pattabhi Jois arrived here in 1975.



If my thesis is that the city is ungraspable, neither the sum of its parts or possible to glimpse in prism, this not-place-ness must be the prize/prison of manifest destiny become the end of history.

Jim Miller, in Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See: “cul-de-sac also means, finally and most poignantly, a situation in which further progress is impossible.”

On the other hand, says who? At the lift, box, and cycle gym I go to when I’m here, people chat, they say hi. I’m on the floor doing crunches while the Counting Crows song “Mr. Jones” is blasting over the deck. Suddenly I’m experiencing liberation — from every high-urban fantasy I ever had for or of myself.

Near the crest of a hill, up the block from a café I frequent, there’s a large pink stucco apartment building in a vaguely Spanish-modern style, trimmed in white. Someone’s installed a red-letter electronic ticker on the side of this building at its highest point, and programs it to spit out philosophic citations from Lao Tzu, Sophocles, “Anonymous”… From their perch on the hill the flickering banners appear to headline the city. For example: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall — Confucius, spelled out one letter at a time.

I puzzle a long time over this enigmatic line, dropped out of context and attributed to G.K. Chesterton, poet, theologian, philosopher, overt anti-Semite, and father of the Father Brown mysteries: Do not try to bend, any more than the trees try to bend… Try to grow straight, and life will bend you.

Red-letter warnings, invitations to unsubtle visions, and confusing mandates to the individual overcasting her gaze on the sparkling bay, the seventeen construction cranes hovering over downtown, and the freeways, distantly humming, palm trees swaying in the too-bright light, hand on forehead shielding eyes. Blink, blink, blink."
suzannestein  sandiego  gkchesterson  2017  lajolla  ucsd  undertheperfectsun  jimmiller  isolation  meaning  border  borders  mexico  us  place  srg 
november 2017 by robertogreco

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