Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Waking Up in San Diego

I just got back from a trip to San Diego that wasn't at all what I thought it would be.

It started with skin care products. These used to be my crack cocaine, especially when I was on a low-fat diet. I thought I was past that, but a dealer found me on the street and got me to drop what used to be a mortgage payment (before I refinanced). At least the stuff she sold me worked.

Spending such an embarrassing amount of money on skin care was a wake-up call to be more stoic and less of a hedonist. The weather and hotel set the mood. It was so cold, cloudy and humid that I wore my long down coat and alpaca gloves. The hotel was the noisiest room I've had since I lived in a military dorm. Some of the guests let their doors slam shut with a BOOM!; my room was across the street from an all-night construction site; and very late one night, someone on the second floor pulled the fire alarm for no discernible reason, sending everyone out to shiver on the front steps for half an hour.

Earplugs not included.
The first couple of days, I walked all over downtown, the harbor, the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy taking pictures. It was cold and my knees and right foot hurt from so much walking, but there was nothing to do at the hotel (no TV in the room, and guests didn't gather in the unheated lobby). I'd have stayed in my cozy  room with a book, but "This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion, but hard to buy a book."(1) The library the hotel clerk found turned out to be a law library. I wanted to go home.

If you're unhappy in San Diego, you can go elsewhere for a few dollars. That's what I needed--a getaway from my getaway. I got on a train called the Coaster and went to Oceanside, an old little beach town. The sun came out, my shoes came off, and I waded out into the ocean with a couple of guys. It was like stepping into snow. For a few hours, we waded and sat on the rocks in the sun. The guys left and I found a coffee shop with greeting cards, pictures of the area from the turn of the last century, and a shelf of free used paperbacks. I took Mission of Honor by Tom Clancy.

For all my walking around, I wasn't hungry more than twice a day, sometimes once. The much-heralded Gaslamp Quarter was mostly gingerbread buildings and party animals. I preferred Little Italy: less fru-fru, more trees, and sidewalks stamped with dates going back to the 1920s.

Little Italy, San Diego: Fru-Fru Free Zone, Except During Carnevale
Unexpectedly, it was easy to find low-carb fare in a place associated with pizza and pasta. La Villa served local vegetables and regional pastured meats. Lounge Burger served the best burger and salad I've ever had (their meat is grass-fed and they offer gluten-free buns), and even a place called Spaghetteria had a filling stuffed pork dish. I needed it after skipping lunch and going sea kayaking.

Man v. Nature: Kayakers at La Jolla
When I booked the kayaking trip, I was thinking of paddling in the sunshine, watching animals frolick in the sea caves of La Jolla. In reality, you put on a wet suit to keep from getting hypothermia, drag your kayak into snowy-cold water, get in and paddle through the breakers, heading straight into them so the waves don't roll you out of your boat. There were six of us in the group, including the guide, a 30-ish couple from Oklahoma, a woman from Washington DC and her son, who looked to be in his late teens. The guide and I were the only ones to make it out past the breakers, the white-capped waves that crash into the shore. He said he admired the determination of the others (they tried to get out there nine times), but hoped the experience would be a wake-up call for them to get into better shape. The woman and her son eventually made it out to the open water; the couple from Oklahoma didn't. Earlier, the wife mentioned she walked all the way to the Spreckels Theater from her hotel and her feet were sore. According to Mapquest, assuming I remembered her hotel correctly, it's a 0.72-mile walk. She's too young to think that's a long walk.

After I dragged the kayak to the shore, I got in and the guide pushed me off. I paddled and corrected to keep going straight into the waves. A big white wave hit me in the face and gave me a mouthful of water. I finally got past the waves and sat on the open water--a big, cold, frightening ocean--hoping our guide's promise about being unable to drown in a life jacket wouldn't be tested. After he joined me, we couldn't get close to the sea caves: the waves there were too big and would have crashed us into the rocks. But we could hear the sea lions barking and saw one swimming close up. Between the cold, the motion, the good-looking guide (even if he was a vegetarian), and being a little scared of the ocean, I got overexcited and slightly queasy. I had almost made it to the shore when a wave tossed me out of the boat.

In spite of the cold and my sore knees of the first couple of days, I had a good time in San Diego. I went to Balboa Park, the Maritime Museum, saw the movie Lincoln, went to the Carnevale in Little Italy, and saw the New Shanghai Circus. Anyone who thinks they'll get muscle bound from strength training should see these strong, graceful performers. Any woman who works out with dinky little weights to keep from getting big muscles should be inspired to break out the 20-pound barbells. All the acrobats came out to greet the audience after the show. None of them was taller than I was (I'm 5'-4"); the women, some of whom bore the full weight of a couple of other performers, were tiny. They were all trim and toned, but nobody looked like Mr. or Miss Universe.

I'm satisfied that I was able to be happy in the cold, face up to something scary (the kayaking) and find a lot of things to like. But I'm very happy to be back in my quiet home.

1. "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream" by Joan Didion. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1968.


JanKnitz said...

I'm glad you found Balboa park and other amusements. People tend to think of "sunny California" and fantasize that it's always warm and tropical here. Nope. It's February--WINTER (such as it is) is here. This isn't Florida or Hawaii.

And if you ever come to San Francisco or other points in the SF Bay Area, remember what Mark Twain said (or at least it's often attributed to him) "The coldest winter I ever spent was July in San Francisco". San Francisco equals fog equals COLD. Don't forget your SWEATER!

Lori Miller said...

True, California is no more tropical than New Mexico. I suppose it's like people imagining that Denver is cool and breezy in the summer. But I've been to the Central Coast in the winter a few times and never needed more than a sweater.

tess said...

EB would be so proud of you, playing in the ocean in February.... :-) me -- i think i'd prefer doing it in August.

Lori Miller said...

The key is to keep moving. But I'd rather do it in August, too.

Exceptionally Brash said...

I AM proud, and also quite fond of Oceanside. It is so laid-back there.

Lowcarb team member said...

Hi Lori

Your blog is called Pain, Pain go away.I hope you are not in constant pain.


Lori Miller said...

When I started this blog, I had an abscessed tooth, among other problems. It was the worst pain I was ever in.