Every year around this time, the Midwest moves here, and I think of moving there. Our town looks too crowded, too paved, too sterile, too anonymous. I realize that my moving would delight some of you, and I want to offer an apology for being so darned negative, so often. Then again, isn’t negativity (one of the new sins of our new age) at least half the job of a real writer? Let’s not debate that.
I despise North County weekends, especially in August. Walking down the street at that time, one is far more likely to run into a real estate sign firmly planted on the sidewalk than an old friend. Tourists blitz the avenue, gawking, taking photos of my dying front lawn, as I grumble, “This place is not for sale.” Out of town developers transform funkyland into Disneyland as we are force-fed a look-alike concoction of concrete and steel along with lifeless parking garages.
Cat Stevens was ahead of the curve when asking, “Will you keep on building higher, ‘til there’s no more room up there?” Lights, cameras, action. Encinitas goes pop, gaining the dubious distinction by Surfer Magazine as the third best surf town in America, while Leucadia hits the spotlight in Outside Magazine and every wave from Oceanside to Pillbox is exposed in its naked glory for a wave-hungry world.
As for public art — we have a whitewashed Hawaiian Eddie Aikau, which is otherwise well done, welcoming us from the south. An awkward stinkbug going left tells the world they have arrived at Swami’s. The notorious Cardiff Kook, which finally received its magic carpet in the form of a great white shark devouring it, shows inquiring minds what a surfer wiping out looks like.
Paddle wars heat up from Cardiff Reef to Boneyard (renamed Boatyard) because of the number of SUPs and kayaks that stroke into what was once considered overflow parking.
I kinda miss “Tourist Go Home” and “If you don’t live here, don’t surf here,” hand-painted signs that gently warned outsiders to tread lightly. When I moved to North County in 1969, I found some of the rules posted at D Street. And, I am still waiting for Joey Parker’s promised T-shirt: “Cardiff by the Sea, the worst town in America!”
But hey, don’t get your endorphins in a twist about any of this. I know I sound like a barbwire-draped curmudgeon gnawing on alligator soup to some of you. I also know that many others silently agree with me.
August is here, and the good news is that August is nearly September and that September is nearly October and that October is nearly winter and in winter we get our town back and then, even with new street lights and soccer fields and Big Ugly Lot Busters (BULBS) and fake tile McMansions sprouting up like the fungus they are, we will stroll proudly to the beach with our surfboards, stopping along the way to visit those who have not yet moved away. Then I will ride a few of those tasty North County waves with you, and walk home cold, wet and smiling, thinking about how much I really love this place, and could never think of leaving it.
The day after writing this, I took a bodyboard out to Cardiff Reef. It was blown out, small and packed. The water was cold and the sky slate gray. I received stink eye from several longboarders and an SUP buzzed dangerously close to me. But, with no expectations, I caught six little waves and had a blast. Maybe it’s not too late to learn an attitude of gratitude, all year long.
Filed Under: Sea Notes