Adios, San Diego / Ivan Garcia

san-diego-de-noche-f-620x330The San Diego international Airport is not as excessive as that of Miami or New York. Everything is fast. When you check in they welcome you with friendly service and an attempt at fractured Spanish: Bienvenido a San Diego!

If you arrive on a weekend you notice the nightlife in the center and the old part of the district. On weekdays San Diego is a quiet town. Nothing like Miami, where the bars, the casino on Indian territory, and the discotheques spill over the beach area.

Around 10 at night the streets of San Diego’s suburbs are desolate. The bars close at that time. Near the Holiday Inn Hotel a liquor store sells beer, rum and Scotch. The owner is Iraqi.

A sympathetic guy who spoke horrible Spanish. When he learned we were journalists, four from Venezuela and one from Cuba, he said: “Chavez, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein what characters.”

On weekends the city comes to life. Downtown San Diego is beautiful, well-lit and active. At the entrance to the Old Spaghetti Factory a beggar with a long beard and a military coat calmly ate a serving of boiled spaghetti without tomato sauce or cheese.

“He likes it like that. He is a man who barely speaks. Probably a crazy war veteran. We give him food and at the end of the shift he takes out the trash,” and Argentinian who has spent five years in San Diego tells me.

Not far from Petco Park, the fabulous baseball stadium, site of the San Diego Padres, there are businesses, bars and a boulevard. At a sports shop you can buy caps and shirts from this club. The shirt of the Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne cost $96.

The seller, a Padres fan, believes that Despaigne will be a lethal weapon in the upcoming season. “He has everything. A good fastball, a change-up and intelligent command of pitching. His style and balance is like Duque Hernandez’.”

He wanted to know Odrisamer’s numbers in Cuba. And all the possible information about future baseball stars on the island. Cuban baseball players, after the performance of Yasiel Puig and José Dariel Abreu, are all the rage in major-league baseball.

After the workshop in investigative journalism at the University of California San Diego, we Latin American colleagues wanted to say goodbye with a toast. That night I forgot my passport in the hotel. At every bar we were asked, in the correct manner, to show our IDs.

In the United States you are only allowed to drink alcohol if you’re over 21. “But I am clearly over 21 (I am 49),” I told the clerk, but he was unfazed. “Those are the rules. And if there is something this society has it is citizens who comply to the letter,” an American journalist told me.

This respect for the rules is evident in everyday life. People wait for the light to indicate when pedestrians can cross. Drivers respect the rules of the road.

“On all the highways there are electronic surveillance systems. If you’re caught drinking while driving, in addition to losing your license, you can go to jail, because it is considered extremely dangerous. When you exceed the speed limit, the next day they send you a $500 fine with the radar photo where you can see your car. People follow the rules: the penalties are severe and hit your wallet,” a San Diegan explained to me.

I was struck by the pride toward military institutions. In a café in the old part of the city a group of sailors entered. On seeing them, people started to clap. The owner of the café treated them to a drink.

When you tour the battleship Missouri, now a museum docked in the bay, you know the interest of people towards the armed forces. There is a United States Naval base in San Diego. Also an institution that takes care of war veterans.

In Balboa Park, on the outskirts of the city, an area of 100 acres, is the fabulous San Diego Zoo, one of the most important in the world. At the entrance there is a life-sized sculpture of an elephant covered in grass. The zoo has more than 4,100 animals of 800 different species. Some like a giant panda, in danger of extinction.

A little further south is the beach. It is the several mile-long stretch of sand with dark-toned water and unpredictable waves. In its favor, San Diego has a Mediterranean climate and the infrastructure of a first-world city.

Notable is the architecture of the University of California San Diego located in La Jolla, or that of the Petco Park Stadium. But its beach, which kisses the Pacific Ocean, falls short compared to a Cuban beach. Varadero compares favorably to the beach of San Diego

Iván García

Photo: Ariel view of San Diego California. Taken from the website: El Latino de San Diego

Notebook of a Journey (V)

29 December 2014