A Story About San Diego (opening) by Jon Oropeza

Yeah you heard right, I’m crashing at Hackensmith’s. His Barrio Logan suite. It’s a place to sleep and keep my stuff, if not my sanity. He has the petite bedroom, the trailer-home kitchen, the moldy bathroom, and most of the living room. I have the couch and six inches squared of floor space to put my backpack. Every night before I pass out, I make sure a corner of my pack isn’t protruding beyond the tape Hax has laid down. Otherwise I wake up with a pissy dwarf in my face.

Our arrangement is fairly straightforward : Hax works and pays the bills and stuff like that. I do the dishes and provide smidges of dumb optimism. We’re living, somehow. Bert and Ernie, munching our cookies in bed, biding our time before the dozers come and the demolition begins.

Our neighbors, on the other hand, still have hope. They’re up in arms! Tonight they held a vigil – “Save The Barrio From Condotown”. Rah rah rah. Hah. I say they start tonight – Get that wrecking ball and wreck this wreck at the joists. There are rats in the rafters, termites in the 2x4s and roaches in the foundation. Fifty pounds of fumigant wouldn’t get rid of the vermin – believe me, we tried. They say this building has history. I say it’s a sawdust deathtrap, built for eight, currently accommodating closer to eighty-eight. If the wrecking ball doesn’t get her, the Big One will. Those roaches, I’m sure, will be just fine.

If you know Hax, and it seems like everyone does, you know how much shit I take for living with him. He’s such a funny little guy. So ornery and cantankerous. He’s a total slob, he keeps me up until dawn with his obscureist music, and he is positively the worst cook on the planet. His breath reeks and he never washes his hair. Otherwise, Hax is a pretty OK guy. That is when he’s not down on the world, or women.

Tonight he’s down on both. I listen to his rant for a while, then like I don’t have a clue, I ask him what’s wrong. “Everything!” he says. Everything, Hax? Every last thing? I’m holding back a giggle as he starts in with a fresh round of ranting.

Everything sucks. Everything in this City and County of Fun Diego is a fake, a lie, a cheap facade, a poster for naked greed and senseless accumulation. This isn’t even a city! It’s an exurb of LA, a Navy Town, a Tourist Town, where nobody dares rock the cradle so long as the sun is out – which it fucking is four hundred and sixty four days of the year – and daddy’s paying the note on the negatively amortized mortgage. “Fuck this place!” he yelps.

That’s how Hax feels about San Diego anyway. I hate to say it, but most of my friends feel the same way. They’re all anxious to go, nibbling their toenails over every spare day they’re stuck here. For them San Diego is a temporary position, a waystation population one million, a place where you play for a while before moving back home to start a family of your own. Or moving up to San Francisco, where everything, every last thing, is happening.

As for me, I’ve been in San Diego for five years. No, six now. Four of those at SDSU. These last two doing, shit, I don’t know what you’d call it. Consulting? That’s what my resume says, or would say if I had one. I can’t say I have a lot to show for my years here. Half a degree. No job. No prospects, no girl, no car to get around in, no money to move anywhere else. I’m living with a pessimistic, misogynistic, closet-homosexual whose idea of being a benevolent landlord is not reminding me every hour of how he’s holding my life in his hands.

The next morning a fresh whim hits me. I’m on my way to Wee Italia to meet John, walking down Market because I don’t have $2.25 for the bus, when I feel the urge to skip. You get to this spot coming down off Grant Hill where our downtown’s oddly angled scrapers are arrayed in front of you like a temple of Suryavarman the Great. There are clean gaps where Market and Broadway flow arterially through the clusters of structures. On one flank is the Dog Dish, to the other the crenelated hump of Cortez Hill. Front and center, the twin sails of the Hyatt Towers yank the goodship Didadicus de Alcala into the Pacific, where a bank of fog hunkers off Point Loma.

I saw all this and said, well, what the hell, I’ve got nothing else going on, why not skip? And what a rush! I feel like a living cartoon. Not even ashamed when the bums and pushers start yelling at this interruption of their tawny reveries “Hey skip whiteboy skip, hey skippy where you skipping to? Skippy McSkip! Hey lookit Skippy McSkip skip!” all the way down Market…


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