Exploring the city
Ample sun, countless breweries, heavenly tacos, eclectic cafes, miles and miles of beach. All of these noun-adjective pairings characterize San Diego, the coastal city of 1.4 million that brims with life two hours south of LA and twenty miles north of the Mexican border.
Almost every establishment I walk into, be it a bar, restaurant, or cafe, feels spacious and expansive— different than the boxed-in feel common to many San Francisco businesses, with so many people smushed together on such sparse land.
Driving around it feels like entering a hotel room and spreading out across the king-sized mattress, limbs free to fully extend. Banquets of authentic Mexican tacos and cold beers beckon on the nightstands to your left and right as you luxuriate in all the space.
Inside Rip Current Brewery, flights of beer inside tiny surfboards rest against tables that are also surfboards. Oceanic murals beautify every wall, while soporific surf tunes drift through the air at a leisurely pace.
A beer exhibit at a museum in Balboa Park explores how the beverage was once used in religious ceremonies across many societies (and women were the ones to prepare it). Another exhibit shines light on monsters in the folklore of various cultures.
I love how each neighborhood has its own distinct feel: the Gaslamp with its brick streets and historic buildings, where lit-up pedi cabs pedal past all the people spilling out of night clubs (transporting some of them); Ocean Beach with more of a hippie feel; Pacific Beach sporty and fun, with volleyball players and roller bladers blitzing past on the pathway next to it; La Jolla beautifully upscale and refined.
In the gayborhood Hillcrest, restaurants, cafes, and bars (many with rainbow flags hanging from inside them) spew energy from their interiors out onto the streets.
Passengers include a guy who owns his own psychic business, who I take down to the Mexican border; two college-aged girls who I pick up in the bustling Gaslamp neighborhood of San Diego, are drunk and talking about their plans to devour mac and cheese when they get home (”I don’t like the healthy mac and cheese. I like the really artificially cheesy stuff. Like Kraft,” one girl explains); and Franken, who ended up vomiting on a policeman’s shoes at the end of our ride (you can read his full story here https://bit.ly/3nFafMq ).
The young couple and the penguin
“We spent forty dollars trying to win this guy before we gave up and just ended up buying him instead.”
— A teenage couple that I pick up at Sea World, of the child-sized stuffed penguin occupying the middle seat. For the length of the ride, their two hands converged sweetly at the penguin’s foot.
Joe Sees Bunnies
“There was this time in my life when I was only sleeping one hour a night, because my schedule was so full with all these classes I was taking,” says passenger Joe,* a young gay Latino man whom I’ve picked up near Balboa Park.
He is sharing a Lyft Line with Sharon*, whose purse has bunnies on it, sparking this recollection.
“One day I was talking to my German professor, and I saw a line of bunnies hop across the room, from the broom closet to the front door. And I said to my teacher, ‘What pretty bunnies!’ and my teacher looked at me and said, ‘Joe, there are no bunnies. You need to go home and get some sleep.’”
#Lyft Thoughts: A road analogy for privilege
Having been in the middle of the intersection for almost three minutes unable to make my left turn, I feel vulnerable.
I feel at the mercy of all the fast-driving cars that are impeding my turn, each dead-set on getting to where they need to go, with no time or patience to spare.
How long will this go on for? At what point will there be a break? A lull in the stampede so that I can finish what I started (that is, my turn)? The uncertainty causes some anxiety.
As drivers, sometimes we have the right of way. Other times we’re that vulnerable car in the left lane, waiting and waiting to make our turn while the cars who have the upper hand speed on by.
What if some drivers were, for arbitrary reasons, forever relegated to the left turn lane? What if they repeatedly found themselves there? To such a disproportionate degree that they knew it couldn’t be coincidence?
Would the drivers who weren’t in their shoes still dare to say, “It’s hard for all of us, so stop complaining?“
Those drivers aren’t wrong that out there on the road, all cars are at risk. They’re not wrong that we’re all vulnerable, each of us susceptible to the damage and wreckage brought on by accidents.
They are wrong, however, to deny the reality that those drivers sentenced to perpetual stalling at that unprotected left turn intersection are even more so.
Bigger passenger story: Future socially conscious video game designer / Snorlax kindred spirit
“The Pokemon I identify most with is Snorlax. Because I like to sleep all the time.”
I pick Sam* up near Balboa Park, where he’d been peering into a bush looking for Pokemon. He explains to me as he gets in that he’d been playing Pokemon Go.
After he makes known his kinship with Snorlax, I share with him that the Pokemon I most identified with as a kid was Pikachu, who refused to go inside his Poke ball. Every time his owner Ash threw the ball, Pikachu would swat it away using his lightning bolt tail. Though quiet and seemingly rule-abiding, I too was rebellious and anti status quo in certain ways.
Sam and I then get to talking about Snorlax’s versatility as a piece of furniture. He works as a bean-bag chair to sink back into; he works as an astro jump, with a belly apt for bouncing on; he works as a couch to sprawl one’s body across.
As we drive past opulent homes down the palm tree studded streets of La Jolla, I learn that Sam grew up watching shows like Pokemon and Yugi-Oh, and that despite his football player build and Anglo roots, his closest friends were the Asian kids.
At one point he he would be an animator, or draw for a living— maybe write the plots for video-games. That’s still a dream of his, albeit more distant and abstract-seeming.
“Reality pushed it further to the periphery for now,” he explains.
Maybe some day the dream will come to fruition, but for now he works as a customer service representative at a tech company.
I enjoy hearing Sam wax poetic about video games, namely their potential for effecting change on a societal level given their direct engagement with our youth (the future generation).
“Media has the power to shape our beliefs and how we see the world. Kids think they’re just blowing up bad guys in a pretend game when really what’s also happening is that the idea of violence is becoming more and more normal inside their brain.”
He even reflects on how video games can help to move society forward by normalizing the presence of marginalized groups:
“You could include two guys or two girls holding hands. Or methane gas going into the air every time a person eats a cow. These little things you slip in might just seem like minutiae, but the kid absorbs them. The details stick with him. That repeated exposure leads to increased acceptance over time.”
Snorlax might be sleepy and often lazy, but he’s also, I’ve decided, quite brilliant.
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