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Sand Dollars

San Diego Beach Life for the Average Visitor

Photo of Ocean Beach Pier at sunset

By now, after living in San Diego for nearly 21 years of my life, I have experienced most, if not all, of San Diego’s “elegant” beaches. I have smelled air full of salt, smog, pot smoke, and other ephemeral smells.  Many sights come to mind when observing people at the beach, you have the cliche tourists, families, couples, the surfers, the gooks, and the high class beach-goers. It is not hard to differentiate the groups, the gooks and surfers merely finding a spot to get there high on life through Mother Nature’s virtues, the normal middle class families and couples simply finding a few hours of escape from working round clock to live in the inner cities and rural areas that are scorched with such immense heat on a summer's day. The upper class leisurely taking a drive in some new sports car of tomorrow without a care in the world, casually speaking about business or stock in some “Hip Bar” that just popped up recently on the corner.

I sit at various bars, enjoying a cold local brew from one of the many microbreweries sprinkled throughout the beaches, I enjoyed much of Coronado, sitting at one particular brewery named Ballast Point, observing each person coming and going, one couple ordering two glasses of white zinfandel, one man asking the nicely dressed, baggy eyed waitress, for a Coors Light, I myself enjoying a Local BP IPA. I look to the walls of the brewery, some mélange of naval equipment, some fishing net languidly strewed about the wall, and some murals and paintings of beach scenery.

Whilst taking a leisurely stroll around Coronado State Beach, miles of sand stretch out with minimal waves coming in, one or two obscure surfers waiting for a once in a blue moon wave. What a sight to see, luxurious cars and houses all over, Hotel Del Coronado pushed right up against the sand, a castle of sorts, with its white and red exterior, looking over the beach as if the beach was it's kingdom. Not much different from the La Jolla beach community, both are one large water hole for tourists and the upper class. Described as some of the jewel beaches of San Diego and they rank as some of the finest beaches in the nation, their exterior qualities are something of beauty yes, the torment, bark of seals at The Children’s Pool, as many attempt to gain photos with them in attempts to capture an artificial moment of nature, the DOW JONES dropping a few hundred points, a new car that “Bill” just bought, or American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown. It would appear that the highlight of my day would only retain to my seven dollar IPA and the occasional eavesdrop on a conversation, merely grinning as I tip the waitress, I prepare to continue on for the night. For cities that pride themselves with wealth and elegance, Coronado and La Jolla don't have much going for them in terms of nightlife.

I came into a local joint wearing a flannel, some board shorts, and some flip flops, a sports bar of types rather large and open, the ocean breeze pushed in through the open windows and with it a smell of garbage from the dumpster around the corner, which smelt of spoiled freezer burnt seafood. I decided that I’d take a seat next to the bar, it was rather crowded for it being around 9:00 in the evening, the waiters and waitresses scurry about like mice, shooting in and out of rooms, dodging the occasional drunk and rows of people standing and chattering. I figured it’d be nice to socialize, so I took part into attempting to initiate a conversation with the well dressed couple sitting next to me. I awkwardly throw a schmaltzy smile and “hello!” to them, only to be returned with an anemic “hey” and “hi” in response. I asked if they were from around the area and I got the cliche response of “ye” left with no anecdote or context. I took the remainder of my awkward encounter, to watch the couple up and move to a table across the way next to another couple of similar stature, and I left to finish watching the rest of the game and chugging the rest of my beer.

The next morning, I set off to Ocean Beach, quite the change of scenery indeed. The town itself struck me visually, this is no Coronado or La Jolla. I felt as if I were walking through the neighborhoods of South side Los Angeles. I decided I would walk down the main drag towards the pier, and within a few blocks of walking, a plethora of smells hit me. The most prominent smell, weed, as if I was walking through one big hot box, but while the overwhelming stench hit me the ocean seemed more present, than when I was in La Jolla, I happened to also pass by the local farmer's market where the smell of local Mexican food, and fresh crops were being sold. Approaching the sand I walk past a group of what looked like some homeless guys passing a joint around and an old beat up guitar singing of life’s blues.

Around noon I settled on the beach with my drawing pad, and I began sketching and doodling the ambiguous wonders of the small beach town of OB. Many surfers took to the voluminous waves, I watched as they glide across the murky water. The pier showed a diverse world of artistic imagination, paintings, and music scattered about. As noon passes serenely to evening, I decide to see the nightlife, so I leave my motel room and take a stroll to the main plaza near the beach, stopping into another local bar near the corner of the pier. Rather than ordering an IPA, a sudden change in mood has made me decide on a Golden Ale instead. I sat down at the bar next to two guys with their boards propped up against the wall next to them, two beers, Red Stripes it looked like, I ruminate for a moment, questioning why I seemed overdressed for this bar, the two only wearing a pair of board-shorts and flip flops. I was immediately accosted by them, telling me a great tale of their most recent surfing adventure, we all sipped our beers watching the game. The streets outside were lively as can be, local musicians outreaching to local souls, people danced and enjoyed the local bars and farmer’s market food. It was 12 in the morning and yet the day had only begun.