San Diego and a different SoCal
Trip Start May 26, 2007
15Trip End Jul 06, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Met some Amish guys on the train, coming down from Pennsylvania on a fishing holiday. How uexpectedly normal. The wore their outfit - white shirts, black pants with braces and a black waistcoat, black hat, Beards but no moustache. I listened carefully to their converstaion to see if they still spoke German but it was English with the odd word thrown in, and the accent wasn't far off standard American either
Met by Mike, who looks a lot older than the promotioanl picture used in his books. He is an utterly amazing person. At various stages in life he has been a meatpacker, a truck driver, a full time political / community organiser (for SDS), a civil rights campaigner, a union organiser, editor of New Left Review, author and college teacher. He teaches history at Irvine, (the Ornae County campus of the UC system), studied politicla economy, had originally intended to study field biology and is very skilled amateur geologist. He is one of the most bioliterate people I have ever met, extremely knowledgable about the southern Calfornian ecology and plants, and animals and bugs. AT 62, he still takes part in a sport called mountain running, and has delightful 3 year old twins, Cassandra and James Connolly, as well as three older children. His wife Alejandra Moctezuma, is a lecturer in art and museum studies and also a muralist in that Mexican tradition of wall painting. And she is also a direct descendant of the last Aztec emperor. He is incredibly knowledgeable with an amazing recall of information and details and as he drives you around you are regalled with history, politics, anthropology, ecology, whatever as the story is woven around what you see.
I learnt of a very different San Diego through him and saw city that is absolutley central to the US war machine, with nclear submarines, aircraft carriers, navy seals, a whole marine division
He also showed me the invisible dividing line between beach lifestyle California and redneck lifestyle California. In the South EAst interior parts the dominant ethos being the cowboys and the rancher. The whole of interior southern california has to be seen as part of the west, not the beach California we are rega;ed with on TV. That's a creation of the resettled mid westerners who came for the aersospace industries after WWII.
We also looked at an interesting park in the barrio, called Chicano Park. Like People's park in Berkeley, it was only created after a massive public campaign and commnity mobilisation. It seems so odd that in the USA in poorer areas in particular parks come about through social struggle and political campaigns, rather than being laid out as a matter of course. Anyway this park was developed on some waste land under the freeway flyover, but this has meant that the concrete pylons have been used for some amazing murals. The murals capture the entire Mexican tradition - the Aztec warrior, the Madonna, armed peasant women in the 1910 revolution and current political struggles over immigration and imprisonment. A police cruiser parked across the road the whole time I walked around taking photos!
We drove through some very beautiful richer areas of town too, with big houses and landscaped gardens. Being a military town a lot of these places are home to retired marine and naval officers, and the Republican support is shown by the sheer volume of US flags flying - every second house virtually. We past one condo where 8 flags were flying. Talk about overkill!
We also visited the border - being the weekend it was impossible to cross into Tijuana as the return cossing takes upwards of four hours as the Border Patrol check every car inside and out. The border had some similairties with the Iron Curtain as I saw it Germany in the 1970s with the double fence stretching into the ocean and the National Guard depots right on the fence. On the Mexican side middle class Tijuana is built right up to the fence, and there isa bullring about 5 metres from the borderline too!
Mike' kids are delightful. Cassandra in particular took to me and drew me a picture to keep. James took me outside to help him look for bugs and spiders to look at under the rocks, and he showed me his marvellpus collection of toy planes. he has his on memership at the Aviation Museum
That afternoon we drove into the mounians of the interior to visit a ranch owned by a froend of Mikes. Don is an expatriate Brit, grew up in South America worked as an engineer in East Africa and came to the states in 1970. A real Graham Greene character, now he has an avocado ranch, and is married to a Japanese lady. His foreman's grandson had been christened that morning, so there was a fiesta, with heaps of food - BBQ chicken, soft tortillas, rice, beans, salads including a delightful one made from the leaves of the prickly pear plant. The cooks and I had a fine old chat while turning chicken pieces and marinading them in Corona. The two gift tables were decorated with arches of balloons, and the present swere piled up on them. About 60 people there, with an outdoor Mexican DJ, heaps of beer, kids in their Sunday best running around. It was an absoute blast and finished up with the kids belting the pinata shaped like a tiger.
The avocado trees are planted up and down the montainsides which are very rocky and steep. People have to climb up there and hang on while pickng the fruit
The mountains are incredibly sparse - they only had 7 cm of rain last year, and everything i dry, far dryer than in our late November which is the comparable season. The colour is also very different, the chapparal on the mountain sides looks grey, compared to the brown of Australia and the tawny yellow of South Africa. Fire season is expected to start early.
That's the summary folks, hope youare enjoying reading about my rambles through Empire as much as I am doing them! Cheers for now.