Creative: San Diego Diary

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Irvine. The Train. Yes, a train. We have them here, but the platform is empty. Sitting isolated in what was once open land, then farmland and now a world of manmade madness. The intercom is broken. The trains aren’t marked and passengers ask each other if they are on the correct train, but after a short delay we head south.

The water is the only thing. Alluring in it’s blue. Turquoise to be precise. Small swell, empty lineups. Wetsuits but no hoods or booties. Bare skin here and there from the rowdies. This place was so beautiful, IS still beautiful, in those rare places that man has left alone. You can feel society and the dreaded “progress” moving in. Clack, clack, clack. Concrete, stucco and the promise of the banal.

A friend calls. Says he is leaving California. He wants to know what I know. Like minds making plans about days we may or may not ever see. Sobering but still a prize worth fighting for. The train is whisper silent. Clean. Filled with Latinos. Spanish fills the air after the mobile buzz. I try in vain to understand, eavesdropping just for practice. Nothing salacious.

I first came to San Diego in 1993. It felt like a frontier town compared to now. Many of my landmarks are gone. Replaced with chain restaurants, trendy little facial hair bars filled with those too important to look up from their phone. But there is something I like about this place. San Diego has a specific pride, always has in my experience, and it’s got a feel unlike any of the other urban centers further up the coast. Small town? No. But active.

I walk the downtown area with a filter from the middle 90’s and realize quickly my filter no longer applies. The pipe and needle are further out now. Pushed blocks away as the gentry moves to the once unfashionable downtown. The occasional smell of the dispossessed, hinting that all things are not well once you peel back that outer layer.
This is fighter town, a border town. A blend.

I’m here for Adobe Max. Along with the connected masses. I’ve been to this event before, and enjoyed it, so I’m anxious to have a look around. I don’t come to something like this needing or wanting anything. I just come to do my Blurb work and observe. I’ll be in my hotel at night, designing my latest “things,” some of which I’m very excited to share with you in the coming weeks.


Comments 6

  1. The homogenization of our towns has been on my mind for some time too. Trying to do my bit to record the vernacular, one frame at a time. Great piece, as always Dan…love it!

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      You can shoot things today that don’t seem particularly interesting, but suddenly it becomes relevant when another chain goes in.

  2. The march of progress, where everywhere looks the same. This post reminded me of how some New Yorkers miss the city of the 70s, dirty, broken in many places, but with character. I was also reminded of Bill Bryson. A friend loaned me a copy of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, in which Bill notes that in the 50s, a city was an individual place, with stores and businesses that existed nowhere else. Now, many city centres look much the same as any other city centre. Comforting for some, maybe.

    Daniel, you may be interested in this New York Times blog post of a re-release of Susan Meiselas’ book, Nicaragua, about the Sandinista revolution in the 70s. I remember the book well, and the fact that Susan returned to Nicaragua to re-visit some of the participants and record their experiences.

    With the new version of the book the reader, via a free app, can put their smartphone over an eye symbol under some of the photographs and watch a video clip of a person depicted in the photo talking about the revolution. How cool is that?

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      That is fantastic. Susan spoke at my school when I was just starting out. I also wrote her a letter back in 1992 and she wrote me back. I see her from time to time. A super cool woman. Her Nicaragua book was influential for sure. I thought about her when I was in Nica a few years ago. Thanks for sending.

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