a San Diego Occupation?

in something of a San Diego mood today, I did a search for “Occupy San Diego.” enjoy and/or bear with me.

on a whim, I searched for “Occupy San Diego” to see if there were any protests organized for this week. I was somewhat skeptical of finding anything. whether because the radical polarization of the last nine months has changed my perspective on activism in Madison, because of the vicissitudes of memory, or because issues inspiring political activism didn’t engender this degree of passion while I lived there, I never felt like San Diego could generate much enthusiasm for protest. as I’ve said many times, despite popular perception of California, San Diego is the most conservative place I’ve ever lived. even though the city went blue in the 2008 election, the county is still red, and that reality came across in the limited size and scope of Democratic (much less progressive) mobilization.

even though the weather would make for great “Occupying”, I don’t know how many San Diegans feel passionately enough to challenge the establishment and do so. perhaps there’s a greater degree of ambivalence or apprehension about how the San Diego Police Department would react to protesters. seeing how some NYPD officers have reacted to Occupy Wall Street I am even more impressed with how law enforcement officers treated the #wiunion. weeks of protest; people taking up residence in the rotunda to protest the shady way in which Republican lawmakers called and held meetings; hundreds, then thousands of people marching around the capitol day after day, week after week. and no police-protester altercations like those that have come out of New York. would the actions of the San Diego PD be more like in Madison, or New York? if the protests become large enough, how might the strapped resources of the SDPD come into play?

the behavior of the law enforcement officers combines with the real dangers of a city as large and (comparatively) troubled as San Diego. New York City might share many of those problems, but geography changes things, too; in an already more-ambivalent San Diego populace, how are you going to inspire people to drive miles and miles to participate in something that, at least at this point, is largely symbolic? there have been insightful commentaries unpacking the genesis of this protest movement and I’m inclined to agree that the mobilization of the last several months will prove a turning point in our history. my generation is finally mobilizing on a broad scale to affect societal change and we’re using the tools of the 21st century to do it. it’s about time.

driving down the 163

 the drive down the 163, through Balboa Park, always made the trip from home (in Clairemont Mesa) to the airport pleasant. it’s entirely unlike any other drive you’ll take in such an urban setting.
the El Prado bridge connects the Hillcrest side of Balboa Park with the side of museums and the Zoo. (since this is a bridge theme, I will save any ode to Balboa Park and environs for another day.) (some people refer to it as the Laurel Street Bridge, but that street actually ends at Sixth Avenue.) it was built for the Panama-California Exhibition of 1915 to allow pedestrian and car access across the Cabrillo Canyon (which hosted grazing cattle until the late 19th century). the bridge was dedicated in 1914 by Franklin Roosevelt (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy), prior to the opening of the 1915 Exposition. Roosevelt returned as President in 1935 for Park’s second Exposition. due to the height of the bridge — flush with the rim of the canyon on both sides — traffic on the bridge is not visible from 163.

though initially designed to get people across the canyon to the museums of the Exhibition, the bridge has been used for many other purposes. not surprisingly, the height of the bridge proved attractive for despondent visitors and residents, including sailors. in it’s first 16 years, some seventeen people took advantage of the bridge for suicide, prompting the mayor and city officials to campaign to add some sort of preventative barrier. nothing came of it until 1950, when city workers installed wrought iron fencing on the parapets on both sides of the bridge. that didn’t stop people entirely from using it for suicidal purposes, though the completion of the Coronado Bay Bridge in 1970 provided a more effective means to that end. additionally, in 2008, a group of transients managed to penetrate an opening in the base of the bridge (for rainwater) on the north-facing side of the western edge of the bridge and constructed elaborate, multi-level housing structure inside the bridge. (very much like that episode of  This American Life, “The Bridge“.) they’ve closed up the holes now. don’t want to freak out drivers on the 163 or pedestrians on the bridge, I suppose — people use cars to avoid the problem of homelessness in San Diego, right?

the only time I ever walked over the bridge was when I went to visit last May and went on a rather sweeping walk from near the hospital in Hillcrest, through the park, past the zoo, and back over the Robinson Avenue Bridge. I made an effort to explore all kinds of “touristy” things while I was living in San Diego, but this walk was the kind of thing that you can only really appreciate once you’ve known a place and come back. (why would you take such along wander around Hillcrest on foot while you live there and could just as easily take your car?!) it was a lovely walk, as one would expect of San Diego in early May.

(got some of this info from Wikipedia, but a 2004 Union-Tribune article was much more useful)

Point Loma Lighthouse

and back across the country to climb to the top of more things … to the top of one of my favorite places in San Diego, Point Loma. the Lighthouse isn’t why I enjoy Point Loma as much as I do, but it was a good selling point for visitors. there’s a surprising lot to do on this southwesternmost point of the continental United States.

beginning in 1855, what is now known as the “Old” Point Loma Lighthouse was a beacon over San Diego Bay for 36 years. the year after California became a state, a coastal commission selected this location for its seemingly convenient and useful vantage point, 422 feet above sea level on a peninsula that overlooks both the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and construction began three years later (in 1854). workers used sandstone from the surrounding hills for walls and tiles from a nearby abandoned Spanish fort to cover the floor. the 3rd-order Fresnel lens (cutting-edge technology at the time; Fresnel lenses now go up to the 6th order) didn’t arrive from France until almost a year after the Lighthouse building was completed.

after illuminating the light for the first time in November 1885, however, it quickly became apparent that the position of the light at some 462 feet from sea level was rather less than ideal. on clear nights, the beacon could be seen some 25 miles out to sea. on foggy nights (of which there are plenty in San Diego, no matter what you hear about the weather), the light was in the middle of the cloud bank and useless to sailors navigating into San Diego Bay or up the coast. to compound the situation, there was no foghorn so, on foggy nights, the Lighthouse’s longest-serving keeper, Captain Robert Decatur Israel, would stand outside firing a shotgun into the sky to warn off ships.

while it operated, the Point Loma Lighthouse was home to a bustling family, whose quarters are recreated in the building as part of the museum. the tablecloth folded back on the table to make room for a game of solitaire, instruments propped against the wall in the children’s bedroom upstairs, a glimpse of the root cellar out back. access to the lantern room is restricted, but you can climb up those last few steps anyway and peek up into the space where the lens once resided. the light was extinguished for the last time on 23 March 1891 and duties were transferred to the “New” Point Loma Lighthouse, located at the bottom of the hill a mere 88 feet above the water.

more information from the National Parks Service and Wikipedia

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

while we’re on the subject of cemeteries, I thought I’d write about my favorite cemetery in San Diego County — the one at Fort Rosecrans on Point Loma.

Point Loma was one of the first places that I visited when I went to San Diego the first time in April of 2006. resting as it does on the ridge of the peninsula, the cemetery has spectacular views of both the San Diego Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. the cemetery and military base of which it is a part were named after a Union general from the Civil War, William Starke Rosecrans. the cemetery has a surprisingly long history — participants in the Battle of San Pasqual (about which more later) were re-interred (after initially being buried where they fell) at the military cemetery in 1874.

some other notable residents of the cemetery include a slew of Medal of Honor recipients (the most recent of which received the honor in 2006, but the last one before that was in the 1960s). also, a Major Reuben Fleet, a WWI aviator and perhaps now best known as patron of the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center in Balboa Park. another well-known name in San Diego: Major General Joseph H. Pendleton is buried at Fort Rosecrans. he graduated from the US Naval Academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1884. he rose to the rank of colonel and, in mid-1914 after arriving in San Diego, began advocating for the establishment of a major Marine Corps installation in the area due to the weather and harbor. he retired in 1924 and settled in Coronado, where he served as mayor for a time. he died in 1942 and later the same year, construction began on the Pendleton Marine Corps Base outside of Oceanside.

the grounds became a National Cemetery in 1934 and, while they still have room for cremated remains, the only room for caskets is in sites shared by previously interred family members.

info from Fort Rosecrans on Wikipedia and from the VA

Julian cemetery

really, I wanted to find my picture of the Julian cemetery but I couldn’t find it in flipping through my folders of photos. instead you get this sign that’s on the road between downtown Julian and Menghini & J.Jenkins on Wynola Road.

the cemetery sits atop a hill on the west edge of town. it overlooks the Julian Pie Company, as well as the fire house (put to use defending the town and surrounding area in October of 2007 as the Witch Fire burned through much of central San Diego County). the cemetery was established not long after the town; not surprisingly, the arduous trip west to the mountains of central San Diego county, and the hard life of a gold prospector beat many people and, as the Julian Historical Society puts it “For many pioneers, the toil of hard life ended on the hill above Julian.” for many years, however, the only access to the burial grounds was up the steep slope of the hill facing the main road through town. (here is where a photo would prove superlatively useful and illustrative. look here instead.) they’ve since built another road and parking lot, which access the cemetery some two-thirds of the way up the hill. when one notable resident died one winter, the burial had to be postponed until the ground thawed sufficiently to dig a space for her. there was still snow on the ground when they got her up the hill — something like eight men hauling the funeral sledge up the incline.

going back to an earlier Julian-related post about the sense of history of a place. I’ve uncovered some of the reason I feel so strongly that San Diego has less weight of history than anywhere else I’ve lived. although the state was established at nearly the same time as Wisconsin, that didn’t mean there was anything approaching population centers at the time. it was more a consequence of the Gold Rush, and less the need for governmental services to serve the population. Julian was settled in 1869 and San Diego wasn’t even chartered until 1886. one of the founders of Julian, Drue Bailey, is buried in the Julian cemetery. he arrived in the area at the age of 25 — he was only five years old when Wisconsin became a state, and six when California followed suit. beyond all of this, he died in the twentieth century (in 1921). if your headstone isn’t old enough to threaten toppling, isn’t so abused by the elements that you can barely read the inscription, then I have a hard time granting you any “weight of history.”

historic Julian

another reason I so enjoyed driving up to Julian is the sense of history the town possesses. even though California became a state immediately after Wisconsin (and was followed by Minnesota), and San Diego was incorporated the year the state was established, it always seemed to have a more limited sense of history. (I anticipate that at some point I’ll get into San Diego history, but today is for Julian.)

the unincorporated town is a California Historical Landmark, and the surrounding area is the Julian Historical district. it was established following the Civil War by soldiers who headed west to California. gold was discovered in the area by a former slave in 1869 and a minor gold rush began. the lode didn’t yield much, but during the period another settler brought some apple trees up into the mountains and discovered that the plants flourished. now Julian is well known for it’s apple pie. mmm, apple pie.

the town was home to some of the first settlers in San Diego County and, according to information from the 1880 census, the majority of blacks in the county lived in and around Julian. the first business to be owned and operated by blacks in the county was in Julian — the Robinson Hotel, owned by Albert and Margaret Tull Robinson. it’s now the Julian Gold Rush Hotel (pictured above). it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Julian wine

the mountains, the sunshine, the sense of escape that comes with traveling an hour away from somewhere — all reasons I’d drive up to Julian while I was living in San Diego. I don’t have the same inkling to head an hour away now that I’m back in Wisconsin. even gas edging towards $5 in Southern California didn’t deter me from my Julian sojourns when I needed them.

but beyond all of that, perhaps the biggest reason I’d escape to Julian: it served as an excuse to visit the Menghini Winery. I don’t even know what drove me to stop there the first time, if it was apple pie or wine tasting or just getting out of San Diego. (I remember my second visit quite clearly, with one Miss RLD.)

the winery is located in a valley and, in the winter the wind howls something terrible around the converted barn that hosts tastings. there are resident cats and dogs, tables and chairs out the back and in the front for leisurely tasting. I went up often enough that the woman who usually ran the tastings (and whose name now escapes me) recognized me. on my last visit before I moved, it was mid-week at the end of apple season and I was the only there. they were getting ready to drain and bottle one of the aging tanks. she let me try some of the unfiltered white wine. it was a most peculiar taste, and something that, while I can’t quite describe, has certainly stayed with me.

Menghini Winery

the sky goes on for days

yesterday I had a sudden and strong desire to be driving through the mountains on the way to/from Julian. whenever I needed to get away from San Diego for a while, I’d take to the hills. drive a loop that would take me up through Poway, and the fire-scorched land around Ramona, Santa Ysable and Wynola. sometimes I’d double back through Ramona, but more often I’d take the twisty turny mountainy road down through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. the land to the east and south of Julian is devoted to parklands — Cuyamaca, Cleveland National Forest, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park/Wilderness. on days like the one when I took this picture, the sky is an amazing gradient of blues, from the whispy white-blue near the horizon to an incredible azure above your head. it’s also a drive that requires your attention — switchbacks, narrow roads, blind curves. one of my favorite places on that drive is a short stretch through real (Californian) forest (with actual trees and low scrub brush, much more reminiscent of forests I am used to), where there are two curves that turn back on themselves and you drop your speed down to near nothing. take them a little on the speedy side and it’s a thrill.

Cuyamaca State Park association