San Diego Stories by Salvatore Filippone

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June 26, 2002


I wake up early ... too early. In spite of all my recent radiation-inspired sleepiness, I still wake up too early. I think my mother planted the wretched idea in my head that after one turns 30, one inevitably begins waking up at 5 am. So, regardless of when I fall asleep I now think of any hour past 6 am is sleeping in.

This I now complain about endlessly.

I actually don't mind that much. It‚s just the romantic notion of sleeping in that I miss. It seems so innocently 14-years-old, so deliciously young that nothing could be so important that cannot wait for another few hours of blissful dreaming, exquisite unconsciousness.
The thing I wonder about is the guy who makes his bed in the parking lot across the street from where I live. He sleeps behind the tiny mexican takeout that faces India Street. I don't know when he goes there, he's never there when I go to bed, but always in the morning I'm awake before the sun, and he's sound asleep. I've seen cars pulling in, parking dangerously close to him, and he doesn't stir. The
first time I saw this I thought maybe he had died. But nothing seems to disturb his sleep. When I leave for work he's still there, motionless and sound asleep. I always check on him.

I wish for just one week that I was one of those anal-retentive perfectionists. All of my laundry would be done, folded and put away, the mail would all be opened and filed, my checkbook would be balanced. Everything would have its place and I would know where it was. I could save at least 30 minutes a day that I now spend
searching for keys, sunglasses, wallet, underwear ... everything. So with that 30 minutes a day I would have almost 4 hours a week to be anal-retentive and keep everything in order.

But then I wouldn't be so random. I kind of like random.

So in those hours in the morning which are actually nice even though I complain... when most human consciousness is quiet and I envy the guy who can sleep in a parking lot ... I remember things like being a kid and summer afternoons on the porch with my brother reading to each other from the Guinness Book of World Records. The Smallest Person in the World. The World Record for Somersaults. The Man who Hiccuped for 30 Years.


Posted by sfilippone at 10:16 PM

June 24, 2002

The Big Move

Boxes lay strewn across the room, full of my belongings, full of stuff I’d bought over the years. I’m a total packrat, and now I was paying for it. I always start out intending to clean house, but end up keeping everything. It’s going to take me forever to move this stuff, and to Old Town, no less. Moving can be a pain in the you-know-what.

By the time I was done loading my car, I was already tired. I was reminded of Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, riding along on top of the old jalopy in the Grapes of Wrath, as if my little VW were the old Model T. Hardly. I started off towards my new neighborhood, looking forward to getting the apartment set up. It was 7am and the city was wide-awake. Planes revved their engines hello from Lindbergh as I made my way down India St. Cars zoomed onto the 5 onramp, speeding into oblivion. The plates in the backseat rattled in sync with potholes. I can say that in the 20 years I’ve lived in Mission Hills, this particular portion of India Street seems to have managed to avoid any upgrades. That, or there are gremlins that come out after dark to swat holes into the asphalt.

Red light. I was almost there. San Diego Avenue is just past Washington, beginning where India ends. I realized that it’s just a short journey to civilization from my place, where the vitals are within walking distance: Mexican Food, coffee, and alcohol. People were already lined up at Valentines, getting their machaca and horchata, or perhaps some huevos rancheros. Gelato Vero’s regulars were out front, still waking up, injecting caffeine and bagels into their stomachs. I figured I might be one of those folks soon. I might even start hanging out over at Bar Dynamite, too. The light turned green.

I thought about all the places I’ve lived. The small flat I shared with a cousin in northern Italy, the room only a stone’s throw away from the beach in Florianopolis, Brazil. My little studio in Aix en Provence. What they all had in common was that they were chapters, temporary spaces to occupy before my eventual return to San Diego. I never had enough time to settle in and call them home. This time it’s a bit different. I’m reminded of an episode in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. It’s the part where Lenny asks George to tell him yet again about the little house they’re gonna have. I loved that part, but I never paid much attention to its meaning until now. Tiny as it is, I was finally moving into my own little homestead. Poor Lenny.

I pulled up in front of the apartment, and sat in the car for a few minutes looking around. I rolled the windows down and leaned back. I closed my eyes and listened to the cars speed by on the overpass. Just audible above the sound of rubber and concrete was that of a jet readying for takeoff. Off in the distance I heard somebody yell in Spanish.

Posted by sfilippone at 10:08 PM

June 06, 2002

Surf's Up...

I live in San Diego, but I don’t surf. Yes, it’s true. There are, in fact many San Diegans who do not surf. To the many people I meet, this is a cardinal sin. I’ll hear a guffaw, and then a faux look of shock spreads across their faces, or maybe they’ll regard me with a disbelieving shake of the head. I like the beach, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just not cut out to surf (I am a pretty good guitar player, though). Anyway, I’ll explain why. Once upon a time…

At age 22, I acquired an old longboard from my friend Charlie. Another buddy of mine let me have a new full suit that he had hardly used. Having scored these two choice items, I was ready to attack the waves. First, I asked a few surfer friends of mine for tips on where to start, the best break for beginners, etc. Armed with this new information and my gear, I set out for Ocean Beach.

I parked my truck, put on my wetsuit, and headed for the water. I chose a spot a few hundred feet away from the pier. As I approached the water, I became more self-conscious. I could feel the stares. I thought I heard some call out, “Barney!” Were they talking to me? Fuck. I was already being called a barney. I was pretty obvious, I guess. I shrugged it off, and started paddling out.

I hadn’t paid attention to the size of the waves on my way to the water. Big mistake. It was a big day.

After getting slammed by a couple of sets on the way out, I finally was ready to surf, but I was pretty tired from all the paddling. I ignored this and found renewed energy. A swell was on its way. It was huge. I started paddling as hard as I could. The swell arrived, and I felt its energy pick up the board and propel it. I wasn’t ready, but you don’t argue with nature. I dropped into the wave, still lying on my belly, petrified and excited at the same time. I tried to stand up, but wiped out hard. I tumbled underneath the water for what seemed minutes, and finally came up. I heard laughing somewhere. It was drowned out by the next wave that broke over my head. I hadn’t seen it coming. Apparently, I had been watched the entire time.

The laughing had busted my concentration. I was pissed off, at the surfer who had laughed at me, but more at myself for being there. I felt stupid. The word Barney echoed in my head. I began to paddle towards shore, and then I heard the laughter again, but this time it was accompanied by,

“Get the fuck out of here, kook!”

I looked back, and there was the laugher, displaying his extended middle finger. I smiled at him, and watched his smile transform into an angry scowl. I ignored him and continued paddling to shore. Great, I thought, first I almost drown, and now this guy’s going to kick my ass on the beach. I expected to hear splashes behind me, but they never came. He didn’t follow. I got out of the water and headed back to my truck. I was fuming. I changed and left, cursing my heckler.

Five years passed before I tried surfing again.

Looking back, the heckler didn’t make things easier for me, but I went out there without thinking. I could have hurt myself, let alone somebody else. I approached the waves without respect, and got a thrashing. The next time I went out, I practiced in the whitewater, and later paddled out when I had enough experience standing up. Also, I always went with a buddy. I haven’t had a bad experience since. But I still prefer playing my guitar…

Posted by sfilippone at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)