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  • Writer's picturejeffmcm

San Diego

Walking near our hotel in old San Diego, the Gaslamp District, the ubiquitous ragged and often ranting homeless, echoing the decay of so many U.S. downtowns and the people who live there, not out of choice but desperation. Unlike the suburbs, public space is public.

Something hits the back of my pack; a large round stone. Someone threw this at me? I’m just another gawking tourist dragging a suitcase. I don’t live here, perching instead in overpriced rented rooms.

Our hotel is a former bank, quite grand in its time and reasonably restored, yet this recognition and admiration is tempered by the reality that such formerly formal and elegant buildings announce; we can no longer live up to the standards established by our architecture. We impose tacky onto timeless.

Up in our room, the large windows no longer open, being sealed so that we cannot fling ourselves out. Designed to let the outside in they are now transparent walls. A few miles away our border wall with Mexico repeats the theme on a larger scale.

Down the street, mostly occupied by the wandering homeless, is a lovely old theatre, The Balboa, partially surrounded by restoration fencing. Lots of music clubs, which is good to see. Perhaps there is more life here at night? The U.S. Grant, “a Luxury Collection Hotel,” dominates the block across from the Balboa. Rooms $300/night and parking $57. In the lobby, I am delighted to find that the usual gathering of chattering convention types are here for the LGBT Law Association. If I didn’t have a husband…

A few blocks away as the architecture gets more blandly modern, I encounter a life-size statue of a middle-aged white man, leaning forward, his stone smile closer to a smirk. On the ground a plaque lists the accomplishments of one Pete Wilson: Mayor, Senator, Governor. He is credited with “revitalizing” downtown San Diego. Wilson, as Governor, enthusiastically supported the odious 1994 Proposition 187 that greatly restricted the rights and opportunities (such as public education) for immigrants in California. Is there irony in that “his” downtown is once-again shabby and occupied by people whom his policies most likely damaged? How many of them were at one point immigrants, or fell upon hard times because of the fallout around anti-immigration (which is really anti-poor people, anti-other) restrictions? He deserves his ugly statue, fixed and immobile as his policies and party.

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