We were pleasantly surprised about the return of Doug Porter to San Diego after a 30 year furlough. Doug, a graduate of Point Loma High, worked on the “OB Liberator”, the precursor to the original “OB Rag,” plus he worked on the Rag in 1971-72 as part of the staff that picked it up when the first crew evaporated. Doug went on to work on the “San Diego Door” during the heady days of the early, mid-seventies. He departed our city some time after that for Washington, DC. Here, he shares some of his observations about Ocean Beach.
by Doug Porter
It’s been well over three decades since I left OB. My travels since that time have taken me to Washington DC, where I breathed the heady air of Nationalpolitiks for a long while, off to the mountains of Virginia to escape the stresses of city living (and to start a family) and, finally, to the Caribbean for what turned out to be a mission of personal growth.
Now I have returned to San Diego . I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Rag had been reborn as a blog and that a progressive spirit did indeed still exist in the community. In my infrequent visits to the area in past years it seemed to me that the community I once knew had succumbed to an unstoppable wave of consumerist frenzy.
So, as part of my getting reacquainted, I recently spent a day in OB simply observing life as it is today on the streets. It was a hot Saturday and the beaches were packed with people escaping the hundred degree heat reflected off the concrete and asphalt that now define much of San Diego County .
The first thing that jumped out at me was how o.l.d. I felt in comparison to the crowds that soon filled the street. The allure of the seashore and the funkiness of the business district are magnets for the 18-34 demographic that the MSM marketers so desperately crave. Waves of testosterone washed up the streets, with young men strutting their tanned bodies, tattoos and toys in the hope that they’d be noticed by the scattering of young women presumably also seeking to be noticed.
Then it occurred to me that I was -duh- a lot older and, hopefully, wiser. I set off to explore the back streets, looking for the haunts of yesteryear. And they were all…gone. The only landmarks that survived as I remembered them were those selling booze; Abbott Street Grocery and their brethren live on, fueling the highs and lows of the escapist mentality that still pervades, the mentality that eventually swept over my life.
I remembered the day I got my FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act, when I learned that the government had first noticed me at OB People’s Park, (according to the file) yelling at hippies for not protesting vigorously enough. That’s not how I remember it, but, then again, I don’t quite remember a lot of things.
I walked on to the Food Coop, looking-hoping-that somehow I’d connect with some part of my past. After all, working on the original cooperative had been one of the earliest successes for progressives in OB. The co-op was nice…. clean and efficient with an involved staff, all the right choices and even signs for yoga classes posted outside. And then -duh- number two percolated into the foreground of my consciousness: you can’t go back.
Freed from my need to replicate the past, I wandered on. I had a terrific lunch at a Newport street eatery called Craves, wandered aimlessly through the shops and enjoyed watching the surfers from the pier. Late in the afternoon I came upon the Newbreak coffee shop and enjoyed a Chai concoction.
My mind drifted back to the past once again, and there I was, daydreaming about the OB Liberator era as the endless people parade along Abbott Street marched by, when my senses were jolted by the smell of a burning Gauloise cigarette, something I hadn’t smelled in years. And there she was-all of 19, maybe, puffing away as her friends were finishing their smoothies. She turned to her friends as she crushed the foul Frenchie butt and casually asked, “Are we ready to go panhandling now?”.
There’s still much to be done, isn’t there?