by Jeannette De Wyze /Travels in San Diego / June 14th, 2010
Given how much San Diego has changed in the 36 years I’ve lived here, it warms my heart when I run across something that seems timeless. Case in point: the current flap roiling Ocean Beach, which I’ve been following in the always-entertaining OB Rag blog. At issue is a $2.50 sticker that’s been sold for about three weeks at The Black, the community’s venerable head shop/novelty store. Displaying the silhouetted imaged of a Depression-era hobo and his dog, the sticker recalls California state park messages not to feed the bears. Only it instead directs OB visitors not to “feed our bums.”
Forty years ago, “it was the Black’s customers – the hippies, the young people and street people of yesteryear – who were being harassed. Now, in a dramatic, ironic, and retrograde turnabout, The Black is selling anti-homeless stickers,” fulminated longtime activist and OB Rag blog co-founder Frank Gormlie last Thursday. The next day Gormlie was calling for a community boycott, and Saturday, he shared his conversation with one of the store’s managers, Ken Anderson, in which Anderson defended the stickers as satire. (”People are taking this way too serious.”)
The debate in the blogs Comments section has been er…. lively, to say the least, including such discussion points as whether bums are synonymous with homeless people. Now Gormlie’s hinting he may mount a petition drive in an attempt to banish this sign of intolerance from the streets of Ocean Beach (where the stickers have reportedly been showing up on municipal signs.) To cover its bases, the Rag is also offering a $20 prize to “whoever rips off the most stickers.”
Jeannette De Wyze has worked as a journalist in San Diego since 1974. In 2007 she diversified, founding San Diego Insider Tours, a vehicle for showing visitors the special things that make San Diego unique. In June of 2008, she created Travels in San Diego as a way of sharing interesting things about the city and county.
In her spare time, she and her husband Steve raise puppies to be companions for folks with disabilities.