Originally posted July 10, 2009
More important now than ever before
With the economy forcing people to spend more time focusing inward, some are becoming more in touch with the little things that make daily life so interesting. For many people, including myself, daily routines start to become a comfort that blocks out stress. Even a commute home from work can be a reminder of the joyous simplicity of the community you live in.
After work, I pick my girlfriend up and head towards OB on 8 West, passing through the OB Entryway, past Robb Field and the Ocean Beach sign, eventually pulling into the alley where our apartment assigned parking spot sits. Along the way, we pass the same people, the same parked cars. Neighbors on all sides of us use the alley as their backyards; their garages as adult retreat rooms or rehearsal space for their bands; the alley itself serves as a playground for their kids. I have actually had a full conversation with some of these people only a few times, mostly in passing. Some of their names I do know, some I do not. Irregardless, I know that I can always count on a friendly smile, a wave, and even a generic comment like “beautiful day” or “shitty day” (depending on the marine layer). This is my reality. As part of my daily routine, I have come to expect these common courtesies. It is something I value tremendously; I don’t know if it would be possible to live in a place where a little smile here and there was a cause for concern.
The “bubble” you live in becomes your existence; I guess some people call it a bubble, but for those who stay abreast of what is going on outside of the community, that is not necessarily the most appropriate term. Nonetheless, places like Ocean Beach are oriented towards sticking around and not leaving too often – hence, a bubble. Inside the bubble, you start to notice things that happen regularly. The neighborhood cats that roam your patio (and inadvertently fall in love with your own cats through a screen door) become familiar, the blocks you walk to get to where you’re going become your favorite routes, the wetsuits hanging on fences are a daily reminder of the ocean literally blocks away. Even the folks picking through the trash to collect cans (or maybe try and steal your identity…I can’t help it, I’m paranoid) are as common a sight as that woman who is WAY too old to wear a miniskirt who you always see walking her dachshund. Or the guy who rides an adult tricycle. Or the hopscotch course drawn in sidewalk chalk at the end of the block that you can NEVER avoid jumping into.
This is not some existential rambling about community; it is community. San Diego is a city made up of hundreds of these; even a tiny enclave like OB has distinctly different “sections”, each one with distinct citizens who get to know each other over the course of their daily routines.
So why is it important to bring this up? Now, more than ever, communities struggling to sustain their identity have to work twice as hard to keep from falling apart. The word “gentrification” gets thrown around a lot, and most people agree that it is a bad thing for a place like OB – but there are ways to weather gentrification and assume its improving qualities while also not losing the same sense of community that I feel every day on my way home from work. For anyone who reads this but never even smiles at their neighbor, maybe now would be a good time to start. Find out what they do, who they are. Why are they always yelling at the TV at 6:00pm screaming “Fuck Pat Sajack!”? Well, maybe they just happen to love Wheel of Fortune, and believe they could better host the show. Where do they get their ridiculous smelling weed? Well, maybe now you’ll get a new connection. Just saying hi could get you a “fuck off” or a bud light. It’s worth a try at least.
On July 4th, Chris Bowd was assaulted and nobody knows exactly what occurred. To find out what happened, his family and friends are reaching in – rather than out – to try and find the culprits. OB is small enough where if something happens, somebody probably knows who did it. That’s the point – we need to foster that to make sure nobody slips through the cracks. The OB Rag is doing its part as a community partner, but it is just one piece. Just as important as the people who follow this blog are the people who don’t have a computer, or those who really just don’t have the time to follow the rants and raves of a bunch of freaky OBecians.
It seems cliché, but at a time when most of us are scaling back what little amenities and luxuries we once had, we could spend more time enjoying the minimalist existence that a lack of luxury allows.
Except the goddamn parrots. I could do without them.