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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 | Even though the San Diego Padres may not end the season with a winning record, they’re looking like a pretty sure thing to go to the playoffs.
As a native San Diegan with roots going back 125 years, I get a kick when somebody from outside the city limits does a story about our fair burg – mostly because they tend to rely on easy categorizations that (mostly) miss the mark.
The lazy journalists usually describe the citizens as laid-back, mellow, “Don’t worry, be happy” types and rarely pick up the very real angst, crankiness and sarcasm that, to me, is an essential part of the culture.
The sarcastic streak is most evident in the music made by many of the more successful acts such as Frank Zappa, Blink-182, even jazzy popper Michael Franks. It’s a “loser sensibility” that Cameron Crowe once surmised was because San Diegans always feel like the beautiful but less glamorous sibling of Los Angeles.
Just as an example: I’m a journalist and I can’t tell you how many times a publicist from the East Coast tries to get me to attend an event in Los Angeles by saying, “It’s in your area.”
And I don’t know how many times I’ve snarled back, “Take a look at Mapquest, dammit, it’s three hours away – and that’s only if there’s no traffic.”
Why does the rest of the U.S. persist on labeling this city with this idiotic, laid-back persona stereotype? I think it was started and keeps going because a large part of the population moved here from a place with bad weather and figured anything is better than shoveling snow or putting storm windows up before a hurricane.
Those people are, by comparison to the relatives they’ve ditched in other climates, pretty mellow.
But to me, a native San Diegan doesn’t suffer fools (or even the smart people) gladly and doesn’t have that “Hey bud, let’s party” mentality. More like a “Hey jerk, I’m gonna party whether you like or not. On your car.”
Think about it, some of San Diego’s most famous sons and daughters have been very, very cranky guys.
Ted Williams may be known as a great hitter, but he’s also a guy who said of his own mother, “If she was my wife, I would have left her.” That’s not exactly Jeff Spicoli, is it?
Also, Cameron Diaz may be beautiful to look at but she gets awfully testy when the paparazzi are in her face.
And Charles Lindbergh may have been “Lucky Lindy” but his pro-Germany statements before World War II weren’t those of a laid-back dude.
Native San Diegans have to take a lot of crap from newbies who think they have the answer to everything. Take Father Serra. The indigenous tribes probably would have been able to open their casinos 200 years earlier if he hadn’t butted in and made them do things his way.
It’s sad that it has to be this way because the local geography creates a feeling of being everywhere but also being isolated. This makes for a citizenship that is very focused on individualism. Take Ricky Williams. He’s a perfect example of a San Diegan because he chose to follow his heart – and bong – rather than just going along with the NFL status quo.
Same with Cliff Robertson. He won his Oscar for Charly precisely because he broke showbiz protocol and purchased lots of ads begging for votes.
And where would the talented but occasionally crank Dr. Seuss have been if he hadn’t been willing to break ranks with his fellow kiddie book authors by inventing the “Grinch,” or “Lorax”?
I realize there will always be more transplants than natives here but I wish some of the newbies would adapt that homespun San Diego crankiness. For instance, City Attorney Mike Aguirre has a churlish nature that is right at home in a place that has to have “Stormwatch Coverage” every time it drizzles.
So does Roger Hedgecock who, in the spirit of a true San Diego native, uses exaggerated hyperbole to make his point. Sure, it’s irritating but it’s more entertaining and more honest than the “go along to get along” attitude of former out-of-towners like current and former mayors Toni Atkins and Dick Murphy.
So, San Diegans have a personality all their own and it’s not always as sunny as the weather. Still, it can be bitterly funny and more sincere than the “Let’s do lunch” mentality of Los Angelenos.
I am already cringing at the thought of next month’s baseball playoffs bringing a boatload of national journalists with their snappy references to fish tacos and smirking references to a mellow hippie lifestyle that has never really existed here.
However, rather than being a cranky local, I want to create some understanding so I am offering a simple explanation for visitors who want to understand what makes San Diegans different than other Californians.
People move to San Francisco because they’re weird and want to be weirder.
People move to Los Angeles because they’re weird and want to be rich.
People move to San Diego because they think they’re normal and people who think they’re normal are the strangest ones of all.
David Moye is senior editor of Wireless Flash News Service, a pop culture news wire based in San Diego that supplies weird and offbeat news to 800 media outlets around the world.