San Diego I don't envy the native San Diegan. Being born and raised in paradise must be difficult. How do you avoid becoming hopelessly spoiled? How do you gain a sense of the great, big, messy, cold, and rainy planet on which we live? Why go anywhere other than San Diego? Ever? Why go anywhere when the best of everything is right here?
For a while, I thought the homegrown locals were lacking in perspective and worldliness. I met quite a few who had never seen snow fall or leaves turn colors, and they didn't feel as if they were missing anything. Then I met some dynamic indigenous individuals who began to turn my thinking around. They'd traveled and lived in other places. They loved it here, but they'd also learned enough to be able to criticize "America's Finest City."
A Native Sees San Diego through the Eyes of a Visitor
Kathleen Whalen, born January 9, 1973, at Scripps Memorial Hospital. Went to Mission Bay High School. Lives in Ocean Beach. Works in the family business, which owns local real estate.
"I've traveled all over Europe and all over California. I lived in Manhattan, I lived in England, I lived in Paris, I lived in Santa Cruz, and I've traveled on holiday all over Mexico and Baja. My family also has an apartment in Cabo. I'd say I've spent maybe a quarter of my adult life outside San Diego.
"When you come from a place that's a vacation destination for people all over the world, you start to realize that where you come from is pretty idyllic. And if you can see it objectively, through the fresh eyes of a visitor, you really appreciate it. And when you return from being elsewhere, you just see the beauty of it.
"The best thing about San Diego for me is being near the ocean. It's a huge force of nature. A lot of people don't realize how the ocean creates that laid-back feeling because it pretty much calms everything down and maybe even puts people into a state of hypnosis. Hypnosis-slash-inaction. We have a lot of loafers. But they don't usually last very long. They usually go back to Kansas.
"The worst thing about San Diego is, I guess, maybe the apathy. In a way, there's not a lot of people actively involved with the shaping of our city, or the culture of our city. We're very young, we're just growing up, and I wish there were more people involved with the planning, because the whole city is exploding right now, and we're having sort of a renaissance, but people would rather go to the beach.
"California, in general, has always had that pioneering spirit, and for me, it's never been a feeling of, like, 'This is our space, back out.' I don't have that kind of attitude. For example, we have the most Nobel laureates on the planet in San Diego, and there's a reason why. And I don't say to myself, 'Well, go back to Poland or Russia or whatever country evicted you for your original thoughts.'
"I think the tourists are good for the economy. I just think that they should learn that it's okay to miss the turn and make a U-turn and come back and try again, instead of cutting across four lanes of traffic. That creates a little bit more chaos for us in the summer.
"Friends of mine who've moved away, stayed away mainly because of things they wanted to do that they couldn't do here. Like, maybe a dancer wants to be in New York, or someone into working with certain types of technology wants to be more up north. But a lot of people who don't like this place end up having a negative attitude, because it's not easy to be here. It's an expensive city, and you have to hustle to make it. People come out here with this Wizard of Oz thing going on, and then when they realize they're going to have to move and work and do stuff, they start to realize that this place isn't just one big holiday.
"Whenever I go anywhere else, outside the country, I never speak about being an American. I say I'm Californian. Because California is its own little thing. This is the most progressive, innovative state, and we have that pioneering spirit. We are the last frontier. We're the farthest west you can go. And that's just the way it works.
"But if I could live anywhere else, I would live in Europe, because I like the lifestyle. I like their approach to day-to-day life in terms of socializing.
"For a lot of Americans, and a lot of Californians as well, there's still that Puritanical guilt about enjoyment. But, for working this hard, what are we doing it for? There's a lot of people in this country, and even in San Diego, who go home every day after they're done doing whatever they have to do to get paid, and they don't leave their house. In Europe, they might go have a coffee with a friend on the way home. Or, you know, go for a walk in a park. Or something. But don't just go back to the box!"
Alexandra Schlein, born February 29, 1984, in Blythe, CA. Went to Point Loma High School and lives in University Heights. Waitress and student at UCSD.
"Technically, I wasn't born in San Diego. We lived here, but my parents drove me out to Blythe because my uncle was an obstetrician, and my mom gave birth to me out there with him.
"So I've lived here my whole life, but I've spent a lot of time on the East Coast, because that's where my dad's side of the family is from. New York City and Vermont, and also New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. I've also been to Colorado a bunch of times, and Switzerland. I backpacked through Europe after high school. I've been to Switzerland a lot, because I have a kind of side job where I'm a courier of luxury watches.