Flatulent Stuffed Animals in Ocean Beach

I've been an Ocean Beach girl for eight years. All this time, I've lived the way most people in O.B. do. I've lifted my mood by watching dogs break into fights on dog beach, I've been kept up all night by the fireworks and parties on the Fourth of July, and every December, I've made my way down to Newport Avenue to watch the lighting of the O.B. Christmas tree and cheer on the Geriatric Suffers during the annual parade. Over the years, I've never thought there was anything all that special about these experiences. In my comfort in this small community, I came to take for granted all that exists here. But, recently, my complacency has been challenged. You see, my O.B. life is about to change. My identity is about to be renegotiated as I commit die ultimate betrayal of this neighborhood — Moving On. If you live in another neighborhood, Moving On isn't a big deal. But if you're an O.B. resident, it changes your place in the world.

You see, this is all happening because I'm getting married. In a few short months, my cat and I are leaving behind our tiny apartment, my funky neighbors, and daily homeless run-ins. This represents a step up for me. I'm crossing the tracks to the better side — I'll be moving into an apartment with heat in the wintertime, and I'll be parking my car in an assigned space. My fiance doesn't understand my sense of bittersweet for this neighborhood that has nurtured, entertained, and pushed me around for years. And so, during this, my last summer in O.B., I have decided to pay homage to this community. Each day, I perform a ritual pilgrimage walk down to Newport Avenue. Along the way, I reminisce about all the bizarre, funny, and sweet encounters I've had here. Today, for example, walking down the street I am reminded of my neighbor who drove his Cadillac one morning through our apartment building at 6:00 a.m. I also think of the honest stranger who left his insurance information after 'destroying the front hood of my car. As I pass the baseball fields, I fondly recall the "My Greasy Wiener" hot-dog vendor who camps out in the summertime, and when I get to the beach, the annual dog races and canine

photographs with Santa Claus surface in my mind. I consider the homeless man who eavesdropped on my conversation during a first date and provided his own running commentary, and I think about the homeless woman who decided it must be my birthday and then sang to me at the lifeguard tower. On Newport, I remember signing all sorts of petitions to keep Starbucks out of O.B. and to endorse Donna Frye. I also consider all my favorite establishments — how many books I read sitting in the outdoor patio at Jungle Java, how I will miss the sloppy hamburgers at Hodad's, and how 1 could always be swayed by the peanut-butter salesman at the farmers' market. On the pier, I watch the surfers in the water below the Vietnamese fisherman and recall a romantic kiss there years ago. On die way back to my home, I laugh to myself when I recollect the neighborhood cat-fight that escalated into a neighborhood cat-owner fight. Then finally, I think about that late scary cold night that all the neighbors banded together when a deranged person threatened our space.

All these memories, strange and warm, make up my O.B. experience, and I will never disregard or minimize how they educated and changed me. I am grateful for all the grittiness and craziness that exists here, and in time, my feeling of loss for leaving O.B. will diminish. Of course, I can always return and visit my favorite places, but I know eventually I will form a new identity in a new San Diego community.

On a final note, today a new memory was added to my collection of all-time O.B. favorites. Up ahead of me on die road, I saw a homeless man pushing a stroller with a stuffed animal monkey in it. He stopped when he saw me, paused, made a face, and then asked a very serious question: "Did you just fart?" Startled for a moment, and offended, I stammered, not knowing what to say. I considered ignoring him and walking on as I would normally do. But after eight years of being pushed around in O.B., I decided to push back. With true O.B. spirit, I said, "It must have been your stuffed animal," and then I moved on.

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