Oct. 16 2012 04:00 PM

The perfect day: Second Chance Dog Rescue, Vespa Motorsports, Mandarin House, Adventure RIB Rides, Holy Smoke, Survive:SD and the Stuart Collection

Tim Hawkinson’s “Bear,” part of the Stuart Collection
Photo by Dave Maass

This end-of-the-world exercise isn't easy for me because, if it really were doomsday, I'd probably be covering it up to the last minute, trying to track down who's responsible, who's profiting from it and then live tweeting the dissolution of reality. But, for the purposes of this Best of San Diego issue, let's pretend that I'm absolutely convinced the world is ending, but no one else believes me. Let's also assume that my girlfriend, ever the skeptic, is humoring me.

About two weeks out from Judgment Day, we'd start cruising adoption events hosted around town by Second Chance Dog Rescue, looking for a third little dog to join our pack. He'd probably be a small terrier or a Chihuahua, but it's really up to the little mutts I've got now to choose the pup they're going to tolerate. Second Chance isn't a shelter; its a foster network that spends a lot of effort rehabilitating the pets they rescue from high-kill shelters. When we adopted Buster earlier this year, Second Chance thoroughly vetted us and made sure we got the support we needed, including the lancing of a cyst that grew on Buster's back in the first few weeks. The adoption process begins with a two-week trial period, so, if the world doesn't end and our pack isn't getting along, they'll take the little guy back, no questions asked.

A week before the Earth blinks out of existence, I'd max out my credit card at Vespa Motorsports (3955 Pacific Hwy.). I've trusted my current 50cc Kymco noisemaker to the folks at Vespa Motorsports since back when they were down the street from CityBeat in North Park. They're always knowledgeable, frequently hilarious and never a rip-off. I'd probably take home a Stella 150 or a Kymco Like 200i rather than a Vespa, but first I'd take every two-wheeler in their new showroom for a spin.

Now, I really did think the world was ending when I heard that architect Graham Downes was going to foolishly tear down the classic Mandarin House restaurant in Bankers Hill (2604 Fifth Ave.) and replace it with an ultra-unimpressive apartment block. It's my birthday restaurant, the one I look forward to every year because it reminds me of home and the family-style Chinese restaurant central to all my best childhood memories in Mesa, Ariz. It's got all the things I look for: A huge menu that weighs heavy in your hands, tropical rum cocktails that come in fruit-shaped ceramic mugs (you know, with the lids you can stick a straw through) and, most importantly, a lazy Susan for big gatherings. I always tell my birthday guests that their gift to me is to order too much and let me take home the leftovers. So, the night before Armageddon, I'd order so much that the doggy bags would carry me through to the grand finale.

On the last morning on earth, we'd get up super-early and head to Harbor Island to take a dolphin and whale tour on a Navy SEAL-class rigid inflatable boat with Adventure RIB Rides (1380 Harbor Island Drive). Two reasons: First, all summer I've been obsessed with Whale Wars, that Animal Planet reality show about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which often uses RIBs to deploy propeller-fouling ropes and chuck stink bombs at Japanese whaling vessels. Second, to pay homage to Douglas Adams, who imagined in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that, when the world is about to explode, the dolphins will perform an elaborate trick to communicate the message "So long, and thanks for all the fish" before leaving the planet. I'd pick Adventure because it's known for getting amazingly close to cetaceans, including a recent, rare encounter with a mother orca and her calf, who playfully followed the RIB for half an hour.

At some point along the way, when the lady isn't looking, I'd sneak into Holy Smoke in Hillcrest (1080 University Ave.) to pick up a pack of fancy cigarettes, probably some Nat Shermans, and a pack of my old brand, Camel Red Lights. I've been smoke-free for almost three years, but if it's Armageddon, then screw it—I'm going to indulge in a little nicotine-induced rapture. I pass Holy Smoke nearly every weekend on the way to Trader Joe's, always gazing cravingly inside at the wide selection. I hear the staff is super-friendly, too, but I've never risked relapse by stepping inside.

I'll also spend a lot of time playing with Survive:SD , an incredible emergency-situation app for iPhones that won second prize in the recent AT&T San Diego App Challenge. It includes features such as Morse-code signaling and police-radio streams, and, if necessary, you can also set it to automatically and periodically broadcast your coordinates via text and email. It's way more functional than the official emergency app that the county government created.

Finally, and you're going to have to indulge my fantasy here, I'd load the girlfriend and three pups onto my scooter and zip up to UCSD to explore the 18 public-art installations in the Stuart Collection. During the last couple of years, I've watched my girlfriend, Megan O'Connor, edit an epic video series profiling each one. I've only personally laid eyes on a handful of the works, but I love Niki de Saint Phalle's iconic "Sun God," Terry Allen's talking "Trees" and Do Ho Suh's house-perched-on-a-building "Fallen Star." I'm only now beginning to understand Robert Irwin's "Two Running Violet V Forms" (aka, the giraffe catcher). We'd scoot and hit every single one, ending the day, and the world, with a Chinese-food picnic in front of Tim Hawkinson's "Bear."

See, I can't imagine any better way to meet my maker than with a fiery redhead, a pack of terriers and a 180-ton bear made of boulders having my back.

Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMaass.


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