According to conventional wisdom, doomsday is a time to reflect—you know, it's the last chance to see your friends and family, hold your loved ones and all that jazz. But the end of the world doesn't have to be a total bummer. At some point before I end up being baked to a crisp by an exploding sun, or pummeled into the earth by a moon-sized comet, or maybe swept under the current of a skyscraper-sized tsunami, I'm going to make the most out of my day.
It all starts with a big pot of tea and a massive pile of goat meat at Fatuma's Restaurant in City Heights (4869 University Ave.), my go-to spot for Somali food. Goat can be tough, gamey meat, but it always falls right off the bone at Fatuma's, and it's fatty and flavorful. The black tea comes straight from East Africa, and the seasoned tea-makers mix in steamed milk and a bunch of spices to give it a distinct, full-bodied flavor. Add a good portion of sugar, and your mouth will fall in love.
It isn't just the food that makes Fatuma's special, though. The restaurant is a popular hangout for the neighborhood Somalis, many of them quite friendly, and the TV is always tuned to Al Jazeera English, which has all sorts of awesome programming—including a fascinating global weather report. Really, there's no better way to get a worldly perspective on the end of the world.
Next I'll head to Adams Avenue Book Store in Normal Heights (3502 Adams Ave.), one of San Diego's last great used bookstores. While some bemoan the eventual demise of print, this cavernous, two-story shop actually did a major remodel two years ago—a testament to the store's timelessness. I remember going here when I was a kid, visiting the somewhat hidden children's section in the back, where I recently came across a plush chair and a box of stuffed animals.
The store is divided into more than 100 subjects, with a specialty in the humanities (history, literature, poetry, philosophy and theology), and full of cool-looking, vintage hard-backs and paperbacks. Indeed, I once found a copy of Albert Camus' The Rebel with a 50-year-old receipt still inside. There are also good deals, like the copy of The Onion's anthology, Our Front Pages, that I nabbed for a dollar. And with the store's chess set and resident cats, Bartleby and Felixia, it's an ideal place for a bookworm to hang out before the world goes up in flames.
Then I'll head to M-Theory Music in Mission Hills (915 W. Washington St.), an iconic, privately-owned record store I've been patronizing since it opened (in a different location) more than a decade ago. Though the CD racks seem to get smaller every time I stop by, the store has a healthy selection of specialty vinyl, CDs and even some cassettes. I always find exactly what I'm looking for, whether it's the latest indie album deemed "Best New Music" by Pitchfork or something a little more out there, like Wallahi Le Zein!! Wezin, Jakwar and Guitar Boogie from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
The cozy shop hosts in-store concerts once or twice a month, and the friendly skeleton-crew of a staff always has primo recommendations: On a recent visit, the clerk was spinning Music is Painting in the Air, a breathtaking new collection by home-recording luminary Sensations' Fix. Not only does shopping here mean I'm directly supporting the local-music economy—which is why you should patronize other great local record stores, like Off the Record (2912 University Ave. in North Park) and Cow (5029 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach and 1418 Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach)—buying hard-copies also ensures I won't be tune-less in case my hard-drive crashes mid-apocalypse.
After that, I'll be ready for some Pizza Port in Ocean Beach (1956 Bacon St.; with additional locations in Carlsbad and Solana Beach). If any local pizza joint serves up a real, San Diego-style pizza—not New York-style or New Haven-style or health-nut style—it's Pizza Port. The crust is bready and crisped, the cheese deliciously creamy. Even the specialty pies covered in vegetables—like The O.B., my personal favorite, with asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, butternut squash, roasted red peppers, gorgonzola and house-made bacon—would go over well at a kids' birthday party.
Pizza Port's O.B. location also has 40 beers on tap, and half of them are Pizza Port's own brews—every location doubles as a microbrewery. I don't really drink the stuff myself (I prefer Pizza Port's craft root beer), but my dad always has a field day trying out the impressive list of IPAs—some are dense and fiercely hoppy, others brighter and more festive. While the place fills up quick, the commune-style seating arrangements offer a great way to commingle with the fellow doomed.
Then I'll be ready to get cray at Soda Bar in City Heights (3615 El Cajon Blvd.), one of San Diego's best venues for indie music. Though it's still a dive bar at heart, Soda's come a long way in the four years it's been open, hiring hotshot booker Cory Stier and partnering up with Casbah owner Tim Mays to bring in top-notch local bands and national touring acts. Meanwhile, management has remodeled, expanded the stage and even opened a cream-painted Green Room replete with a frumpy couch and mini fridge.
If The Casbah is the Cheers of the local music scene, Soda Bar could very well be Moe's Tavern. The bartenders are great people, as are many of the musicians, promoters and other artsy types who regularly show up. With doomsday afoot, I'll even make special amends to the devilish cocktail that's a signature of bartender Peter Graves. "No Diet Coke for me tonight, barkeep," I'll say. "Pour me your finest Christpuncher."
At last, I'll arrive at Balboa Park. I have lots of fond, late-night memories here, riding through the place on my bike amidst the soothing, empty quiet. It's a perfect place to go a-pondering, especially when the Earth is about to explode into a fireball, or be sucked into a black hole, or do whatever the Earth does when its hour is up.