Aug. 24 2011 10:06 AM

Welcome to my new column about life in San Diego

D.A. Kolodenko
You've probably seen that Kaiser Permanente hospital ad that says, "Stay healthy, San Diego." And you hopefully recognize it as a play on the nightly sign-off line of that icon of ridiculed 1970s masculinity, TV news anchorman Ron Burgundy, from the 2004 Adam McKay / Will Ferrell movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: "Stay classy, San Diego." This appropriation shows you how nonchalantly San Diego has embraced the movie's dubious celebration of our city.

You might also remember that later in the film, a practical joke on Burgundy leads him to accidentally sign off with "Go fuck yourself, San Diego"—a more accurate reflection of the film's fundamental attitude.

It's easy to overlook how Anchorman treats our city because the film takes nothing seriously. Consider the over-the-top absurdity of the line from which this column takes its name. Burgundy tries to impress Veronica corningstone, the threatening but attractive new female anchor, by explaining the origin of the city's name: "Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it ‘San Diego,' which, of course, in German means ‘a whale's vagina.'"

Despite its triteness, there's a characterization of the city in the movie, an impression made, and it's that San Diego is the biggest joke of all. It's portrayed as a city without news (except about pandas), without weather (forecast by a "mentally retarded" weatherman who loves a lamp), without soul (the main character "dabbles" in jazz flute at a steakhouse) and without a clue (the film is populated entirely with ignorant, vain lunatics).

And, you know, it's easy to think sometimes that McKay and Ferrell weren't too far off. If Ron Burgundy stepped out of a fictional time machine into the heart of allegedly nonfiction San Diego circa last Saturday night, he would take one look around at the preening, brawling, drunk-ass Gaslamp knuckleheads and hussies and say: "Fuck yes! Still stayin' classy, San Diego."

So, it goes that after an encounter with a few such Downtown characters this past weekend, I find myself sitting down to write the inaugural entry of my new column focused on the culture and life of America's finest tourist plantation ready for a break from it.

I'm on my way to San Francisco, by car, to visit my sister and some friends—friends who read books; who don't see anything wrong with riding the bus, but do with driving a Hummer; who know why it's funny when in Midnight in Paris Luis Buñuel says, "But why can't they leave?"

I'll take a bunch of witty, cultured, snobby, condescending, jaded, immoral pricks over a city full of loud, vapid, crass, TV-consuming, hyper-materialistic dullards any day. Every time a sullen hipster moves out of his parents' house in Spring Valley and throws his fixie in the back of his Volvo headed for Portland, the void is filled with another hopeful SDSU freshman who relishes frat parties, online poker and the Kardashians.

Face it, CityBeatniks: You're a beleaguered minority with your echoey bands and existential concerns. San Diego is more P.B. than PBR. And if you don't think this condition of sun and air-headedness transcends class, race and gender, go to a Padres game or a movie and jot down in your weathered Moleskine snippets of the conversations going on all around you. They're not talking about anything. They're just saying "like, y'know" over and over again, or texting it.

I only get like this a few times a year. I'm mostly safe inside a bubble populated by people like you, who listen to the left side of the radio and vote in mid-term elections and such. On a bicycle, cruising along the Ocean Beach river-channel path, heading uptown to some hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant or bookstore, you can begin to forget where you are.

But then something bursts the walls of this illusion-inducing, paper-thin bubble (fabricated from CityBeat back issues), like my encounter with those douchebags on G Street (yes, I used the D word—at this date, no adequate replacement has been presented), who yelled "assholes" at a couple minding their own business, just crossing the street—and after mere minimal exposure, I find myself in need of a break from this town and its seemingly endless legions of suburb-dwelling, lifted-truck-driving, Baja Fresh-eating, no-art-owning, brain-dead woo-hooers.

I'm on my way to San Francisco right now, in fact, and I've stopped to write some more in this roadside diner called "Denny's." (Try it sometime. It sucks. The mere fact of its existence is a leveling force that almost makes everywhere seem exactly the same.) I'm already tired and still have another six hours to go. It's starting to come back to me: the reality of the trip north. Have I let that annoying encounter sour me so much on my town that I've romanticized escape?

It's all coming back to me before I even get there: horrendous traffic in L.A., then the San fernando Valley, then Livermore and finally San Francisco, where it's constant circling for a metered spot; parking tickets; that chill-you-to-the bone "weather" stuff we don't have in San Diego; contemptuous service in cafés packed with smug, unemployed creatives and nowhere for me to sit and write.

The cold of the wind whipping in from the bay and slapping the city's face, and the cold attitude of its hardened residents: I already miss San Diego. At least our burritos aren't steamed.

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