So I'm heading out of Ocean Beach on the two-lane eastbound stretch of I-8 that parallels the Mission Valley flood channel when I notice two signs.
The first one says “Kumeyaay Highway.”
Did you know Interstate 8 is the Kumeyaay Highway? That's because “This is INDIAN LAAAAAAAND!!!” (as the charming Michigan punk band The Crucifucks so memorably reminded us on their trailblazing 1985 LP Wisconsin, but I digress.)
What happened was that, for at least 12,000 years, the local folk, known as the Kumeyaay, lived, laughed and loved here in SoCali, all naked and tatted up and making baskets and eating berries and whatnot, in total ignorance of Jesus, his awesome dad and their (His?) magical ways.
Then one summer about 240 years ago, a Spanish Catholic priest named Junipero Serra, who'd been running some churches down in Mexico, floated into town and got to work informing the friendly people of this area that they were pretty much wrong about almost everything and that it would be in their best interest to get with the program. The next thing you know, things got ugly and the Kumeyaay lost all their sweet beachfront property and had to go hide in the mountains from the Padre's compadres, the Spanish soldiers.
Forty years later, Mexico gained independence from Spain, and all this Kumeyaay land became part of it, but then the U.S. fought for it, too, and within a few harsh decades had taken over.
Fast-forward and the local Kumeyaay's best land, the fertile river valley that sustained them, now has a freeway running through it that's named after them.
It may be the ultimate example of a major San Diego trend: We like to wreck things and then replace them with new things that celebrate, pay lip service to or otherwise acknowledge the things they replaced.
For example, San Diego's historic Downtown has been largely demolished throughout the decades, but since the late 1980s, the business community has capitalized on paying tribute to its old-timey heritage by incorporating turn-of-the-century elements into the fabulous douchebag theme park that has been established on the ruins of the old Gaslamp district.
Or take Frank the Train Man's original old building on Park Boulevard with its spectacular paint and neon train-themed signage. The bank that was built in its place (now a credit union) was designed in the shape of a locomotive and decorated with a small replica mural of Frank's famous sign.
Likewise, the back of the screen at the awesome Campus Drive-in, which once existed at the corner of College and Montezuma, was emblazoned with a huge neon drum majorette twirling a baton. You could see her spinning that baton from miles away. When they tore her down in 1983 and built a strip mall, little tiny replicas of her went up around the mall. Since she was an SDSU Aztec wearing an Indian headdress, her story resonates doubly with the Kumeyaay Highway phenomena.
And just as the Kumeyaay band eventually found a latter-day source of sustenance in the Casino business, the beautiful mid-century neon masterpiece has been removed from storage to live again as a decoration at the College Grove Shopping Mall on College Avenue. Next time you need to buy socks, I recommend getting them there, so you can pay her a visit.
If I may paraphrase Tenacious D: This is not America's Finest City; this is just a tribute!
Back to the highway, and shifting gears: Not far from the Kumeyaay sign is the other sign that has captured my attention—a big, brand-new sign that says “DUI SAFETY CORRIDOR.”
Come again? I've never heard of that before. That's quite a sign. I am in a DUI safety corridor! I feel so, um, I don't know.
Am I in more or less danger in this corridor than in any other corridor? And now that I know I am in a DUI safety corridor, what do I do about it?
Am I being asked to contribute to increasing the safety of this corridor, or am I being informed that I am at this moment benefiting from some unspecified measures that have been taken to make me safer?
One thing everybody already knows is that there's a lot of drunken driving going down here, so if DUI Safety Corridor is supposed to mean, basically, “Drunks Crossing,” well, duh. Anyone heading east in a vehicle after a night of partying in O.B., M.B. or P.B. is gonna hit this corridor and quite possibly another car. The only thing they definitely won't hit is a Kumeyaay Indian.
It must mean something! Maybe it's sort of like a hate-crime law, where in a DUI Safety Corridor, if you get busted, your DUI punishment is equal to a DUI punishment and a half! Fine with me. Dumb-ass drunken drivers.
Or maybe it means there are more highway patrolmen and patrolwomen on patrol here. That would be fine with me, too.
Ok, I give up. I'll Google it. Ooooohh shiiiiiit!!!!!
I crashed into the guardrail. Well, there was no “CELL PHONE SAFETY CORRIDOR” sign!
Guess since I'm stuck here waiting for help, I'll just go ahead and finish Googling that DUI Safety Corridor thing.
OK, here it is on the CHP website: The Office of Traffic Safety allocates an unspecified amount of money—let's call it a gajillion dollars—to identify areas with a high rate of DUIs (I got that part right, ha ha ha ha! Ow. Hurts to laugh).
A task force of government and private-sector representatives will study the areas and make recommendations for implementing measures to reduce the rate of DUIs in each corridor.
Hey, I've got one. Stop giving San Diegans so many freaking reasons to drink!
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