I have a camper. Nothing too big, really, just a little cab-over unit equipped with a small shower, toilet, stove, refrigerator and bed, all mounted on the back of a Ford F-250 that I can just hop into with a laptop and find some new location to write, drink and explore. I took it out recently for a 12-day road trip. The plan was to go hiking in the mornings. Then find dive bars at night to go blind in.
Hence: "The North County (and Beyond) Hike and Crawl."
I ventured through Pauma Valley, Fallbrook, Temecula, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore, and then scooted over to the coast and hung out in Oceanside and Encinitas for a few days before coming home to San Diego and back into the arms of my beloved Xbox-er, I mean, girlfriend.
It was a good time and all, but I return with terrible news: Bigotry is alive and thriving in Southern California.
See, I live in Ocean Beach, and despite our many, many flaws, the one truly excellent thing I can say about this community is our devotion to diversity. This is not a place where blacks, Mexicans, Jews, queers, junkies, stoners, Catholics, atheists, meth-heads, sluts, slugs, slackers, vegans, Voduns and Vulcans are made to feel uncomfortable when they pull up a stool in one of our bars. Thing is, I've been living here for so long now, I keep forgetting that much of the country just ain't like that. I keep forgetting that racism, sexism and homophobia are not becoming things of the past. Rather, bigotry still has a powerful foothold in society, and it is as mean and ugly as when I first encountered it some 30 years ago.
For instance, while in a saloon in Fallbrook, which has a reputation for its white-supremacy sympathies, I encountered some white-haired martini sipper who loudly espoused her racist worldviews into my throbbing right ear until I could stand it no longer. I leaned my face into hers and-swathing my sweet, thick Rumple-breath all over her head and face-exclaimed that she was an ignoramus of the highest order. I tried to be polite about it, of course. I even said, "No offense," and all, but she threw a fit anyway and, well, a bartender's got to keep the peace, so I didn't argue when he asked me to leave.
The next day I drove to Temecula, where I spent a few days hiking the wine country, stopping in the various wineries for their delicious wine-tasting events and returning to the horribly bland village of Temecula, searching again for the perfect dive bar at night. In one such bar I encountered a couple of young, xenophobic pukefucks who talked shit about Mexicans, and some nasty old tweaker hag who rambled about how much she hated hip-hop, which was really just code for, "I hate niggers."
After bland Temecula came dreary Murrieta. You wanna know what a nowhere municipality is Murrieta? Well here it is: When I went to the Chamber of Commerce (you know, the bureau that's supposed to direct visitors to local points of interest) and asked the woman at the desk what to do while visiting-she looked at me as if I had asked where the weapons of mass destruction might be found.
"Sweety," she said, "you're in the wrong town if you're looking for something to do," and handed me an uninspired brochure which read only: "Welcome to Murrieta."
I wondered why the Welcome to Murrieta brochure, or Murrieta itself, didn't have a city slogan like all the other cities have and figured, since I was in town, I might as well compose a nice little motto for them free of charge. Here's what I came up with: "Welcome to Murrieta-We've Got Ants!"
Next stop, Lake Elsinore, where I spent a few days hiking and circumnavigating the lake and going in and out of the various biker roadhouses. In one such place, a dive called The Hideaway, I overheard a customer ask the bartender (both white) if his black friend would be welcome. "He's meeting me here in a half hour," he said. "Will that be OK?"
Of course, the bartender-a sketchy beaut with a salamander tattooed on each of her slightly puffy love handles-said it was fine. But the fact that the question had to be asked at all sealed my opinion of the inland North County (and beyond) area: There is a tiny-minded racist scumbag element here and it covers the area like an old, mildewed blanket in your grandmother's attic. And though Lake Elsinore itself-and the mountain that drapes its shadow across it-is quite beautiful, the part the people built is about as visually stimulating as old sneakers hanging from a power line.
But I guess that's what happens in an area controlled by whites. There's no color: No reds no blues no blacks no gays. There's no art in the architecture. No poetry in the signage. No pizzazz, no jazz, no hip, no hop. No funk. No mariachi. No change, no strange. No progress. No contrast. No diversity. No nada nothing but brutally beige strip malls, tire discounters and check-cash stores. No bikes but Harley bikes. No cars but American cars. No bars but redneck bars with nothing but .38 Special on go-nowhere jukeboxes.
Next week: The Hideaway biker bar.For more or less, visit www.edwindecker.com. E-mail email@example.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.