Activities with child vs. activities without
Friends stole your sitter? Not to worry. For those who have traded in all-night, drug-addled parties for the equally sleepless but far more rigorous lifestyle of parenthood, summer doesn't have to mean schlepping your crap up and down the hills of the San Diego Zoo. Though nighttime at Elephant Mesa is a delightful choice. If music's your thing, pack a picnic and lawn chair and head to a free concert in the park. My fam favors the North Park summer concerts at Bird Park, where kids rule and parents drink (in unmarked cups, of course). These shows are held all over the city, from June through August, and thanks to organized scheduling, concert dates don't generally overlap. Balboa Park is a great place to learn to ride a bike. Ditch your kid's training wheels and let her wobble over to the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater ($3 for kids, $5 for adults). This summer will feature “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Cinderella” among other fairytales. Afterward, enjoy some mango mochi at the Japanese Friendship Garden and try to keep your tyke from playing in the giant Koi pond outside the Botanical Garden. For a confined but guaranteed good time, head down to the airport—or the neighborhood just above it—and park directly beneath the flight path. If your kid is in the incessant talking stage, this option will be the peace and quiet you've been looking for.
But if that isn't your thing…
Do you have sitters begging for work? Sleepover! The Sofia Hotel (150 West Broadway, formerly The Pickwick) has been sending me all kinds of e-mails lately with unbelievable deals. The rooms are small but super Zen and expertly soundproofed so the noise of the city won't keep you awake when you leap into bed for your glorious 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If your child minder turns into a pumpkin at midnight, be a tourist and take the ferry to Coronado. You can't mistake that vacation feeling once you step onto the dock and look back at the San Diego skyline. Grab your lover's hand and wander through the Ferry Landing Market Place, snickering quietly at the nautical-clothing, sweater-over-the-shoulder set. If there happens to be a ballgame, grab a bench and enjoy the thrilling sound of the 42,000 fans across the water rooting for—and perhaps booing—their team. Head across the street to Tartine (1106 First St.) and share a baby spinach salad (ask for extra goat cheese) and some good red wine. Oh, and: Do. Not. Talk. About. Your. Child. If these options are too high-brow, get out of the house early, toss a nice blanket in the car, grab a six-pack at the liquor store and some falafel sandwiches (and baklava) at Mama's Lebanese Bakery & Deli in North Park (4237 Alabama St.). Then get to Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach, where you can do what everybody does at Sunset Cliffs.
Popular vs. obscure summer sports
Is there anything better than a summer afternoon spent at the ballpark? With all the traditional baseball trappings—like the crack of the bat and Cracker Jack—combined with Downtown's vibrant atmosphere, there's nothing quite like watching the Padres at Petco Park (www.padres.com). Great seats can be had anywhere—and at any price. For those who can't sit still, there's the Park at the Park with its playground and tiny tee-ball infield. Of course, there's also the Padres Hall of Fame Bar & Grill for the adults who can't sit still, either. And, hey, the Padres are even playing way better than anyone expected. But, it's also a very special summer—one that only comes every four years. The World Cup (www.fifa.com/worldcup) revisits the world this summer, with all eyes on South Africa. While the American team has suffered some devastating setbacks, the World Cup is a showcase of the best in international soccer and athleticism. Of course, plenty of sports bars and English and Irish pubs in San Diego will feature the matches, so choose well.
But, if that isn't your thing…
There are some sporting events that fly well below the radar. Head down to the beach for the fourth annual ALT Games College Flowboarding Championships May 15 at the Wavehouse in Mission Beach
(wavehousesandiego.com). What is flowboarding? Simply put, it's an amalgam of board sports—like skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing—only it takes place over artificially created waves. Teams or individuals can sign up to participate in this contest that will test your water-based acrobats. But it's not all flowboarding—it'll also feature decidedly non-sporting activities, like live music and an eating contest. And, should you totally lose your motivation to head to Mission Beach, the final will be broadcast on CBS College Sports. Not into water? How about a sport that involves wheels, helmets and women throwing elbows? Damn straight—it's Roller derby. The San Diego Starlettes (shown here, www.sandiegorollerderby.com) are San Diego's nonprofit roller-derby team (there's also the for-profit Derby Dolls). With players with names like Icepax, Dorothy Dangerous and Wicked Angel, these women mean business—aggressive, flat-track, knock-you-on-your-ass business. This is not the roller skating of your childhood. Bouts will be held throughout the summer at Linda Vista's Skateworld for $12 a pop. And they're always looking for new skaters should you be in the market for a new contact sport.
—Lorena Nava Ruggero
Fun reading vs. challenging reading
Screw Stephenie Meyer. And Dan Brown. If you're looking for mindless, mind-numbing summer reading, then fine, have at it. It's your reputation. But be aware that if you can get past Page 27 without wanting to vault Twilight (or yourself) from the Coronado Bridge, you really ought to seek counseling immediately. Now, if you want a book without prudish vampires or a love child sired by the Pope that assumes you're a dolt—if you crave a book so good it keeps you enthralled but doesn't require a thesaurus—here's a list of worthy gems for you:
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. This story of cubicle life at the peak of the dot-com bubble is spot-on hilarious and terrifically familiar. You'll have to call in sick just so you can keep reading, and I guarantee you'll never look at your office furniture the same way.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It sounds like a snoozer, but it's an imaginative novel that must have the most complex storyboard ever. Of course, the movie execs dumbed that thing down—that's why, as usual, you should read the book.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Dead people are fascinating. And creepy. And funny. But we wouldn't recommend Chapter 5—“Beyond the Black Box”—as airplane reading.
The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism by Mark Morford. The brilliant, dazzling and dangerous columnist for SFGate.com offers up his first book. This compilation will make you feel smart and sexy and, therefore, straddles (how apropos) the boundary of titillating read and intellectual dirge. You will laugh. You will tingle. You will want to rub your suntan oil all over Morford's yoga-sculpted body.
But if that isn't your thing…
If you want to forgo all bodily pleasures, furrow your brow and look smarter than your friends think you are, check out the following:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz won the Pulitzer in 2008. This book is a stupendous and challenging read, complete with slang, Spanish words and phrases, history of the Dominican Republic and—get this—footnotes! Stephenie Meyer doesn't even know what footnotes are. Simply by holding this book in your hands you're smarter than her.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is the crushing fictional story of a school massacre. Written from the perspective of the killer's mother, this book is not-put-downable despite being disturbing on a cellular level. You won't be able to read it at the beach, though, because it might make the sun fall out of the sky. Not at all recommended for expectant mothers. See, instead: Twilight.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum (best read with the 168-page follow-up, Can We Talk About Race?, also by Tatum). Published in 1999, this nonfiction book is more than pertinent in our “post-racial” America. It should be required reading. Are you willing to start a trend?
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger—because he died in January and you eulogized him on Facebook having only read The Catcher in the Rye in high school.
And if in the end you want it all—immediate pleasures as well as brain food—ditch the patriarchal, teenage vampire smut and pick up anything by Anaïs Nin. You will blow every fuse in your body and look super-smart while doing it.
Mindless comic books vs. literary graphic novels
With pop culture behemoth San Diego Comic-Con International once again hitting town this summer, it's the perfect time to do some mindless comic-book reading. Hitting shelves mid-May is Marvel's reboot of The Avengers—like many comics, this title is based on a 1960s-era predecessor—featuring an ensemble cast of Marvel's perennial favorites (Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine) and more obscure ones, like Spider-Woman and Hawkeye. Of course, they're saving the world from evil and nearly certain destruction. But, when it comes to comebacks, Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman won't be ignored, either, with Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. While it's a special six-part series chronicling the original man behind the cape and cowl, each issue will feature a different era by a different big-name artist, making it a nice short series for bat-newbs to enjoy. However, if you still long for the days of Saturday-morning cartoons, you might enjoy the first issue of the new Fraggle Rock comic-book series out this month. Of course, a list of mindless summer reads wouldn't be complete without mentioning the sequential art adaptation of the über-popular Twilight series. Love it or hate it, there's no avoiding the sparkly vampire empire built by Stephenie Meyer.
But, if that isn't your thing…
There are plenty of thought-provoking literary graphic novels that you won't have to visit your local comic-book shop to get—just hit up a bookstore instead. Coming off its newest accolade—the first Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Graphic Novels—Asterios Polyp is an engrossing character-driven tale. In this book described by Sean Howe of Entertainment Weekly “as if John Updike had discovered a bag of art supplies and LSD,” the title character is forced to re-examine his life after his apartment burns down. Also, current turmoil in Iran makes Persepolis, an engaging tale of the country's 1979 cultural revolution, a timely read. With sadness and humor, Marjane Satrapi's memoir is one you won't easily forget. For a slice of alternate history, graphic novel Ooku presents a feudal-era Japan run by women when 75 percent of the country's men die off due to a mysterious disease. With the fourth volume arriving in August, you have plenty of time to catch up on the series, which is emotionally conflicting and distinctively feminist.
—Lorena Nava Ruggero
Pricey seafood vs. budget seafood
Dining at The Oceanaire Seafood Room (400 J St., Downtown) always feels as if I'm on a luxury cruise liner, like we've just come from having cocktails on the lido deck and after dinner we're going to ballroom-dance along to the ship's band. I suppose it could be the sweeping staircase you climb to enter the dining room, or maybe the expert, seamless wait service, or the porthole light fixtures in the incredible bathroom that, no joke, has won a blog's Best Bathroom Experience award. If price is no object, then, by all means, indulge in the Grand Seafood Platter. It'll set you back a spend-y $95 clams, though it does include a lot of seafood, including cooked and chilled mussels, scallops and jumbo shrimp; two kinds of crab—meaty snow crab claws and huge king crab legs—raw, pristine oysters; and four kinds of house-made condiments. After such an opulent spread, you could follow up with no other dessert than a towering and flaming Baked Alaska, in all its retro, show-stopping glory. For those of us who are less flush, the $1 oyster happy hour at the bustling, friendly bar, plus some shrimp cocktail, will give a low-budget approximation of the feast.
But if that isn't your thing…
Harbor Fish Café (3179 Carlsbad Blvd.) doesn't have a dining room, just an ocean-view outdoor deck and a collection of well-worn wooden benches congregated beneath a large umbrella. Perched on a bluff above Carlsbad State Beach, the site of the café was once a gas station, before a local fisherman and his family turned it into a restaurant nearly 30 years ago. It's an unfussy joint; rolls of paper towels stand in place of napkins, and the menu is basic seafood, mostly fried. Locals and tourists all order the fish and chips, $7.99 for a crispy-battered piece of cod so big it dwarfs its paper plate. The default side is fries, obviously the prefab kind but fried competently. Or swap for homemade coleslaw or decent clam chowder—I like mine with a shake of Tabasco. Avoid the crab cocktail, which subs the fresh stuff for insipid, fake “krab.” Wash the grease down with the house beach brew, made for Harbor Fish Café by a craft brewery. In keeping with the laid-back vibe, there's no set closing time—it just shuts down 'round about when the sun sets, whenever that might be.
Big, decadent burritos vs. big, less-decadent burritos
Looking at all the freshly buffed SUVs, McMansions and over-privileged yuppie larvae trundling home from soccer practice, you'd never expect Scripps Ranch to be home to San Diego's best secret burrito. Bland stucco 'n' tile, blaring video arcade cabinets and overhead LCD TVs, uncomfortable seating and sometimes long waits all hamper Chile Peppers (10299 Scripps Trail). But we are talking asteroid-sized burritos here, so whether you're a carnivore or a herbivore, the décor and ambience don't really matter, do they? For sharp-toothed meat lovers, the pound-plus California Burrito packs dino-helpings of carne asada. It's salty enough for an Alaskan trapper but not gristly (unlike Sombrero Mexican food in Scripps, which has been theorized by non-experts to be mainly horsemeat served from a PVC bucket). Filling out the Chile Peppers carbo-cylinder are limp-but-tasty, heavy-ass french fries, which go down smoother if you ask for no salsa fresca and add guac (not in the least watery, ultra-real avocado-y). The whole thing is probably 5,000 calories and comes wrapped in a stretchy but slightly crispy tortilla confection. Douse in red sauce for ultimate power. If you hate yourself, go for the Stroganoff Burrito with cheese and sour cream. You'll be punching your chest like Chris Farley.
But if that isn't your thing…
Go for Chile Peppers' veggie burrito. Sumptuously drippy black beans or firm pintos, fajita-style bell peppers, rich Mexican rice and CP's weird and wonderful selection of salsas (tangy green, robust red and coppery Salsa de Arbol) all make for a vegan / vegetarian entrée that's as filling and hearty as most meat-based meals. Sure, it's not that authentic, but it's very memorable. And you can feel good about it, too—there's no lard, the tortilla is whole wheat and cheese (though delicious) is optional. Add the same guacamole as above and you're in skinny fat city.
—Noah Barron and Chris Glaze
Mouth inferno vs. cool as a cucumber
Most people come to Ba Ren for the spicy stuff, as the restaurant (4957 Diane Ave. in Clairemont Mesa) is known as one of San Diego's specialists of the fiery cuisine that comes from the Szechuan province in southwestern China. Among my favorites are the hot pepper prawns, wok-tossed with dried chilies and coated in a crispy batter that's heavily seasoned with Szechuan peppercorns, which have the strange but delightful ability to numb your whole mouth. Then there's the dish that really brings the heat—silky and tender fish filets, topped with chopped red chilies and green onions that sit on a bed of mung bean noodles, a seasonal offering that can be ordered on request. It's so scorching-hot that it can leave an eater's lips raw and red, though it hurts so good. Truth be told, once you get into this kind of food, there's a good chance that you may become addicted to the capsaicin high. For a bit of relief from the delicious pain, there's no more tasty and helpful remedy than some bubbly craft beer, and the restaurant is usually pretty happy to let you bring your own.
But if that's not your thing…
Though Ba Ren is known for its mouth-searing fare, I could easily enjoy a meal there without ever delving into the hot business. The cold appetizers, housed in a display case at the front of the modest eatery, are worthy of their own mention, although they're mostly eaten as a prelude to the rest of the dinner. For around $5, you can pick and choose a plate of three items from among the selections, including marinated bamboo shoots or cucumbers, seaweed salad, mustard greens mixed with green soybeans and delectable fried peanuts with a sweet-salty taste. All are served refreshingly cool and simply seasoned, though not at all lacking in flavor. And when I can't bear the thought of eating a steamy, temperature-hot dish in the thick of summer but am craving something with a little kick, Ba Ren's cold Szechuan noodles fit the bill. Chilled wheat-based noodles with good tooth-resistance are topped with a sauce of vinegar, sesame paste, chili oil, a little sugar and those tongue-tingling Szechuan peppercorns. It's not overwhelmingly spicy, but just enough to work up a bit of cooling sweat.
County Fair food vs. raw vegan food
There's no denying the deep-fried allure of food at the annual San Diego County Fair (June 11 through July 5)—also known as the Del Mar Fair to longtime locals. From deep-fried avocadoes and Australian battered potatoes (try 'em with ranch dressing and cheese sauce for tasty, artery-clogging goodness) to deep-fried Oreos, candy bars and
Twinkies, there's a veritable smorgasbord of decadence to be had. Chicken Charlie's is well-known for its odd food combos (like last year's oatmeal-raisin-cookie-and-chicken-sandwich combo, wherein a fried chicken patty, raspberry preserves and cream cheese are nestled between two cookies) and the simplicity of its “if it's fried, it's good” mentality. There's also Indian Fry Bread, the tasty flatbread served in both savory and sweet versions (refried beans and cheese is a personal favorite), and, of course, the classic funnel cake (always simple, always delicious). And, as if they were reading your food-addled mind, this year's theme is “Taste the Fun” (assuming, like me, your idea of fun involves a Fry Daddy and a vat of oil). And in case you're worried about your waistline, there's always the Taste of the Fair on Tuesdays, when $2 taster portions of fair food are offered.
But if that isn't your thing…
There are always healthy and delicious raw vegan eats to be had across the county. With the largest number of small farms of any county in the country, San Diego is ripe for raw, vegan eating. There's even local raw-vegan celeb and musician (and Fallbrook-based avocado farmer) Jason Mraz touting the tastiness of “uncooking.” And, with the summer's heat, it's the perfect solution to avoid turning on your stove. So, what constitutes “raw”? Basically, any plant-based food that hasn't been heated above 118 degrees; dehydrated food is common, as are salads and smoothies. From the sublime orange-carrot juice blend at your local Jamba Juice to the delish raw “cheesy” zucchini noodles at farmers-market-roving and Ocean Beach-based Peace Pies (4230 Voltaire St.), there's plenty of healthy, yet satisfying, options besides a crouton-less salad. There are sit-down joints, too, like The Greenery in Encinitas (133 Daphne St.). And, for those on the go, there's the drive-through at Evolution Fast Food (2965 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill) serving up raw hummus and Thai wraps, and raw soft-serve ice cream.
—Lorena Nava Ruggero
Fitness vs. gluttony
There's nothing like an invitation to the beach to remind a person of their unsightly flab. To lose those love-handles or carve that bikini body in record time, join the most bruising workout course I know of: Iron Camp at Urban Body Gym & Juice Bar (3148 University Ave. in North Park), which packs six months of cardio and weight training into a six-week program. Attracting both hardened iron-pumpers and out-of-shape newbs like me, the camp includes two weekly workout sessions, a prescribed daily regimen of exercises—including barbell squats, dumbbell sumo squats, machine hack squats and every other squat imaginable—and workshops covering dietary issues. But while campers have reported incredible weight loss after completing a single camp, Urban Body owner Frank Kole says the program isn't designed to shave pounds so much as reform someone's very lifestyle. At a recent workshop, campers confessed to their various “evils”—micro-brewed beer, gourmet chocolate-chip cookies, meats all and sundry—and discussed how to control their temptations. Counseling that nobody's perfect, Kole himself admitted to hoarding Juicy Fruit gum and Mike & Ike candies (“Hi, my name is Frank. Sugar is my evil”), giving the session the feel of a Gourmands Anonymous meeting.
But if that isn't your thing…
Head to Tower Bar (4757 University Ave. in City Heights) on a Thursday around 11 p.m. to join the eating competition, where bar-goers inhale anything from hard-boiled eggs to raw onions. The fastest eater gets a $30 bar tab, but Tower Bar owner Mick Rossler isn't going to make it easy. In the past, competitors have eaten wasabi peas with chopsticks or washed down sleeves of saltine crackers with hot sauce. Aside from packing their stomachs with the main course, competitors must drink a pint of soda water through a cocktail straw, eat a fortune cookie, read their fortune out loud and down a shot of peach schnapps. It's enough to shake the confidence of even the most overzealous eater. And any competitor will certainly come face to face with Danny Puskarcik, a Tower Bar regular renowned for chomping a massive cucumber with no hands in just over four minutes. One recent Thursday, this nearly undisputed speed eater (he's won every competition except one, when he was shit-faced and got disqualified for breaking the rules) dispatched a pile of tater tots and Skittles with the greatest of ease. “Grow up poor,” he advised. “It teaches you to eat quick.”
Tropical smoothies vs. tropical cocktails
Smoothies are sustenance through a straw, perfect for summer months when it's too hot to eat anything that requires effort. Coconut lovers should head to Chronic Smoothies (865 Turquoise St. in Pacific Beach) and order the Coconana Cream. It's a simple mix of coconut, banana, nonfat frozen yogurt and nonfat milk—but it'll be gone in about point-two seconds guaranteed (even if you order the 32-ounce king-size), so beware of brain freeze. If you want to get a little experimental, O.B. Smoothie Bar & Subs (5001 Newport Ave.) offers the Carrotopia, a blend of fresh carrot juice, banana and vanilla frozen yogurt. They also whirl up an Acai smoothie that's totally worth the hype. For a wholesome, meal-in-a-glass smoothie, stop by Krakatoa (1128 25th St.) in Golden Hill. Their Superfood smoothie is made with pomegranate juice, soymilk, fresh blueberries, peaches and walnuts. But perhaps more enticing is the Peanut Butter and Banana, a mix of milk, bananas, PB and vanilla frozen yogurt that's creamy like a milkshake.
But if that isn't your thing…
And you find yourself longing for a beverage that's more of a blend of fruit juice and alcohol, head over to University Heights' Lei Lounge (4622 Park Blvd.). There, you can lounge around in an outdoor cabana and sip on one of 27 signature drinks. Standouts include the Papaya Cream Colada, a blended drink with spiced rum, papaya juice and cream de coconut, and the Watermelon Lemondrop, with vodka, watermelon pucker, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. Or, you could visit Bali Hai (2230 Shelter Island Drive), a self-proclaimed “Tiki Temple” that serves up the Mr. Bali Hai. For $15.50, you can keep the tiki mug and chug down a mix of Ron Rico Light Rum, pineapple juice, blackberry, Sweet n Sour & Lemon Hart 151 on the outside patio, which offers a stunning bay view. Or, for $16.50, you can share (or not) the Scorpion Bowl, a drink for two made with gin, light rum, brandy and fruit juices. Over at Whisknladle (1044 Wall St. in La Jolla), there's a drink that's not on the menu called the Skull Monkey. It's a “zombie”-style drink that varies from place to place but always contains copious amounts of dark and light rum and brandy. Whisknladle's $10 version is served in a tiki mug with a thin slice of sugared lemon on top that's caramelized with a torch. The drink will be on fire when it's served to you, which is pretty damn awesome.
Old Town vs. Tijuana
To native San Diegans, Old Town's kind of a foreign land. Really, when was the last time you went there for more than cheap margaritas? But amid the restaurants con queso and tourist shops are some unexpected finds. In Fiesta de Reyes, check out The Tinsmith, which, as its name implies, specializes in tin goods. Head to the back of the shop, where light reflecting from dozens lamps creates a mini light show. If you're looking for south-of-the-border goods, Centro Artesano carries ceramic piggy banks, funny-looking little dogs, lots of pottery and chimeneas. Gum Saan specializes in things like reprints of old Cultural Revolution posters, handbags made from vintage saris and jewelry made from mah jong pieces. The Plant Man (2615 Congress St.) carries dozens of varieties of succulents, all packed into a small patio and can tell you anything you need to know about them. Near the intersection of Juan and Harney streets is Heritage Park, to which seven historical Victorian buildings were relocated. A few are undergoing renovation, but they're awfully pretty. Also worth a stop is the El Campo Santo Cemetery (San Diego Avenue), where as many people were buried inside the cemetery as outside. Down the road is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, a 1919 Mission-style building remarkable for its simplicity. And The Whaley House does monthly nighttime ghost-hunting tours. Don't believe it's haunted? Go to whaleyhouse.org and click on “haunted house.”
But if that isn't your thing…
Derrik Chinn, a gringo who's lived in Tijuana since 2007, takes brave friends and total strangers on his Turista Libre (turistalibre.com) tours of the Tijuana that lies beyond Avenida Revolucion. We asked Derrik to describe his perfect day in TJ, in his own words:
Breakfast: a fruit salad covered in cottage cheese and smothered with agave at the Pepto-Bismo-colored Fruteria La Manzana in La Cacho or huaraches and a papaya-banana licuado in the market at Second Street and Constitucion. Then an obvious cliché: a photo atop a burro rayado—those donkeys painted up like zebras—followed by a photo below the giant Mexican flag in Colonia Morelos. A coffee break at La Statzione (Ave. Tapachula 5-C, off Boulevard Agua Caliente), a Milan-worthy café by the Hippodrome, then shopping for TJ-made threads around the corner at the HAHA Store (Calle Zitácuaro No. 47—if it's indeed still open). Or, if it's Sunday, the Francisco Villa swap meet in Colonia Altamira, whose random vendors (produce, puppies, turtles, Peugeot Hot Wheels, pirated DVDs of rare Mexican classics, paisley bikini briefs) make Kobey's look like a 7-Eleven. Then off to wave hey to La Mona, the 55-foot naked-lady statue hidden in a valley off Boulevard Cuauhtemoc. And definitely to Playas, where the border fence trails into the waves. We'd eat tacos de marlin and wash them down with a coconut, or sprawl out with
barbecue-rib burritos in Parque Morelos, Tijuana's equivalent of Central Park. Then a round of rickety rides at Mundo Divertido (www.mundodivertido.com.mx). Once night falls, a lucha libre match at Auditorio Municipal, sitting ringside with giant beers and plates of carne seca, mere meters from the stretchy-pants'ed technicos (the good guys) and rudos (the bad guys). Afterward, a copita or four of mezcal, then a dance to an obscure Ace of Base cumbia cover at La Mezcalera (Sixth Street at Revolucion). A dose of Mexicali craft brew, Cucapa, next door at the neon-pink-drenched Zebra, then off to scream along with Amanda Miguel drag queens as they belt out “El Me Mentio” (a sort of Joan Jett-Cher Argentine hybrid) at Hawaii in Plaza Santa Cecilia. But not before ducking into La Estrella, a blue-collar dance hall where people my parents' age sweat to cumbia and norteño until dawn. Then, a chile relleno taco at the corner of Fifth Street and Constitucion and bed. (Photo by Derrik Chinn)
Science vs. religion
I abhor the beach, and with an upcoming trip to Arizona looming, I should stay outta the sun as much as possible
before my dormant Latino melanin ignites with the fury of a tranny-fied Frida Kahlo, buying me a one-way trip to Nogales. So, since nothing screams “summer joy” like lingering indoors, what better spot to do it than the San Diego Museum of Man (1350 El Prado in Balboa Park), a school-fieldtrip must deserving to be rediscovered? Footprints stenciled on the floor invite visitors to the upstairs Footsteps Through Time: Four Million Years of Human Evolution exhibit, where the 65-million-year-old question “What makes us human?” is answered through interactive displays, ranging from one illustrating how much DNA we share with bananas (50 percent) to a ball-gagged skull of a prehistoric “Nutcracker Man” that allows you to test his jaw power via hand crank. Busts of famous hominids throughout history are also part of the permanent showcase—the pondering Java Man, the dapper Heidelberg Man and the sassy bi-ped that makes them swoon, the Woman of La Quina.
But if that isn't your thing…
Dust off your rosary and head to Santee's Creation & Earth History Museum (10946 Woodside Ave. North), where natural selection is trumped by immaculate conception, and both a Tower of Babel model and a portrait of Hitler are housed. Driving down Highway 67—extra points awarded if you do it while rocking out to “new country” 95.7-FM, you'll notice a Heineken billboard stating: “Every great story needs a beginning.” Here, that beginning is the book of Genesis. “We're going to learn the history of the Earth and show the evidence of creation using scientific basis,” my goateed guide told me. The science lesson starts by affirming that the Earth is of “obvious design” and other planets are there “to shield it from asteroids.” Day 5's backdrop is the “garden room,” an enclosure housing live animals such as a cluster of claustrophobic finches, a bipolar fire-bellied toad and a gecko so bewildered that he'd probably switch his car insurance to Allstate if given a chance. “Before original sin, everything was perfect. There were mosquitoes, but no mosquito bites,” the scout divulged. He then assured that man walked with dinosaurs and managed to throw in an anti-gay-marriage sentiment for good measure. The tour continued in a Grand Canyon-themed room, “a perfect example of the flood of Noah's time.” The explanation of the human genome code? It cites Jesus as the “one true hope” in understanding mutations. Last stop's the gift shop, laden with books, including a children's coloring tome titled A is for Adam, in both standard and teacher's edition. Time for a follow-up: D is for Delusion.