Archive for April, 2007

Rainy Day Musings
April 24, 2007

We had a little rain last week. Not much, just a “spritz”, as Bob Dale used to call it.
Not even enough to settle that dusty verbal slam that’s always hurled against us. It’s an old wheeze that goes something like this: “San Diego people don’t know how to drive in the rain”.
Well, I’m not so sure. Is that true? Has anyone ever really examined it with a critical eye?
There are certainly plenty of rainy-day accidents, hundreds of them sometimes. And CHP and Police will always say that the main cause is drivers following too close, and not figuring for greater stopping distance. Fair enough.
But I’ve noticed something and maybe you have too. If we get two days of rain, or three or four, the number of accidents drops dramatically with each successive day. Gosh, if San Diegans don’t know how to drive in the rain, we’re sure quick learners. During El Nino years when San Diego’s rainfall has rivaled, oh say, Portland, do we have more per-capita accidents than they? Also, since most of us came from someplace else, it’s a safe bet a lot of us learned our rainy-day motoring skills there, not here. Did we somehow forget to turn into a skid once we dropped below Latitude 33?
It’s my guess what San Diegans are not very good at, and neither is anybody else for that matter, is driving on oil. When you go weeks, and often months, without a street wash, the blacktop becomes coated with a kind of greasy goo made up of crankcase droppings, exhaust residue, and Michelin bits. If it’s been a dry season, the first rain is going to make everything slicker than butter on a doorknob. On such days we should probably all be carefully inching along at about 10 miles an hour. But then, some tailgater from Toledo would say we don’t know how to drive in the rain.

I’m going to admit something here. I get lost a lot. Hopelessly turned around on Genesee. I mix up Ruffin and Ruffner. If there’s somebody in the car, I’m going to hear about it. “Wait a minute! How can you be lost? Don’t you know everything About San Diego?” Well, not by a long shot. Stories, yes. Some history, sure. Love the place and always have, but I still get lost, and sometimes it’s downright embarrassing.
Last week, for instance, I was attending a presentation at National University. And there I ran into my colleague Peggy Pico. Great! “Let’s grab a quick bite” at an all-night diner known to be “somewhere nearby”. It’s decided she will follow me. Huge mistake! After snaking through residential neighborhoods, past darkened, gated industrial complexes, and what I think may have been a graveyard, we arrived at the diner, which turned out to be only a few hundred yards from our starting point. “Wait a minute”, she said. “Don’t you know everything “Abou…….”.
* * * * * In Other News * * * * * *
Hello to the students at Colegio Ingles in Tijuana who watch “About San Diego!”
On our story about Lanoitan Street in National City. (Lanoitan is National spelled backward), we got an e-mail pointing us to a web page devoted to Lanoitan…cats!


My "Chief of Staff"
April 20, 2007

You don’t see his name on the “About San Diego” show credits, but he’s hugely important to how the show looks and flows every week. Rand Levin is this producer’s “Chief Of Staff”. We joke about that, because there really is no “staff” as such.

Rand shoots and edits most of the “About San Diego” segments, and gets all the elements together so that when we go in the studio, everything is there that’s supposed to be there.

He’s also a long-suffering and patient sort of fellow, who somehow knows exactly what you mean when you say “make it better than it is”. He always does.

He also keeps me somewhat located in the early 21st century.
I am not, you see, what anybody would call “tech-savvy”. I use the telephone directory to look up numbers, and the dictionary to look up words. At home, I have a stereo turntable, and vinyl discs are still the main source of audio entertainment. For diversion, I fire up the ham radio and beep out morse code. Most of the people who beep back are in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and older. We have some great beeping conversations about President Truman.

At least once every show, I’ll come up against a production brick wall, a picture that won’t match the sound, or a scene that’s just too short for the narration that goes with it. I’ll bring it to Rand.

“Can you fix this with the magic box?”, I’ll ask. Rather than hopelessly try to explain to me what is possible within our editing rooms, we’ve just developed a catch-all shorthand. The “magic box” can either make it better or it can’t. It’s easier on both of us.

I never wanted to be one of those people who was stuck in the past. I love talking about it, and doing shows about it, but I’m really content in the present. Still, there’s an inescapable truth, and I must admit it. I haven’t kept up too well with the technology of….oh, the 1970’s and beyond.
So thank goodness for Rand Levin. He accepts this failing of character on my part with an understanding nod.

And always seems to find a way to “make it better than it is”. * * *

* * * IN OTHER NEWS * * * * * * *

Anybody know? Check out the picture (in your photos “About San Diego”) of a coin issued back during the days of the Horton House Hotel downtown. It has the number 12 1/2 on the reverse. So far, nobody has been able to explain what it might have been used for. A gambling chip?

Catch the train! Many inquiries after the segment on the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum at Campo. They operate vintage trains on most Saturdays and every Sunday at 11 A.M. and 2:30 P.M. Take Interstate 8 and exit Buckman Springs Road. South to Highway 94. Turn Right for a mile and a half and turn left just after you cross the tracks. Adults $15, Kids $5. Have fun!

Bob Hope entertaining on Carrier Midway? He made two appearances aboard Midway. One in the 70s and one in the 80s. If you were there and saw either, I’d love to get in touch with you. Contact me at

The ABSD Quiz
April 20, 2007

Did you take the “About San Diego” quiz? It’s a multiple-choice quiz of the sort you likely had many times in school.

And if you’re like me, you probably noticed a pattern in those old tests. A pattern you could depend upon if you didn’t have a clue what the actual answer was.

All other things being equal:

  • The answer to the first question will always be “c”.
  • The answer to the second question will always be “a”.
  • If “all of the above” or “none of the above” is offered as a choice two times or less, then it will ALWAYS be the correct answer in each of those cases.
  • If a whole number is offered as a choice, and all the other choices are fractional or decimal, then the correct answer will NEVER be the whole number.
  • With this in mind, I constructed the first of the “About San Diego” quizzes. (now replaced by quiz #2). It was, I’ll admit, a deliberate attempt to go against the grain of your typical multiple-choice test. Successive answers were sometimes the same choice (i.e.. b,b.b.b.b…etc.) There was a “none of the above”, but was not the correct answer.

    It was also a quiz filled with little traps. “Which Balboa Park Building is built in the shape of the figure V-8?”. Automobile Museum, right? No, it’s really the Air And Space Museum.

    Turns out, there’s a down side to trying to be so…um, tricky. People give up on the test halfway through. If you’re taking the quiz, and you don’t get positive feedback, like that little note that pops up every once in a while to announce “correct”, you’re likely to say, “adios, who needs this grief?, I want some affirmation”.

    So I could see it in the statistics. Fewer people even attempted the last few questions after bombing the first couple.

    Colleagues have suggested that in the future, I craft two tests. One for those who, like the challenge, and one for those who are just seeking validation. Truth be told, I’d probably opt for the simpler one myself. I know the first answer will always be “c”.

    It was a great Sunday at Spanish Landing as more than 500 riders showed up for the fourth annual “Ride For Aids” to benefit the UCSD AIDS Research Institute and “Being Alive San Diego”. So many people said “hello” and had nice things to say “About San Diego”. It was an honor to be among you.

    “Hello” to Mrs. Carla Latimer’s 3rd grade class at Miramar Ranch Elementary School, and thanks for the wonderful visit we had to their “About San Diego” History Fair. A really bright group of wonderful kids. It was a real treat, and the cookies were awesome.

    Happy 200th birthday to Louis Rose, San Diego pioneer and the first Jewish settler in San Diego. A couple of hundred young people from several schools gathered in Old Town to learn about him and tour the Robinson-Rose house. Look for a segment about the event on an upcoming “About San Diego”.