Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cardiff by the Sea and Me

I am somewhat familiar with the city, but not so much with North County since much of my time was spent south in La Jolla, Blacks, Mission and Imperial Beach or Mexico. Now that Mexico is off limits between the drug wars and the virus war it’s a good thing that Cardiff by the Sea is north of these stomping grounds as it edges up toward Orange County. It also may be one of the best kept secrets in Southern California.

Nestled between Solana Beach, Encinitas, the Pacific Ocean and I-5, Cardiff by the Sea is an active small town environment and friendly beyond belief. In many ways it’s typically Southern Californian with a constant flow of surfers, bicyclers, walkers, joggers, campers and moms baby strolling. Of course, you are never far from a yoga class or authentic Mexican food whether you prefer the fast and cheap kind or the upscale variety. One word of caution though, cougars are thriving and everywhere. Beware!

The most striking difference to be found here is the completely oppressive “niceness” of everyone here. Seriously, good luck trying to enjoy a good “bad mood”. You cannot pass someone without a “Hey, how are you?”, “Hi!” or at least a smile. Even while you are walking past on the sidewalk while they are parking their car.

“The Shanty” is the local pub which I’ve been frequenting to watch the NHL Playoffs and enjoy a pint or two of Stones Ale. Definitely the kind of place where everyone knows your name or in a case like mine, they politely make sure to find it out quickly.

Sometimes in California you can experience some animosity towards east coasters. But that is not the case here, that just wouldn’t be nice! It seems that once you’ve gotten here, you are here and it’s like you have always been here. Typical conversation: “Hi, my name is Betty, what’s yours?” “Nice to meet you Charles. Welcome to Cardiff. My brother is getting married this weekend. You should come!”

I have to admit the weather has been a little dicey, but maybe I’m being a bit too picky. After all, I did arrive from Ft. Lauderdale so I’m not used to the occasional chilly mid 50 degree temperatures which have been alternating with the beautiful shorts and t-shirt weather which begs you to be outside all day. The ocean temperature seems to be little chillier than usual for this time of the year, but there are waves more days than not, actually most. And that beats the flat warm water conditions of Ft. Lauderdale as well as the thick wetsuits, hood, booties and gloves conditions of NJ any day in my book.

I would however be remiss if I failed to disclose that I did have one bad run in with an ornery San Diegan. It seems that a certain Californian Stingray wasn’t so happy to make my acquaintance and zapped me on my ankle as I was getting out of the water after a surf. It felt like a crab bite, but having spotted one of his buddies in the water and noticing the numbness setting in by the time I got to the parking lot it was pretty easy to put two and two together. There were no serious complications I’m happy to report, but for the next 2-3 hours I did experience a significant amount of discomfort.

It felt similar to someone bruising my ankle bone with a Reggie Jackson special, heating up the surrounding skin to a nice reheating temperature of 200 degrees and piercing the center with a knife to check if the core was cooked yet. A long way off from Crocodile hunter Steve Irwin’s fate and not exactly “put me out of my misery” status, but enough to cause small involuntary moans to escape even while telling myself to stop being such a wimp! So remember, don’t mess with the stingrays!

Last week I got to catch up with some old friends. The old college band mates met up in Newport’s beautiful Crystal Cove where Tiger Woods and Mick Jaggar allegedly have homes. We enjoyed a nice few hours at the pool and Jacuzzi followed by a good diner while reminiscing on old times and trying to hash out exactly what is going wrong with the world. For an added bit of nostalgia we reviewed some audio and video of the band which I was happy to learn had not, as I thought, been lost to the ether.

The next day I was back up in Newport to meet with my ex, Nicole. After getting through some hellacious weekend traffic we partook of some excellent table side prepared fresh guacamole at El Toritos Grille and then stopped in on Balboa island for a treat at Balboa bar. Vanilla ice cream dipped in thick chocolate and rolled in rainbow sprinkles and crushed oreo cookies. So rich I thought for a moment I wouldn’t be able to finish it. But that moment passed.

Later in the week Mark and I headed up to Orange County for the Nike 6.0 Trestles Pro contest. Typically you need an Abacus to count the number of heads in the water at this world famous spot, but we got lucky and surfed some fun ones practically alone. All the while with a front row seat of the pros showing why they get paid to surf.

After that is was back to the monotonous rut of lazily waking up and heading for a surf, going to the meditation gardens, taking “Davey” for a walk or some other stressful type of activity. San Diego sucks. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!