I've only been in Oceanside for a week and know that it's probably too soon to make declarations about its character. Anything I write will likely be amended since it's based on only a week's observations but I do have first impressions. Please salt liberally before ingesting.
More than earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires, I fear pretentiousness. I was the first to admit those few months that I lived in LA that there are stellar pockets of the city and many magnificent people, some of whom are my friends. The part of the city's culture, however, that emphasizes celebrity, "beauty", and flashy wealth makes me uncomfortable. When people tell me that their BMW is too ordinary and they need to buy a Porsche - because that kind of mid-life crisis isn't a cliche? How ordinary - I start laughing but I feel like punching them in the head and I feel sad.
I spent a total of three days in Oceanside before I signed a lease. I didn't even really get a strong sense of the place in those days because when I wasn't looking for rent signs or stalking Craigslist, I was visiting apartments or I was on my computer and phone for work. I didn't walk around aimlessly and I didn't thoroughly check out the business district or anywhere besides the neighborhood I wanted to live in. I chose Oceanside because it's not too far from LA and I have a friend here, Marisa.
As one drives down the Coast Highway from Oceanside into Carlsbad and from there to Encinitas, there is a definite swing towards the upscale. When I want a wine bar, I'll go to Carlsbad. In Oceanside, there's karaoke at Larry's Beach Club and good cheap tacos. Even the fanciest restaurant we've been to so far, Harney's Sushi, made me feel like I could wear my ripped jeans if I felt like it.
The first thing Jocardo said to me when I called him in December and said, "Holy shit, I'm moving to a beach community," was "Oh lord, are there any people of color?" Jocardo visited me when I lived in Olympia and Seattle and was not impressed with their white enclave-ness. In Oceanside, I'm finding that there are all kinds of people.
My favorite moment so far has been eating breakfast, watching a Hare Krishna on the corner deep in conversation with a Marine. Camp Pendleton Marine base is here so there is a heavy presence of military supply stores, guys in fatigues on motorcycles, and kids on the phone saying, "I'll call you at twenty-two hundred." In equal balance are the surfers hanging their wet suits out to dry on the front porches and dotting the water, waiting for the next wave to break. There are also skaters and thugs and tourists and hippies, Latinos, Samoans, you name it. Our next door neighbor has a license plate from Jalisco, Mexico.
I've been theorizing that the Marine base has kept a working class element to Oceanside that exists less in neighboring communities.
My favorite thing about living in New York was walking everywhere. I'd walk the thirty blocks home from work if it was a nice day out and I loved the conversations I had with myself, the conversations I had with strangers on the street, and the music I played to the beat of my feet hitting the sidewalk. The hardest thing for me living in Kentucky was how often I used the car to get anything done and the fact that I even needed a car at all. I didn't live in the suburbs or the country and I could see the downtown Cincinnati skyline from my kitchen window but nothing felt like an inviting walk away. Part of this was definitely my fault, I could have jumped on my bicycle but I just didn't.
Oceanside is larger than it feels; it sprawls inland towards the mountains but in my seaside neighborhood near the old downtown streets, most everything is walkable. In the last week I've walked to the movie theater, the coffeeshop, the farmer's market, the library, the beach, the harbor, the liquor store, the bank, and out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because we haven't gone grocery shopping yet. A large grocery seems to be only thing that isn't close to walk to.
People on bicycles are in abundance and I've seen signs for a bike path that rides north and east. And as soon as we get our motorcycle licenses and plates for the mopeds, I'm firing up the Cobra and re-watching Top Gun so I can re-enact some of Tom Cruise's motorcycle scenes that were filmed here. I'll just be going a lot slower, like 25 mph.
It startled me at first, how friendly everyone is. I think I'd gotten used to being in my own head, minding my own business, and in Oceanside just about everyone I've encountered has been open and chatty. The weather must contribute to this attitude. Something about being out at night with just a hoodie and beanie to keep you warm and not scurrying like a hamster to get from point a to b, slipping on ice, and freezing your fucking ass off makes people nicer.
6. Palm trees
Shortly before I left Cincinnati, I went to Mandy's house. After we put her kids to bed, we filled our glasses with rum and coke and retired to the basement with a bag of tortilla chips to talk. I confessed two things to Mandy that were worrying me about moving close to the beach. I don't like shells and I don't like palm trees. I like rocky beaches and I even collect rocks and have been toting them around the country for a decade now but shells give me the creeps. And I distinctly remember a good number of palm trees up and down the Oceanside stretch of the Coast Highway. What to do?
Once we got here, my anti-palm feelings intensified. Last Saturday, I spent hours walking around with Elise and I couldn't help myself, I critiqued each street out loud, "Now this is okay, these trees are amazing, look at those..." I don't know the names but I'm calling them banyan, eucalyptus, and pine. Then we'd get to a stretch of palms, especially the ones that are super tall and skinny that go up for miles with just a tuft of fronds at the top and I was disgusted, "Ugh, they're so ugly. I don't think they're real trees. They're so trashy."
Blah blah blah. Basically I'm a tree racist. I'm working on it.