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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Adventures of a Comic-Con Widow

I have a car, I'm in San Diego, and I don't want to spend my entire time here inside a convention center. There's only one thing to do: go to the beach!

But first, I hopped on the freeway and drove 10 miles south of downtown to Chula Vista to visit my dad's brother, Uncle Bill, who is at the Veteran's Home there. After boring him with tales of Comic-Con, the Great Race of 1908 and my world travels, we had some lunch.

The cafeteria food was pretty good. I had a beef taco and decent refried beans (not the runny ones you get at most Mexican restaurants) for $2.50. We sat with a talkative new resident of the home, Alice. She was decked out in a sequined sweater, and had a purple silk flower affixed to her glasses. A large, colorful stuffed frog clung to the back of her wheelchair. She told many stories about her days as a cab driver and a puppeteer, but to be honest, I think her stories put Uncle Bill to sleep!

After leaving Uncle Bill, I headed for Old Town San Diego. That's where everyone said you can buy good, cheap goods from Mexico. But I quickly got disgusted when I saw that the Mexican handicrafts had good ol' American prices. They were more than twice the price of stuff you can buy across the border (which is only 15 minutes away). Believe me, I was tempted to cross into Tijuana, but everyone I've talked to has advised against it. Gang violence has escalated in the last few years, and kidnappings of American tourists is on the rise, too.

So, I abandoned my bid for Mexico, and headed to Coronado Beach, home to the famous Hotel Del Coronado, which was built in 1888, and later became an exclusive hideaway for Hollywood celebs, such as Frank and Marilyn. I've been told that my great, great grandfather worked there in the early 1900s. Dad said he was a clerk, and Uncle Bill told me he was an assistant manager. Unfortunately, there is no record of his employment at "The Del," says Uncle Bill, who said he'd been to the famous hotel to inquire about our ancestor on a few occasions.

I wandered about the historic landmark, ate a piece of flourless chocolate cake on the Sun Deck, then headed onto the white sand of Coronado Beach, where health-conscious runners and health-oblivious sunbathers co-mingled in perfect harmony. The water of the Pacific was surprisingly cold, but that didn't stop kids from catching waves on their boogie boards.

Heading back to downtown San Diego, the traffic report warned of Comic-Con traffic slowing the flow on the I-5, but a sailed into town with no trouble. The biggest problem was trying to avoid paying $17 for event parking. I pulled into a $10 lot just as a van was pulling out. The driver rolled down his window and handed me his parking ticket, which was valid for another eight hours. It was the perfect end to very enjoyable non-Comic-Con day.

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