As I write, I am sitting in one of my favorite bars in San Diego: The Aero Club. I have been coming to this bar ever since I got my fake id in 1998 (actually, it wasn't fake. It belonged to another girl who sort of looked like me if I didn't wear glasses, were 6 inches taller, and about 15 pounds thinner. She had lost it, replaced it, and passed the now extraneous id on to me.). At first, I came because it was seedy and dark and the bartenders really didn't care whether I was 21 or not. Then my reasons for going morphed as my tasted for alcohol matured. I then started going because they served good beer and the crowd was an excellent mix of socially awkward college misfits like myself and aging locals.
Plus their jukebox freaking rocks!
Nine years later, not much has changed. The bar is cleaner and they have free wifi (two things I appreciate more and more as I get closer to thirty), but the beer is still good, the crowd still solid . . .
and their jukebox freaking rocks!
I am not kidding. This place is located on busy and awkward one-way India Street, so it's been able to maintain a sort of bar purity mostly because almost all who pass it are either whizzing their way to the 5 north or to Washington Street to get to Hillcrest. This is not the neighborhood for breezy tourists or uber-yuppies. This is an inbetweenplace. And like all inbetweenplaces, it remains a place of rejuvenation.
A place to celebrate the literal clearing of the air as the marine layer marches in and chases off the ash and smoke that have coated all San Diegans' lungs since Sunday night.
There's a feeling of celebration in the air as the fires start be more and more contained and the event that continues to dominate the TVs is the second game of the World Series rather than pictures of burning homes.
I'm not in any way stating that the fact that the fires still are burning--that people are still displaced, that many have lost homes and a few have lost loved ones--is trivial. But to have the oppressive air that has hung over this area of the city for fully five days to lift is a moment to celebrate.
We are emerging from our homes and shelters after days of avoiding "bad air," shaking our heads, wondering where we've been all week. And though for many this isn't the case, life is starting to "get back to normal" as businesses and schools talk about opening again.
I am blessed in that I don't know anyone who lost a home in the fire. All of my friends were merely displaced for a few short days and returned to their safe and whole houses. This situation is also a blessing in that all of us (me and my friends) were left free to help others who had suffered loss. To be able to cheerfully aid others is indeed a true blessing.
I truly mourn the losses of so much for so many people. Yet I also celebrate how we, as a city--a community, supported each other. Those who had shared with those who had lost. It kind of makes you think that maybe the human species isn't quite so bad as we usually seem.
And as I write this, I look up and see the local bartendress. She gives me a smile, sharing with me the relief of spirit at the cleared air and the joy that we can still be kind to each other.