By Ernie McCray
I’ve lived in Golden Hill/South Park for 40 years. It’s got to be one of the great neighborhoods in the world.
But one of my daughters needed more time away from her work to give her two young ones the kind of start in life she and her husband want for them. So they moved in with me – and I gradually moved in with my sweetheart in University City who came into my life after my wife passed away six years ago.
I love it that those two little precious beings are living in a house where Nancy and I raised their mother and her sister and brother.
I’m gradually easing into UC. It’s taking some getting used to as it’s a little less energized than my old stomping grounds where people are always moving about, both people who live there and people who come to just enjoy the inviting vibe of that part of town.
What I miss most is my daily routine: rising in the morning, getting dressed, and all that comes with that, and heading south to the corner, Beech Street, where women at GFit go through their exercises as I pass by – on my way to Grant’s Marketplace for a croissant and small coffee and a smile from Lindy.
Lindy’s smile was something that came into my life when I needed sunshine, when I was feeling the kind of lows that come with losing the love of your life. I’d walk into the deli under the darkest of clouds, the weightiest of woes, and when I went to the counter to pay there would be this “Hello” and a smile that one could not ignore. I eventually came to depend on it, to seek it out. To treasure it. It became one of my major paths to recovering from my family’s loss.
I miss the cafes and little shops here and there intermingled with old historic craftsman homes.
But University City has its charm too. There’s a wonderful little library near where I’m residing… UCSD and the scenic Pacific Coast Highway is a quick drive away… Some of the most brilliant minds on the planet can be found in UC because many professors at UCSD live in the community… A Vons and a Rite Aid are just a few blocks away (not so charming but there are no major supermarkets in my old neighborhood)… I’ve fallen in love with Papa Chitos, a great Mexican take-out kind of eatery and Lorna’s an “Italian Kitchen” with a breezy ambience… In just minutes I can get to La Jolla Shores or the Cove for great walks on the beach…
And as to walking, which happens to be my major form of exercise, I’m used to stepping out of my house with the option to take off in all directions. I could go east to Golden Hill Elementary and up the killer hill on C Street. I could go north to University Avenue or to Florida Canyon; west around the Balboa Park Golf Course and around the old post office; south around Memorial Academy or Sherman Elementary, schools that mean the world to me.
But my walks are different now. Living south of Governor Drive on Cozzens, when I step out my door I have only one way to go: up and up and up. North. To Alaska, it seems. We’re deep in what was once a wild canyon. The workout begins immediately, especially since I walk with pace, with a long stride. When I reach level land I’m breathing mightily and stepping freely like someone who has escaped a torture machine. Ready to do more walking and less climbing. It’s downhill at the end, though.
But I’m digging it in spite of myself as my new surroundings are rather pleasing. There are canyons and mesas galore, just like in my old hood. Rose Canyon, with all its wildlife and natural views is pretty close to where I live. San Clemente Canyon, a rugged yet lovely wild place, is practically around the corner from me and I frequent it because it’s so readily accessible to me. I really hit my stride within its confines. Just like I’m getting in step with University City.
It makes me think how we never really know what cards life is going to deal us. I mean here I am, a Golden Hill/South Parkian, if you will, to my very core, finding that I’m now in one of the world’s other great neighborhoods. Not a bad discovery if you ask me.
And I’m so glad that, at the same time, I’m able to provide a little stability, in the form of a home, for my loved ones, my family. It’s our place. In a sense, with them there, I haven’t gone anywhere.
My heart and soul will forever be there in that hallowed old wooden house as well as where I am today: living a life with Maria, my lovely querida.
Truth be told: she has played the bigger role in my adjusting to life in UC rather easily.
Because of her I’m really digging UC.
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