How To Have A Rockin’ Time In America’s Finest City

It's hard to beat San Diego in June--or anytime, for that matter.

Here’s why San Diego is the perfect host city for a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon event.

Written by: John Mendelsohn

There are obviously lots of places in which to stage a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, or at least half of one. The literal-minded might think that either Talking Rock, Georgia, Hollow Rock, Tennessee, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Point of Rocks, Wyoming, Bean Rock, Alabama, or even Rollover, Texas, might have been the more appropriate settings. But no place in what Sarah Palin calls This Great Nation of Ours deserves the event as San Diego does.

Don’t believe me. Believe two celebrities from very far away, who could live just about anywhere they please, assuming they were able to obtain the requisite visas and what-have-you.  The singer and recording artist Jason Mraz, for one, could easily have stayed in his native Mechanicsville, Virginia, which obviously has the coolest name of any municipality in America, but relocated to San Diego because “there’s a community that’s nurtured my talent and allowed me to continue to live and work and thrive.”

Farm House Café chef Olivier Bioteau, a native of France’s picturesque Loire Valley, tells us a similar tale, in an intoxicating accent: “I was working in a little French restaurant in London in 1988, and that year, it rained something like 361 days. So I started to look in a French newspaper that offers jobs all over the world. I answered an ad, and moved to San Diego in 1989. It was just marvelous. I would never live anywhere else.”

And how many major, major rock stars are identified with Bean Rock, Alabama, this while San Diego has been home to Matt Cameron and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Ann Wilson of Heart — not to mention purported actresses Cameron Diaz and Raquel Welch, porn star Jenna Presley, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, the late Boston Red Sox immortal Ted Williams, polio conqueror Jonas Salk, and May 1996 Playmate of the Month Shauna Sand? It was San Diegan Brenda Ann Spencer’s murderous shooting spree on the morning of January 29, 1979 that inspired The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays,” without whose four weeks atop the UK charts Bob Geldof might have lacked the clout to spearhead Live Aid, and starvation would have remained commonplace in Africa.

Following a successful “recession-defying” convention and trade show in 2009 in San Francisco, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association returned to San Diego for its 29th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, citing the city as nothing less than “an ideal venue” for its Annual Global Gathering of the Fitness Industry. You won’t hear anyone so describing Rollover damn Texas!

San Diego’s famously spectacular weather brings out chutzpah even in the timid. When the notoriously diffident Portuguese-born explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into it in 1542, he claimed the bay for the Spanish Empire. Never mind that the Kumeyaay Indians had claimed it, maybe not quite as ostentatiously, 10,000 years before!

If the glorious buttery sunshine makes brazen the shy, of course, it also occasionally clouds locals’ judgment. The original town of San Diego grew up at the foot of Presidio Hill, near what is now Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. It wasn’t until the late 1860s that Alonzo Horton noticed they were several miles from navigable water and began promoting a migration to a “New Town”, several miles south of the original settlement, in the area known nowadays as Downtown. Around 150 years later, San Diego was named by Money magazine as the fifth best place to live in the USA, and was the site of California’s most cataclysmic wildfire in a century, one that scorched 280,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,200 homes, and put so much smoke in the air that, to the infinite consternation of its students, San Diego County schools had to close for a week. When San Diego has a wildfire, it’s what the protagonist of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest would have called a bull stud wildfire.

After post-Cold War cutbacks took a heavy toll on the local defense and aerospace industries, which had long played bull stud roles in San Diego’s economy, do you suppose the city just sat around hoping the Cold War would heat back up? Not a chance!  Next thing you knew, San Diego had become a major center of the emerging biotechnology industry, not to mention the home of  telecommunications bull stud Qualcomm.

There’s room for improvement; we’re not saying there isn’t. On any given night, there are about 2,500 reported runaway children in San Diego, and the local MLB ball park is named for a corporate sponsor, rather than for Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, or even Eddie Vedder. No American city with at least two major-league sports franchises has gone longer (47 years as of 2010), without a major championship — not a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, or NBA championship. Some believe the city’s major league teams to be cursed, while others note that the city, having lacked a team since the mid-80s, couldn’t reasonably have expected an NBA championship.

But what’s a major sports championship compared to having miles and miles of fabulous coastline and 361 days of sunshine a year and a vibrant outdoor fitness culture that combine to make San Diego one of the greatest running cities in America?

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The multitalented John Mendelsohn is a writer, graphic artist, and singer/songwriter who lives near New York City. Check out his new song collection, Sorry We’re Open.

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