As a “native” San Diegan I sometimes feel more like someone born on the other side of the country than someone born and raised right here. It just seems as if there aren’t very many of us natives left, at least within the gay community. Whenever I exchange the standard “where are you from?” formality with someone new their response is typically, “a native San Diegan, huh? Isn’t there like, two of you left in town?” When these exchanges take place I’m usually the only one in the group born in San Diego, which I must say, makes me feel pretty good about myself- until the conversations about hometowns begin.
The attention is usually centered on others because people are fascinated about the various cities people are from. There are also always two or three people who discover they are from the same geographic region and they go off with excitement swapping accounts of old favorite hangout spots in Anytown, USA. Most people are somewhat surprised to meet a San Diego native, but not everyone wants to hear about it, even though I think my story of being a San Diego kid is much more exciting than my friend’s tale of growing up in say, Bucyrus, Ohio.
But I digress.
In most instances, people like you move here because you discovered San Diego is an amazing, beautiful place with the best climate in the country. There are endless reasons really, maybe you wanted to go somewhere a bit more open-minded than Bucyrus (which happens to be the Bratwurst Capital of America) or maybe some of you wanted to escape the cold Pennsylvania winters. But those of us who grew up here, understand that San Diego is not your typical “hometown” and even though we also want to get away, it’s so hard to leave. That is the toughest thing about growing up in such a wonderful place is that you don’t want to leave.
If I were to move away, I would want to go somewhere bigger – but where? L.A. is a mess, New York City is too cold, and San Antonio is, well, it’s Texas (San Antonio replaced San Diego as the seventh largest city in the U.S. a few years ago, moving us down to eighth). No one in town ever seems to want to listen to our stories because they are so wrapped up in talking about where they are from. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by the diversity of places that people in San Diego come from, but it is worth noting that San Diego was a wonderful place to grow up in.
In the 1980’s us beach kids always had fun going to Sea World during the holidays to play on the fake (and warm) snow they brought in. Pulling out my boogie-board and going to beach on a Christmas Day in the early 1990’s when temperatures reached 88-degrees was so San Diego. I even remember how excited I was as a kid when the 1990 census results prompted new San Diego City Limit signs on the freeways that listed the population at over 1-million people (the previous census estimate from 1980 put San Diego at about 875,000 residents). It was an exciting place to be, and I am glad I got to be here and that I am still here.
I got to thinking about this because it is Thanksgiving week and many of my old friends who have fled to spread their wings will return home this week to visit. It makes me wonder if I also should have left for higher ground. How different would my life be had I decided to attend San Francisco State University instead of San Diego State? In the back of my mind, I sometimes dream of walking down the streets of New York City and being a part of the hustle and bustle, riding the BART around San Francisco or working at some fabulous PR firm in Los Angeles.
It is fun to dream, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else other then right here at home. Maybe one day I’ll disappear from San Diego for a few years, but for now I am so thankful for everything San Diego has given me. I am glad to have my family nearby and thankful for all of the people who have come in and out of my life here. I think all of us are incredibly blessed to be in what is truly America’s Finest City, and that is cause enough for thanks.