I made a trip out to San Diego last weekend to visit my friend Joanna.
I’ve lived almost three years in Los Angeles, but I had yet to visit San Diego. I kept promising Joanna I would visit, but because of schoolwork and internships, she was the one to make the drive out to me once every two weeks.
Let me re-introduce to you my dearest friend Joanna. I first “met” her through old-school letters when I was still living in Singapore. I think I was about 11 years old at the time. That was back when nobody knew what e-mails were, and although we were infrequent pen-pals, we remained friends for years because her mother and my parents serve in similar ministries.
And then fate kept pushing us together to become closer friends. I moved to America when I was 14. Since I lived in northern Virginia, just about 4 miles away from Joanna who lived in New Jersey, we got to see each other at least once every year.
Our dream was to go to college together at New York University. We talked about becoming roommates, having bible studies together and joining mutual clubs. I applied and got accepted, but I got a better offer for scholarships at Northwestern University. Joanna, meanwhile, ended up at George Washington University in Washington D.C., just a short metro ride away from my northern Virginia home.
I moved to Chicago, she moved down to D.C., and then I moved back because of my sickness. While all my high school friends dispersed to college, Joanna was the only friend who stayed close to me. I slept over at her dorm sometimes; she slept over at my home other times.
And then I moved out west to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. Joanna graduated and got accepted to work a government job in the finance department of the U.S. Navy. She’s now temporarily stationed in San Diego, working on budgeting for the USS Lake Champlain, one of America’s many missile cruisers.
Joanna is one of those precious lifelong friends. I have no doubts that she and I will remain close friends for as long as we live, no matter where life takes us. Our friendship is built solid on more than a decade of drama, conflicts and stories. I’m proud and happy to know her, as much as I know she is of me.
It’s only fair that since I’ve showed Joanna my territory, she show me hers. And dude, her abode is sweeeeeeet!!! Just check out her kitchen!
I haven’t hung out in a living room for so long.
(That Pooh bear on the soda is mine. Yes, I brought it with me.)
I haven’t been out on a patio for even longer.
I now know why everyone is hankering to score a government job. Not only do you earn a stable income and job security, you’re treated as well as any good employee should be.
Because Joanna is technically on a “business trip,” she is given a set budget to choose her own temporary home. Many of her co-workers chose to live in hotels (a smart way to score hotel membership rewards), but Joanna picked a two-bedroom condo in downtown San Diego that overlooks the Embarcadero, one of San Diego’s seven waterfronts.
I wasn’t really able to capture the brilliance of the harbor’s nightscape because I haven’t mastered the art of night photography, but just imagine: twinkling lights, soft tinkling of waters brushing against the ships and yachts, quiet chatters of couples walking hand-in-hand, quacks of ducks waddling on the damp grass.
There’s even glowing carriages to ride on by Cinderella Carriage. It’s all so ridiculously romantic. I think Joanna and I were the only non-couples out strolling that night. Even the ducks were in pairs!
It’s a pity I didn’t get to come earlier, because this waterfront actually is a popular touristy area. It’s home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship, the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and a charming, historically themed cluster of shops and eateries called Seaport Village.
I’m always surprised how early shops close in America, compared to the late-night hours of most touristy districts in Asia.
Before our stroll, our original plan was to meet for Happy Hour at a Japanese restaurant called RA Sushi in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District.
The area is called Gaslamp Quarter after the historic gas lamps that lit up the 16-plus blocks in this historic heart of San Diego, which was also home of the first Spanish colonial settlement in San Diego. I was thrilled to hear this because it just seemed appropriate that my first bite to eat would be in such a significant area.
(Photo credit to Welcome to San Diego)
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Traffic Devil interfered and what was supposed to be a 2-hour drive got stretched out into a maddening, soul-sucking 4.5-hour torture. I think Joanna waited more than an hour for me. By the time I arrived, Happy Hour was over and Joanna had already eaten, swigged down a Mango Martini…and befriended a guy at the bar.
Say hi to George. He’s a super nice guy from Texas who now works as a UPS guy. He told us some traumatizing stories about his job. For example, sometimes a senile guy would open the door buck naked under his wide-open robe. Letting it all hang out. Shudder.
Joanna took the liberty of ordering some dishes and a drink for me. I sipped on a cocktail called Blushing Geisha:
Cold Lemonade mixed with Skyy Raspberry Vodka, raspberry liqueur and a splash of lemon-lime soda. Glass rim frosted with sugar. The drink was as titillating and girly as it sounds.
Final dish was the Scallop Dynamite:
Crab and cream cheese rolls, tempura-fried then topped with scallop and mushrooms and finally baked in cheesy, mayo-based sauce.
This dish was outrageously good. It was the perfect greasy, carby, hot and messy dish after a frustrating drive in Southland traffic. And the best thing was that it was all mine.
After the satisfying, belly-rubbing dinner, we took a short walk around the waterfront. We planned out our itinerary for the next day. I did a few loads of laundry (no coin machines!!!), curled up on the couch with my Pooh bear and a Toblerone bar (a full living room!!!) and watched hours of TV (FOOD NETWORK! Oh how I missed thee!!!).
Ooh boy. Even after professing my undying devotion to Los Angeles, I was starting to warm up to San Diego. I guess I’m cheap and easy with my emotions when it comes to good food, awesome company and the Food Network.
More to come on how I gave my love away to San Diego.
Question of the Day: Any San Diego natives/residents out there? Gimme a holla!
San Diego recap:
1) First Night in San Diego: The Embarcadero and Gas Lamp Quarter
2) Next Day in San Diego: Torrey Pines and Little Italy Farmers Market
3) Out of San Diego: Wine-Tasting at Temecula