Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Monday, August 14, 2006
La Jolla... again
Being in La Jolla is like coming home to a city I don't live in. I want to live here. I've been pestering Jon, unable to keep quiet when the feeling rises up in me.

"I want to live here." Over and over the thought escapes me, even though I know it will always be just a thought. Jon lives and works in Maryland. I live and work with Jon. So the most I can do is enjoy the scenery, the cool breezes, the proximity to Mexico, for a week or three each year.

We've been ensconced in lovely southern Cal for a week now, and are enjoying Rubios' fish tacos, the beach, the weather, the easy atmosphere. It's cool and breezy, and the salty air is knocking the mustiness out of my head. The humidity dulls me too much on the East Coast.

So far, we've been to our favorite Sushi place, bookstore, and game store. Jon and I have also had the pleasure of visiting friends.

First, we shopped.

On my last trip, I was sorely disappointed by the lack of clothing in... ahem... my size at University Town Center. Only two stores, in fact, had my size. Nordstrom's and Talbot's. Sears may have plus sizes, but by the time I got around the rest of the mall, I was too tired to check. In fact, the more I checked, the angrier I became. Most stores carry only up to a misses' 14 or 16. Bebe won the prize for only carrying up to a size 10! Seriously.

So it was with a heavy head that Jon and I went there again this trip to look for a shirt for Jon. It was mostly a bust -- we found one doable short-sleeve shirt that didn't cost $40. Ah, well.

We're much happier at other shops. Mysterious Galaxy never disappointed. I picked up a 1200-page book--three books in one, actually-- called the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. Set in a completely different world, the book blends fantasy scapes from all the "realms" into a dark underworld of witches, demon-dead, and intelligent, crafty animals. Unicorns, dragons, sabertooth tigers and wolves take sides with queen-witches and warlords in a demonic war that could rip apart every level of heaven and hell. Totally absorbing. Recommended for those who like Anne Rice, but be warned: Rice's grotesqueries are Bishop's fodder, only in much larger doses. Not for those with a weak heart, or stomach. Still, the book is impossible to put down. Her crisp style-- and the ability to gloss over the grosser parts-- will carry you through these books in a week.

When we've been able to put aside our reading, we've spent time among friends. Yesterday, after a skin-searing half-day at the beach, Jon and I relaxed with his colleague's family at their home nearby. We all enjoyed Dan's barbecued chicken hot off the new grill, and his fried bananas with ice cream were better than any I've had at a restaraunt. Last week, we also went to the home of some friends who have five (slightly illegal, at least in CA) ferrets. They're so cute. We played a couple of games over pizza, including my personal favorites -- Carcassonne and San Juan.

So far, though, my favorite day was last Saturday in Tijuana. Jon and I drove the 20 minutes to the border, parked, and walked across the bridge to Mexico. As soon as you step across, the smell is different. The air is different. Certainly the culture bulges against the man-made borderline. The mountains on the US side are barren, while on the Mexico side, they're laden with shanty towns. Meandering through the streets, I'm always impressed with the European style they've applied to the street planning. It's a lovely little walk across Avenida de la Revoluccion, through the open markets.

That is, it's lovely if you like strangers heckling you to come buy from their store. Being an extrovert, I reveled in it a bit. One must draw on their creativity to deal with the various peddlars, hawkers, and beggar kids. One little boy about two years old blocked our path, begging in perfect English. "Give me a dollah!"

We declined. Though I always give money to the old women, the wrinkled women selling chiclets for whatever change you've got.

I did buy a few things, giving some green money into the Mexican economy is like charity these days, though Tijuana is one of Mexico's richest cities; the border towns always are.

I bought a silver necklace from one peddlar on the street, proud of my haggling ability to get him from $15 down to $11 cash. A leather courier's purse priced at $25 was bought for $20, and a lovely $8 quartz windchime is now in our possession, bought for just $5.

I probably could have spent less money for more items if Jon wasn't so obviously a gringo.

They get insulted if you don't haggle, I've been told by my Mexican aunts. As if by accepting their set price you fail to acknowledge their haggling abilities, or their strength at recognizing foreigners. In some ways, I think I confuse them. Certainly, my dark hair and fair skin marks me an easy target. The street vendors and hawkers usually express a little surprise at my easy Spanish. After their mouths work a bit, they settle down to business.

It's easy, really, to haggle. It's harder to get the sellers off you if they've decided you are going to buy from them. We found one easy way to get them off of us; ask them for something they don't have. Over and over, it was easiest to ask for postcards. It stumped them long enough for us to get away.

But haggling's more fun.

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