27 October 2007

A different kind of fire story

I've been having trouble feeling the "California love" since I got back.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not being nostalgic for what never was (which is what nostalgia usually is) and I'm not a big rose coloured glasses sort -- read, I remember ice storms, steel grey days and other joys of life on the North Coast of the inland sea that is Lake Erie -- but I'm just as much a realist about San Diego and all its charms and flaws.

One of those flaws just floored me this week. I'm walking through my neighbourhood, and, even with all the fires going on, people are not pulling over and letting fire engines through. Compare/contrast that with people in the Eastern 'burbs of Cleveland dodging parked cars to pull over and give the fire engines the right of way and a smooth path when the county isn't ablaze.

A self absorbed thing? I don't know but I found it more than a tad disturbing this week and worth noting even as others got enough outside themselves to help out.

So what's the other fire story? It's a Mission Hills moment. On Tuesday's ramble about, I took some snaps of the new face of Washington Street between Goldfinch & Falcon.

This block used to be the home to shops and businesses including Mission Hills Cafe, As Cute as a Button and others. For awhile it was just the centre of controversy whether it was developer versus local residents or developer's rep versus the homeless who took shelter in the empty doorways.

The chain link fence is now gone but it's still a big vacancy moment with some what were they thinking architectural moments.

The brief was to restore/refresh the original facade and eliminate the familiar 50s box look and I gather that this final version is a compromise but I still think that the siding and grid work portions are just a honking huge non sequitur.

All I know for certain is that it has been a long time coming and, at least for me, another example of confusing commercial development that seems to have a cut nose spite face element to it.

As Cute as a Button has relocated to Point Loma and that means less temptation for me and my love of vintage glass buttons. Yes, Kim has a web site but I can resist virtual buttons.

I don't know what happened to Mission Hills Cafe but it was a fave
for-bloody-ever with locals and not just for the great fixed price dinner menu. It looks from here like another didn't survive the arguably unneeded "upgrade" --- locals may recall Aztec Dining Room and other businesses caught in the path of the must expand trolley service to the stadium stupid Super Bowl push.

But I was going for a happy note and here it is, not this fire, and not a big firestorm that made the news but a small fire in a small place. Just across Goldfinch from this still vacant adventure there's a fire station and a restaurant that are my good news story for the week.

The fie station and the restaurant have been a make lemonade out of lemons story for a long time.

Where other business owners might have decried the business disruption from the noise of a fire station responding to an alarm, the owner of The Gathering made it an occasion and patrons got a round of drinks on the house if the alarm went up and disrupted their dining pleasure.

Everyone's dining pleasure was disrupted when, in 2006, a fire raced through The Gathering and even the proximity of the fire station couldn't save the structure. A long recovery followed but it did follow and in June of 2007, The Gathering did its phoenix rising thing.

Good things can happen, they take time. Good will does happen it just takes good will.


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