Getting Reacquainted With My Hometown: San Diego

Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego

Returning to my hometown, I feel like I’m disappointing myself.  In high school, I imagined I would somehow make my mark in the world by venturing far away.  While I’ve been gone, I earned degrees at university and business school, I lived in Los Angeles, New York, and Ghana for significant stretches, as well as spent significant time in East Asia.  I’ve made friends with people I could not have imagined when I was in high school who have gone on to do extraordinary things and start families of their own.

Now that I’m back with all of this education, experience, and wisdom I feel like I’ve outgrown my hometown.  I’m straining to fit “me” into these undersized jeans.  The crotch is too tight, my ankles are showing, and the colors have faded.

Despite my discomfort living here, I have to admit that San Diego is not the city that I grew up in.  The city has become far more crowded, diverse, and dare I say, cosmopolitan.  Most of the people I meet are transplants from colder parts of the US – Ohio, upstate New York, Michigan — and they come for work, their boyfriends, or a change of scenery.  Among my high school friends who attended college, most left for the Bay Area, Los Angeles, or New York City.

In the coming posts, I will introduce my hometown to the rest of the world.

Military Town

Self-dubbed “America’s finest city”, San Diego is known for its weather — typically 60 – 80 degrees F year-round — and laid-back, California atmosphere.  The US Navy and Marines have several bases here including:

  • Naval Base San Diego (32nd Street Naval Station) – the largest naval base on the West Coast and home to the Pacific Fleet which consists of 54 ships and has a population of 26,000 people (20,000 military personnel)
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton – a large military base for the US Marine Corps that is bordered by Oceanside, CA to the south and San Clemente to the north.  It is home to the 1st Marine Division.  Interstate 5 runs through the Western side of the base so drivers will frequently see military vehicles, e.g. tanks, Humvees, Cobra helicopters, and Osprey aircraft, as they drive through
  • Naval Base Point Loma
  • Naval Base Coronado – one of the locations where the Navy SEALs train
  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar – used to be home to the TOPGUN program
  • US Coast Guard Station San Diego

The large number of bases in San Diego contributes to several defining characteristics of the county.  First, there is strong support for the military and greater political conservatism than the two other metropolitan areas in California.  Second, several large companies are affiliated with the defense and aerospace sectors.  For instance, The Daily Beast dubbed San Diego the “undisputed drone capital of America.”  General Atomics makes the Predator and Reaper drones while Northrup Grumman makes the Global Hawk surveillance drones.

Predator Drone

Predator Drone

Lastly, all these military bases contribute to the city’s reputation as “Man Diego” where there is a disproportionately large male to female ratio.

Well, generally, I’m happy to be back.  I look forward to exploring the city as I try to shake my childhood impressions of the city with how it has developed.

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