I’ve the great fortune of working a few blocks from the harbor. My new office puts me just a few blocks from the water and with a downtown airport, a Navy fleet, shipping traffic, train depot, highway, and pleasure craft, it’s a busy place to be.
At lunch I walk downhill, westward to San Diego Bay. Cross the train tracks and a few streets then you run smack into The End of Land, a concrete curb that overlooks a tumble of rock and there’s the water, blue-green and lapping up with the lazy energy of a horse flicking its tail. Today is the day before a big rainstorm so the air is brilliant and clear, the wind fresh and full of the smells of salt and creosote pilings, and the wind reminding everyone we are right on the brink of thousands of miles of open ocean. The long sigh of approaching jets is punctuated by honks from the passing commuter train just two blocks from the water. Sometimes a cruise ship lets loose a deep blast, a good safety protocol since it’s effectively a hotel on its side in the water readying itself for maneuvers. Last week I heard a Disney cruise ship’s horn blow out the first seven notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, a brilliant piece of advertising in a port city.
The harbor lays bare the workings of a city. Goods come in from overseas, from that ship steaming in right there. Then it unloads and the goods go on trucks and trains, the ones you can see over there. Oil is shunted in on tankers and fills those tanks on the far side of the harbor, like giant white boils on the hillside–shame, but everyone needs oil, especially the Navy. Where does the power come from? Some is transmitted from distant wind farms, and the massive curving blades sit in neat rows at the dock, trucked out on extra-wide flatbeds that confound commuters. Tourists crowd the rails of harbor cruise boats, the drone of an announcer shimmering across the water. Sails from a distant regatta cluster on the horizon like pieces of torn paper. Navy jets blast heavenward with a no-noise-restriction full-throttle takeoff from the airstrip on Coronado Island. Inexperienced bicyclists wobble down the Embarcadero, trying to sightsee while slaloming around pedestrians. Bold pigeons approach bench-warmers in hopes of a dropped crumb. Out-of-towners in rental cars pause at an intersection, drift right, swerve left, and are met with a fusillade of horns from other drivers. Acres of canvas on nineteenth-century sailing ships snap in the wind at the Maritime Museum.
Is it any wonder I find myself down by the water almost every day?