Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Old Town - New Fantasy

I'm in Old Town, San Diego. This was the original downtown of the city. According to historians, since it was admitted into the United States in 1850, the investors felt the need to break with the established Mexican culture and built an American San Diego closer to navigable waters. What happened then was that the original distribution of the first center remained undisturbed and a very nice tourist project grew around the old plaza.

Of course, the town never looked as charming as it's today. I went into a tiny store where I bought a cup of coffee. They have the products displayed on jars and the attendants are dressed as if it was the beginning of the 1800s. It’s like buying in the Oleson store from the Little House on the Prairie. Outside, the house has a plate that reads:
  • 1830 - Single-story adobe home built by Francisco Maria Alvarado and his wife, Tomasa Pico
I have seen pictures of the place at that time. None of the inhabitants were as handsome as the employees in customs now attending the stores. Also, the place is now perfectly clean. A thin path of sand has been put in front of the porch to simulate the dust that was part of the real scenery. But above all, the current house is made of wood and cement, not adobe. I know that because I grew up in an adobe house and there is no way you can punch a wall without taking down a piece of dry sludge. If you try the trick with this one, you can get a fractured phalange.

I’m not criticizing. My point is that reality and memory are always two separate things. The old town was displaced for economic reasons, and now, economic reasons bring it to life again. Most buildings have been reconstructed at a millionaire cost and the setting is so beautiful that it looks like the best place for dining in San Diego for my taste.

In the past, this was a harsh and dry town with horse manure in the streets where people lost their molars before 30 and had no the luxury of taking a bath every day. 

At night I was walking down a street full of cheerfully illuminated bars when, in a bad turn, I ended up walking over the old cemetery. Some historians recovered the exact spot of some burials and you can read the complete list of people under your feet. Most were just months old. I bet if they were given the choice of living in our time or theirs, they'd be with us.  

Someday people will take the fuselage of an old Boeing 747, charge tickets to sit at first class and have a dummy robot dressed as fly attendant explaining how we were able to put that thing on the air when there was enough oil to burn. Today is when paradise happens. Even yesterday's hell seems heaven when we reconstruct it for tourists.

I live the habit of been nostalgic about events at the very moment they occur.

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