You are Young

Consider this, a sidewalk poured in 1927 on a small side street in San Diego:

1927 sidewalk in San Diego

It runs up a steep hill and overlooks the harbor.  Before Interstate 5 was built and the airport took such a chunk out of downtown this little sidewalk had one of the best views in the city.  It could see trains and streetcars clacking into the future, men in suits and hats aboard sharing space with sailors, immigrants, prostitutes.  Not so different from today except our trolley service is grossly inferior to historic San Diego’s expansive streetcar network.  There would’ve been a clear view to the hangar that housed T. Claude Ryan’s monoplanes that flew passengers up to Los Angeles.  The bristling guns and proud cutting bows of the fleet at the U.S. Destroyer Base would’ve been visible off to the left.  A large tuna fleet, manned by Italian and Portuguese immigrants, could be seen chugging out to sea around the bend by North Island and Point Loma.  Sailing regattas would describe zig-zagged tacking courses through the deep blue water, cream colored wedges of sail angling across the wind.  In the far distance, in a sky still not smeared with pollution, would be the gentle curve of Baja California in Mexico, still a sleepy border town and not the riot of contraband and manufacturing that it is today.

Google street view of SD harbor

This sidewalk will be eighty-six years old today, older than most people you know.  All of your life, everything you’ve known and dreamed, all your failures and triumphs, all can fit in the second half of this sidewalk’s existence.  And it’s still going, solid slabs of concrete marching up a hill beside a road that has seen cars transformed from Roaring 20s sleek lugs to wartime pressed-tin econoboxes to fifties boats to seventies lead sleds to the crushable and much safer Bluetooth-equipped aluminum cans of today.  Is this sidewalk nearing the end of its life or is it only halfway through?  When all of us reading this are gone, will that stretch of concrete still be there, watching over a new version of San Diego that will be as unfamiliar to us now as the 1920s San Diego?  If you think you’re old, think again.

Writer, architect, father, husband.

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