This Expat Visits Friends in San Diego

San Diego is one of my two favorite places (Palm Desert being the other, of course) in which I lived during the 25+ years I spent in California. After a memorable and festive visit with friends and family in Seattle, it was great to spend several days in the state’s second most photographed cities reliving the fondest of memories, both professionally and personally. Of course, the highlight of any visit is getting together with old friends, two of whom I was able to see during my stay.

First up, my buddy Maggie, a raucous, vibrant fund raising professional who worked with me at the American Cancer Society and is now working as the head of philanthropy for one of the area’s major nonprofits. She is an example of those rare breed of people who can talk to anyone at any time about anything,  while effortlessly expanding her ever-growing circle of influencers and acquaintances. She’s the ultimate people person and can work a room like no one I’ve ever seen.

Maggie was able to break away from her busy work schedule, as well as social and family obligations, to spend a very fun evening with me at a true “time-warpy” (a great compliment in my book) bar/restaurant that has been a landmark, personality-filled San Diego watering hole for decades. The Red Fox is housed at a dated hotel property in central city and you can read more about its history here: Facts – The Red Fox Room San Diego.

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We started out – and ended up – in their piano bar, but also enjoyed a delicious dinner in their panel-lined dining room that, empirically-speaking,  hasn’t been updated since the 50’s. And wouldn’t you know it, but Maggie recognized people at another table, so conversation and laughter were flowing across a crowded room (a lyric from South Pacific, btw) from salad to dessert…..

After dinner, we ended up back in the piano bar, where I did a tissue-inducing (I choose to think that it because of the listener’s emotional connection…) version of the old ballad, “Softly I Will Leave You”. One of the highlights of the evening was an amazingly musically gifted horn player who turned out to have performed with some of the industry’s greatest big bands and top-notch singers during his 50+ year career. I could have listened to him all night!

The beer poster (above top left), circa 1975, only added to the allure, as did the crowd that included both tourists and locals enjoying the retro musical vibes.

A good time was had by all, of course, including two new Maggie fans from Germany who we befriended at the bar. Thank God for Uber is all I can say…ha!

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The last four days of my San Diego sojourn were spent with someone known by all her legend of friends and fans simply as Miss Bonnie. Bonnie worked with me initially as head of our San Diego office at the ACS but wisely, yet regrettably (for me), chose to retire several years ago to pursue her life as the ultimate retiree. In addition to her two sons and their spouses, she has two adorable grandchildren lucky enough to have her in their lives. She is their “Auntie Mame” incarnate and has travelled more than just about anyone I’ve ever met. For example, she mentioned during our first evening together, in passing, that she had just returned from Argentina and Antarctica, which (FYI) had closely followed another trip to Morocco, the previous year. Her spacious condo is filled with hand-picked items brought home from world travels. I had the best time asking her about several of the pieces and listening to details of the trips on which they were purchased. So many fun back stories!

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My apologies to you Bonnie for catching you with your eyes closed! And yes, I do know that you weren’t napping…

We spent a few hours on Saturday at San Diego’s most iconic hotel, the “Del” on Coronado, after failing miserably at trying to find a parking space for the Cherry Blossom Festival at Balboa Park. Bonnie and I both commented that we had never seen that many people in the park before, but understood that there were those who wanted to get out on the only sunny day of the weekend, prior to a major storm scheduled for Sunday into Monday.

The “Del” is a photog’s dream and it’s hard to take a bad picture wherever you are. We had both been there dozens of times, yet it’s still such an atmospheric and colorful scene you never tire of another walkabout.

It was a bit of a blustery day, yet visitors were dressed in everything from heavy jackets to swimsuits for what was hoped would be a quintessential a Southern California March afternoon. A lavish table and cocktail area had been set up on the sand for an engagement party scheduled later that afternoon. Bonnie and I were tempted to crash (I mean, it looked pretty grand to us…), but thought better of it for some reason (and I’m sure it was a good one…).

A creative and determined gentleman madly worked on a sand castle that brought out feelings of inadequacy as I relived memories of the soggy edifices my friends and I built on Mission Beach as a kid. This guy obviously knows his stuff…or sand, in this case.

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In addition to being a world-wanderer, Bonnie is one of my more sophisticated “foodie” friends who always finds the newest and tastiest of area culinary boites. We enjoyed a spectacular meal (foie gras cookies, no less….seriously delish….) at Juniper & Ivy, “Top Chef” Richard Blais’ first foray into the San Diego dining scene. Read more about his uber-successful venue here: Facts – Juniper & Ivy San Diego.

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What a fantastic visit with the renowned “Ms. Bonnie” and the wunderkind of fund raising, (Ms.) Maggie. I am so grateful for their hospitality (such a superb hostess, Bonnie!) and camaraderie. Thanks for a great time!

Tomorrow I’m off for Mexico City and then to Ajijic on Saturday for my retirement reboot, take two. I may not know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been. The people I love are my constant in this evolving world I’ve chosen to lead. I am so grateful to each and every one for their support – and look forward to the next visit, whether in the U.S., Mexico…or (attn. Bonnie…) in Havana!

And yes, Maggie, I have not forgotten about the Palapa….

Adios…for now.