America’s Finest City (SD)

Han Vance on San Diego:

From the porch perched 18 stories atop the center of the central city, you can take the glass wall out and let the bay breeze in, see the Harbor and baseball stadium in the distance. Below though, at night is a sea of lights down 5th avenue, through the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m out West again.

The lights, the lights, the lights, the breeze up here, the Spanish architecture and modern glass.        

(photos by: Han Vance)

Adjacent Mexican restaurant, Curadero, with room service early hours because it services the hotel, and open late because it’s a tequila bar. Nothing like preordering chilaquiles and coffee for the morning check-check and waking to eat up here with the view. Or tacos, my wife’s favorite and cheese enchiladas, mine, plus assorted gourmet pickled veggies, washed well with handcrafted cocktails late at night. I’m alright.

Clearish Colored Buildings

Big Ships, Bridge, Water

American Culture Reporter

The Trolley Rolls By, Tooting Its Horn

From The Art-Touristy

You Walked, You Walked

To The Collegey, To The

Derelict Downtown At

Street Level, Smellin’ Piss

To This Bliss, Super Urbane

My High Perch Atop The Palomar

18th Floor, 5th Avenue And

Broadway, The Block That Made SD

I Read In “San Diego Then

And Now”…I’m Up Above It!

“Above SD” (c) 2017 HV

I wrote on hotel stationary.

Staring this way and that way and that way. Intoxicating town. Three American flags are blowing near each other before the Harbor, San Diego Bay, hey. San Diego County, hello, California, America. I’m way down here on the beauteous bottom of the USA.

Could’ve taken the trolley down to Mexico alone yesterday, instead stayed in America’s Finest City, read that slogan as caption inside some building art, a picture of a newspaper page painted onto the broad side of a building downtown, and it fit, it fits it in my mind. When I think of my pretty home city of Atlanta, and of NYC and San Francisco and Austin or San Antonio, New Orleans and Miami, LA, even, everything I love about the cities of our country, none clearly shines above San Diego. The American Riviera of Santa Barbara, where I married, and classics Savannah, Charleston and Athens, GA, where I studied, and artsy Santa Fe are each smaller U.S. cities I adore, and Diego somehow retains charming smaller city qualities similar to admirable aspects of these locales.

It’s tough to beat as a location overall when you throw in the weather and strong allure of the Pacific Ocean. Plenty of people live down here, with lots of population just across the border in Mexico. There are heady pulses and zipping activity, yet the laid-back quirky SoCal lifestyle remains fully evident.

Waiting for my wife to arrive by plane from a conference upstate in Santa Clara, I went to happy hour at House of Blues, attached to the hotel other side from the tequila bar. After first walking and taking pics, after a slice which I ate while somewhat amusingly hassled by a crazed guy until area security quickly came to run him off, after a scenic bus ride from the airport past the Harbor.

There’s still a real romance to what we do as Americans.

That was the view from the bus before it turned into the heart of the city. California iconic and energized as always, as I traveled this far southwest, feeling as if I were in my book (“Golden State Misadventures”), again. Here showing the hashmarks and ink spots of the craft, showing how I make the sausage, so to speak. The park, the concert, the game?

Let’s go with U2 first. Amazing show. The only thing less than perfectly positive I could say about them was that stellar drummer Larry Mullens Jr. no longer at his age had the explosion I’d heard in “Bullet the Blue Sky” from him in the Omni in the middle ’80s.

The town, by foot, the train. Here San Diego revealed herself to me to be a pleasure zone of authentic America, a city unique, and still standing for the country itself, at her western tip. Sunny perfect, breezy Southern California weather and that laid-back but thronging and eccentric energy ringing out, as we finally arrived.

First, the great American artist from Silver Lake Los Angeles, Beck opened the evening. An 85,000-ish seat archaic pro football field obviously not the inherent choice of where you’d care to see Beck perform ideally, he was himself. He didn’t try too hard, felt at home, dancing groovily into the SoCal night. Been a big fan of all his work, and he was ready to launch his frolicking new album, Colors.

Then Bono and friends. The early stuff with no frills just the band on stage in front of a massive audience, the night darkening to full encasement of the mood. Next we saw what a band with an unlimited effects budget looks like in concert, as the night lights came on, at Qualcomm Stadium. Bono was born to do his job and for a foreign band U2 sure talk about America succinctly.


This guy had incredible silver hair and baby blue clothes. I accidentally hit him with a giant beach ball that I punched. After the show, the crush to the train was evident, but my lovely wife and I rode it out, by foot then train then another train, then foot again, all relatively quickly. It had taken us forever to get there and we’d missed part of Beck.

We got off at Gaslamp Quarter, the big party area of SD. I decided to go quick and visual:

Had a few drinks, with a cool bar back named Blu serving us at Monkey King, where the light walls looked like this. Blu saying the feature drink I ordered was “super sick!”



Went to a loud Medi grill nearby and met up with Atlanta rappers Too Legend, who we admired from afar at first, out in San Diego on their grind.


The day before we went to the park, where they have sixteen or seventeen museums, depending on the two sources I consulted. Lots to look at and a lovely Monet on display, that we saw after a quick snack overlooking the Japanese Garden.


Got separated from my wife at the San Diego Museum of Art, which I wrote a punk song and a beleaguered love poem about in a room of the museum, which I placed alone on the bed of the hotel with a flower blossom I picked, which contained ants.


Final day, we watched the University of Georgia Dawgs whip Mississippi State in our home SEC opener, on television with the San Diego chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, Tara Shah President. The viewing party was at Loading Dock in Little Italy.



My fellow alumna wife (brunette last picture) was fully game. And an old Athens friend who lives in San Diego, Billy Barnard (author of “The Ancestors”) showed so we crushed some chips – while our team rode into the start of a highly successful season – having not partied together since a Halloween in SF.

(photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

A long ago graduate of a now defunct Uni High School, a local Dale Pontecorvo said, “Going to college at Georgia was the greatest thing that ever could have happened to me.” He took Jami and I to his local hang, a hottie-staff Waterfront, San Diego’s Oldest Bar.

Uber shortly into the moonlight of midnight and shortly thereafter another early-a.m. Uber to the little airport. We hit both Delta Sky Clubs, having a Bloody Mary in SAN and pasta and cookies lunch in ATL. A fun couple trip I’ll never forget, I crashed hard once we got home.