California 2014, Part 2 (Thinking And Wondering …)

The hike from Logan Heights to Seaport Village was quite an adventure. Lots of interesting sights, all the little houses, families BBQing, people smiling at me, dogs barking as I walked by – a hot and lazy Sunday.

At some point I had to cross the San Diego Freeway and entered a whole different world: homeless people living under the bridge in huge camps. The stench was appaling. And it only got worse from there. There were hundreds of them in the streets, so many that the city actually installed long rows of portable toilets. There were so many of them that they literally blocked the entire sidewalk and I had to walk on the road. There were people with missing limbs, one of them with no legs in a wheelchair, the wheelchair loaded with all of his possessions in plastic bags and a piece of cardboard attached to its back that said that he was a war vet.

I felt terrible. Not that I was scared, everyone was peaceful, no one talked to me, except one guy who told me not to be scared, and I replied that I wasn’t. Not scared. I was shocked.

We have homeless people in Germany, but not at that scale. How can so many people end up in the street? And in such a poor condition? Are there no shelters where they can get food and a shower? No social workers who look after them?

Pondering these questions I arrived in shiny happy people Seaport Village where I met Eric to watch the sunset by the Pier Café.

view of sunset by the Pier Café
Just after sunset by the Pier Café

From a German perspective, Seaport Village is an odd place. Here you have a festive little tourist spot with Mexican music, margaritas and little gift shops. People walk their dogs, or jog, or have a quick bite at one of the many eateries. And when the sun sets, time stands still for a few minutes and everyone enjoys the view: sunset over Coronado Island. The military base. Huge military ships among harbor tour boats. Helicopters returning to their base. Aaaah, sunset!

Again I thought about the homeless people. The war vet in the wheelchair. In a society that’s rooted in the belief that guns and war are an answer, where a military base is in the heart of the city and the army is omnipresent – how come that the veterans aren’t taken better care of? I thought of Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan and their shrimp farm and how they bought Apple stock … and then the sun was gone and we took a taxi to Station Tavern & Burgers.

The taxi driver asked us what we do for a living, and quickly got us into a conversation about programming. And then suddenly – I couldn’t believe  it and had to snap a picture to prove it to myself – he breaks out his laptop and shows us some code he’s written! He kept showing us stuff while driving. It was totally unreal.

taxi driver’s laptop
Taxi driver’s laptop

On any other day, if that had happened to me in Germany I would have reported that guy. But after everything I’ve seen that day the absolutely last thing I wanted was to be responsible for someone to lose their job. So I let Eric do the small talk and quietly crossed fingers that we make it to the Tavern in one piece.

At the Tavern we had what has to be the best vegan burger in the world. They have two vegan burgers to choose from and we went for the Black Bean Burger and added jalapeños and avocado. It was absolutely delicious and it’s no wonder they sold over 12,000 of it in their first year. Yummy. I hope we can go there again while we’re here. :-)

black bean burger

Back home, I fell asleep early. What an odd day …

Well, time to leave the house for more adventures! My next post will be happier, so check back! :-)