I am a manic American. When I tire of America, I escape into America. My brain tells me to go somewhere, and I go. I am a slave to the landscape, less so to the people. I photograph everything. I also write about what I see, in little spiral notebooks and blog posts and lyrics, and set the lyrics to music, and play the songs in rock clubs. This is how I live.

A year ago, I grew very tired of whatever I had been doing. I decided to engage some temporary manifest destiny and go west. Thanks to the graciousness of my host, I was able to explore San Diego and its vast desert backyard. This is what I saw.

I found this guy hard at work in Pacific Beach. Somehow, seeing him made having the day off even more awesome.

Arrival at the beach, Wednesday morning. A welcome sight to a denizen of the miserable northeast.

Get down tonight!

Looks like I started writing the lyrics for the INFRASTRUCTURE song “Republic, Michigan” while having a burger for lunch at this Irish pub. We just played the song for the first time at Harper’s Ferry two weeks ago.

A rusted City of San Diego bike rack

San Diego sunset
Car window sunset.

Ocean Beach street scene.

That’s me, yo. I’m about to ascend Iron Mountain in 95° weather. Iron Mountain is in Poway, northeast of San Diego.

A mailbox at the summit of San Diego's Iron Mountain
The summit.

San Diego's skyline from Iron Mountain's peak
You can see the entire San Diego skyline from Iron Mountain’s peak.

Looking away from the city, you can see a big cross erected among the rocks.

This is what doing homework at San Diego State looks like. I read an entire noir novel on the beach the first day, Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock. Tremendously impressive. I wish I’d been aware of it when I taught my literary noir course at Tufts.

One surfer and two naval ships in the waters off San Diego
The military industrial complex is a huge part of the San Diego economy.

A San Diego lifeguard riding an ATV.
San Diego lifeguard.

San Diego FD.

Friday evening, Mission Beach.

Green house, Mission Beach.

These four Hispanic guys were working their asses off in ninety degree weather, while frat parties began to rage and vacationers whizzed by on beach cruisers. They were covered from head to toe in sun-blocking gear.


The story continues in Part II: The Desert…

Essay and photos by Rob Bellinger
Republished: 6/29/2010
First published: 10/27/2009
Dates of escape: 10/21-26/2008

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