Archive for January 2021

Knocking Down Qualcomm Stadium

January 4, 2021

Memories of a place depend on a lot of things. They depend on how and whereabouts you lived in that place. They depend on when you got there. And when I got to San Diego we had Qualcomm Stadium. In fact, I lived in Normal Heights and if I walked just a few blocks from my house I could stand on top of the ridge, overlooking Mission Valley, and I could see it just below me.

It was a huge concrete bowl with a green field in the middle, surrounded by an ocean of parking lot. Some say it was the biggest parking lot west of the Mississippi, though I couldn’t vouch for that. Old duffers who knew it by its old name, Jack Murphy Stadium, hated the corporate name. But I’d never known it as anything but Qualcomm. The Q, for short.

Qualcomm demolishing

By January 1, crews had begun demolishing the east end of Qualcomm stadium as they tore up the stadium’s huge parking lot and graded the land.

But now Qualcomm Stadium is being demolished. If you are a San Diegan and you don’t live in a cave, you probably know the story.

The San Diego Padres left when the city agreed to build them Petco Park downtown. Say what you want about the way Petco was built and whose money paid for it, but it’s a better baseball park than Qualcomm.

And what about the San Diego Chargers? They nagged taxpayers for a fancy new football stadium for years… something that would have ultimately cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion. The day came when a stadium referendum finally went on the ballot and San Diego voters (God bless em) said ‘not a chance.’

The Chargers moved to LA, where a revitalized Rams franchise already had plans to play and where the Chargers had literally dozens of fans.

I know. My sarcasm may show a bad attitude. But I was never angry about San Diego’s loss of the Chargers or the money-grubbing NFL they belong to.  What’s happening in Mission Valley–the creation of a satellite campus for San Diego State and a new collegiate-sized football stadium for the SDSU Aztecs– is clearly for the best. But while I don’t mourn the Chargers I do mourn the Q.

I watched Padres games at Qualcomm Stadium. I watched my first and only live NFL football game there with my dad. It was the Chargers versus the Saints… long before Drew Brees had any connection with either team. I saw light shows and fireworks displays at Qualcomm, some of them with Nicholas and Sophie when they were little.

I remember a guy I met asking me if I planned to watch the KGB Light show at the stadium. This was soon after I moved here and I’d never heard of such a thing. It was a time, in fact, when I still thought that KGB was a Soviet spy agency, not a San Diego rock & roll station.

Any structure or anything else that takes up a big part of your brain when you think about a place where you’ve lived, and where you’ve been happy, is something you’ll miss when it’s gone.

In the meantime, I’ll look forward to seeing games in the new college football stadium when it’s built. One problem with the Q is it was too damn big. Even a good-sized college crowd of 30,000 fans seemed small and silent when scattered around an NFL stadium meant for 70,000 people. I’ll also look forward to giving San Diego State some room to grow.

Yes, knocking down Qualcomm Stadium is for the best. All I’m saying is I’ll remember the place, and part of me will miss it when it’s all gone.

Christmas 2020 and Two Trees

January 1, 2021

The night before Christmas Eve I finally wrapped the presents I bought for my family. I was tired because I worked all that week. Like most men I just barely know how to wrap presents and I couldn’t find stuff.

I got the wrapping paper out of the garage. Do we have any of those bows you can stick on the top once it’s wrapped? No but I’ll manage. Where’s the Scotch tape? I had a pair of scissors… Where did I put the fucking scissors!

Fade Xmas tree

My first fake Christmas tree

Most of the time being a divorced man is not like being a single dad. My ex-wife is still in town and still helps with the kids. But she’s not here, and having a partner in the house means sharing tasks, like getting a Christmas tree, buying presents and wrapping presents. Having to do all that stuff yourself really sucks.

This year I bought a fake tree for the first time. I went to Lowe’s about a week before Christmas. I was first told that they had none remaining but was later told that they not only had one left – the gal gestured to a box on the floor – but it was small enough to fit in my living room. It had also been marked down to $70 and if I applied for a Lowe’s credit card I could get it for $20.

My son and I left the store with a $20 tree, which wasn’t the fullest and most lifelike fake tree I’d ever seen. But it came with lights already hung on the branches, and a remote control that would turn the lights white, colored, flashing or undulating from white to colored and with some options I’m sure I forget.

My mom’s Christmas gift to me was another tree.

It was a Tipu tree to replace the 80-year-old Pittosporum I had to remove just west of the house. I chose a Tipu because I planted one about six years ago that grew with such speed and vigor that it was sure to be the kind of tree that would soon replace the shade and beauty I was missing where the old tree used to be.

Ted picked it out at an Escondido nursery where I had earlier bought a Jacaranda, which he cursed because he didn’t pick that one or plant it. He was going to plant this one.

Ted is an arborist who I’ve known since moving to California, and in his 70’s he’s gotten more angry at the world. He arrived with two guys who dug a hole as Ted would hawk and spit and tell me how important it was to not bury the root crown. He told me (again) that this nursery (mentioned above) had to hire crews to replace trees they’d already put in because they planted them too deep or otherwise screwed it up.

Ted loves Tipus. Some people call em Tipuanas. They grow like weeds. They love the spare San Diego soil and bring orange flowers in the spring. The Tipu was finally planted and upright and Ted headed off to another client with my check in hand.

Planting tree

Ted and assistant ready to plant the Tipu

What else did I get for Christmas? Obama’s new book. A gym bag from my daughter that I could put my tennis stuff in and a cool plant – an aloe – from my son to also put in the garden.

It’s New Year’s Eve. The lights on the fake Christmas tree, and the ones we had time to set up outside, will glow tonight for probably the last time. We’re about to start a new year and get back to business. Planting a tree is a good way to start 2021. The fake tree will go back in a box and return, evergreen, when the season reappears.