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October 30, 2008

Turn down the fans?

October 30. Day 122.

I'll never forget the moment I vowed to spend my life somewhere far, far away from San Diego.

I was 17, and I'd just come back from a week in New York with a group of high school friends (soon to be a college freshman and feeling sooo grown up). In the Village, we talked our way into a jazz bar with our fake or nonexistant IDs (loved it). We had dessert at midnight in Midtown (devoured it) and watched Les Mis (yawn).

My first evening back in San Diego, a Monday in early August I think it was, I stood with a friend at the intersection of 5th and University -- which is the heart of hipster/gay/chic/yuppie ville -- at 7 p.m., trying to figure out where to go, what to do, and there wasn't a place we could get a decent coffee and dessert. Hang out for the evening. Live a little. The only cafe I knew, my beloved "The Study," had closed down, and a Starbucks had recently opened a few blocks away. Every store and boutique was closed. Every venue was either dinner, family oriented, or an empty bar. I felt like screaming.

A month later, I left for 10 years, to college and then grad school, because of the repulsion I felt that night and for so many other reasons, and I moved back this summer after too many arrows in my life pointed west.

Which brings us to my first night back in San Diego, after a week in Seattle.

"Does it feel like you're coming home?" Mr. A asked.

Home? Of course. This will always be home. But this time, I was happy to be back. San Diego and I have both evolved, I dare hope.

After dinner, we headed to a new French pastry shop with a promising name, Mille Feuille (one of my favorite pastries ever!), which was at the same intersection as that fateful night: 5th and University.

At 10 p.m. it was closed, which didn't bode well for this neighborhood after all. We walked a block to the Crest Cafe, a diner I'd heard about years ago, but never tried.

The place was empty. The only waiter around was chatting with some friends and someone from the kitchen when we walked in.

"Are you closed?" Mr. A checked.

"No! A table for two?"

"We're just here for dessert. Is that okay?"

"Of course it is!" Our waiter was lovely. Even before we sat down, he brought out a tray of sweets and hinted which of the chocolate cakes to go for. We also ordered a peach cobbler.

It was a perfect homecoming.

With one exception: I've been battling a nasty cold, and the fans were on at full speed. I asked if he could turn them off.

"I don't think I can!" he said. "The fan is connected to the lights, so if I turn that down, the lights have to go, too. It's just our old wiring. The owner would kill me if I messed with the switches."

"It's ok. No problem," I said. We were leaving soon, anyway.

"But what I can do," he added, as an afterthought, "is just dim the lights! That should lower the fan's speed."

On came the mood lighting, off went the the fans, and we finished our desserts in the empty, cosy diner.

Gained: Like I said, a perfect homecoming. Beat that, NY.
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