Third Morning, San Diego
I can always tell when it’s 6:30 in the morning in Ocean Beach, California. That is when the first airplane passes overhead. Like, real close overhead. San Diego’s Lindbergh Airport is only a mile or so away, as the seagull flies, and is unique as an airport in that it offers only one runway. Just one, meaning you’ve always got your fingers crossed and your hopes high that the controllers in the traffic tower are alert, wide awake, and supremely focused. San Diego is a major city, it’s got a pretty famous zoo and all kinds of other great stuff, and so lots and lots of people are always coming and going and that means taking turns between landings and departures on the one runway.
Every plane landing at Lindbergh approaches from the east – every single one. As of today I have flown into San Diego a minimum of eight times and more likely 10 or 11. Almost every time the plane’s approach has been to swing east out into the County and make the turn northwest by Mount Miguel, very nearly directly overhead of my in-laws house in Spring Valley in the ever-descending westerly descent into the airport. This last flight, three days ago, we went south of the city and then back around, east to west, and I saw the Coronado Bridge twice out the window two seats over. That’s the landing.
So it goes, and since no one wants planes landing and taking off pointing at each other, that all departures are also flown out to the west, out over the ocean, and from this second-floor apartment high up a hill on Newport Ave in Ocean beach, they pass almost directly overhead. And when they pass over they are low enough to note every individual airline – Delta, Alaska, Spirit, Southwest, Continental, et al – and low enough to offer to the audible world a big old bunch of jet engine noise. And in consideration of the generally accepted adage and physiological theorem that everyone needs at least some hours of sleep at night, they hold off on Lindbergh Field departures until 6:30 in the morning.
On the dot.
Which is how, enjoying my second cup of coffee and now on my second book of the day I knew when it was 6:30. In the a.m. Today. It’s just the way it is here in Ocean Beach, California, a way of life – I don’t know, maybe you would call it the bitter with the better, maybe for locals, long-timers, and lifers, it’s nothing more than a nuisance, white noise. Like flying packs of chattering wild parrots, or no available parking spots ever on lower Newport Ave, close by the Pacific or in front of Hodad’s – thank you very much arriving tourists and day-trippers. Or maybe some folks don’t even hear it at all.
Susan and I went swimming in the Pacific yesterday, sheer joy in the cold salt, with 757’s and DC-something’s flying right over us. Shadows on the water, one after another. Players in the dance.