Oct. 16 2012 07:14 PM

The perfect day: Gelato Vero, Balboa Park Carousel, Chollas Lake, Coronado Dog Beach, Clayton’s Coffee Shop, La Jolla art galleries, Buddha for You and Lips

Chollas Lake Park
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Should the world deteriorate into chaos due to the inevitable end of days, I fancy myself tying on a bandana, arming myself with automatic weaponry and galvanizing the charge to do whatever it takes to live right up until the very last possible breath. Truth is, the idea of living day-to-day without being weighed down by monotony, drudgery or inane annoyances like jerk drivers who don’t seem to get the concept of merging (It works like a zipper, dumbass!) is something that excites me.

But before my Armageddon-inspired transformation into G.I. Jane, I’d take a minute to calm down, step back and really appreciate the world as-is. It’s cliché, but the good stuff really does lie in the little things—a great meal, time with a loved one, laughing at your dog as she gleefully sticks her head out the window and sucks in the endless fresh air. Pre-apocalypse, I’d spend at least a day exploring our rad-but-forever-underrated city, reliving a few of the reasons I ultimately chose to call it my home.

My last-ever perfect day starts when my eyelids flutter open on their own. I’d meet the day slowly at Gelato Vero Caffe (3753 India St.) in Mission Hills with a great cup of coffee. While sipping the brew, I’d reminisce about the many late nights I spent studying in the slightly weird room upstairs, taking breaks and looking up from my textbooks every few minutes to absorb a beautiful view of the city. I’d take my time perusing the stacks of fliers and flipping through the freebie newspapers, an oft-overlooked resource that eventually helped usher in my fitful love affair with this town by introducing me to San Diego’s creative, cultural side. I’d eat whatever pastries looked the most promising that day and make the hipster baristas give me not one, but three or four spooned samples of their top-notch frozen gelato.

After some quality people-watching at Gelato Vero, I’d grab my hubby’s hand and head over to the Balboa Park Carousel (2920 Zoo Drive). While the beautifully hand-painted, hand-carved historical carousel is definitely something to behold, I wouldn’t be going to admire the craftsmanship; I’d be there for the wave of nostalgia that would wash over me as I searched out one of the frog characters, hopped aboard and, midway through the ride, leaned over to kiss my husband. See, back when he was courting me, he still had a key to the carousel from when he worked there as a teenager. One night, he surprised me as we walked through Balboa Park and spontaneously unlocked the old carousel so we could take a private, romantic ride. I think I fell in love with him by the time the carousel took its last turn.

A trip to Chollas Lake Park (6350 College Drive in Oak Park) would follow. Deemed “too ghetto” by most of San Diego’s coastal community, people of the east know just how peaceful and relaxing this urban park really is. Ducks, geese and dozens of other birds and critters hang out around the reservoir, which is stocked with large-mouth bass and other fish that get plucked out by happy kids (only the 15-and-younger crowd is allowed to fish). The dirt path that circles the water is perfect for runners and walkers, so, during prime times, the park can feel full. But even with a few folks crowding your view, it’s easy to appreciate the wind in the trees, the chirping birds and scurrying squirrels while imagining yourself far away from the hustle-bustle of the city. Staring one’s own inescapable death in the face seems easier when surrounded by the majesty of nature.

Because my furry friend is one of the loves of my life, the next stop would be Coronado Dog Beach (100 Ocean Blvd.). Crossing over the long bridge is like being transported into a world stuck in 1952. Patriotic flags flutter in the wind and everyone is smiling and fresh-faced, as if they just stepped off the set of Father Knows Best. My pup would have the time of her life chasing a ball thrown into the waves. After, we’d head over to Clayton’s Coffee Shop (979 Orange Ave.), where I’d order an Oreo-cookie milkshake from the outdoor window as we listened to “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters spilling out from the old jukebox inside while sharing guiltless slurps of the high-calorie creation.

Eventually, I’d feel the need to surround myself with one of humanity’s finest creations—art. I’d head up to the gallery cluster on Girard Avenue in La Jolla, where Joseph Bellows Gallery, R.B. Stevenson Gallery, Quint Contemporary Art and Scott White Contemporary Art are located and take my time admiring the diverse work. Scott White just launched a new artist- in-residence program, and conceptual artist David Adey is first up. I’d hang with Adey, and he’d feed me philosophical gems that would make me feel both optimistic and full of utter despair.

A need for some sense of spirituality before I die would lead me to Buddha for You in the College Area (6145 El Cajon Blvd., Suite D). Not only does this shop have enough Buddha paraphernalia to keep one enthralled for hours, it also hosts free meditation classes every Tuesday at 7 p.m. with the cool cats who call themselves the Dharma Bums. I’d recall the meditation teaching I’ve received there in the past, then buy the biggest Buddha I could afford and stare the fat man in the face to help calm my end-of-world nerves.

A perfect day wouldn’t be complete without a bit of booze. The frozen cosmos at Lips San Diego in North Park (3035 El Cajon Blvd.) guarantee a hangover, but they ensure you’ll have a lot of fun when they’re sliding down your throat. Plus, surrounding oneself with drag queens is an experience everyone should have before they bite the dust. The gals are bold, bitchy and beautiful. When they put on their female faces, they’re as free-loving, fun and confident as I’d always hoped I would become before death’s hands pulled me into my grave.

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