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KPBS Commentaries


Airdate: Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19

In our seashore city, the arrival of summer is no big deal. We live here. We're cool. Was anything wrong with the weather yesterday? Maybe chilly spring nights grow less chilly, but who cares? Just kick off the winter blanket. All we have to worry about is June gloom.

And then come the Zonies.


As they flee Arizona, their gaudy license plates glitter up ahead of us in every lane. What areTHEY doing here? Is it summer already?

The anticipation of summer simply isn't part of San Diego's charm. We don't feel those hundred-plus temperatures that slap Zonies in the face back home.

Sure, we have certain subtle reminders of summer, but they just glide past us. It is the Zonies who remind us that summer is almost here.

Just the other day, long before daybreak, a platoon of Zonies from Channel 3 in Phoenix encamped on a La Jolla Shores beach in the lee of the Marine Room. People who had been peacefully asleep nearby tell me these Zonies began setting up props and cameras about four in the morning.

At dawn, their own Arizona version of a calypso band struck up. They'd brought along a gorilla and a crowd of desert swimsuit models, who tiptoed in the waves and shivered for the Phoenix cameramen. Calypso music at dawn? A gorilla before breakfast? No wonder a La Jolla neighbor did what came naturally. He called the cops.


The way we know it's summer in San Diego is that hotel rooms sell out before your aunt in Minnesota decides when she's coming to visit. Along the Embarcadero, queues form for harbor excursion boats. Rooftop dining at George's, overlooking La Jolla Cove, is reserved a month ahead for the full moon. At Del Mar, you need a reservation even for a horse barn.

But...if you live in Phoenix.....YOU.....KNOW.....SUMMER. You.....FEEL SUMMER....YOU SWEAT SUMMER...You think ONLY of ESCAPE. You dream the closest beach... Zonies whisper to each other how lucky they are to live just a desert away from San Diego.

But can you imagine now that.....just a generation ago....many San Diegans bitterly opposed spending money to attract tourists to clutter up their beloved hideaway?

Committees formed to fight our first convention center. Tourists would clog our beaches, crowd our streets and raise our crime rate. In that provincial San Diego, we would try to keep San Diego safe for those who had settled it -- mostly midwesterners and southerners.

It took years for Convis and hotel lobbies to convince us that tourists spend tidy dollars in San Diego...MILLIONS OF THEM...that kick around town and multiply. Without them, our current city deficit would be even more scandalous. Our summer evenings at the Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse would be sparser.

You Zonies, though, are nearly homefolks by now. No worries that a La Jolla neighbor called the cops - it happens all the time. Channel Three's beach party ratings were super in Phoenix...It won't surprise me if next year convis co-sponsors the "Zonies show.?