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Arts & Culture

Down And Out In San Diego

A blog post by a writer for The Atlantic magazine led me to a story about what it was like to be poor in San Diego in 1977. Blogger Joshua Green stumbled upon a late-70’s article, published in The Atlantic, which fascinated and affected him so much he offered it up to his readers.

The original story is called “The Gentle Art of Poverty: How to live in Southern California on $2,000 a year.” In the story, “John Brooke” (a pseudonym) writes of how a divorce caused him to leave a high-end life that included an expensive house in Westchester County, New York. He moved to San Diego where he lived in a cheap downtown hotel.

John’s tale is an odd one. He calls his move a “surrender.” He drinks cheap wine and speaks cryptically of suffering from depression. He writes about his experience in much the same way Henry David Thoreau writes about living on Walden Pond. But John Brooke seems much less happy than Thoreau and I don’t know if he ever left his pond to return to something that resembled his old life.


His view of 1977 San Diego is interesting. He calls Horton Plaza a “scruffy little downtown park.” So read it. It’ll be time well spent.