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My First Day Episode 10

Cy Kuckenbaker’s college ID. The photo was taken soon after his first visit to San Diego.
Cy Kuckenbaker’s college ID. The photo was taken soon after his first visit to San Diego.

My First Day Episode 10
My First Day Episode 10 GUEST:Cy Kuckenbacker videographer, San DIego

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS is exploring ways to create stories you want to listen to, particularly stories that originate right here in San Diego . Cy Kuckenbaker got a scholarship to study engineering at a college in South Dakota. After his first year, he knew it was not for him. He returned to his hometown on a remote island in Alaska. He decided to give San Diego a try. Here is an excerpt of his story from the podcast, My First Day, produced and hosted by Andrew.For the longest time, I thought, well, I will go back to Alaska. I did not want to go there. That was a compromise because it was close to my family. I went home this summer, I was still thinking that. I was working for a moving company. I was walking on the sidewalk. I want to move to San Diego. I went home and I told my mom. The house blew up again. I remember. At the end of that summer, I save my may. I stuck to it. I am going to San Diego. I called my friend and I said I am moving to said okay. I will find an apartment and get ready.I remember getting on the plane and this is it. I have to stick to my guns on this. Of this does not work out, I am not sure what I have got going. You know?It felt -- it was serious to me. The choice I was making. My closest friend picked me up at the airport. I would guess, a 1980 Toyota pickup. It started with a screwdriver. He bought it for $700. We have a truck. We drove to Imperial gates. He rented an apartment up on easy street. I think the rent was $425, which was super jarring because I never had a bill before. That was a lot. This is crazy. I signed up for school at Southwestern. I started to get a job which was a hard thing to do because and 93, San Diego was in a recession. The first time we were here, it was funny things that is a young person that I thought. I remember I went to the dollar store to buy things for the kitchen like spatulas and stuff like that. I'd never been in a dollar store before. And they said you can get anything for a dollar. This is amazing. [ laughter ] In the dollar store, I remember we were in the food section. We bought five pound bag of rice and beans. Each was for one dollar. I remember thinking, all of these items, can I survive? At that moment, I am good. I can get a pound for $1. [ laughter ] And of course, SN is a cook it and I started eating it, this is not the so happy solution but we also went -- -- we underline -- unloaded the paper towels out of the men's bathroom. [ laughter ] That was the basic strategy for survival. Just maxed out every resource. We have lawn chairs in the living room and he had a tiny TV. That was it. That is how it started. It was super challenging. I was determined to put myself through college. I was rebelling against my parents.His friend was at his side he. He was working and studying and serving. There was early morning and late nights. He made it through school on his own and graduated from San Diego State University. From there, he bounced around through the Peace Corps and grad school and even shot film in Africa. Despite opportunities, he seemed to come back to his love of film and his desire to live in San Diego. How do you do want, let about loan one -- both was daunting.I started to think, my dream is film. I still not know how I will make it happen. At the end of my life, if I look back, that is that I want to try. But the problem is still active. The problem was, I am trying to be a mill -- be a filmmaker but I cannot put it together with San Diego and how to make a life in San Diego that is mine. And there is teaching film but that's not so simple. There's not film teaching jobs laying around.It did come together or Cy . For the first time, he felt city -- settled while doing what he loved to do. One constant is his old high school friend who picked him up back when he first arrived. Without that friendship, it would not have worked. Without the partner in a similar position, there is no way I could do it. He was like, you know, I suppose he is what everybody's best friend is. They are confident that they are person who buys into your dreams. They really believe in your dreams. He was at that time, the only person. My dreams were pretty esoteric, I think. I could not verbalize them yet. He helped me to figure out my truer self instead of parroting, you know, what adults were saying around him. We were are still best friends. It came together because I finally found a way in film work for me to start a process my experience here. You know, I did not see a documentary here or a fiction film so I made it special effects video. It was annotations on the city and my environment. In a weird way was important for me to kind of get get that connection to my work. It has been great. Now, I feel like I am part of the community and I feel like I belong here. I have a place here. It took a long time to bring that together.That was Cy Kuckenbaker speaking on the podcast, My First Day. It is produced and hosted by Andrew. To listen to the rest of the story, go to

KPBS is exploring new ways to create stories you want to listen to, particularly stories that originate right here in San Diego.

San Diegans share the story of their first day of living here in a new podcast.


"My First Day" is a podcast produced through the KPBS Explore project, an initiative to bring original content from and about the San Diego community. Andrew Bracken produces and hosts the podcast.

The tenth episode brings us the story of Cy Kuckenbacker. Kuckenbacker got an Army ROTC scholarship to study civil engineering at a college in South Dakota. But, after his first year he knew it wasn't for him. The summer after his first year he returned to his hometown, a small remote island in Alaska. That's when he decided he would move to San Diego. He tells his story on the KPBS podcast, "My First Day."

New episodes of the podcast will be released each week, and excerpts will be played on KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesdays.

RELATED: Video Artist Cy Kuckenbaker Cuts Up Everyday Scenes Of San Diego