Tag-Archive for » san diego «

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Author:

storyofjo san diego friends

I convinced her to do the hike with me.

It’s called the Devil’s Punch Bowl.  Some of the reviews and bloggers were surprisingly dramatic about how hard of a hike it is and how much water you need to bring with you. (One blogger suggested something like 5 gallons per person. Which I still stand by the fact that that’s ridiculous.)

Reading a bit further on the matter, though, I found plenty of people who had said the hike itself is easy-moderate, it’s just hot and unshaded. Perfect, I thought. Work on my San Diego tan while we hike. Win win.

I asked Lizz if she was down for it, and she expressed concerns about having heard similarly scary reports of how hard it was. But I told her what I’ve just told you and she agreed to try it.

You hike three miles downhill in desert areas outside of San Diego, get to the Devil’s Punchbowl, hangout in the shade and/or water, then you go three miles back uphill in the sun. In the summer it averages around 115 degrees. But in March, when we were going, it was only 85 or 90. Totally doable.

We laughed and made jokes about the huge signs at the trailhead that say in big, capital block letters: “CAUTION. HEAT STROKE KILLS!”

“Hey Lizz, I don’t know if you’re heard, but you should really be cautious. There’s this thing called heat stroke, and it’ll kill ya dead.” We have a very dry, sarcastic humor with one another. For some reason we find it hilarious to just repeat obvious things in dumb voices. At least we entertain each other.

We hiked down with ease, though Lizz was starting to get really hot. Which probably should’ve been a tip-off. We were trying to conserve our water, though, so she drank little on the way down. When we got to the water, we stayed for a good 30 or 40 minutes, just trying to get her back to feeling OK. We still made jokes about how she was dying from heat stroke. But of course, she didn’t have heat stroke, she was just hot from hiking in the hot sun. She was fine. It did take her a long time to feel like she got her temp back down though.

When she finally did, we began the hike back up. About 2/3 of the way she was really struggling and started to talk about feeling light headed, nauseas and having a throbbing headache. Having worked at summer camps for many years, I know that means dehydrated, so we made steady slow effort up the trail and I kept having her drink more. More. More.

Here, drink my second water bottle. Here drink the rest of my last water bottle. With no cell service I was starting to get concerned, but near the end she said she was feeling a little better, so I went on ahead to get to the trail head and get myself some water, and bring some back for her if she had to stop.

But I didn’t have to go back for her, she was close enough behind me. She got to the trailhead, drank an entire liter of water, and then went and laid in the shade until she cooled off.

Sorry I almost killed you with heat stroke I apologized, still snarky.

She cooled down, we got in the car and headed for our next item for the day. On the drive I got cell service back and received a text message my mom had sent earlier that morning: “Hi Jo. Give me a call when you have a chance.”

As I was driving and Lizz was all heat-strokey, I decided I would call her once we arrived somewhere. I had a feeling in my gut that she was going to tell me my childhood cat had died. He was old, I knew he’d been potentially nearing the end for a while now, but if it was that, I didn’t want to know just yet.

We got into the next town and were almost to our destination when Lizz said, Pull over. Pull over right now I’m gonna throw up.

I pulled into a parking lot and she couldn’t get the door quite all the way open before she puked in the most projectile way of “projectile vomit” I’ve ever seen. Some of it hit part of the door, splashing back on her, and the rest drenched the hot asphalt.

All of the water I’d made her drink shot out like a water cannon. It was really quite impressive if it weren’t so sad.

After she seemed to have finished, she sat up, I handed her a napkin, she wiped her mouth and the door, and said I think I just need to sit here for a bit.

I decided I might as well call my mom and face the sad news if thats what it was while I waited.

Hi Jo, she started. It’s about your cat. 

My tear ducts got ready.

Is he dead? I asked.

He went missing yesterday, and Dad went out to look for him today because we hadn’t seen him, and I’m sorry Jo but he found him in the pool. He drowned.

Tears. Falling. Throat. Catching.

He drowned??? I balked.

I’m so sorry Jo…

I cut her off. I felt the grief assaulting me. Ok, I’m sorry. I have to go. Bye.

I hit the “end call” button with a messy punch of my thumb before my hand just dropped the phone and I cried ugly, loud sobs while strangling the steering wheel. And then I wailed. The sounds guttural. Moans of distraught youth. Cries of old, old life officially gone.

Because he hadn’t died of old age he had drowned.

Because he’s the only pet* that’s ever been mine.

Because we only got him because me and my now dead older sister begged for him on our knees on the sidewalk outside of the froze yogurt place when we saw the lady with the box of free kittens. And while Julie would typically be far too proud to do anything like that, she’d done it with me.

Because he was just like me — he was independent and feisty and wanted to be loved, but only on his terms. He didn’t want you to hold him all night, he just wanted to touch base and come and go as he pleased. Unless you didn’t want him near you, then he’d work his way into your lap and your heart.

Because he had been a constant when everything else in life seemed to change. Not just once, but twice.

Because it was still with a child’s heart that I loved him.

After my loud cries and then silent sobs subsided, Lizz projected more vomit out the door while I blew my nose and wiped my eyes. She wiped her mouth again and we looked at each other.

Well, we’re a sad pair, she said.

And we laughed.

I’m really sorry about your cat, she said.

I’m really sorry I made you hike and throw up, I said.

And we laughed again.

That’s officially the ugliest crying session of mine that anyone has ever witnessed. And again I reiterate that I’ve never seen such quintessential “projectile vomit” ever before in real life.

But we didn’t judge each other. We laughed at ourselves. And we were there. In the ugliest parts of life, that’s the most I could ever ask for in a friend, I think. No judgement, some laughter, and just being there. That’s the majority of what true friendship is. Not grand gestures and bff bracelets, but being someone who can sit in the ugliness of life and call it what it is.
Also, be cautious, heat stroke kills.

storyofjo san diego friends *I had a desert tortoise when I was young that my dad had found as a kid, and his mom had kept after he was grown, and she had given the tortoise to me when I was a kid, but then Pickles ran away one day. So one, Pickles was not just mine. And two, she ran away. And three, she was a tortoise, and it’s hard to connect with a tortoise. Just saying.


If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Author:

We’re taking a detour from the normal posts for a week, because sometimes, I love to play tour guide and help people find good stuff!

Sometimes I travel for fun, and sometimes because of how my life has gone, I get to travel for school, business, etc as well.

I went to San Diego a few weeks ago to write a few stories down there (see the first one up now!).

But, while I was there, I tried to also hit as many of my old favorite things (foods, places, people, etc.) and to try a couple new ones. SO… If you are going to San Diego any time soon, these are officially my suggestions:



Where to EAT:

  1. The chips and queso dip at Miguel’s Cocina

IMG_7193Go to Miguel’s for the best white queso dip in the world. And if you want to argue with me about somewhere that you think has better Queso, then I’m gonna need you to fly me out there so I can try that place for myself. Until then, All Hail Miguel’s amazingness white cheese sauce and fresh fresh chips.

  • What to eat there: The Flautas, the Tacos, or the Enchiladas. These are all great, but not out of this world. Really, the queso is why.
  • Where: There are 4 locations, all great, the one I’ve been to is at: 2912 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: go for a quiet walk along the Bay (See #8 in places to go/things to do below). Get coffee and hang out at the living room

2. California Burritos or Carne Asada Fries at Santana’s AKA Fresh MXN Food AKA  Eat MXN Food

Ok, so the current and most recently passed names make it seem like perhaps you should gloss over this place. Do not. Sanatana’s is the original name, and while they have added locations, (I like this location best), and changed names, their menu has stayed largely the same. Santanas is rumored to have invented the california burrito.

  • What to eat there: California Burrito or Carne Asada Fries.
  • Where:1578 Rosecrans St San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $
  • Nearby: The Starbucks next door has many outlets if you need to re-charge. Otherwise take your burritos to go and eat them at #1, #2, or #3 under places below)
  • Similar places: Adalberto’s (same suggestions), Cotija’s (California Burrito and Bean and Rice Burrito), and Ortiz’s (for any burrito)

3. Sea Food at Point Loma SeaFood

If you want the freshest sea food perhaps in the continental U.S., come here. It’s right on the water, and it’s both a market where you can buy your fresh seafood to go cook it at home, or you can order from their menu to get something delicious right there. To order, just muscle your way up to the counter, and shout your order. You can eat inside (you have to go outside and around the building to enter the enclosed patio) or outside at the stone picnic tables or the tables right along the water. Be wary of seagulls who will try to steal your food.

  • What to eat there: You can’t go wrong. I like their fried shrimp, fried calamari, or traditional fish and chips. If you’re not a seafood person but you’re with seafood people, I believe they do have chicken strips as well.
  • Where:2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: It’s close to the airport so a perfect first or last stop on your way in or out of town. It’s also close to Pizza Nova, which is delicious. It’s close to Miguel’s, The Living Room, and Shelter Island as well.

4. Anything at Extraordinary Desserts

The name says it all. I’m a dessert person. I partake whenever possible in the dessert genre. Which is often. And this place is the best dessert place I’ve ever found (Sorry gelateria in Rome with the best-known ice cream to man). Eat anything there. Pieces are always very rich, so it might be best to share. OR do what I do and get a couple choices to share. P.S. If there are flowers on your dessert, they are edible, but you can choose not to eat them.

  • What to eat there: While I love ice cream, don’t settle for the usual here (though it’s an option). Get one of their delectable creations. Whether it’s cake, pie, tart, whatever.
  • Where: Two locations.     Little Italy has a larger, more open space indoors: 1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101. But I like the ambiance better at the Balboa location (plus has outdoor seating). 2929 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: Little Italy location is obviously in Little Italy which is a great place to wander around and explore. Also, if you’re there during business hours, stop by the art gallery of Grant Pecoff (See Little Italy Entry below for address). Amazing, colorful work plus wonderful children’s books for sale!

5. Acai Bowls in Ocean Beach —Quik Stop Liquor/Convenience Store 

  • IMG_7260What to Eat: Probably the small is enough, but if you’re a big eater or you’re sharing, go full-bore. Also, their coffee is not bad for it being equivalent/priced like gas station coffee.
  • Where: Newport Ave, on the left hand side as you head West. About 2-3 blocks up from the beach. 4921 Newport Ave San Diego, CA 92107
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: Walk Newport Avenue for fun shopping. The Closet has cheap, cute clothes (and nose rings for $.99!). There are antique stores galore. The Little Chef for fast, cheap, great Chinese food. The Light House has the best ice cream. Hodad’s has great burgers (let the long line be the testament to it. It’s worth it, but bring cash). Plenty of new bars and breweries seem to be popping up in those blocks. And of course, go walk the beach.

6. Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Light House Ice Cream 

As you walk up you can smell the cones being made, because, yes, they’re made fresh and they’re amazing. The ice cream itself is from a company based out of San Francisco and it’s The. Freaking. Best. (Outside of Italy.)

  • What To Eat: I am personally a fan of the two scoops of varying flavors in the fresh waffle cones.
  • Where: 5059 Newport Ave Ste 102, San Diego, CA 92107
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: All Ocean Beach spots.


Places to Go/Things to Do:

  1. Sunset Cliffs.

IMG_7271Great for walking along, sitting on the benches, or driving down. There are absolutely incredible houses on one side with varying architectural styles and then the beautiful ocean on the other. Go down the stairs to the tide pools for an extra fun excursion. You can find crabs, sea anemones, sea snails, and sometimes sea cucumbers and starfish!


2. Ocean Beach (OB)

Some of my favorite food and shopping suggestions are here, and it is, hands down, my favorite beach, and my favorite place in San Diego. It’s kind of a dirty area — lots of homeless people and hippies, sometimes one-in-the-same, but it’s also a local hangout. If you’re a surfer, it’s a great area, but the locals can be territorial so stay out of their way.  It’s a great beach for families with kids that want to play in the water and get some decent IMG_7167waves with boogie boarding or body surfing. Life guards on duty. I suggest the area around lifeguard Tower 2 or 3. Browse through the shops, eat at the restaurants, get some coffee and stroll down the beach or the pier. Watch people slack lining, playing frisbee, fishing, surfing, and more. If you want to go to the restaurant on the pier, I’d suggest going for breakfast and getting the mango or blueberry pancakes.

  • Where: Take Newport Ave. West until you hit the sand. If you hit the water you’ve gone too far. That’s just ocean. Not ocean beach.
  • Tips: If you can’t find parking along Newport Ave., there is a parking lot at the beach end of Newport Ave, and one right by the large Life Guard Tower with the cross on it. If it’s a holiday, or sunny weekend, parking may be a struggle, so take whatever you come across.

3. Shelter Island

Great place if you want to have a bonfire at night, or just have a picnic or a stroll in the daytime.

  • Where: Shoreline Park, 2204 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA , San Diego

4. Little Italy

If you want to get the taste of downtown without going to a Mall, go stroll through Little Italy.

  • Where: It’s the general vacinity, but here’s the address for the Pecoff Art Studio 1825 India St., San Diego, CA 92101
  • Highlight: Grant Pecoff’s art studio
  • Nearby: Extraordinary Desserts
  • Balboa Park

5. Balboa Park

Wonderful for strolling, hiking, picnicking, or going to the museums. Balboa Park is one of the city’s greatest gems.

  • Where: Enter on El Prado Street and either park right in street parking there and enjoy the park area/walk in, or drive in and find parking inside to be closer to museums. El Prado begins at where Laurel St. and 6th Ave. make a T: 2500 6th Ave San Diego, CA 92103
  • Highlights: Museum of Man (costs). The Timken Art Museum (Free). The Botanical Gardens (free). The Zoo (costs).

6. Hike to The Devil’s Punch Bowl:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIMG_7326

Lizz and I did this hike together and while it is 3 miles down hill there, and 3 miles uphill on the way back, it’s not the strenuousness of the hike that’s hardest, but the heat. They say to bring plenty of water, and I’d reiterate that plus, make sure you start the hike hydrated already. The punchbowl itself was pretty incredible though.

  • Where: All info including purchasing the required permit ($6 for up to 5 people) can be found HERE: devils-punchbowl.com

7. Coronado Island

It’s the fun, throw-back place in San Diego. It’s easy to feel like you’re a great Gatsby character on vacation here. Enjoy the soft sands of the beaches, rent a bike to jot around the island, and get ice cream at the famous Moo-Time Ice Cream Shop (same idea as Cold Stone, but better).

  • Coronado Beach: 838 Ocean Blvd Coronado, CA 92118

8. Walk along the Bay

There is a public path (Bessemer Path) along the bay in the back of some gorgeous houses. Find street parking nearby and start at the address below (on the curve where Talbot St. curves into Anchorage Lane). Start there and turn right, heading south along the Bay. Go as far as you like, but there is a precarious swing along the bay a bit farther down. Be careful though, apparently it has broken several times before.

  • Where: 1001 Anchorage Ln., San Diego, CA 92106




If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 | Author:

things we lost in the fire

With the fires blazing in Southern California, I’ve been thinking about this question again:

If the house were on fire, what would I grab?

  • When I was younger and living at my parents house, the answer was the boxes of photos. But now that I live on my own, I don’t have very many printed photos. Most of them are either on my laptop or my external hard dive. So I’d still really like to grab those. But there are highlights of many of the (thousands and thousands) of photos that I’ve taken available on facebook and other similar venues where I and other life participants have posted them.
  • I have a lot of art pieces accumulating in my spare bedroom. But I made them all. And I know that while I may never be able to reproduce them, I also may be able to. Or I could make something new.
  • I have a lot of clothes. If I was thinking clearly, I’d probably try to grab a couple shirts and a pair of pants, but they wouldn’t be first priority.
  • The jewelry I care about most is always on my person, and those pieces are few, anyway.
  • My movies could all be re-bought, but really I could live without them.
  • While it would be incredibly sad to lose my journals — the chronicles of my pain, my joy, my wrestling — I know that I lived through them. I know their stories, even if I don’t know their exact words. I would try to grab them if I could. And similarly, most of my non-journaled writings I have either put into online spaces, or emailed to myself already, so most of those are accessible even if my computer burned.
  • My Bible is the most irreplaceable book I own, though in reality, I don’t use it more than a couple times a week currently. It was a gift from my dying grandfather the year after my sister died. It has been with me through everything. It has water damage and ink stains (because of the spilled water). It is more underlined and noted than I can describe through the decade of life it’s lived with me. It has tear stains — literally. The leather cover is falling apart and the binding has come completely undone. I need a new one anyway, but I would try to grab this. But if it burned in the flames, I would accept it, because I know it’s time for a season of wrestling anew anyway.

I used to think about this question a lot as I grew up. What would I grab? It gets at the heart of what matters to you. I always had a list of all sentimental things that were a part of my answer — much more than I realistically would be able to rescue from a burning place.

But I think I’ve come to a point in life where I’ve become slightly accustomed to the art of losing. Losing things. Losing people. Losing dreams. Losing places. Losing relationships and friendships. Losing nearly everything I thought I knew and loved. And I’m still alive. I’ve survived, though at times it felt like I wouldn’t.

And now that I know that I can live through loss, now that I am an amateur artist in the art of losing, I don’t think there is really anything physical that would be too devastating to lose. Which is both sad and freeing.

I suspect many people experience that freedom when they get to the end of their lives and most of their people and things have passed on or been lost before them.

The last time that I had to move, one of the landlord’s children had assaulted one of my roommates. It was a bad situation. I had to find a new place within a week, which was stressful. Had to coach roommates through the legality of the situation, how to file a police report, what our rights as tenants were. And we got taken advantage of. When it came down to it, we had every right to take her to court, but it wouldn’t have been worth the effort we decided. The woman we were dealing with was changing her story every day. We were ready to just be done.
So we walked away, took care of business, lost our deposits, covered our legal obligations. And moved on.

People kept saying that I was “handling this all really well,” as we were moving out and I was trying to find a place to live. Which was baffling to me at first because I thought — how else would I handle it? I think when it comes to the loss of money or things, I have a quicker time accepting it — “what other option do I have?” is my mindset.

I remember preparing for a church trip abroad when I was younger and they talked about the “two hour rule”: Don’t take anything with you that it will take you longer than two hours to get over if you lose it.  At this point in life I don’t own something that would  fall outside that category.  And I’m not sure how I feel about admitting that.

But I think the gift is that it prepares me to live with abandon now.

If I could choose, I wouldn’t choose it. But I have been baptized into the art of losing, and I know that it’s shaping who I am and how I live now.

Maybe one day I’ll find roots again. But for now, I just have acceptance for loss, and the stamina to take a deep breath and start again. And again. And again.  I know the strokes of the art of losing. And I know that there is always life anew if you wait for it, if you build it, if you search for it. There is no other choice in my mind. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. And still, we walk on.

This song is by a band called Bastille and I have come to love it. It speaks about this process. This art of losing. But the song itself is full, almost upbeat. It’s become a sort of anthem for me. “The future’s in our hands and we will never be the same again.”

“Things We Lost In The Fire” by Bastille

Things we lost to the flames
Things we’ll never see again
All that we’ve amassed
Sits before us, shattered into ash

These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire
These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire

We sat and made a list
Of all the things that we had
Down the backs of table tops
Ticket stubs and your diaries

I read them all one day
When loneliness came and you were away
Oh they told me nothing new,
But I love to read the words you used

These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire
These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire

I was the match and you were the rock
Maybe we started this fire
We sat apart and watched
All we had burned on the pyre

(You said) we were born with nothing
And we sure as hell have nothing now
(You said) we were born with nothing
And we sure as hell have nothing now

These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire
These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire

Do you understand that we will never be the same again?
Do you understand that we will never be the same again?
The future’s in our hands and we will never be the same again
The future’s in our hands and we will never be the same again

These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire
These are the things, the things we lost
The things we lost in the fire fire fire

These are the things, the things we lost
These are the things we lost in the fire fire fire

Flames – they licked the walls
Tenderly they turned to dust all that I adore

listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGR4U7W1dZU

photo credit: eijeiii via photopin cc

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon