San Diego Living

Welcome Back, Students

Over the next week our neighborhood welcomes back 30,000 students to San Diego State University. That includes about 6,500 brand new students from the 83,000 who applied.

Once considered a “fall back” school State has transformed itself over the past decade into a top 100 public university in the country. Despite it’s local reputation as a safe school to apply to it’s now pretty tough to get into! Last year’s freshmen class had an average high school GPA of 3.69 and average SAT of 1118. In other words, lots of alumni never would have gotten into today’s SDSU.

Enrollment achievements aside, college students are– well — college students! They are coming to college for an education but  looking for a lot more than an education: They are learning to become adults.

Our family chooses to live near State. Why? We love it! And, while we enjoy (cough, need) the quietness of summer we kind of love it when everyone comes back. Starbucks is open until 10 again, woohoo! (It closes at 5 in the summer.)

Students bring energy and playfulness that makes our area feel like home.

Tips for Students

This is our 8th year in the college area. So, if you’d indulge, allow this old man to pass along some tips to the young guns.

  1. Commuters… get involved in something on campus. While SDSU is becoming more residential there’s still a huge population of students who live at home and commute to campus each day. While t’s really cool that commuter students can maintain life at home with their relationships from high school they really shouldn’t do that exclusively. Just because you’re a commuter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get involved on campus. Find something to join, even if it’s a volunteer group, that’ll connect you to the Mesa. Don’t just drive over here, go to class, and then go back home. Get invested on campus or you’ll regret it.
  2. On campus students… get involved in something off campus. The opposite of point 1 is also totally true, particularly of first year students. It’s great that you live in the dorms and you go to all the campus activities. But there’s more to going to State than the men’s volleyball games or the parties that they throw on campus. Get a part-time job off campus or join a volunteer group or just commit to getting off campus for all-day on Sunday. Going to Ralph’s shouldn’t feel like an expedition. It’s 4 blocks! Seriously, get off campus to study or whatever. Just get off campus more.
  3. Join your neighborhood. The vast majority of non-first year students live in the neighborhoods surrounding SDSU. There’s a growing cottage industry of rental housing that caters to students, sliding around zoning and rental laws to put 8-9 people in a 3 bedroom house. This fosters an “us vs. them” mentality, I imagine a similar mentality to those who live near Airbnb rentals in beach areas. My advice would be to act at least somewhat neighborly. When you move in go ahead and knock on some doors to introduce yourself. Trust me, everyone really is peaking out to see who you are. If you’re friendly and offer up some contact info… they will love you. Understand that last year’s tenants may have had raging parties or been total jerks… just take the first step to show them you’re normal. (In the SDSU area, join Nextdoor. This is where people talk.
  4. Give it some time. One of the complaints I hear from students is that they don’t make friends right away unless they jump in on the party scene. This takes a little time. Don’t get down on yourself too much, too quickly. I think the biggest challenge is that a lot of first-year students don’t know how to make friends since their friendships back home developed over a long period of time. Relax, it’ll happen. Just be yourself, take some chances to do things with other people, try out some friend groups… and give it some time.
  5. Don’t be a tool. We, your neighbors, know college students better than you know yourself. We know you take school seriously Monday-Thursday and want to have a good time over the weekend. (How you get a 3-day weekend every weekend I’ll never understand!) But there are things that we see all the time which really do get annoying: If you’re underage you can’t buy booze. And yeah, you will get a ticket in the Vons parking lot if you have someone who is 21 go in and buy booze for you because the police have seen that trick before. Even though a street corner isn’t painted red, you cannot park in an intersection. I know parking is sometimes tough. But if you don’t want a parking ticket for parking in a sidewalk or intersection, don’t park there. You can party until 2 AM. But you’ve gotta keep it down after 10 PM… OK 11 PM. When I talk to my neighbors most of us totally get it… you want to party and you’re a college kid. We respect that. But you’ve got to respect the quiet hours, too. Please tell your drunk self, “Don’t dump your garbage on the street.” I don’t even know why I have to say this! But unfortunately, I do. If it was in your car take it to your house and throw it away. Gosh, if you can’t manage that please just walk up a neighbors driveway and put it in the garbage.
  6. Pace Your Money. Towards the end of each semester we see students start to run out of money. Now, on the one hand, this is pretty understandable considering it might be your first time away from home and managing your money. But do yourself a favor… when you get that financial aid money in your bank account this weekend… put some money aside for the last 2 weeks of school, say $75 just in case. Related: The produce area at Vons and Ralphs are not a smorgasbord. I can’t tell you how many times I see students stuffing their faces with fruits and veggies in the store. That’s stealing. Don’t do it. Just because your mom tastes a grape before putting it in the cart doesn’t mean you can eat an entire meal in the store and not pay for it. Seriously, what do we have to do… weigh people before and after they leave the grocery store? Don’t steal food.
  7. Don’t go it alone. Whether it’s a party or the gym or whatever trouble for students seems to start when they go alone. This is particularly true for female students. No one wants to think about it, but there are older guys who are predators… they are just waiting to see someone break away from the pack. Be wise, don’t go it alone. 
  8. Avoid the pack of stupidity. Something happens among young college students where they seem to completely accept the “wisdom” of their group. So twenty 18-19 year olds create a new set of ethics that are completely situational to their context. You hear things like, “I’m young, sex is about me getting mine. It doesn’t mean anything to me.” Or “It’s not cheating, my roommate took that class last semester and had all the quizzes.” No, literally… there’s no such thing as casual, emotionless sex. We’re humans– we have emotions. Passing a class isn’t about passing the quizzes, it’s about learning the material. So cheating is only cheating yourself! My advice: Find someone who’s a bit older than you, say an older sibling or friend of the family, who can help you process things outside of your group.

Get off my lawn! OK, just kidding. Kind of. Please don’t puke on my lawn.

Share your tips! Do you live near a university? Or are you a college students? Share your tips for college students in the comments below.

San Diego Living


In August we will have lived in San Diego for eight years, making it the longest place Kristen and I will have lived in our adult lives. (Chicago, 1994 – 2002; Romeo, 2003 – 2008)

While we’ve fallen in love with and great enjoyed everywhere we’ve lived… there’s just something special about San Diego. While the tagline might be America’s Finest City we’ve become smitten with a place that grabs your heart in unexpected, sometimes non-touristy spots. Here’s a few snapshots of places that have given me goosebumps over these past eight years.

Sunrises over San Diego Bay


While tourists slumber, San Diegans take in the sheer, raw beauty of San Diego’s bay. Some of my most haunting moments of solitude have come on a glassy paddle across a silent bay to the bass-laden flats in Chula Vista, watching the sunrise over the mountains, light pouring over where darkness had taken hold. In this distance you hear revelry play on Naval bases while gradually the city wakes up to make noise.

Watching the tiny blue line burst forth into an indescribably sunrise, goosebumps.

Beach Bonfires

While tourists leave our beaches and head for their hotels, locals don fleece to flock to the fire pits partaking in the glorious ritual of a beach bonfire BBQ as the sun sets. Whether at Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, or our newfound favorites in Mission Bay… sitting around a fire while the day slips into night is always magical. Goosebumps.

Viejas Arena

I couldn’t be more proud to be associated, if only as a fan, all that’s happening at San Diego State University. The development phenomenon goes far beyond the success of football and basketball… but it is symbolized by what  happens at Viejas.

Selling out an NIT game in 12 minutes, goosebumps.

Christmas at the San Diego Zoo

Definitely a “locals only” kind of tradition. Each year, after the presents are opened and with supper digesting, San Diegans head to the San Diego Zoo to stroll.

Have you ever heard the lion roar? It’s sound fills the entire park. Goosebumps. 

Landing at San Diego airport

Confession? I dreaded flying home to O’Hare or Detroit’s Wayne airport. It was good to be home, but it was never quite like landing at Lindberg Field.

There’s nothing quite like sitting near someone on a plane who has never landed in San Diego before. You see aircraft carriers, the Coronado Bridge, and then… you fly between some skyscrapers before landing right next to the harbor.

Coming home after a long work trip, goosebumps.

Here’s to many more years of San Diego goosebumps. 

San Diego Living

Kayaking, a New Obsession

I don’t even know how to describe this obsession. Which is, I suppose, the definition of an obsession.

As the summer began I had a tiny spark of a thought that I needed to find something fun to do that’d get me outside more. I have a personal philosophy of recreation but I had just let it lapse.

My first thought was golf. I absolutely love golf. I grew up playing the game. I love playing… I’m actually a decent enough golfer. (Official handicap is 7, though 11 is more like it.) And, especially while we were in Michigan, it was a constant source of solace. So I started doing research on that. In Michigan I was able to get a membership at a course for under $1000 a year. (I played 5-6 times per week!) But here in San Diego there’s just not that cost-effective option, a course membership would cost me at least $500 per month! On top of that I need new clubs, so we’re really talking about something that’d be $3000 to start and $500-$1000 per month to do well.

Yeah, too much.

Then we went on vacation to Yosemite, where my favorite thing is to play in the Merced River. After which we went to Cayucos, where Kristen and I spent about 40% of our time either on the beach or walking the beach.

Somewhere in there I got bit by the idea that we needed to get into kayaking here in San Diego.

So when I got home in late-July the hunt for kayaks began. After several days of trolling Craigslist, asking a bunch of questions, watching way too many YouTube videos, we bought 2 kayaks and all the gear. (PFDs, car carriers, paddles, and everything else.)

And since then we’ve basically tried to find any available excuse to get the kayaks out on the water.

Fishing with Paul at Lake Murray

Exploring caves and getting flipped by waves at La Jolla

And pretty much any time we’ve got some free time I’m thinking… “I wonder if I can paddle….”