There’s are several unofficial mottos here in the Golden State, and one of them is “Work hard, play hard.” I have been resisting this approach for ten years of living here; it seems like if you have to play just as hard as you work, then it’s kind of like, well, more work, right? But this doesn’t ring true with the culture around me, particularly in this part of the state, so I try to play along.

When something new comes up on a weeknight, I try to buy in, even though my job has turned into an exercise in anarchy management, not workforce management, lately. Last Thursday night was no exception; my sister-in-law asked me to go to the Oceanside Farmer’s Market with her. I have been to farmer’s markets in San Diego’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, in Encinitas, and in Carlsbad, and prefer the Encinitas market best for vendors and venue (the market is held at a civic and environmentally minded elementary schoolyard and holds mostly farmers, with a few artisans and about a third of the booths being prepared dishes served). The Oceanside market intrigued me for a number of reasons: the location is near the pier, which is a pretty commute in; the Oceanside community is known for being a little rough and tumble, and I imagined this as a rare night of peace and harmony; and I was trying to imagine farmers traveling to Oceanside.

Sadly, I think that the farmers were trying to imagine it, too.

To begin with, there were about four times as many people at the Oceanside market as the other markets. Parking was choked up for blocks around the four block intersection that was the market. There was also no sign of a pause in the Oceanside culture, but more of a confirmation of it; in the first half hour at the market a skateboard rider took out a side mirror of a moving Prius about four feet from me, a half a dozen people stepped on me or into me by not paying attention, and two dog owners had to pull apart a German Shepherd and a Saint Bernard that got into a fight at my right hip. That last one was the snapping point–I had been attacked at work all day long like most managers wouldn’t want to be (and I’m not a manager), and this was supposed to be my “play”? It was too hard, not an even balance, and felt like I was just working overtime. I told my sister-in-law I would meet her at the entrance to the market. She tried to get me to stay, but any argument was moot; if I could have caught a plane to Montana that moment I would have taken it.

I settled for an excellent blues band and bad samosas instead, but my good sport inclinations are running thin. I don’t see a way out of this culture, but I am doing my best to just survive in it, hold my own, looking for little filings of silver in these abusive clouds, and find…solitude in a riotous crowd.

I wonder how long I can do this…without too much lasting damage. I think I’m over trying to be a good sport or fit in.


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