Protect San Diego’s Beaches

Independent Project: Protect San Diego’s Beaches

Location: San Diego, CA

Digital Tools Utilized:

IMovie: for video production

YouTube: for publication
Google: for researching information/pictures

WordPress: For Further Publication


ABC 10:

San Diego Coastkeeper:


So I’m sure you’ve heard of the idyllic San Diego. Beautiful beaches, stellar weather, chilled out surfers, you name it. Having the privilege of living here for the past five months, I can definitely attest to that stereotype. Hands down, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I literally feel like I’m stepping into a Hollywood film every time I fall asleep on the powdery white sand. But what if I told you that these beaches are becoming so filthy that one day, that once venerated paradise, could become too toxic to step foot in?

It’s real though. The “doomsday scenario” has become more than something out of a video game. According to the local news station, ABC 10, San Diego is one of the “most ozone polluted” cities in the United States with 28 unhealthy air days every year. Now, if you remember the cycle of how rain works, air and water go hand in hand. That pollution from the air condenses, becomes rain, and guess where it goes?! Yes, those beautiful beaches we see on Grandma’s postcard collection.

Constant tourism, though brilliant for the local economy, has posed problems for beaches. According to the San Diego Coastkeeper, a local nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up the city’s beaches, almost 82,000 pounds of debris have been removed since its inception in 2007. Let me ask you, would your community like 82,000 pounds of plastic and cigarettes in their backyards? I’m sure we all know the answer to that.

The next time you consider dumping your trash, please take into account that your negligence or apathy does not justify the history and richness our beaches give to us every single day. If our beaches go, so does our economy, our lifestyle, and honestly, the reason why many of us choose to move and visit this piece of heaven in the first place. Think about the already growing problem with environmental degradation of once pristine places in the world. As a resident and as a human being, the last thing I want to do is swim is filth. So yeah, that one plastic bottle does matter.



The Three Elements of Inspiration

As I transgress through a person’s blog or website, I always wonder what goes through their mind and/or soul as they post their content on the media. I mean, what inspires anyone? We see all types of aspiring and accomplished creative minds from all sides of the spectrum, and honestly, this diversity of thought is paramount in our perennial evolution. For any content creators—aspiring, professional, and amateur—that are searching for fuel to get your engines going, I’ve developed three elements that you can consider before you take the big leap into the virtual world—come on, you guys got this!

Step One: Authenticity

Nothing’s worse than a creative piece or webpage with zero personality, no matter what you write. I remember attending a class in NYC going over the elements of creative fiction, and in one occasion, I remember a student saying to not become emotionally attached to a particular idea—I couldn’t have disagreed more. This doesn’t only apply to writing though. If you’re going to create your own website for a business, a how to, etc., don’t be afraid to show who you are in the process! Think about it for a second, when you go out to eat somewhere, do you want to pay $50 for real dishes or frozen imitations? Obviously, it’s going to be different for everyone, but again, if your website resembles a Wikipedia page, I think it’s a good time to reconsider if you care enough about what you’re doing at all.

Step Two: Choose Your Words Wisely

Take the rambling drunk at your local bar only that it’s someone’s blog taking multiple pages to explain a tangent that’s completely irrelevant with the point they’re trying to get across. Don’t lie; all of us have been victims of that in one way or another, especially when we get too lost in our own thoughts. Whenever you find yourself doing that, bring yourself back to the central question—am I the only one who’s going to read this? The days of writing 100,000 word blogs, with exceptions, are becoming scarcer. People in our generation want the scoop of what you’re saying much quicker than any before, so if you want your writing/website to reach a wider audience, efficiency is key.

Step Three: Be Flexible

When creating something, I like to think about it as going down a street you’ve never been on. You never know what you’re going to find down that block if you don’t take a stroll. I mean hey, what do you have to lose? If you currently see yourself experiencing a blockage or you’re dissatisfied with your work, don’t be afraid to start fresh. I understand it’s frustrating leaving the comfort zone, but it’s vital in order to make your presence known. If you deem that old piece or website beyond reparation, there’s always something, no matter how small, that’s salvageable enough to use in whatever creative endeavor you see yourself in next, but if there’s really nothing, move on.

Final Thoughts

YOU have the power in your hands to create the best website, to be the best writer, to be an online business tycoon. I could go on forever about the countless disenchanted folks I’ve encountered that grow skeptical about their ability to succeed as creative geniuses. It’s heartbreaking, seriously. So whenever you descend into that headspace next time, keep your eye your vision—you’ll thank yourself when you do.


The Judge

We always have that tendency to look outside of ourselves in order to justify the mere iota of our existence. Friends, family, drifting aimlessly, landing our dream jobs, or anything else that can bring a level of comfort and rationalism. I live with a judge in my subconscious. The man’s stoicism pervades everything I do. Get into a fight, he’s there to slap some sense into me, “You’re back at this again?!” He’s always there to recite his code of law, piercing black pupils ruthlessly drilling my molting outer shell. Am I about to speed over the cliff just to pray to swim safely back to shore? I feel like I need to—I can’t stand to look at his face anymore. Yet, deep down, I know he’s right. I’ve alienated myself to the point that any unfortunate soul that crosses mine is met with Antarctica: barren, questioning, sub-freezing. Visceral sun shining outwardly over this uninhabitable paradise makes you forget that the perennial coldness can consume you and dry out the most ardent fires. I’m better than this. Love so potent that a cure for cancer wouldn’t match. A mind reminiscent of the city’s boom in the late 90’s: Brightness, bliss, and beautiful sights. But here I am, aimlessly sitting in a dark room, wishing to escape my self-dug black hole and prevent global warming from happening in my heart. It’s a continuous push pull and I try to convince myself it’s completely normal. I guess that’s my sin. That perceived escape route looks more and more like another trap the judge’s trying to steer me away from; why does my mind fall for it every time?

Now it hit me. I can still remember that one Friday ten years, three months, and six days ago like it happened last night. I was at the Broadway Mall, your suburban entertainment center for soccer moms and unruly teens alike. It was late fall in New York, and the ruthless snowfall was so close you can smell the frozen droplets in the crisp air. I was thirteen at the time, and I could only imagine what being a part of those cool kids must have felt like. That all changed when my prodigious reflection blankly stared back in the elevator mirror. I was a little over five feet and almost 200 pounds; my winter jacket literally made me look like a genetically modified blueberry. I mean, how could I not enjoy that extra slice of pizza when trying to beat the hardest mission on GTA Vice City? After a half hour of plodding around with my family (I didn’t really have any friends at the time), we decided to go to my favorite place in the world, the second floor food court. The once flashy yellow beams enticing haggard shoppers became secondary to the Sbarro past the rows of up and coming film posters. “What would you like to order?” The cashier politely asked. I could feel my hedonism come out, and once again, I let my urges win. “Large spaghetti, two chicken thighs, and a loaf of garlic bread please,” I happily responded. To me, that tower of savory heaven was the highlight of my week. But just as any other temporary high goes, mine was about plummet faster than King da Ka.

I waddled through the busy court, and thankfully, there was a fairly nice table for us to sit, but little did I know that I was about to be the Ripley’s Believe it or Not phenomena for the night. As I laid down the ketchup red tray, I felt an icicle puncture me from the corner of my eye. As I turn, I spot the young couple scrutinizing my tray, and of course, directing their gaze at the perpetrator. It was that moment that resonated with me, but also altered how I viewed my relationships with others. That heaven on a tray warped into a black hole, and inside it, the judge’s gaze. My appetite was lost and I was barely able to have a scrap, all the while the couple still whispering to themselves about their observations. My mother, being the cheerful person she is tried to convince me it was all in my head, “Don’t worry about it, they’re just shocked by your appetite! Stop being so paranoid—“ I knew what I saw, and I made it a point to avoid any mirror that would delineate the hard truth of what was going through that couple’s mind.

Suddenly, everything that I would normally appreciate turned into a necessary chore in order to finally leave that place. That Hershey’s store with the cotton candy ice cream became the source of further introspection. “Come on, have some ice cream,” my family members tried to convince me as they happily demolished their banana nut sundaes. The saddest part is that I would have been right there with them, but changes are inevitable. I was in disbelief when I realized how much my weight got in the way of everything. I was the fat kid in my school, the person people felt put off by, and the last resort in every team in gym class. I slowly felt my world change from childish innocence to awkward blandness and isolation. The next day, I decided to finally use that Planet Fitness membership card I placed in some random crevice by my bedside. I haven’t stopped since.

Within two years, I saw myself transform to a person I didn’t even know anymore. In my teenage mind, I saw that weight scale as the ticket to having a chance at being “normal.” Working out became my perpetual part time job and every meal was carefully portioned out, as fear of returning to my old skin would start to surface. Yet, despite losing weight, you realize the judge is multi faceted in the way he appears in your life. My weight melded into my sexual preference, which melded into my fashion sense, which melded into anything else that falls under what deems you as the other. “Hey what’s with that ringtone? Why are you wearing those shoes? Why don’t you have a girlfriend? WHY—” It never stopped.

I imagined it to be different by going to college away from it all, going across the country to a place no one knew my name, or better yet, driving aimlessly down the coast. There comes a point where you feel like those settlers on the Oregon Trail. Uncertainty becomes your best friend and every time you run into potential danger, you run. It feels liberating for a time, almost like gorging on that plate of pasta from Sbarro. Although it’s been over decade, that gaze was ingrained in my psyche long after my blueberry body shrunk and I was able to leave the confines of my hometown. I’d love to think that your past is your past and it certainly doesn’t impact future occurrences, and to a certain element, it’s true. Even with this knowledge, the human mind has its ways to reel its tentacles and steer you in one direction over the other. I still have trouble fully connecting with others or revealing who I am to this day. I fear that judge will surface at random points and remind me of my old shell, the freak show. Then I decide to look around. To my left, there’s a fighting couple that’s clearly on its last legs. Behind the less than stellar counter set up is a server breaking the rules by texting her best friend or partner while a disgruntled old woman attempts to get her attention. My friend called me the other day explaining his codependency and refuses to stop seeing this girl that’s cheating on him with his boss. I see all these people around me, and honestly, it gives me hope. We all carry that judge—we’re all guilty.




Traveling’s in my blood. I feel that there’s almost like a microchip activating in the id part of my brain every time the three-month honeymoon phase subsides. My dream’s always been San Diego, but is there something else out there? I start making plans, scribbling away at a new idea that I came up with for the next rush, and start saying my goodbyes. I sometimes think back to our ancestors, you know, the ones from Pangaea. Weren’t they nomads? Isn’t it against human nature to just sit there blissfully letting everything go by? If I had seen the world back then, I’d be everywhere.

I got a call from my friends yesterday, and it’s official; we’re on the road again. I was excited to Leah and Eric’s voice. We were catching up, when somehow, the topic came up, and I asked, “We still doing that trip we planned years ago?” “It’s that time. Time to make that Google doc and make this shit happen,” she responded. I couldn’t help but to smile at the thought that I’d see my friends again. Our lives are always in sync with one another. It’s a great feeling to be honest. After two solid hours of discussing our game plan, we got off the phone. Feeling upbeat and optimistic, I decided to call my parents and tell them the news; I always seem to forget that talking to them is stepping past the crossroad, a straight line of harsh reality.

The phone kept ringing—really wish it went to voicemail—when suddenly, my mother picked up. “Hi Gus, I called you yesterday, but you never seem to answer,” she said suspiciously. My mother’s what you would call a “model citizen,” which is something I’ve always admired her for. At 25, she got her American citizenship, and after 27 years and counting, she has not stopped to strive for her idea of perfection: pay the bills on time, be a model wife, a caring mom, scrutinize every nook and cranny of her already clean home, excel in her dream job, etc. However, when her son or anyone deviates from that much desired “line,” prepare to hear a Harvard lecture on what it is that you’re doing “wrong.” That right there is what always brings me back to reality—a line only goes in one direction. As I started mentioning my future journey and potential move to another state, I felt her glare for coloring outside of the lines, “Are you crazy? You have bills to pay. I was going to take a couple weeks off for your birthday, but at this point, there’s no way if you keep changing your mind! What about school? Every time you feel stable—“ You guys get the point, right? As much as I respect my parents, making the realization that our minds are like opposing magnets in a chemistry class was something I knew early on, but why I still feel frustrated about it is beyond me. And despite my friends’ support and my strong willed desire to say fuck it all, it gets to you sometimes. That’s life I guess.

Later that night, I lie on my bed and listlessly flip through my phone and watch hours of videos of what it’s like to live in Vegas. The chipper bald dude on the screen starts talking about his experience, and with each one of his statements, I’m already envisioning my life there. MCrossroadssy entire journey to California was for the pursuit of freedom, yet somehow I’m craving more. Maybe that was it. San Diego was only a pit stop in what I was about to embark, and seriously, I haven’t been this stoked in a while. I think back to my journey down the California coast. I was driving down the breathtaking Pacific Highway 1 at the speed of light, the crisp coastal breeze hitting my face, and the translucent waters gleaming for miles past the prehistoric cliffs. No Wi-Fi meant that I had to use the old fashioned radio to keep myself entertained and add to the otherwise placid scenery—classic rock it is. This moment and this moment alone was what reminded me of happiness, my definition of it at least.


My Journey to the West: The Departure

I can still remember the emptiness I felt on that bed. Lifeless. Tidbits of paper hovering over me with goals I deemed as unattainable because of whatever excuse came to mind, followed by a deafening silence that even the loudest of headphones couldn’t drown. I was depressed. Each day felt like a year, which evolved into a decade, and everything became like a rerun of those novellas my grandma would religiously watch every morning. Following a two and a half year journey that led me to soul mates, breakups, drug usage, and dropping out of school, I was caged and sealed in my hometown for the past year and a half, a time to reconnect with my parents who almost enjoyed the fact that their little boy was back under their watch. I mean, if captivity taught me one thing, it definitely was to write my heart out to the only person who seemed to understand me—that black leather notebook was my one true lover at the time. “I know that there’s more to life than this,” I’d say to myself.
It wasn’t until that Tuesday in late May that it finally hit me. I’m finally living out my dream of flying out West. On the night before the big trip, my mother would ask me, “How are you feeling? Aren’t you gonna miss home?” I knew she knew what the answer was. My friend Mike would tell me “You should stay with us, Gus. You know people here. Everyone’s going to get mad or miss—“ I stopped listening after that point. None of them have ever taken any action in their lives that required working for themselves. It wasn’t their fault though. Long Island was simply not the place it was when our parents moved there 20 or 30 years ago. Culturally, my town never changes. People are still reminiscing of the day Patricia Barnes tripped at the high school pep rally eight years ago or one of the countless weekends you got drunk at the local sump. Tony’s still at the Carvel, Jenna’s at the local bar. Financially though, our parents are still slaves to their homes, their cars, their competition with Mr. Jones down the street, etc. It was a dead end and those who are brave enough leave, but many will never find the maturity or courage to do so.
It was the morning of the 17th, and the pressure inside my stomach clutched every element of my body. I barely slept all night thinking about this moment that I’d long been waiting for, however, I was highly unaware of the unexpected adventure that the universe had in store for me before I got there. We arrived at the airport, a dull grey apparatus with the gleaming city skyline in the background. My father’s always been a man who perceives black and white as two distinct entities, no more no less. The thought of him going to an airport he was unfamiliar with was “una locura,” especially when the two terminals were indistinguishable. After countless turns around the freeway, we arrived almost half an hour behind schedule. Predictably, my father would start one of his typical humorous rants of an aging man, “Aaahhh, this airport’s such a pain in the ass! I don’t understand why they have to make this shit so complicated!” Hearing him made me laugh, but for the first time ever, it hit me. I wasn’t going to hear these rants for a while. Then it all came back. My mother’s little bickering with Grandma over eating a whole box of chocolates, my aunt passionately crunching away numbers during tax season, my weekend reunions with my friends of chugging Four Lokos and speeding down Ocean Parkway to see the sun rise. I was leaving. The hug that I gave my father was one of the longest we’ve ever exchanged; I knew there wouldn’t be another one for a while.
If there was one thing I learned that day, it was definitely the importance of “getting there two hours before your flight leaves.” Sleep’s always been precious to me, and I was not about to ruin that for any major move or life change no matter how big. However, the universe will teach you the meaning of hustling whether I liked it or not. I remember running through the barrage of travellers with a hopeless attempt at catching my flight, and at first, there was an illusion that I might have succeeded. Then customs happened. At that point, there was no choice but to accept that my six-hour flight had just turned into a 18 hour waiting game accompanied by overly salted airplane nuts and cheap soda. Heh, at least I can say I “traveled” across the country. From talking to the gracious flight attendant in Chicago to almost getting off the plane in breathtaking San Diego, life was teaching me the lesson of patience yet again.
18 gruesome hours later, I managed to make out the icon that made Seattle look like a miniature Tokyo. At least that’s what I read in a random article on Google. Haggard, hungry, and desperate for some rest, I stepped out of the terminal and into the railway to downtown. I smiled until the sides of my mouth went numb. Never have I felt so accomplished, so refreshed, and honestly, so free. The nostalgia quickly dissipated as I stepped into a high tech vortex that would be my home for the next six months.
It’s almost funny how much your mind can separate dreams or fantasies from actual reality. The miniature Tokyo ended up being the opposite of what I envisioned. The Space Needle—an obvious trap for the your wily visitor with their ever so stylish fanny packs—ended up being as cutting edge as Google proclaimed it to be. However, there was something that told me that this was not like any other city. I knew I had a purpose for why I came, but of course, life’s generous if you decide to wait long enough. During those first few months, I managed to find a small room not too far from downtown, landed a job at a local pizza joint, and on the surface, life was good. At least I convinced myself that. My internal dialogue of denial would repeat, “I wanted this. This is my dream. I’m living it!” But being alone in a place that doesn’t necessarily warms itself up to an outsider turned out to be the best mistake I could’ve made; the “Seattle Freeze” is real folks. The “outsider” status is not new to me, but I wanted to believe that it was going to be a lot easier, or that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to make things happen. It’s part of something you learn, I guess. It forced me to reflect on my past a lot, and self analyze certain elements that have still followed me across the country. My life the past few years, my recent heartbreak, my own prejudices towards others, etc. Moving to another city was only the beginning. Dealing with life and all the beauty and ugliness it contains was another species.
As I’m sitting here writing away like a juggling acrobat, it’s almost crazy how fast my life’s progressed in only nine months. I’m in a completely different city, experiencing a lighter energy, and living a more satisfying life, but it wouldn’t have happened without those months of gloom, analysis, and friendships that remain with me to this day. I still talk with my mother on the phone and she’ll always mention to me whenever I tell her about my life that, “I was the one who decided to leave!” I don’t regret one day. But the time that I’ve spent have taught me lessons that no physical comfort could ever teach you—I’m finally living.

Journey to the West

40s and 54s

My two years in the pit were like I fell into a rabbit hole and pretty much never left since. I’m constantly ruminating about everything I lost. The good times, so to speak. I feel like almost nothing stops me from going into this endless lethargy. Something’s missing. I know that. My mind’s constantly escaping, almost as if dreams seem better than this dimension. Scared? The fuck I’d know.

So it’s freshman year 2012. I felt free for the first time. Free from all judgments, stares, limitations, you name it. I did well enough bullshitting my way through high school, but hey, I made it. Memories, coming back and forth, “I still can’t forget what they did. I needed them. I called out, but where was anyone? People who were supposed to be my blood think I’m wrong for pursuing my happiness; betrayal in its worst form.” It was something I held on to during my two and a half years in Ithaca, New York.

When you’re 18, you feel that you can consume the world. College was my playground where my social skills outweighed any sort of thought about my “future.” I mean I tried it, but it wasn’t really my priority when your goal’s to have a good time. I was working at a McDonalds two days a week just to pay for a 40 and smoke some 54s with my friend. I can still vividly remember kicking it at Ally’s place, all of us from different parts of the globe, yet still pulling through together no matter what was going on. After two years of being here, that rave night at some random frat house or party on the rooftop made me realize what truly mattered in life; it wasn’t a letter.

By August of 2014, two years passed, and that elongated festival became a distant memory. I was 20, and dropped out of college for the first time; anger and guilt became my way to cope. Everything I built, from relationships to friends, just vanished. Loneliness I haven’t felt since before I left home. I then dedicated my whole life working for some high end Italian place as a busser. I became a shell. I resigned from life with an idleness that I basked in until I moved west. Maybe it was the system, my friends, the energy, etc. Regardless, I still walked around every day through the quirky place I called my home for those years. That super friendly co-op at the edge of State, the little picturesque cityscape coming back from a long day in the mountains, the random trails that I’d go get to the nearest gorge and swim, etc. As my friends took me down to the bus out to the city, I faintly got a final whiff of menthol cigarette—it was a Marlboro 54.

40s and 54s