Bittersweet Sorrento

December 29, 2009

As 2009 rings to a close, and more importantly, I guess, the “2000” years come to an end with 2010 next year, I am about to turn over some new leaves in my life. I will finally be starting a new job next week, on January 4th, after almost 6 months of being unemployed. Tonight I met my boyfriend for dinner at UTC (University Towne Center, La Jolla, San Diego) after I got off work at my temp job. As I was driving there, it occurred to me that since I moved back to San Diego in 1989 (after 4 years at UC Berkeley, and working up there for 4 years after that), the part of town known as Sorrento Valley and its outskirts has been sort of my home away from home for the last 20 years. No matter where I’ve lived (Mira Mesa, Cardiff, Santee, Scripps Ranch, Mt. Helix, Rancho San Diego, and now Santee again), I’ve almost always worked in and around Sorrento Valley or pretty close to it – Torrey Pines, Del Mar, and so forth.

When I start my new job next week, I will be working in Coronado, down at North Island Naval Air Station, as a government contractor. Not only a change of pace as far as a job goes, but a change of pace as far as my life goes. I know parts of Coronado from my childhood; my grandfather lived there in the Coronado Shores after my grandmother passed away in 1972. I can remember going to the Silver Strand beach there and seeing the wreck of the Monte Carlo gamblling ship still resting out among the waves when the tide was low. Alas, my Grandpa died in 1976 and my rather short-sighted mother sold the condo, much as my brother and I both begged her to hang onto it, and I have only been back to Coronado for excursions to the Lambs’ Player’s Theater, the occasional dinner or ferry landing trip, or to show friends around the Hotel Del, since. That will probably change now that I’ll be working down in that neck of the woods, plus I think my new job will have me finishing up before 4 pm everyday (of course, meaning I’ll have to be there at the crack of dawn, at least in my book, and put the kids in AM extended care at school, which they won’t be thrilled with, but at least I’ll be picking them up earlier). On my non-kid weeks, there is the potential to go exploring around town, perhaps the excuse for walks on the beach or bringing my bike along and going for a ride before going home in the summertime. Whether or not I’ll actually do these things or just blow them off because I’m too damn lazy remains to be seen. But oh! The potential!

At any rate, I will miss Sorrento Valley. Not to say that I’ll never be back there again, but when you don’t work in the area, it’s not like you regularly go to lunch there, and going to happy hour there after work isn’t exactly at the top of your list, either. A lot of my life happened in Sorrento. I moved back to San Diego from Berkeley, disgusted with myself, my life, the type of men I was meeting in Berkeley (gay, grad students who were too old, undergrads who were too young, or just plain, well, weird – go figure, it’s Berkeley). I applied for a secretary job for a defense contractor, a company called S-Cubed, part of Maxwell Technologies, and got it. During my stint there, I met my future spouse, had an affair with my boss, had an affair or at least very nearly so with a married man who introduced me to my future spouse, got my driver’s license, got my first car, wrecked my car, got married, and moved four times. Among other things. I met my future husband playing volleyball on a sand court behind an office building in Sorrento Valley. I gave a guy an awesome blowjob (so he said, then again, they all say that) in a bank parking lot in my Mazda 323 in Sorrento Valley, and although it was technically in Mira Mesa where I totalled my first car (not my fault), I was on my way to Sorrento Valley to meet my brother for lunch.

I can remember when Lusk Blvd. ran from Mira Mesa over to Vista Sorrento with nary a stoplight or stop sign in between, and you could fly over the hill on your way down to Vista Sorrento at night with your only fear being that you might hit a deer. (A very realistic fear, too). I remember when the building up the hill from Vista Sorrento at Lusk was Dura Pharmaceuticals, then became Elan, where I worked for awhile and met the man I would leave my husband for, not that he was worth it, and now the place is NuVasive. I remember when the fountain at Waterridge ran all the time, then during the droughts it was shut off, for years – I nearly got my engagement photos taken there, but we never got around to doing it, and by the time we wanted to, the fountains were shut off. They’re finally back on again, after years of being turned off. I remember when there actually was “The Design Center”, the building full of interior designers to the trade, before it hit hard times and eventually the whole thing went to Qualcomm. I remember being able to make the drive from my apartment in Mira Mesa to my job in Sorrento Valley in less than 10 minutes. Now, the building I worked in at S-Cubed no longer exists. You drove down Sorrento Valley Road until you hit Carmel Mountain Road, and turned right. There was a Mexican food place on the right-hand corner. There still is, but there are two other food places with it now, I think, and Sorrento Valley Road ends there, for no apparent reason. Our building was at the left-hand side of the end of Carmel Mountain Road, a two-story open square with a courtyard, surrounded by grassy rolling hills and dirt trails the guys at the office would go mountain biking on at lunchtime. I occasionally brought carrots to leave out on the grass after work for the bunnies that would come out at sunset. Those hills are long gone, as is the building – Carmel Mountain Road extends back for miles now, into condos, apartments, housing developments, and office buildings. The squat little building that was S-Cubed has been replaced by some multi-story faceless, generic office building.

Well, what would you say it looks like??

I got married in Sorrento Valley, too. I got married at what used to be the Kitayama Cafe, the place is now the Karl Strauss’ Brewery Garden, in the middle of an office building complex in Sorrento Mesa, on Scranton Road. My directions in the wedding invite, as least to friends who knew of the place, were that it was the cafe in the middle of the office buildings with “The Phallic Symbol” out front. I believe the correct name for that red metal thing with the curly swirls at the base is called “Stargazer” or something like that. Call it what you want, but to me it always looked like a giant you-know-what sticking out of a base of pubes. But yes, I got married there. I got a discount on the per-person cost for food, beer and wine because I offered to re-design the Kitayama Cafe’s menus, and also handed out probably a couple thousand flyers for the owner at a Bridal Bazaar, one of those things down at the old convention center. Ended up a bargain at $14.95 a head for some 80+ guests, I only wish I’d eaten more of the food, because it was really, really good. The potatoes au gratin were to die for. This was back in 1992. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that long ago, and yet sometimes it seems a lifetime away. How is that possible?

I worked at a lot of companies in that area. S-Cubed, obviously, my first one. I spent about a year down at Hughes Aircraft off Sherman Street, down by the Sports Arena, but for some reason that was fairly forgettable. Then I went to Agouron Pharmaceuticals. That was back in the day before Genesee Avenue got re-routed (and now I’m struggling to remember how it used to go) up at Torrey Pines Avenue, and we had to endure the construction while I was at Agouron. Agouron got its first and only drug (Viracept, for HIV) approved while I was there, and I got to work on the NDA submission for it, at least a small part of it, of which I was very proud. We were then bought by Warner-Lambert (a good thing), then by Pfizer (a bad thing), relocated offices a few times, then eventually the entire department I worked in was either outsourced to India or relocated to Groton, CT, and we were let go in 2004. That was my first and second experience with “severance packages” – one from Pfizer, another from Warner-Lambert/Pfizer that was a hard-won but eventually victorious battle, although the whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth. I remember when we used to have Agouron meetings in the dumpy Torrey Pines Lodge, which is now the very nice and fluffy Lodge at Torrey Pines after an umpteen million-dollar renovation. The other hotel up on that ridge was the Sheraton Grande Torrey Pines, now the Hilton. Our old office building used to overlook the golf course, and I can remember seeing the now dethroned Tiger Woods playing golf from my boss’s office window.

I met a fair number of boyfriends in Sorrento Valley or thereabouts. My ex-husband, obviously, at sand-lot volleyball, which I didn’t play very well, but I knew enough to wear something cute to the games … my next true boyfriend, whom I met at Elan, but knew at Pfizer, although there were a few guys I wanted to get to know better when I was at Agouron, if you get my drift, by I was married at the time … a couple of guys at Qualcomm, where I worked later on, and a couple of guys at Kemia, where I worked after that. I can remember an uncomfortable first date at Arterra (Del Mar, but close enough) where I met Rich 3 when, it turned out, Rich 1 was sitting at the bar and was, at that particular time, my ex – it usually tended to be his choice as to the “ex” boyfriend status or not). For the record, I’m now on Rich 4 and I think I finally found the right one. Not sure what it is with my propensity for dating guys with the same first name! I formed a fair number of friendships in Sorrento Valley and lost a few along the way, too. I last saw Rich 1 at Trophy’s Bar and Grill in Costa Verde (now it’s the La Jolla Strip Club), and I first met Rich 4 for a date at Roy’s, just next door at Costa Verde, which is still there.

Matter of fact, I think I can remember a pleasant or unpleasant scene at almost every restaurant in the vicinity of Sorrento Valley. Lunch with Scott (a good thing) or dinner with Rich 1 (also good, at least those times) at Sushi Town, a new place just below the Phallic Symbol; meeting Mr. Pussy for coffee at the Starbucks off Scranton (usually unpleasant), a farewell-to-laid-off-employees (myself included) at Trophy’s at Costa Verde, a department Christmas dinner with my bitchy boss at Cozymel’s at UTC, a pleasant dinner and risky business in my Subaru out on La Jolla Village Drive in front of Donovan’s with Mr. Pussy, a nice happy hour with poor service, watered-down drinks, but a good band with my friend Barry in it at the Embassy Suites La Jolla.

I had a fair amount of job-related drama in Sorrento Valley, too.  Telling the CEO and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of one company that the reason our program manager resigned and the reason I would probably leave next was because the two of them needed to learn to play better together, and that frankly, when the two of them and the CFO all got in a meeting together, the rest of us just wished they’d whip out a ruler and go in the men’s room and resolve the issue once and for all.  (Yes, I really did say that).  Being told at Qualcomm that my metrics in the department for tech editing were higher than anyone else’s after I’d only been there for two months, and yet being let go after three months because “the contract ran out of money” … hmmm, couldn’t have been because I made the lazy old lady network there look bad, now, could it have been?  No, I’m sure that wasn’t the reason.   Working for one of the best bosses I ever had, Carol, at Ericsson, and remembering a good job that ended all too soon at a time when I really needed it, going through my divorce. 

So many dates I went on in that area … to Carlos Murphys, long before it closed and eventually became Cozymel’s, that Chinese place next to it (since closed). The Magic Pan, which at the moment is the Miami Grill but has been through a number of iterations in the meantime. Seeing Costa Verde being built and the changing of the shops in there. Getting my wedding ring at one of the jewelry stores in Costa Verde, Moradi Jewelers. The old Robinson’s-May at UTC, long since closed, but what a nice store that used to be. The frightening number of pairs of shoes I’ve purchased at the Nordrstrom in UTC (shhhh – let’s not go there).  The days back when La Jolla Village Square was “the dead mall” with nothing but a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Crown Books to its name, before it changed hands. Going to movies there and going to dinner at Samson’s Deli when it was … crap, I don’t remember the name of the old place, but they had small barrels of pickles on the tables. Elijah’s? I think that was it. My ex-husband swears the first movie he and I saw together was “Dead Poet’s Society” at the theater there in La Jolla Village … I have to take his word for it because I don’t remember. He’s probably right, the movie came out in June, 1989, and our first date was June 6, 1989, so that’s a good call. Hard to believe we’re going on 20 years from that and Robert Sean Leonard doesn’t look like he’s aged more than five years at the most.

So many bad dates at those same restaurants, too – fights, drama, breakups, tears. So many things I’d like to forget. So many scenes I’d like to take back or live over again. Back to meeting Rich 4 for the first time at Roy’s, I remember waiting for him (I got there early), having to step outside to make a phone call to my babysitter and seeing this guy walking up as I was on the phone who looked just like his photo (we met online) and waving at him and thinking, “oh, there you are,”. It’s always felt like that with him, ever since. We met just after the 4th of July, 2008, and it still feels like everytime I see him; that I’m both meeting a familiar friend and a new lover. I like that combo. A lot.

So thus we arrive at the end of 2009 and the end, realistically, of my stint in Sorrento Valley. It’s been an interesting life there. Yes, I know, I can look for other jobs after I take this one in Coronado. But I know myself. I am the type of person that appreciates what I’ve been given. You give me a job, treat me decent, and I stick around. Usually for years. Unless something completely sucks or I’m having my fingernails pulled out on a daily basis, I tend to stay put, namely because I hate looking for jobs and because I’m loyal to a fault. So it looks like I’ll be getting to know Coronado. And you know what? I think it’s time to move on. Looking back at the past 20 years isn’t productive anymore – as the title indicates, it’s bittersweet. Time to form some new memories in a new playground, in a new year, and a new decade.

Happy New Year all!
Best wishes,


About rachelroust

Looking to live a life less ordinary. Join me on the journey if you wish.
This entry was posted in I Hate The Living and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bittersweet Sorrento

  1. G-Fuzzy says:

    Very moving. No pun intended. This is my stop. Godspeed Carhy. You’re one in a million.

  2. Margie says:

    Hey Cathy – you brought back many memories for me with this. I am straining my old brain to try and remember who your boss was at S-Cubed… 🙂 I’ll have to check out Sorrento Valley on my next trip out there. Good luck on your new job!

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