America's Finest City, Roma, and The Most Ethical Girl


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Roma was such a good one. Everything about that movie- the slower pacing, the stunningly composed shots, the black and white filming, and the Spanish dialogue all demanded that I pay closer attention to this one, and that attention was rewarded. It’s one of those stories that pulls you into the world it creates. Reminded me a lot of the foreign films from the 40s-70s on library-borrowed VHS tapes I grew up with.

If you like this one, you should also look up Happy As Lazzaro. An Italian movie that’s a bit of a puzzle film, a bit of a fairly tale, and a bit of social justice commentary. Plus that one is shot on some glorious grainy 16mm and so much of it feels like a dream.


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To be honest, San Diego claiming the title of America’s Finest City always bugged me a little.

For starters- I have NEVER heard anyone call it that outside of San Diego. That would be like me giving myself a nickname. Not only that, but a pretty straightforward and self-sure nickname like “The Best Guy.”

For whatever reason, I ended up being hesitant to say too many good things about San Diego. We get it, you get lots of sunlight, but so does Denver and for about half the price. I also thought that living in a paradise led to a dampened sense of creative hustle, compared to what I’d find in other, more energetic cities.

To me, San Diego was a pretty girl who knew she was pretty and heard it all the time. She didn’t need one more admirer.

But as it turns out, we ended up in a serious relationship. I live here. And now I’m learning how to love this town. Not for the obvious stuff like good weather and beaches and breweries, but because it’s home. I don’t want it to be America’s Finest City, but I’d like it to be My Finest City.

This will take a bit of work, but I’m opening up myself to it more this year. I’ll likely be away less. I’ll try to dig in more. And I look forward to seeing where that leads.


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It really amuses me that I ended up living in San Diego. Five years ago, it’s one of the last places I would’ve wanted to end up.

That’s isn’t this city’s fault. It’s because I grew up here. And at seventeen, so much of my mental energy went towards dreaming of setting out on my own adventure and making a completely new city my own. I collected info on Boston, Chicago, Ohio. I was (and in many ways I still am) willing to go anywhere. That includes a bunch of places that people often think of as scary or boring.

I have a HUGE independent streak, and so returning to familiar confines might’ve been the only thing I knew I didn’t want to do.

But that makes it charmingly ironic that this is where I ended up. The journey is always about leaving behind something comfortable in order to go after something that matters. And what’s comfortable to me is what’s uncomfortable for most people, and vice versa.

I’ve been back for almost two years now, but I still feel like there’s a lot of room for roots to grow. One thing I’m trying to focus on right now is on receiving this place as home. It’s a process that I’m just now being more open to.

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Okay, let me tell you something about ethics. They’re good. But ethics as defined by the State of California as they pertain to Clinical Social Work? They’re weird and confusing. And to become a social worker, you need to take a test about them. I tried a few sample questions from the test and so many of the answers are completely counterintuitive.

Now lemme tell you something about My Favorite Person ™. If there’s something she finds worth doing in this world, she gets it done. And it doesn’t matter how hard it is or how many setbacks there are on the way.

Today she passed that California Law & Ethics exam and is one MASSIVE step closer to being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

(She already pretty much saves a couple of lives every week, but ones she gets that license she’ll be able to do so more easily)


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A lot of the things that people love about San Diego just don’t excite me the same way. The fact that every day is 70º? Yeah, that makes me feel like I’m trapped living the same week over and over again and would trade it for cheaper housing. BUT- I’m trying to myself much more at home here, so I’m focusing on the things I love.

Number one on that list is probably the diversity of the area. It’s one of the most international cities in the country, and most San Diegans don’t even realize that. We were one of the leading cities of refugee resettlement (you know, back when the country actually did that) and have some large Middle Eastern, East African, Mexican, Central American, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean communities, among others.

I think diversity makes places great. I really missed that while living in Oregon. This city can be a little bit self-segregated by neighborhood geography and economics, but I like that even after years of living here there are completely unfamiliar parts of town and communities where I can find myself. Oh, and this makes it fairly easy for me to access just about any food item.

The proximity to Mexico has been another sweet thing. I’ve loved being able to participate in solidarity and service events at the border, and the opportunity to cross over into TJ or Tecate for a day visit is always fun.



Just showing off one of my favorite presents from this Christmas– my mother in law is a master knitter. And this is now my best sweater that I never really want to take off these days. She caught wind that I’m a fan of the knit pullovers in Iceland, and perfectly captured that style. Now to book a return flight to Reykjavik.

Oh and, bonus gift- Scott Harrison’s book showed up in the mail a couple weeks ago from Plywood People and I’ve blitzed through. Such a fun surprise!


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Here’s an odd little thing I’m trying to get better at: hanging out with my parents at the house.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and they’re great! But growing up, I always felt like I needed to be out of the house. It felt like on those quiet days when it was just all of us at home, I wasn’t really fully living. I’ll blame it on being an extroverted only child, perhaps, but the internal message I got was that life happens outside the four walls I grew up in.

That’s probably pretty unfair to them. They got one kid and he ended up as flighty as they come. And to no fault of their own, really. But hey, I’m at least more aware of it now and sometimes the path of growth leads you to the spot where you started. Deanna and I spent New Years Day with them, playing Tokkaido and watching movies and eating nonstop. And it was a good one- especially cause that meant we got my mom’s full play-by-play commentary on Crazy Rich Asians.

Philippe Lazaro