Colorful mural celebrates El Cajon Boulevard.

Gaze up toward the east side of a tall building in City Heights and you’ll see a colorful mural that celebrates El Cajon Boulevard. The building is home to the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association.

In the late 19th century, long before San Diego became a thriving metropolis, El Cajon Avenue was a dirt road into East County that eventually developed a small business district. In 1937 the road was improved and renamed El Cajon Boulevard.

Old U.S. Highway 80 ran east from San Diego where much of El Cajon Boulevard is today–all the way to the East Coast! When Interstate 8 was built, the new freeway replaced a segment of U.S. Highway 80 through La Mesa.

Today El Cajon Boulevard is a very busy east-west route through many of San Diego’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. Generations of San Diegans have traveled along The Boulevard.

Every block echoes with history.

Eventually I’ll blog about the grand Lafayette Hotel, where Hollywood celebrities once flocked, and where Bob Hope was the first guest. Or the original Jack in the Box where modern drive-thru fast food service was invented. Or the nearly century-old Chicken Pie Shop, where legendary boxer Archie Moore, longest reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion, liked to hang out. Or…

Mural in City Heights depicts vintage cars heading down El Cajon Boulevard.
Mural in City Heights depicts vintage cars heading down El Cajon Boulevard.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Friday in the Gaslamp during the pandemic.

The Gaslamp Quarter early this evening appeared almost like a ghost town. Partly boarded up. Mostly lifeless. Very unlike Fridays before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, huge crowds of people would fill the streets on a late Friday or weekend. The restaurants, bars and nightclubs would be packed. But those good times and that party atmosphere have suddenly ended.

I took photos early this evening around 6 pm as I walked up Fifth Avenue through the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter.

The mermaid and those hopeful, thankful messages you see in two upcoming photographs were in front of the Starbucks at the Hard Rock Hotel. They are one of the few places that are open. A nice lady came out, hoping for business. I promised her I’d let my readers know that Starbucks is open. But you must wear a mask.

A few restaurants up and down Fifth Avenue were offering take out, but I saw virtually no business. Almost no people were about, even as California and San Diego slowly lift the pandemic lockdowns and allow businesses to reopen under certain conditions.

I wonder how many of these establishments will survive.

Before the pandemic, many of the businesses in the Gaslamp had a tough enough time of it. Between the many homeless who drive potential customers away, and the sky high rents, I’ve been told it can be difficult to keep doors open. In recent years I’ve seen storefronts constantly change, and FOR LEASE signs on some buildings that never go away.

There have been audacious plans to create an upscale, world-class pedestrian Gaslamp Promenade along Fifth Avenue. But I wonder. A virus seems to have other plans. Economic disruption continues. The future is in doubt.

It seems there’s a chance the Gaslamp Quarter might return to what it was decades ago. An area of downtown in slow decay. Or consider this harsh possibility: might the Gaslamp once again become San Diego’s seedy “Stingaree” red-light district, as it was a century ago?

Large signs up and down the streets contain hopeful messages, such as Stay Strong and Things Will Be Okay.

As a downtown resident, I do hope the Gaslamp comes out of this crisis okay.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Handmade face masks for sale downtown!

If you need face coverings during the present coronavirus pandemic, today I discovered that handmade face masks are for sale downtown! They are being produced at Sante’s Tailoring located at 1150 7th Avenue, #1.

As I walked up Seventh Avenue, I saw a table covered with all sorts of colorful face coverings for sale, and met Luzney, who works in another of the building’s suites. Luzney’s Flowers and Gifts at 1150 7th Avenue, #2 has seen a sharp downturn in flower sales, as hotels are empty and weddings are put off during the COVID-19 crisis, so she’s helping to sew these cloth masks, too!

I learned from Luzney that the cotton, washable face masks will be for sale at this location Mondays through Fridays, from 9 am to 2 pm. If you live or work downtown, or just need some cool face masks once the countywide May 1 public face covering rules come into effect, either swing on by, or you can call their phone at 619-231-9898.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Essential supplies at cost for elderly, vulnerable.

If you live in San Diego, here’s an exceptional offer you might want to check out!

I frequently walk past the Flamin’ Phó and Sushi Bar in downtown San Diego, located on Sixth Avenue at the base of Cortez Hill. Recently, during the current coronavirus pandemic, I’ve noticed a large sign in their window.

They are selling at cost essential supplies for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, and delivery is available! Their Facebook page is here. According to the sign, they are providing this service with the help of our local Office Depot.

If you think this might help you, please read the info in my photograph and contact Flamin’ Phó and Sushi Bar to make sure the offer is still good and whether you qualify.

(I must say that over the years I’ve dropped by the restaurant from time to time for take out food, and it’s great!)

What an awesome way to help during the coronavirus pandemic! Neighbors coming together will help us all get through this difficult period.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Free coronavirus hand sanitizer in San Diego!

This morning I headed down to Barrio Logan, just south of downtown San Diego, to pick up a free bottle of coronavirus killing hand sanitizer! I’d heard free bottles were being handed out on weekends by Liberty Call Distilling during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a huge smile!

The Liberty Call Distillery and Restaurant appears to be a really cool place, located in Mercado del Barrio, just a block from Chicano Park. They distill a variety of spirits which they serve along with locally crafted beers and wine at their restaurant. Go to their website here if you’d like to check out their menu.

Once the lockdown on restaurants is lifted, they are ready to open and once again become a destination for those around San Diego who like good food and good times!

During the coronavirus pandemic, while supplies last, a free bottle of hand sanitizer, made on site, is handed out to all comers on Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 2 pm. The spray sanitizer is a World Health Organization approved formula with 80% alcohol content that will effectively kill the COVID-19 virus.

I just used some on my hands when I got home and it smells great, too!

Thank you!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Intermission comes to downtown San Diego.

Intermission... The curtain will rise again. P.S. Wash your hands.
Intermission… The curtain will rise again. P.S. Wash your hands.

I was safely inside my home all day yesterday. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues.

Today the sun came out, so I decided to stretch my legs with an easy outdoor walk, while keeping a careful distance from others. (There was also the small matter of shopping for food.)

At the top of Cortez Hill a few residents were out walking their dogs. They usually moved to one side as others approached.

In the heart of downtown it was much quieter than usual for a Saturday. A few workers were out doing their thing. A handful of restaurants were open and offering carry out food, but many others were closed. Businesses that aren’t considered essential services were all closed.

When I reached the Embarcadero, I was surprised to see a large number of joggers and walkers. I suppose, like me, they needed to feel the warm sunshine on their face. And there’s that need to stretch the legs–that’s what one does during intermission, right?

Broadway in downtown San Diego is exceptionally quiet during the coronavirus pandemic.
Broadway in downtown San Diego is exceptionally quiet during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some workers were outside engaged in construction projects.
Some workers were outside engaged in construction projects.
Almost no traffic at the Santa Fe Depot.
Almost no traffic at the Santa Fe Depot.
The Disney Wonder cruise ship is back in its sunny San Diego home. I assume it will be idle until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
The Disney Wonder cruise ship is back in its sunny San Diego home. I assume it will be idle until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Like most tourist attractions, Old Town Trolley Tours has closed operations until further notice.
Like most tourist attractions, Old Town Trolley Tours has closed operations until further notice.
No kids were jumping in the Waterfront Park fountains today. For the County of San Diego, protecting public health is a top priority.
No kids were jumping in the Waterfront Park fountains today. For the County of San Diego, protecting public health is a top priority.
I was surprised by the number of walkers and joggers out by the water. Most were a fair distance apart.
I was surprised by the number of walkers and joggers out by the water. Most kept a fair distance apart.
Even though the pavilions by the Broadway Pier were closed, many were enjoying sunshine along San Diego's Embarcadero.
Even though the pavilions by the Broadway Pier were closed, many people were enjoying sunshine along San Diego’s Embarcadero.
Another photo of almost empty Broadway looking east from Harbor Drive.
Another photo of almost empty Broadway looking east from Harbor Drive.
Many who live downtown were outside walking dogs.
Many who live downtown were outside walking dogs.
The San Diego Law Library building is closed. I was lucky to enjoy an inside tour of it last month.
The San Diego Law Library building is closed. I was lucky to enjoy an inside tour of it a couple weeks ago, before the pandemic worsened.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Fire Station 1--The Big House--was very quiet when I walked by. That's a good thing!
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Fire Station 1–The Big House–was very quiet when I walked by. That’s a good thing!
More construction downtown. A huge crane is being erected on B Street.
More construction downtown. The pandemic will end and the city will grow. Small cranes were being used to erect a huge crane on B Street.
Intermission comes to downtown San Diego.
Intermission comes to downtown San Diego.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Making beautiful candles in Old Town.

Today I watched as a father and his son made beautiful candles in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The father, Paul, is the owner of Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop. His son is a super friendly young man named KC.

This talented family has been making candles by hand for three generations. I learned their business has been operating for about 38 years (including a period at Knott’s Berry Farm) and has been located in Old Town now for about 24 years.

For a few minutes I watched as Paul used a special carving tool to cut and curl back soft wax as he made an elaborate, very beautiful, multicolored candle. He told me he had about 8 minutes to complete the task, before the wax cooled and hardened. After carving a well at the top of the candle, he dipped his finished creation in clear wax, then a hard glaze.

Sometimes he’ll add shells or figurines to these decorative candles, to make them even more fantastic. I also learned that these fancy many-layered candles, which begin modestly as a solid mold, can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to create!

Outside the shop, tourists and curious passersby were watching KC dip taper candles. He’d dip each group of wicks, which are suspended vertically in a circle, about 30 to 35 times, depending on the outdoor temperature. He was careful not to leave the forming candles in the hot wax for too long. After the candles grew in girth to the correct size, he removed the excess wax for future use, and used scissors to cut the candles free, as you can see in my last photo!

Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop is located in the historically and architecturally important Sessions Building, which was designed by renowned San Diego architect Richard Requa. Learn more about it here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A cool exhibition of photographs on Cortez Hill.

I’m an amateur photographer. When I see an exhibition of photography by experts who actually know what they’re doing, I’m filled with wonder and a little bit of jealousy.

This evening I was walking through downtown, heading for my home atop Cortez Hill, when I saw a cool collection of photographs inside the front room gallery of Safelight Labs. About every month the exhibition in Safelight Labs changes, giving local photographers who use film a chance to showcase their work and perhaps sell a few pieces.

If you’re into photography, make sure to check out Safelight Labs, which is described as a community darkroom space.

Rob Cowan, the owner, is super knowledgeable and friendly. By offering workshops, classes, and an onsite studio and darkroom, he helps others to pursue their passion for photography!

The current gallery exhibition “One by Three: A Wide View of San Diego” is by photographer Carlos Lopez Medrano. He has taken many fantastic photos all around our beautiful city!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Marketing and fun, combined into one.

I’m sure most people know the truth. Comic-Con is mostly about marketing. Movies, television shows, video games, toys, collectibles, even lunch–all swirl before the eyes of excited fans.

And yet–it’s all so much fun!

How does one draw the line between the calculated marketing and the unabashed fun?

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Murals inspire, motivate students in schools!

Thao Huynh and Kolten French of Mindful Murals encourage school kids to #CREATE with a super colorful interactive mural!
Thao Huynh and Kolten French of Mindful Murals encourage school kids to #CREATE with a super colorful interactive mural!

Yesterday during my mural walking adventure I was introduced by Love City Heights to two people who are doing something that is brilliant and inspiring. Thao Huynh and Kolten French have together created Mindful Murals, an enterprise that’s all about engaging young students at schools with large, affirming, fun graphics!

Check out these six interactive murals that were recently completed at Edison Elementary School. They decorate the backstops of outdoor handball courts. Big splashes of color feature short positive messages like BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, BE LOVING, and NEVER GIVE UP. The murals not only encourage positive thoughts and behavior, but they become a motivating part of a student’s outdoor physical activity.

In addition to interactive murals, Mindful Murals creates sensory paths for schools. These pathways invite kids to walk, twist and turn all about, as they head down a colorful path to discover happy emojis and surprises. It’s a cool idea that engages a growing body, mind and spirit!

To learn more about Mindful Murals, check out their Instagram page here!

Two of the Mindful Murals recently painted in the playground of Edison Elementary School in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood.
Several of the Mindful Murals recently painted in the playground of Edison Elementary School, located in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood.
PERSEVERE
PERSEVERE
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
EMPATHY
EMPATHY
BE LOVING
BE LOVING
I love how this bold message faces the school's soccer field. NEVER GIVE UP
I love how this bold message faces the school’s soccer field. NEVER GIVE UP

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!