Tiny Normal Heights Edges Out San Diego

San Diego may pitch itself as America's Finest City, but it's not in the running for the title of All America City. That's the title given each year by the Citizens Forum on Self Government and the National Municipal League to about 10 cities and communities around the country that display whatever those values are that make a city "all-American."

But while San Diego, one of 92 cities and communities nominated for the title, didn't qualify as one of the 20 finalists, Normal Heights--a neighborhood within San Diego-- is a finalist.

You figure it out.

Other finalists include Cleveland, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; Trenton, N.J., and the California cities of Salinas and Buena Park.

The winner will be announced in April.

In their application, Normal Heights community leaders touted community involvement in three areas: neighborhood support for victims of the June 30 fire that destroyed 69 homes; a neighborhood fund-raising campaign for a city park, and adoption of a community plan aimed at decreasing development density.

If Normal Heights wins, maybe San Diego will be known as America's Finest City, home of the All America City.

Hey, Send Down a Loaner

A pumpkin-carving contest will be held Saturday morning at La Jolla Shores. More accurately, it will be held off La Jolla Shores, 25 feet below the surf.

Contestants are being asked to bring their own, already hollowed-out, pumpkins; whatever paraphernalia they need to design and carve their jack-o'-lanterns, and scuba gear.

It's a gimmick sponsored by Ocean Enterprises of San Diego and Encinitas to raise money for the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation.

And to add gimmickry to gimmickry, scuba-diving deejays from B-100 FM radio will broadcast the event live from underwater, using sophisticated electronic equipment.

Werner Kurn, Ocean Enterprises president, said he expects more than 100 underwater divers--and several hundred others who will carve their pumpkins on the beach. They won't have the thrill of carving underwater but, then again, they don't have to worry about their creations floating away half-finished.

Entry fee is $10, and everyone gets a souvenir.

What's the challenge of carving underwater?

"The pumpkin is buoyant, so you've got to hold it down with one hand while you carve with the other," he said. "But if you lean on it too hard, you'll crush it."

In that case, he said, people in boats will be around with spare pumpkins, to float some loaners.

It's All Physical

Dr. Richard Lewak of the Del Mar Psychiatric Clinic has studied the question, "Do people marry people who are like them?" or, instead, "Do opposites attract?"

Lewak surveyed 81 couples from Del Mar, La Jolla and San Diego and found that, generally speaking, people are attracted to spouses with similar IQs and personalities.

Carrying it one step further, Lewak found that similarities or differences in IQ levels had little effect on "marriage satisfaction" because, he said, "couples rarely interact in such a manner where their IQ becomes relevant."

Serious About Playing

Lindsay Nee, a biologist by education and an Escondido housewife and mother by vocation, spends a lot of time watching kids play. She has concluded, among other things, that Escondido's playgrounds are old-fashioned.

The slides, jungle gyms and teeter-totters have got to go, she says, because while they exercise a child's gross motor skills, like climbing and sliding, they don't involve children in social situations or stimulate a child's sense of wonder or generate a sense of aesthetics.

She wants the city to commission sculptor James Hubbell to help design a new playground at Kit Carson Park using "useable, climbable, touchable and walk-throughable art."

The one-acre play yard might include, for instance, a large, smooth boulder with intriguing nooks and crannies, serving as a sand table on which kids can create sand sculptures with their hands. The boulder is more aesthetically pleasing than a sandbox, she says.

She also envisions a concrete playhouse with odd shapes, angles and openings, and with sculpted figures of people and animals, that would allow kids to play over, under and inside.

Nee is going to take these and other proposals to Escondido's Community Services Commission on Thursday night as a spokeswoman for the city's Playground Review Committee.

She hopes the city will spend the $30,000 or more for the state-of-the-art playground, which would be constructed at the south end of the regional park, adjoining Ernest Hahn's state-of-the-art regional shopping mall now under construction.

"I got interested in playgrounds by taking my kids to ones in Escondido and finding them dangerous and inadequate," she said. "Teeter-totters are dangerous because, when one child gets off, the other one hits the ground at 50 miles an hour. The spinning whirls may offer a kid a lesson about centrifugal force, but they can go too fast. And I've seen too many kids climb to the top of a jungle gym, fall 10 feet and land on rock-hard ground."

She says playground equipment manufacturers are coming out with new, safer versions of the same themes--teeter-totters with springs, whirls with speed governors and free-form wooden climbing structures that are challenging without being too high.

Birdies Tapping the Keg?

In advance of the San Diego Symphony's Oktoberfest kickoff Friday at Balboa Park's Spreckels Organ Pavilion, a ceremonial keg of Hacker-Pschorr beer from Munich is being kept on ice in a back room of Sea World's Penguin Encounter.

Which must explain why penguins walk like they're a little tipsy.

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