In the beginning there was California's Best-Kept Secret. But that was blown to hell when Interstate 5 was built.
Then came San Diego: City in Motion. People got dizzy off that one for a while.
When the Republican Party jilted San Diego by dropping its plan for a national convention here, Pete Wilson decided civic pride had been sorely offended. He birthed America's Finest City.
And now a new sobriquet has slouched our way. Welcome to San Diego: The Nation's Third Most Polite City.
Marjebelle Young Stewart, the doyenne of etiquette book authors, has just listed San Diego as No. 3 on her annual list of Ten Most Polite Cities. Three with a bullet, up from seven last year.
At the top is Portland, Ore. No. 2 is Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Stewart, who has written 17 etiquette books, compiles her list from both her own experiences and the comments she receives during her lectures and seminars across the country. She did a seminar for hospital executives last month at the Hotel del Coronado.
"Proper manners are a city's ticket of admission to gracious living," she said Friday during a phone interview. She had just lectured students at the University of Illinois.
Civic politeness, she says, is a combination of factors: cabbies, waiters, traffic cops, people on the street when you ask directions, receptionists, store clerks, people standing in lines, etc.
Stewart, 52, based in Kewanee, Ill., tracks cities with a critical eye, like a pro football scout. She gauges which are slipping and which are just reaching their politeness prime.
"San Diego has come a long way since that gruesome day (in 1983) when the mayor slapped Queen Elizabeth on the back," Stewart said. "That was a terrible blow to the city's reputation as a place where manners are taken seriously."
Actually, it was a deputy mayor and the "slap" was more of a feathery caress. But I'm not about to correct a woman whose latest book--"Can My Bridesmaids Wear Black?"--is headed for the best-seller list.
Sixty-nine cities were in the running for Most Polite. Stewart won't reveal which city finished last. Nor will she repeat what people say about New York.
That wouldn't be polite.
Parking for Low Handicaps
Here's what I know.
* Only two sets of city employees or contractors get reserved parking spaces: City Council members and the golf pros at Torrey Pines.
Am I the only one who sees an inequity here? What have council members ever done to deserve such privileges?
* The chairs and couches at the newly opened Corinthian Suites Hotel in downtown San Diego are not made of Corinthian leather. I checked.
* Now it can be told.
When political upheaval in the Republic of Georgia threatened plans for San Diego's Soviet arts festival, oil magnate Armand Hammer intervened on the city's behalf.
Hammer, who has had business and art-world ties to the Soviet Union since the 1920s, made calls to high places in the Kremlin. Cooperation was soon restored.
* Santa Claus has gone high-tech.
The Postal Annex, with outlets in San Diego and North County, will fax your child's letter to the North Pole free. Within a week, the child receives an upbeat but noncommittal response, also via fax.
He Was Tops, Quarterbackwise
Dan Fouts has left the playing field for the broadcasting booth, but he still gets sacked on the sports pages occasionally.
Lowell Cohn, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that Fouts coined a "lulu" of a phrase by telling his CBS audience that a team was "in good shape field-positionwise."
Cohn says Fouts and other announcers seem to believe that "as their sentences become more obscure, they sound smarter."
To sound as smart as Fouts, Cohn suggests people say such things as "I'm not feeling too well stomachwise" and "His new BMW is a gem, runningwise."
Cohn is obviously a wise guy "columnwise."