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Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

Return to Bro City

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[At the boardwalk in Bro City, ice cream and taco stands rule. Photo courtesy Roey Ahram.]

The boardwalk in Pacific Beach, San Diego, stretches for miles. On one side of the two-lane sidewalk, there is a line of ramshackle summer homes, each more ostentatious and overbearing than the one before it. On the other side, there is a short wall, a wide swath of sand, beer-chugging beachgoers and, finally, the Pacific Ocean.

Bros, the class of MTV-addled, ultra-athletic surfer dudes hailing from the West Coast, flock here every summer. They yearn for a bit of vacation bedlam, be it surfing the beach, sampling the beer-bong, hounding bikinied babes or just snake-boarding through this sandy stretch of bliss. For that reason, P.B. wins the title Bro City.

I visited Bro City last week. It brought back memories. You see, I was once a Bro myself.

I spent my middle-school weekends skating up and down the boardwalk. I always hit up Hamel’s for their skateboarding merchandise and awesome fingerboard skate park. Outside the shop, the boardwalk opens to a spot of asphalt. Here I would sit and watch burly Bros spinning around on tiny bicycles, or ollieing over orange traffic cones.

Visiting Bro City has always been the source of entertainment for San Diego’s, if not the world’s, Bros. Just off the boardwalk, shirtless Bros wearing Oakley sunglasses and board shorts hold up the line for Belmont Park’s roller coaster. During a block party one year, Bros crowded around a half-pipe and watched BMX bikers have at it. MTV immortalized Bro City when they set up the Real World house right by the boardwalk, where a pack of Bros and their bikini-clad counterparts did what Bros do best: hardly anything at all.

Yep, it was a good time to be a Bro.

By high school, I rejected nearly all aspects of Bro culture. I abandoned Linkin Park and Korn. I discovered classic rock, then indie labels and obscure hardcore from the 1990s. MTV, Pennywise, Sum 41 and Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” never made it into my collection. I purged cargo pants and Quicksilver t-shirts from my wardrobe, refusing to wear anything but Blues Brothers sunglasses and dress shirts from thrift shops. I dislocated my shoulder two summers ago when I tried to ollie off a curb. A curb! I haven’t rocked the skateboard since.

Nowadays, I spend the majority of my time at work, at a computer, reading something or just staring into space, thinking to myself. All the while, I lose more of the muscle tissue required of any Bro who intends to look great midway through a volleyball spike.

Last week, I couldn’t help but miss the Bro life. Bro City has not changed a bit: roller coasters, skateboards, surfers and loungers abound. When I passed one group of young skaters, they were chatting with a wet-suited surfer who looked to be in his fifties. I thought, for that moment, that it would’ve been nice to still be a Bro, only older and wiser. In one fell swoop, I could take control of the youthful gaze: ollie over a traffic cone, land on the sand-littered sidewalk, roll through the sun-tanned crowds and fade into the distance. Surely, somewhere further down the boardwalk, there would be another young Bro to wow.

I know that is not likely to happen any time soon. For now, I have my life in New York City–my woefully sedentary life, full of cold calls, blog updates and readings on terrorism–to attend to. But a man can dream, can’t he?

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Written by Peter Holslin

July 29, 2007 at 5:32 am

Posted in National, Travel

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