Being in a foreign city alone is faintly terrifying. It’s the fourth time I’ve done this now, although on the third of those I stayed with a friend, which held its own terrors. Between times I look back on the last trip with a rose tinted desire for freedom. It’s only on the plane, once it is far too late to turn back, that I remember the slowly rising tide of fear that accompanies each flight in to the unknown. This time the thought that I would be abducted by a mexican street gang teased and taunted me from two thirds of the way across the atlantic. Why would a mexican street gang abduct me? What would they want with an English writer of weird fictions of just slightly below average height? Was it my scarf, perhaps, that would make me a target? Should I stow it well away on arrival for fear of attracting unwanted attention?
(I am recording these thoughts while still on the flight, which raises the ironic possibility that I will actually be abducted by a mexican street gang. This note will be read, from my pawned iPad, by a young American woman who will briefly consider seeking down its author, before thinking better of it.)
The seeds of such fears are always small. A brief conversation with a friend about San Diego’s high, although falling, levels of street crime. Glimpsed statistics that Ocean Beach where I have chosen to spend my first night, actually has amongst the highest crime rates in the city! The image of it burning white from the Google generated data map. At 10 kilometres above the earth, encouraged perhaps by the low air pressure, those seeds bloom to full fledged fears. Writing seems to dig out the weeds of worry. Hence this note.
I am staying at the International Hostel in Ocean Beach, San Diego for the next three nights, followed by the Town and Country hotel for the World Fantasy Convention itself. Plans after that yet to be confirmed. Should I fail to Tweet for any length of time greater than six hours please name the Kickstarter campaign ‘Damien G Walter Hostage Ransom Fund’ and spread the word far and wide.
(Even as I write I am picturing the streets of Ocean Beach descended in to post-apocalypse chaos. Roving bands of cannibal vigilantes man flaming barbed wire barricades topped with the heads of tourists. My taxi driver seems unpeturbed. It’s just another day on the mean streets of the USA.)
UPDATE : Ocean Beach exceptionally nice and friendly. Hostel good. Have eaten sushi for dinner.