Twenty five minutes south of the Interstate 5 split, I'm deep in San Diego County. With the mile mark for Mexico dipping in the single digits, I start to wonder if I missed the Main St. exit for the Coors Amphitheatre. Riding shotgun are my friends Alex and Steve, half-asleep from the drive from LA.
"Dude, where the hell is this Nightshift event?" asks Steve. "The sign says 7 miles to Mexico, and you never said anything about crossing the border to go to some show."
Now you have to understand, unlike most car people who associate with other car people, my closest friends from way back have no interest in cars or our scene. And I'm not talking about homegirls either. But my boys who, despite being like brothers, only share interests in (and in no particular order): girls, partying and food. As for cars, the only imports they're into are the models. Weird, I know. So when I was assigned to this story and the accompanying long drive, I had to bait them to come with.
"Yo, what're you doing this Saturday? Nothing? Want to grab dinner? I'll pick you guys up." After they agree, I throw in, "I just need to stop by a car show real quick."
I pretend to not hear the groans.
You see the problem with my I'm-not-into-this-scene friends is, I've taken them to a bunch of car shows and they're 'whatever' about it; indifferent at best, if "indifferent" meant they were in a different place. I've seen neutered dogs with more enthusiasm. Every car show outing has ended with one of them saying, "That was wack; I never want to go to another car show again."
So after we've been in the car for close to three hours to get to a HIN and we've gone as far south of California as physically possible, the mood of my passengers was, how do you say, very un-chipper. But that was soon about to change.
Finding our exit, an INS agent's stones-throw from the border, I follow the line of modified cars to the ampitheatre parking lot. Walking to the gates, frowns were quickly turned upside down as Alex and Steve's eyes and ears made contact with sights (read: scantily-clad girls) and sounds spilling out from the event.
Once inside, the carnival-like atmosphere engulfed us: show cars and their neon lights glimmering in the twilight; the latest hip-hop, house and pop hits blaring from the stages, booths and cars; the aroma of a burnt tires, mixed with the scent of fairground hot dogs and nachos peppering our olfactory nerves; and the ubiquitous import models pushing our already-overwhelmed senses to a tilt. The Mazda Main Stage was abuzz with the huge swarming crowd.
"What's going on over there?" Steve asks.
"Two words, homes: bikini contest," I respond.
His eyes damn near popped out his head.
"Let's go!" my friends yell.
Making our way to the stage, they pointed at some event cars that, to an untrained eye, look cool- a top secret, widebody HKS Twin Turbo Supra and High End Performance's widebody 350Z. We pass Team Auto Concept, Sadistic, and Hybrid's pristine rides, as well as the roar of cars on the Valvoline dyno, to the backstage entrance. We flash our credentials and make it through security. We're in!
Surrounded by firme heinas of all different flavors, we struggle to maintain our composure. I take out my phone and call Nads, who somehow always manages to be at the epicenter of estrogenic beauty.
"I'm backstage at the bikini contest, where you at?" asks John.
"So am I," I reply.
After going over some potential features, we break. Nadsy goes back to the girls (uh, you think I drove all this way to look at the cars? -JN) and I back to the grind. We leave the backstage area (against Steve and Alex's will) and make our way out to the action area next to the Dunlop Drift Demos and Boost Freestyle MX. Between the revving of soaring motorcycles and drifting cars, I heard something I thought I'd never hear from Alex's mouth: "This is kinda dope."
Spotting a small, but rowdy crowd, we go over to investigate. It's go-go goddesses Helen Su and Jeri Lee. After an exchange of quick hugs and pics, we head off to the THQ booth/bar to check out the new Juiced 2: HIN game. Surrounded by drinks, demos and drooling boys pining for Ursula Maye's autograph, minutes disappear and soon it's time to leave. We make one last stop at the Babe (filled with, uh, babes) Blvd. booth to say goodbye to Steve, Dennis, Melissa Reign and the gang and make for the exit, but not before running into RJ DeVera and the Dunlop crew. Afterparty at the Gaslamp, anyone?
Walking to the car, I ask the question I have been dreading all night: "So, what'd you guys think?"
Bracing for the worse, Steve suddenly responds, "It was tight! Let me know when you're going to a Nightshift again."
Relieved, I smile and say, "Word? Well, we ain't even done with tonight yet. We still have to go to the afterparty."
But that, for legal purposes, is a whole other story I'm keeping to myself.
Answer this nightlife analogy: Los Angeles is to Hollywood as San Diego is to ________?
(Correct answer: Gaslamp Quarter)
Simply known as the Gaslamp for the area's gas-lit street lights, it's eight city blocks packed with more thrills than a Shamu show. Filled with shopping, dining, movie theaters, nightclubs and beautiful people, if you're ever in the Day-go area at night, make sure to peep this district. It's more wild than the San Diego Animal Park, sans the rabies vaccination. www.gaslamp.org