Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

“The new phone book’s here!…I’m somebody now!” – Steve Martin in The Jerk

The first telephone directory was published in New Haven, CT; the year was 1878.

Growing up in a small town on the Oregon coast, our directory covered the entire Tillamook County, all 1,125 square miles and 19,000 residents. It was small. Very small.

I was filled with anticipation and delight each year when the new book landed in our post office box. Rushing to thumb through it, I’d eagerly find my father’s name and our telephone number.

After college when I acquired my own telephone number, I’d start looking myself up each year. What a rush to see my name in print, every time.

My fascination with directories has not wavered. I’m a source of amusement to any travel companions as I pour over the telephone book while they unpack their suitcases.

Like any addict, I dive straight in to track down the nearest place to buy a latte. I search for restaurants serving vegetarian cuisine, Whole Foods Markets, and athletic clubs. I look up Simmons to see if there is a Sandra L.

While they’re so often regarded as straightforward and commonplace, directories hold more than meets the eye. They tell the story of the community, revealing its’ past and present. We can discover the basics on where the community eats and shops. And of more interest, what they really care about: where they are entertained and inspired, where they learn and worship, and where they explore and enjoy.

A directory links community members together, as well as connecting visitors to the community’s idea of home.

I must confess, I don’t use our 1,280-page white pages or 1,924-page yellow pages when looking up a telephone number. I Google. On the rare occasion I look in the book, I’m frustrated. Our book covers Chula Vista to Poway, Ocean Beach to Alpine, and more. I wonder if the business located on 3rd is in Downtown or Hillcrest or La Mesa.

Our large telephone books have become shelf-dusters that we throw away when the new one is published. Even though they do capture our community in a snapshot of time, we have no real connection to the books or what they represent. They’re impersonal.

We don’t include our address or even first names for privacy reasons. What if we could roll back time and not be so guarded?

I wonder…Would being in City Book make you somebody?

Lynda Kirby (doma) delivered City Book to her former neighbors in Beech Tower. They were excited to personally be handed a book with information about their community.

Being included in City Book has introduced neighbors to Jen and Marc, owners of It's A Grind Coffee House (Porto Siena).

Dan D’Amato’s (Treo) story in City Book was so compelling, a Downtowner asked him to design her website.

We each have a book inside of us. Mine was City Book – The Directory for Downtowners. - June 2005

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