Normal Heights Gazetteer 1 : Madmen At Eternity’s Door

Lou Curtiss rips the skinny on Folk Arts Records.

Lou Curtiss rips the skinny on Folk Arts Records.

Just off the southbound 805, through a cleft in the ramparts at Exit 17A, Adams Avenue, is Normal Heights, San Diego, California. A cab ride from the airport takes about 10 minutes, although the jets are close enough to fill the morning quiet here with Lindbergh Field’s beastly roar.

Normal Heights’ name comes from the State Normal School, SDSU’s predecessor in the early 20th century. The neighborhood is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, but history is more than precedent if you participate. You need to get close, and the best tour of anywhere is on foot. Perspectives on sounds, smells of old books, unflinching pawnbrokers’ eyes, pigeon shit and alley cats are all easily missed from a car.

Perspectives on sounds, smells of old books, unflinching pawnbrokers’ eyes, pigeon shit and alley cats are all easily missed from a car.

Park on the west end, near Adams and Utah, then head over and shake hands with Lou Curtiss, proprietor and curator of Folk Arts Rare Records. Lou’s bottom line is the preservation and dissemination of his collection, and these records are time capsules, anchoring Normal Heights not only geographically, but also chronologically, the eldest echoing madmen at eternity’s door.

 

Normal Heights is located on a triangular plateau between the 8, 805 and 15 freeways about five miles northeast of downtown San Diego. This story first appeared in San Diego City Beat.

 

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