SAN DIEGO — Friday, the smell of fresh paint still permeated the upper floors of the St. Vincent de Paul Joan Kroc Center, the new downtown shelter that soon will be called home by hundreds of the city's homeless.
In one of the many groups that toured the block-square structure during the fiesta given in anticipation of Monday's dedication ceremonies was a well-dressed, elderly man who turned to his wife and complained that the odor was "making his nose fuzzy."
His wife, who appeared not at all eager to abridge her tour, replied, "Can it, dear. That's the smell of hope."
Hope, indeed, did seem to be the central theme of "Mi Casa Su Casa," which drew 350 shelter benefactors for an evening of Mexican entertainment, dinner and dancing. Although planned more as a thank you for major supporters than as a fund-raiser, the event did raise about $30,000, a sum that party chairman Norma Assam viewed from a very businesslike perspective.
"This is our fiesta, our time to celebrate the fact that the shelter is finally ready to serve the community," she said. "But we'll take every nickel we can get." (Guests paid $150 per person to attend. There was to have been a higher-priced ticket, at $1,000 per couple, that included the privilege of staying in one of the center's bedrooms. But the center was not quite ready to accept overnight guests, paying or otherwise.)
The Mexican theme gave St. Vincent de Paul Director Father Joe Carroll an excuse to pull a pale blue guayabera over his clerical collar and to hold court in the building's handsome hacienda-style courtyard, a cool, spacious area highlighted by a fountain and by lush grass that soon will feel the feet of dozens of children at play.
The big smile that walked in with Carroll stayed planted on the Bronx-born priest's face throughout the night. "Did we do OK?" he asked, waving around at what some guests called "the house that Joe built." "Is this place conducive to partying, or what?"
"It's gorgeous," he said. "Usually when you have a dream, if just 50% of it comes true, you're happy. But when you get 120% of your dream fulfilled, you don't even know how to express how fortunate and happy you feel."
Carroll added that the center will attempt to serve more than the physical needs of its residents. "One idea that we have with Father Nick Reveles (head of the department of music at the University of San Diego) is to build a stage in the courtyard and put on concerts, poetry readings and other arts performances for the homeless," Carroll said. "Mercedes McCambridge (the Academy Award-winning actress who now resides in San Diego) will be part of our arts program."
Thus the evening's entertainment was perhaps a preview. Mariachis preceded Mexican folklore dancers, which in turn was followed by a flamenco group and finally a regular old American dance band that helped those guests so inclined burn off the meal of various Mexican specialties.
Benefactress Joan Kroc, whose $3-million donation helped build the center, was out of town the night of the fiesta. However, the guest list did include another of the shelter's special friends, Manuela Pieritta, a 90-year-old widow of modest circumstances who over the years has presented Carroll with sacks of coins saved from her household expenses. It was her special privilege to share with Kroc the duties of cutting the ribbon at Monday's dedication ceremony.
Among other guests were Carleton Lichty, grand opening overall chairman, and his wife, Jan; Mel and Linda Katz; Al and Mim Sally; Jorge and Yolanda Walther-Meade; John and Eleanor Rippo; Sam Assam; Mike and Jan Madigan; Janay Kruger with Jim Bleisner; Author and Marge Hughes; Jack Berkman; Larry and Junko Cushman; Amy Fike with Don McVay; Phil and Catherine Blair, and Rita and Joe Neeper.
LA JOLLA--Being treated like a human doughnut is one way to cool off on a hot afternoon.
Being dunked means having the great thrill of dropping into a tank of none-too-warm water each time some ace pitcher manages to hit a lever with a well-aimed ball.
First up in the dunking booth at Sunday's fifth annual Off The Wall Street Dance was restaurateur George Hauer, who, when finally relieved by La Jolla High School Principal J. Tarvin, climbed out of the tank and muttered: "Boy, that was fun."
In other words, it was high jinks as usual at this spiffy, yearly frolic and romp on La Jolla's two-block-long Wall Street, usually the scene of sedate shopping and financial transactions. The street is traditionally transformed into a carnival of major dimensions on the last Sunday of August.