The Animal Kingdom of Oceanside

I have 13 different hometowns. That’s because when I grew up my family moved a lot. We weren’t military, we were just vagabonds. My mother and stepfather were always chasing new opportunities while staying a step ahead of bill collectors and the law.

But one of my hometowns does happen to be a military town. In fact, it’s my hometown three times, as that’s how many times we moved back and forth to it. I spent a cumulative six years of my childhood growing up in Oceanside, California, which is next door to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. Those six years makes Oceanside qualify as the homiest of all my hometowns.

I visited Oceanside a few weeks ago. This house on 1022 S. Tait Street is where I lived for three-and-a-half years, during the early 1970s. It’s only one block from the ocean, and about a mile from the Oceanside Pier. It was an old house then, and rent was $210/month. But today, according to Zillow, this ancient, 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,200 square foot house is valued at $1.8 million, and rents for $3,969/month. Damn, I guess I’ll never live here again.

Recently I was browsing through the cornucopia of television offerings created by our hyperactive world of entertainment, when I encountered a show called, Animal Kingdom. It was not the nature show the title might lead one to believe.

Animal Kingdom is a TV series based on a 2010 Australian movie of the same name. But unlike the movie, the series is purely American. It’s about a family of criminals residing in a California beach community. It looked mildly interesting, so I thought I’d try watching the first episode of the first season, to see if it could draw me in.

I lived in this house, also. It fronts Myers Street, almost directly behind my other house on 1022 Tait. The garage has a loft where, in 1969, we harbored a couple of Marines who had deserted the Vietnam War. You can read more about that by clicking this link.

It didn’t take long before I felt a tickle from the barb of a hook. Then, about halfway in, there were scenes that embedded the hook deep within the flesh of my soul. I came to realize that the setting of this TV series was none other than my hometown of Oceanside.

Scenes of surfers, and the Oceanside Pier triggered some old memories in me. I walked to this pier from my house quite a few times when I was a kid.

There was a scene of a long, straight road leading downslope toward the ocean in the distance. This was much like a road I’d ridden my bicycle up and down, many times. And then there were unmistakable scenes of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, and The Strand. This was my purlieu where I had often perambulated as a kid.

The Strand, where beach homes can sell for about $5 million. The rocks were put in place after I moved away from Oceanside. Before that time, homeowners on The Strand fought a constant battle against the surf, and often lost during high tides on stormy days.

And there’s even a character in this series who reminds me of my childhood. Deran resembles a tough guy named Leroy, who my sister, River, married. She met Leroy in Oceanside, and he was as much a criminal as Deran. And he too, belonged to a family of thugs that engaged in shady business.

Deran’s bar, called the Killfish in the TV series. It’s located at 314 Wisconsin Avenue, less than a half-mile from my home at 1022 Tait Street. In real life, this seems to be a vacant building, or a small warehouse for storing plumbing supplies. The front entrance area is littered with rubbish, most likely from homeless people.

Deran Cody, played by Jake Weary, is the youngest of the brothers in the “Cody” family. The Cody family is run by a matriarch nicknamed “Smurf,” played by Ellen Barkin. There are four brothers altogether in this family, named Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Baz (Scott Speedman), Craig (Ben Robson), and Deran. They are Smurf’s children, and are all from different fathers. Also, there’s one grandson of Smurf’s, named Joshua, or “J” (Finn Cole).

This beach house on The Strand is often seen on Animal Kingdom. It’s the fictional home of Baz and Craig Cody, and uses the alias address number of 427. In real life it seems to be a vacation rental. Zillow values it at about $2.7 million, with a rent estimate of $8,789/month.

Smurf does her best to run the family and control her children, but she encounters constant resistance and suspicion from them. She plans, or helps plan, “jobs” for her kids, and then they go out and rob and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash or goods, in these heists.

One of Smurf’s challenges is to launder the booty, then dole it out to her children. This leads to a lot of infighting, because her kids suspect she’s skimming and holding out on them. Smurf handles this by being a master at pitting her kids against each other, in order to distract them from going after her.

But her grandson, “J,” is the smartest of the bunch. Smurf is in danger of having met her match, dealing with him. But that’s all I’m telling you. I won’t go into the plot any further, or I might spoil it for anyone who wants to watch this series.

The Wisconsin Market is featured in one scene of Animal Kingdom, where a couple of punk teenagers ask Craig Cody to buy some beer for them. It’s only a few blocks away from where I lived on Tait Street. And for a few months, I lived in an apartment on Myers Street, directly behind this market. I frequented this store as a child, where I shopped for candy, soda pop, cigars, and chewing tobacco. I also engaged in occasional shoplifting, until that infamous time when I was caught. And I sold sand candles with a buddy of mine, on the corner.

My wife and I like a good crime-flavored TV series. We loved The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Dexter, and would rate all three of them a 10. We kind of like Ozark (about a 6). But we hated Peaky Blinders (1). We rate Animal Kingdom as better than Ozark, but not quite as good as The Sopranos. I give it a 9, because it’s set in my hometown, but my wife rates it an 8.

Animal Kingdom episodes initially broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT). Then they become available on Amazon Prime. The first four seasons are available free on Prime. That’s how Amazon gets you hooked, like a drug slinger on a street corner. Then, to watch Seasons 5 and 6 you have to pay $24.95 apiece. We’ve paid for our fix, by buying Season 5. Season 6 will be the final season, but it won’t be available until 2022.

The first season has 10 episodes, with 13 episodes in all the following seasons.

Oceanside Harbor can be spotted in some of the scenes of Animal Kingdom. I’ve been up in that lighthouse when I was a kid, but it seems to be closed, now. The two-story restaurant next to it was once called, The Poop Deck. Of course that name appealed to my puerile sense of humor, and inspired many a wise crack.

I’m surprised that Animal Kingdom hasn’t received much publicity or recognition. It debuted on TNT in 2016, but I’d never heard of it until a few months ago. In 2016 and 2017 it was nominated for a Saturn Award (whatever that is), as the Best Action-Thriller Television Series. However, it lost to Riverdale and Better Call Saul, respectively.

I think it deserves much better recognition than that, so I hereby nominate and award Animal Kingdom with the Tippy Gnu Golden Unicorn for best Television Series, Depicting Bitter, Infighting Members of a Crime Family.

The Oceanside Pier at sunset. It’s such a clear evening that you can see Catalina Island on the horizon to the right. This is a very rare sight, from Oceanside.

Categories: Reviews

55 replies »

  1. Well I guess I won’t be buying any beach houses at Oceanside! Just a tad out of my price range. Wow on the change in price from that first house you lived in! Quite a jump!
    Very nice sunset pic!
    All your moves sounds similar to a childhood friend that my son had growing up. They still are friends but they moved everywhere to keep ahead of bill collectors. They figured going on cruises was higher priority than paying rent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think over the last five years, Oceanside has suddenly boomed in popularity, and that’s why the big price spike. When I lived there 50 years ago, the population was 40,000, and beach property was very affordable. Now the population is nearly 200,000.

      We never went on cruises when we were growing up. My brother and I suspect our stepfather may have been a serial child molester. We think that whenever suspicions were raised about him, that’s when he’d move us to another town.

      Can’t confirm that, though. But he was a real sleazebag.


  2. Totally watching Animal Kingdom after this review!! I could not watch Dexter, too much gore for me! Love Ozark and Breaking Bad (my all-time favorite). I also enjoyed the Wire, though much of the acting isn’t that great. That’s partially by design as they hired real – life street-lifers for some of the parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Surfed on the other side of Pendleton at Trestles when I was in College (late ’80s, early ’90s).

    Fascinating. When we moved to the US in ’75, our house was a few blocks from the beach in Capitola. If I recall correctly, my dad said they bought it for $38K, and sold it for about $90K five years later. If I’m looking at the right parcel, it’s $2.2-million… but I suspect a new house has been built on it. In ’79, we had a new house built a few miles inland in Soquel, much larger on a big parcel with a view out to the ocean. I figured it would be worth more, but $1.46-million. Oceanside seems to have been a far better place to have invested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The characters in Animal Kingdom surf a lot, and some of the scenes are shot at Trestles. You can often see the old San Onofre nuclear power plant in the background.

      What a coincidences . . . my wife and I are traveling to Santa Cruz next week, for a few days on the beach, as well as a visit to Mission Santa Cruz. It’s a nice town, or at least it was the last time we were there, 18 years ago.

      I think Oceanside has been getting a lot of refugees from San Diego and Los Angeles. I don’t think the beaches at Oceanside are all that great, except immediately surrounding the pier. But the giant populations to the north and south are putting the pressure on the prices.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yep… San Onofre. I was essentially swimming in what I studied in college. πŸ˜‰

        Capitola has a cute little downtown near the beach. Our first house was just on the other side of Soquel Creek, a short walk. Probably 6/7-years since I’ve been through the town. Longer for Santa Cruz. I don’t know anyone there anymore. The last two friends still in the area are now down toward Monterey.

        Santa Cruz is a nice place (or was, anyway), but always had a paradoxical vibe to me… sort of urban meets beach town. I never quite got into the scene, and ended up more into the culture of the south side of the Monterey Bay… Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, Esalen…

        Likewise, I think the SF Bay Area has put a lot of pressure on the north Monterey Bay. Maybe there’s just more housing though, so the prices haven’t exploded as in Oceanside. Or maybe the warmer So Cal weather is just more desirable?

        Curious how you’re planning to travel up?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Did you study Marine Biology?

          I saw a picture of Capitola. Looks like it has some colorful buildings.

          The last time we were in Cruz, we found a beach with a lot of sea lions basking in the sun. Then we hung out at the pier, where we saw a lot of sea lions, also. They looked very placid, but I suspect if we had gotten too close, they could have taken a leg off.

          We’re driving up late next week. We plan to see three of the old Spanish missions: Soledad, Carmel, & Santa Cruz. We’ve made it our goal to see all 21 missions, and after this trip we’ll only have 2 left.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad you discovered and generally liked Animal Kingdom. It’s one of my favorites. I also liked Ozark. Since I’ve just reluctantly entered the 21st century of in-home entertainment, better known as streaming, I’m using it as an opportunity to catch up on stuff I missed earlier. I’ve already done House of Cards and am about midway through Orange is the New Black. Breaking Bad is on my list, too, and possibly even The Sopranos.

    I also like Yellowstone on regular Paramount as opposed to Paramount+. They’re teasing the sequel 1883 by showing the first few episodes. Much as I like that one, especially its stars, I also refuse to be drawn in to yet another subscription!

    Thanks for locating the Animal Kingdom (old) shooting sites that actually exist in Oceanside. As an aficionado of historic preservation and heritage tourism I may use them to take a driving tour around town next time I’m headed to San Diego or San Clemente.

    PS and shameless plug here – I hope you have checked out my new site where at least two posts expound on where my enthusiasm for historic preservation and heritage tourism originated.

    PPS I also know you’re on vacation. Hope you had/are having a good time and escaped any bad weather “up north.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Animal Kingdom is a great show, but I like all those other shows you’ve listed, also. Except that I’ve never seen Yellowstone. That would require another subscription, and like you, I’m tired of subscribing to things.

      I had to cancel the vacation, due to illness. I’m doing a lot better now, but with the new statewide mask mandate, we’ve decided to postpone the vacation for a few months. We’re sick and tired of wearing masks, so we’re waiting for the mandate to be lifted.


      • I’d say I like this comment except for the part about having to cancel your vacation. By now I also hate to say that even if a mask mandate is not in effect wherever one may find oneself, for safety’s sake one should still wear at least one – mask, that is! Fortunately most of the people I know, and therefore visit sometimes, have not contracted (or recontracted) Covid recently so I am at this point brave and desperate enough to plan some get-togethers with them, wherever they may be.

        Liked by 1 person

        • If I was very concerned about catching Covid, I’d wear the N95 mask. From what I understand, none of the other masks are very effective, and therefore I don’t see the point in wearing them.

          I’m not sure about your logic. I’d be more concerned about being near someone who’s never had Covid, than someone who has, because someone who has had it, now has some degree of natural immunity.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Found this site while wasting a snowy afternoon in Montana dreaming about living on the beach in Oceanside at Craig’s bungalow. Thanx for the stories and pictures. Animal Kingdom is one of the best shows; I like that it’s on in the summer when everything else is reruns. Shocked to see the prices of the homes, though. Too bad normal people can’t live like that. Dreaming…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like a pleasant dream to have on cold, snowy afternoon.

      I think the final Animal Kingdom season will be coming this summer. My wife and I love the show.

      Maybe normal people can find the places where everyone else isn’t flocking to, and pick up an inexpensive home.


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