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Stories by John Brizzolara

Street neighbor: at God's Extended Hand

Doing better here than in Illinois

A man leaning against the façade of God’s Extended Hand at 1625 Island Ave. — a religious soup kitchen — will talk to me. He will not reveal his name but a mutual familiarity with ...

Street neighbor: Down on 13th, the East Village

Todd from Texas, homeless since 17

Todd is camped out with his woman. They, along with another ten or so “campers,” are situated along the wall of the closed business, Central Graphics, on 13th Street. When that business opens, they and ...

Interview: street neighbor in the East Village

Kazakhstan national can’t get her daughter back

East Village along the top of the Market Street hill, just past the Park and Market trolley stop, is a fine place for a memorable date or simply a night out with friends: wine-and-cheese bistros, ...

The Hood

After the sun goes down, the fists and sushi start flying.

The Story Store

Hang on. We must have it somewhere. We've got everything.

Author John Brizzolara interviews thrift-store magnate Jeff Clark.

John Brizzolara’s Last Column

“Hey, brother. Can you give me a clean pee sample?”

This will be the last “TGIF” column. It has been a great 12-year run. Well, mostly. Lord knows there were some turkeys in there over the years, but you can’t hit ’em all out of ...

This Reminds Me of December

It took me years to learn that the books I had sent home were unread and gathering dust.

Associations with December: too many. I will economize on my reflections. My birthday is in December, as is that of my good friend, writer and elementary school teacher Elizabeth Cullen, as well as historical and ...

I call spare change “spange”

I once bought a half-pint of whiskey with a fiver I borrowed from a colleague in a 12-step program.

I am constantly revising my own rules regarding panhandlers. I can’t seem to stick to one policy with any consistency. For a time, my rule was to give some money — never a great amount ...

Gross-Out Contest

So, Thanksgiving. I’m guessing I’ll have my son bunking here, and I don’t know how to roast a turkey. Going out to dinner sounds like unnecessary stress. I’ll see if he will go for a ...

It Was Supposed to Be a Suicide

“I was gonna get drunk and kill myself. I figured I’d do it with the oven, you know?”

This is a true story. This was told to me by a man I’ll call Tom Fuller. The story came to me outside of a meeting hall where an anonymous group meeting had been held. ...

A Happy Chorus of Small Voices

“I was walking through the park/ goosing statues in the dark/ If Sherman’s horse can take it so can you.”

“San Diego is not a town for heavy thinking.”

I have always enjoyed writing about Halloween and/or Day of the Dead, but I’d like to take a slightly different approach this time. For all I know both may have passed by the time this ...

City Heights, now East North Park

“I vowed long ago never to move east of route 805!” my friend C.C. admonished me when I told him I was looking for an apartment in an affordable area. My first choice was North ...

A Bit of This, a Bit of That

Once, Dennis Miller commented that Steely Dan looked like Ben and Jerry just out of rehab. They must look stranger than Jagger and Richards by now.

I intend to take the shotgun approach to this column. To be more descriptive, let’s say the scattergun approach. No single topic seems burning for my attention today, but there are several items of interest. ...

A Pig’s Orgasm Lasts 30 Minutes

Growing up in the Midwest, in or around Chicago, I would hear the phrase “Indian Summer” annually and about this time of year. As a kid, I approved. After all, the word Indian was just ...

Need Lets Art Breathe

Attending the Art Institute of Chicago in 1968 was a combination of weed-laced fun (commonly called just “grass” in Chicago then) and maddening constraints, if you had any ideas about being a fine artist. At ...

Where Ya Been, Mr. B.?

It is still August, and I have resumed work after a summer hiatus during which I lounged on the deck of my condo in Maui, jetted to an island off Malta, where I keep my ...

Toys and Props to Inspire

I once read that Ray Bradbury surrounded his work area — a basement, I think — with toys, mementos, bric-a-brac, movie posters, and odds and ends of curiosities so he did not have to look ...

Free Fun in the Summertime

“Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the street.” And today is as summer as you get in this city. Pop lyrics are triggered, which is a major improvement on heat rash ...

Pet Peeves

We all have them — just like opinions and that other thing to which opinions are often compared. I’m speaking of pet peeves. You may deny it, like Debra Johns, 26, of Chula Vista, who ...

The Noir Side of Our City

One of my favorite reviews — that is, reviews of my own work — came in 1987, from Art Salm for the Union-Tribune (or possibly the Union; they were two different papers not long ago) ...

Where's the Thrill in Surfing the Web?

In the nascent days of this column and for several years into the new millennium (gah, that’s the first time I’ve used that word in 11 years, and it recalls its constant repetition back then, ...

Novels for Spring into Summer

One sometimes finds oneself slightly off balance when approaching a topic that may have short-term and changeable elements. I’m experiencing that somewhat this morning; the changeable element is the weather, not often that changeable in ...

How to Fill a Weekend

This would be a Friday night some weeks back, the most recent Friday the 13th, technically not a full moon but close enough for rock and roll. I was walking along C Street, downtown, past ...

The Waterman Wins One

“Another Dustup for ‘Waterman’ and Police.” This was the headline May 19, 2011, in the Union-Tribune for a story by Kristina Davis. It was about the arrest of David “the Waterman” Ross, “two weeks after ...

Some of My Favorite Fantasies

One practical use I’ve found for the embarrassing character flaw of romanticism is applying that wrongheaded screwiness to being broke. I’m probably more strapped than I need to be (I’m paid very fairly), as I ...

Looking for Dad in the War

I saw the flyer on India Street, where they were neatly displayed in various storefronts. (It is unlikely that you would ever see handbills tumbling freely down the street in Little Italy.) I grabbed one ...

Everything Must Go!

This must certainly be the first time that the closing of a branch of some corporate empire affected me with a kind of disappointment bordering on sadness. Many bookstores have closed, independent enterprises that have ...

I've Got a Hole in My Chest

“What do you call a can opener that won’t work? A can’t opener.” Greg Morton is, by his own description, “not a particularly funny man,” and yet he ekes out a living — specifically, eking ...

Hey, Pal, What's Goin' Badly?

“There is a therapeutic aspect to reporting what few like to admit. What is a reporter except a kind of house detective, scavenging through the bureau drawers of men’s lives, searching for the minor vice, ...

Easy Strumming

(Names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent, though innocent of what is unclear.) Weekends are the obvious time for spring-cleaning. Saturday, at least, one supposes. Been living for a bit in a ...

Life of a Lemon Grove Bachelor

This Friday I’ve got to get out of the house. I’ve been told my recent stuff is pretty bad...all this “I’m old and in the way” sort of thing. Okay. What do we do? My ...

A Little April Fool's Stuff

Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which “are” there. — Richard Feynman Friday nights at D.G. ...

Love and Lit on a Wine Crate

It was precisely when your English instructor introduced you (assuming they did) to T.S. Eliot’s most famous phrase, “April is the cruelest month,” that it was determined whether your sense of paradox and irony might ...

Old and in the Way

Having just recently turned 60, I am pulling up the rear of what has commonly been termed the Baby Boomers. Apparently the generation dates from the end of WWII or 1945, so that would place ...

Coloring Outside the Lines

“Beware the ides of March” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a warning regarding the emperor’s impending assassination. For a time, the dusty old quote enjoyed a new life as a reference to ...

The Joy of Being Alive

March may have blustered into San Diego like a lion more than once but never often enough to earn a cuteism like June Gloom or May Gray. Nothing like, “Ah, yes, just like clockwork every ...

The People We Play for Are Sipping on Champagne

Unlike, say, rock-and-roll bands, classical musicians in a quartet are not required to exhibit personalities as they perform. A tuxedoed homogeneity and a serious sameness of expression will do nicely, thank you. If the performers ...

If It's Spring, This Must Be Rock 'n' Roll

This column will appear several weeks after the particular Friday morning on which I am working on my laptop in the sunlight, and it is nice to think that this genuinely spring-like weather might continue ...

Incurable Romantics

If romantic love is a chimera, then so is its annual namesake. Our most convenient (if sometimes sketchy) online encyclopedia will give you this next paragraph — and more — but as for “Who was ...

Famous Last Words

I had hoped that by now things would be looking better than they are for a still new year, but any momentary anxiety I might have had about running out of things to complain about ...

The First Whale I Ever Saw

Looking at the last weekend in this first month of a new year, dawning decade and still infantile millennium, I am confronted with some unavoidable recollections of my first experiences in this city in January ...

A Resolve to Not Resolve

The third week of January, and it seems about the right time to check in on how any New Year’s resolutions might be going. Me? Since you ask, I no longer make them. That is, ...

The Jasmine in One's Mind

Going to the jasmine in my mind... It is 5:00 a.m. this Sunday winter morning in the new year and I can’t sleep. I’m staring at the tube: a marathon infomercial for “The Singers and ...

Does Your Depravity Know No Bounds?

Composing this page fully two weeks before it will appear either in print or online, I wonder just what might have been a common experience for imagined readers (I am always vaguely surprised to learn ...

The Age of the Lout

Not everyone need agree, and it is unlikely everyone would, but I am certain I could walk out my front door and get a consensus of ten people within ten minutes that 2010 sucked more ...

Reckoning in the Heavens

Nary has a Christmas gone by without my thinking of a string of years — in the late ’70s and early ’80s — when my then wife and I would prepare ghost stories or stories ...

Christmas Ain't What It Used to Be

Arriving in mid-December was hardly guaranteed, though, I’m mostly pleased to be here — or anywhere, as a tired joke would have it. Come to think of it, an uncomfortable number of my life’s aspects ...

The Horrible and the Miserable

Two days ago I was discharged from UCSD Hospital after open-heart surgery, during which one of my coronary valves was replaced with a metallic (rather than porcine) one. I have been moving very slowly since ...

One Thousand Ways to Die

Dead of night. Dead of the week. Dead of November. At 1:15 a.m. I am looking north at the unhurried, shimmering serpent of Highway 163, up from Mission Valley to a borderland of gaudy neon ...

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