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Stories by Robert Kumpel

Survival T-Shirts

Mad Engine produces T-shirts for department stores, designer clothing lines, and specialty stores in the U.S. and 17 other countries. In 2000, they shipped $27 million of T-shirts worldwide. That number has dropped to about ...

Food Swings

While allergists are showing alarm at the increasing problem of mold, one physician believes the problem has been entirely overblown. Barnet Meltzer has been practicing holistic medicine in Del Mar since 1972. An author of ...

Model Smoker

Jean Lucas's Rancho Bernardo townhouse is full of boxes. Paintings of elephants and lions lean in a stack against the wall. She is clearing her place of old junk and painting the walls to get ...

Impatient Heart

'I was in Bangkok six years ago and picked up some kind of hepatitis-family virus -- they couldn't isolate it -- and it infected my heart muscle and left me with cardiomyopathy. So now I'm ...

I Don't Have to Dodge Bullets

Robert S. (he wouldn't divulge his last name) stands in front of the Escondido Employment Development Department on Valley Parkway looking despondent. After losing a job he held for only 16 months, he is looking ...

Young People Need to See What It's Like

Carol Snyder is always prepared. Carrying a stack of folders and papers, she walks out of the Chula Vista Career Center reading a series of want ads pasted to a yellow legal pad sheet. "I'm ...

Christmas Without Jesus

Located next to the Buddhist temple on Park Boulevard, Buddha’s Light Bookstore has a large selection of books, accessories, and statues. Inside, Charles Hardy, 43, works around a Buddhist shrine in the center of the ...

He Had No Right to Fire Me

Crystelle Love, 22, is on her way to a job interview. Sporting a black leather jacket, gray miniskirt, and black nylons, Love looks defiant. She lost her job three weeks ago and describes the event ...

Big Boom Moves East

At the Employment Development Department's Metro Career Center on Aero Drive, people looking for work wander around the lobby. Some are on the provided telephones, calling job leads. Others look at the jobs listed on ...

Hard Freedom

Leaving home is one of the defining events of growing up. The first taste of freedom from parental boundaries can be exhilarating. But for teens in San Diego County’s foster care system who have lost ...

Fear for My Life

It's Veterans Day at Lindbergh Field -- the morning of the American Airlines explosion in Queens. The parking lot at terminal two is half empty, and only five taxis are lined up for arrivals. Yousef ...

Dot-Com Survivor

Bob Tommaso's view of the San Diego job market is grim. At 56, he is one of San Diego's many victims of the dot-com implosion, out of work since September 2000. "I was working at ...

Blame It on the Budget

Crispina Lopez de Galliano sits with her husband, Dean, writing a résumé at the Employment Development Department. Galliano, 37, is angry. She believes she lost her job as a cashier at the 32nd Street Commissary ...

Middle-Aged and Unemployed

Michael Davis is unemployed, but his motivation is contagious. At 52, he's seen jobs come and go, and he's out of work again. "I was working for the San Diego Unified School District through a ...

Belly

The 24 Hour Fitness center on Midway Drive is in a large strip mall with a Vons and a Sport Chalet. It is a two-story club with a weight room; two aerobic studios; two large ...

Who Will and Won't Fight and Why

Many San Diego stores display the American flag and patriotic slogans, such as "United We Stand." Many draft-age men wandering in and out of those stores, however, don't seem ready to join the fight. Loc ...

One Percent Innocent

While "innocent until proven guilty" may be the basis of criminal law in America, convicted felons find that it works in reverse when appealing their cases. Appealing a conviction is a long, arduous process, and ...

Flush Power

The journey begins when the toilet flushes. Whatever is in the bowl heads through a series of pipes and treatments that separate the solids from the water. While the travels of one's wastewater is seldom ...

Compassion Recipe

On Wednesday, August 15, I went to the St. Vincent de Paul Village as a volunteer to serve dinner to its residents. Serving dinner at "St. Vinny's" has become something of a tradition in San ...

Asthma Camp

Every Father's Day, over 100 San Diego youths, aged 8 to 13, get on a bus to spend a week at Camp Marston in Julian. While going to summer camp is not unusual, for many ...

One Hundred Hidden Dangers

'I didn't seek to be a school nurse. I was new to the city and I thought, 'I'll give this a try.' " Since giving it a try, Sandy Wright has been working with San ...

I Can't Eat Peanuts!

Erin Bushie had no idea that her one-year-old daughter, Aubrey, had a severe food allergy until the call came from day care. "At the day care, they all had a spoonful of peanut butter at ...

No Cure in Sight

Few San Diegans know as much about allergies as Dr. Diane Marquardt. An associate professor of medicine at medical school, Marquardt lectures medical students, assists resident physicians, maintains a practice as an allergist, and spends ...

Killer Nuts

Anine-year-old boy is riding with his father south on I-5, headed for a fishing trip in Mexico. A bee flies into the cab of the truck and stings the boy. Within minutes, the boy is ...

Body at War

Dr. Milan Brandon is San Diego's longest-practicing allergist. Since leaving the Navy in 1959, he has treated more than 30,000 patients. His son, Donald, also a physician with an interest in allergies, practices with him ...

Deep-Brain Doc

Dr. Kenneth Ott, a neurosurgeon with Scripps, fights to contain a smile while talking. He has good reason to smile: his successes can be measured in human lives transformed. Ott's specialty is performing deep-brain stimulation ...

M.D. Claims Soy Milk Breeds Violent Teens

Dr. David Goodman cannot understand the media's lack of concern. The Escondido-based research scientist claims to have important in-formation about soy-based baby formulas, and no one, he says, is listening. Goodman revealed his findings in ...

I Looked at the Baby and Couldn't Believe It

Captain Bob Spangler, 50, has been a San Diego Firefighter for 27 years. He is also licensed as a paramedic and a nurse. A former lifeguard, Spangler's career encompasses lifesaving in one form or another. ...

We Can't Kidnap Them

Across from Lincoln High School, San Diego Fire Station 12 has three fire trucks and an ambulance. Although all firefighters are trained medical assistants (most are paramedics), the ambulance crew is the most critical life-saving ...

Ahead of Its Time?

Most San Diegans have medical help available, even the uninsured. Many residents are minutes away from an emergency room; even rural San Diegans can be life-flighted to a trauma center. But what do you do ...

Roomful of Pain

One of San Diego's busiest emergency rooms is Kaiser Permanente in Grantville. At 7:30 on a Tuesday night, the parking lot is illuminated by an arcade of food vendors under bright neon signs. Inside, there ...

Cures on the Fly

Once known as San Diego's "county hospital," UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest is now a teaching hospital for one of the nation's most prestigious medical schools. As the old county hospital, it was known as ...

No Room for Whiners

Chet Varns takes a lot of guff from people he doesn't know and likely won't see again. A volunteer at the sign-in desk at Palomar Hospital's emergency room in Escondido, Varns passes new patients a ...

Necessary Evil

The offices of the County of San Diego Animal Shelter on Gaines Street are currently housed in temporary buildings. The barking is omnipresent -- not like your neighbor's annoying dog, but lots of dogs, as ...

Code Trauma

“If you want compelling drama, we’ve got it here every single night,” says Dr. Michael Sise, director of Mercy’s trauma center since 1994. Sise is a walking encyclopedia of trauma medicine. A New York native, ...

What Do I Have to Be Thankful for?

On a warm autumn afternoon, a homeless man lies against a wall on First Avenue just south of Ash Street. He's sharing a bottle of cheap vodka with an older homeless man in a wheelchair. ...

Stadium Compassion

The outer circle of the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium is rocking. Tens of thousands of fans dressed in black jerseys howl and strut their macho best as barbecue and cigarette smoke fills the air. ...

Warrior from Oblivion

When I asked Luis Valdez, the playwright and filmmaker, about his creative process, he said his work is often influenced by the Mexican muralists of the 1920s -- Siquieros, Orozco, Tamayo. "The murals of these ...

Be Happy You Have a Kidney

Perky, energetic, and alert, Julie Hotz-Siville doesn't look as if her health is in danger. Her cheerful demeanor betrays no sign of worry or fatigue. It's hard to believe that at 45 she has already ...

I'm Always on the Go

The first thing you notice about Bob Guthrie's appearance is his hands. They're huge -- the hands of a man who's worked hard using them. His physique is unusually hard and lean for a 59-year-old ...

A Complicated Life

Shannon Stewart is a typical Southern California beach girl. At 28, she is blond and tanned. She speaks in "Valley Girl" tones. She smiles a lot and when she does, her brown eyes sparkle. She ...

Complicated Life

Shannon Stewart is a typical Southern California beach girl. At 28, she is blond and tanned. She speaks in “Valley Girl” tones. She smiles a lot, and when she does, her brown eyes sparkle. She ...

It's Not Like What People Think

Tuesday, August 1, is a busy evening at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. People of all races begin filling the lobby at 7:00 to get a window assignment for visitation. Unlike the downtown jail, ...

Ain't Never Goin' Back

The lobby of the Central Jail on Front Street is like a ticket office. Clerks behind glass windows service visitors, bail bondsmen, and attorneys. The mood is low-key and lazy until the elevator doors open ...

Back on the Street

Micael Jackson is in a good mood. It's a muggy Saturday afternoon downtown, and he's just been released from jail at Front and C Street after six months inside. "I was in for narcotics. My ...

Service with a Smile

The car wash at the Yellow Cab Company lot in East Village is like most others. Black Lincoln town cars run through, and the crew wipes them off. Only this crew is different. Expressions of ...

Mental Advocacy

In 1969, Assemblyman Frank Lanterman, a Republican from La Cañada, introduced a bill known as the Lanterman Mental Retardation Services Act. Finally passed in 1977, the Lanterman Act drives most of the services for the ...

A Special Kind of Destiny

At the Carl's Jr. on Clairemont and Burgener, Michelle is on top of everything. Conscious of every customer, she double-checks the cleanliness and efficiency of the staff. Although not the manager, the other employees treat ...

Some Assembly Required

At 8:30 on weekday mornings, several small buses drop off 200 passengers at 9575 Aero Drive. The buses move at a brisk pace even though most of the passengers need some assistance getting off. By ...

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