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Stories by Various Authors

Gentler sports

In love with a Laser, the birth of racquetball, San Diego pickup basketball history, cricket at UCSD, Frisbee, and disc golf

SD’s Tennis Curse San Diego has played its own role. Great weather, ample facilities, and the region’s heavily middle-class economy depolarize tennis, blunting country club snobbery, and turning tennis instead into just another California outdoor ...

Architecture as covered by Peter Jensen

San Diego’s towers, bridges, courtyards, ranch houses, libraries, alleys and Jack in the Box’s architect

Tower Envy San Diego’s least successful tower aesthetically is Sea World’s 320-foot Skytower. Unlike the 984-foot Eiffel or many other towers throughout the world, where you ascend through the “bones” of the structure to burst ...

Stories from the South Bay

Chicanos in National City, Imperial Beach pride, cowboys off Hollister Road, Sweetwater Valley love, Coronado prepares for crisis, the racial make-up of Otay

National City Confidential DeForest pointed out that 90% of NC businessmen, who are primarily Anglo, live outside the city and “therefore don’t elect city officials and don’t contribute to officials’ campaigns.'’ He asserted that he ...

Moments in time from the Gaslamp

Horton Plaza before it was a mall, Hollywood Theater, ABC Club, Horton Grand Hotel

South of Broadway: The Pigeons in Horton Plaza He used to own the Off-Broadway Theater next door, the last burlesque house on the West Coast, “I paid $5 a week rent, and I took in ...

The Reader's longest stories

Book-length articles

The Derek, Frieda, and Abbe Chronicles At the corner of Magnolia, the only area on Renette Avenue where apartment buildings now stood, I spoke with the managers of each of the four apartment complexes, all ...

San Diego in the late 1800s

Kate Sessions, Ah Quin, love letters, first schools, horse rustlers, trash in Mission Hills, San Diego’s boy mayor

This is a Test Sketch briefly the condition of the country at the close of the Revolutionary War until the inauguration of Washington. 2. What officers constitute the cabinet of the President? Sketch the history ...

SD Neighborhoods: Downtown

Inside the Golden West, Symphony Towers, Luther Tower, public library, where to park, why it’s First Avenue and not First Street

On Top of the City Higgs is seventy-four, has been practicing law since 1934, and was president of the San Diego County Bar Association in 1940. His voice is raspy but his sentences are clear ...

Exceptional writing — editor’s choice

Why plays must be read, what’s in a face, a real Chinese-American, he-man cuisine, the O.J. trial, inside crossword puzzles, inside a lunchbox

How to Read a Mug Adolf Hitler's strained smile was frightful, it gave away too much, even embarrassed him, and he always brought a hand up like a claw to cover it. No one has ...

San Diego immigrants

Japanese, British, Iranians, Mixtec, Hmong, Chinese, Koreans, Africans, Iraquis, Egyptians, Filipinos

Prodigals They speak better English, with better intonations and slang. They listen to American music and Japanese groups like Lunatic Lion or Ayumi Nakamura, whose album covers and song titles burst with English, who slip ...

Gringos in Tijuana

Tijuana orphanage, books about TJ, torture, the dump, Zona Norte, the bus from Mexico City, origin of margarita, shoe stores, dentists, La Mesa prison

Tijuana Mi Amor Marcos lived for months at the Hotel San Francisco, on Calle Primera, across from La Funeraria San Martin. His room was littered with Argentine novels and Communist literature from Latin America. The ...

Small and wild animal friends

Tarantulas, pelicans on Coronado Islands, least terns, lizards, weasels, squirrels, worms, rats, and the Quino butterfly in Marron Valley

A 180-million-year-old Friend It was sheer proximity that charmed me. His claws were as thin as embroidery floss unraveled, and he had a wisp of grass on his head, which gave him an agreeably foolish ...

San Diego characters: common but colorful

Tree man of San Diego, the last vaquero, C.A. Smith’s repairman, when you win the lottery, largest rancher in San Diego

The Last Vaquero I’d tell Mollie where I was gonna camp, and she’d pack the ol’ mule and drag him around till I got to that camp, and she’d have it all set up. The ...

Large mammals in captivity

Early look at Wild Animal Park, troubled elephants come to the zoo, China’s panda hunter and pandas end up in San Diego, the morality of SeaWorld’s dolphins

The Tale of an Elephant The worst of Jouett’s problems were yet to come. Media representatives wanted to be present when Cindy arrived in mid-December. The elephant trainer and keepers wanted no one there. They ...

Landmarks you thought you knew

Harbor Drive and Coronado bridges, folly of the Trolley, behind the lens at Palomar Observatory, thinking behind Mission Bay, Carlsbad flower fields, who gets into Ft. Rosecrans, how fares the Coaster

Magical Dwarf’s Sad Orbit Maybe it’s premature to call someone an astronomer while they’re still in graduate school, but it would probably be okay in Ben Oppenheimer’s case because he and another graduate student had ...

Risky activities

Rock climbing at San Jacinto, scuba at La Jolla Cove, soaring above Highway 79, and skateboarding at Civic Center parking garage

Climbing Some millions of years from now, the San Jacintos will look the way the White Mountains in Vermont do now: soft and rounded. The Sierras of Yosemite are granitelike quartz diorite, like the San ...

Celebrities who spent time in San Diego: thinkers and artists

Carl Rogers debunked, Marcuse at UCSD, the early Whoopi Goldberg

Bursting With the Relentless Energy of All Human Life Do you remember the spastic woman, all crumpled into herself, her limbs twisted, her voice a raucous bray between inarticulate lips? How — of all things ...

San Diego neighborhoods: Borrego

Desert misfits, off-road destruction, Marshal South’s hermit family, bad hike through Borrego Badlands, famous authors see the desert in literary lenses

Hell with the Fire Gone Out There is a small library in town, but not a single stoplight. Parking is free. There is no hospital in Borrego, which, I’m told, militates against larger development. A ...

San Diego overview: personal and up close

Seven Wonders of our town, the soul of San Diego, native vs. tourist, L.A. comparisons, San Diego noir

Soul of a City I left Kensington and found an apartment in the College Heights section. I thought that living near the university might be like living in the small New England college town where ...

Neighborhoods: Imperial Valley

Farmworkers in Calexico, evil in Brawley, gangs in El Centro, the Holtville High football team, the Calipatria prison

The Imperial Valley Paradox Cesar Enriquez is the director of Casa de Amistad, a community center in Brawley that works with farm workers. “I really was a believer in what our hero, Emiliano Zapata, said: ...

Commodities of the plant kingdom

The San Diego business of kelp, houseplants, oranges, roses, grass sod, and macadamia nuts

Diary of an Orange Grove About 45 percent of the water in Fallbrook flows into groves, nurseries, and fields. In Rainbow 95 percent of the water is agricultural; in Valley Center, 85 percent. But when ...

SD Neighborhoods: Coastal

Ocean Beach condo rush, enchanted Mission Beach childhood, when Pt. Loma was Portuguese, inside Mt. Soledad, the fight over NTC, PB drinking

Party’s Over "At first it was sporadic," she said. "It was, like, for two years, the same group of people, and it bothered us, but it was every once in a while. Then, this past ...

SD Neighborhoods: North County Inland

Scripps Ranch, Poway’s scraping of vernal pools, and a commute to Hemet

Moon for the Misbegotten Pearce snapped away while Arenas’s city uniform was draped around his ankles. Then it got ugly. Arenas and two other public employees allegedly grabbed Pearce, pushed him around, stole the camera, ...

San Diego restaurant reviews from the early '70s

Chiki Jai, Grant Grill, the Prophet

The Reader dines out at the Shanghai in La Jolla The appetizers are good but not unusual, and the egg roll pastry (but not the filling) is the best I’ve ever eaten. The shellfish dishes, ...

Famous San Diego characters

Joseph Wambaugh, Deepak Chopra, James Hubbell, Susan Golding, Alan Bursin, Tim Le Haye, Kate Sessions

Deepak’s Six Pack No doubt about it: Deepak Chopra has the New Age set enthralled. This is Wayne Dyerland. Past-Lives Therapyland. Verging on the spiritual turf of Linda Evans and Ramptha, her 5th-century revived adviser ...

Celebrities who spent some time here: public figures and frauds

Dr. Bronner of the soap, Walter Keane didn’t paint the big-eyed children, Kemp and the fugitive, Jesse Ventura was not a SEAL

Best Wishes Always He had 1000 letters printed: “I have a collection of autographs and photographs and would like the honor of adding yours to my collection. Please use the enclosed card for your signature. ...

Central San Diego history

Mission Valley dairies, 125 freeway rips open Lemon Grove, racial mix in Webster, true boundaries of Kensington, mansions in Allied Gardens

Kensington Ends at Monroe The town’s demographics are altering. As older lifelong residents die, houses change hands — sometimes to younger kin; other times to younger strangers. Kensington homes, which according to a recent Multiple ...

Unemployed and houseless

Alpha Plasma Center, sleeping in Balboa Park, camping in Mission Valley’s riverbed, how homeless spend Thanksgiving

What Do I Have to Be Thankful For? Reed: "I have no plans for Thanksgiving. Just be with good friends, like my family here and with Sister Winnie and St. Vincent's and the Salvation Army." ...

San Diego’s early modern Indians

Edward Davis, Manzanita and Ensenada tribes, Kumeyaay basket and lace-making

Women’s Work She said when she told Castaneda and Silva about the basket, they were excited and wanted to know if it was a fancy tamul basket. They were disappointed to find out it was ...

North Inland rural flavor

Valley Center elegy, Fallbrook’s airplanes, drilling and foreign plants on Mt. Palomar, end of Pauma Valley dairies

Drilling in on a Little Piece of Oregon “See those gouges, where the ponds are?” He points to what look like two giant tank-tracks through the middle of the valley. “Those are what happened here ...

SD institutions: large business

PSA, Sheraton, Jack in the Box, Hotel Del, Oakwood, Frost Lumber Co., and cinemas of yore

Reservations But for all its civilizedness — this thing of history — I guess what was missing was a real sense of tradition, of classic history. You know, like when you see these names — ...

Medical Life: Doctors

Man vs MD Every patient, as well as every dog, has his day, and mine came. It occurred in the local hospital ward during my recovery from a rather serious illness. In this environment our ...

Poor, no job

The unemployment line, crashing at friend’s, San Diego SRO hotels, and the Adacia Imperial Mobile Park

I tell them my name is Ernie Klein, I'm 42 years old, and I'm unemployed Finally, after tapping her forehead with a pencil and then looking through a pile of papers on her desk, she ...

Large animals in the wild

Beaked and gray whales, dilemma of local mountain lions, wild horses in Coyote Creek, coyotes thrive in San Diego canyons

Mystery of the Beaked Whales By the time they arrived the tide had gone out and the animal lay dead on the sand. “There was a guy from the Navy already there. He was asking ...

Annals of San Diego gardens

Oceanside and Ocean Beach gardens, Pat Welsh in Del Mar, wisteria, moonflowers, Monterey cypresses as pests, and the therapy of gardening

The Julia Child of gardening “Chickweed is the main winter weed of my garden, and in a way I don’t mind because it’s edible.” She pulls up the tiny plant, its leaves not so feathery ...

San Diego characters in education and book publishing

John Theobald of SDSU, Roger Revelle of UCSD, book agent Sandra Dykstra, translator John Woods of Mission Hills, ex-spy D.G. Wills

What Greater Curse Than Life Without Verse Theobald opened a correspondence with Ezra Pound that lasted for years. Throughout this time, the poet was an inmate at St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital in Washington, D.C., having ...

Original ideas

Men imagine life as a woman, "Okie" as a racial eptithet, and same-name similarities (or not)

If I’d been born a woman Ask any man you know if he’d like to be a woman, you get an automatic “No.” Too messy. Too emotional. Too hard. Most men can’t imagine going through ...

San Diego Burgers: Here's the beef

Nice hambies, juicy beasts, and the redonks

That Sacred Union of Beef, Bun, and Other Junk — Chad Deal The Sort of Meat You'd Expect to Find at an Upper-Tier Butcher Shop — Ambrose Martin Gateway garnishes — Mary Beth Abate Football, ...

San Diegans fighting radical Islam

SEALs in Desert Storm and Afghanistan, teens reflect on war, a blogger’s report

Triumph of the Swill “Schwarzkopf’s got a hard-on for special ops. He and General Stiner, who commands SEALS and Special Forces, can’t stand each other. Then there’s the rivalry between Army line officers —artillery, infantry, ...

Life after 9/11

Stories we ran in the aftermath of September 11

Where We Were “Tell them there’s been a terrible tragedy and lots of people have died and that we need to pray for the victims and for their families and for the horrible people who ...

San Diego Characters: Outliers

Woman logger, Josie Scripps, the Spaceman of OB, and Bill Gookin

Josie Scripps She reports that the county, for its size, is second only to an area in Africa. Larger areas like Brazil and Ceylon contain greater quantities of gems, she says, but none has the ...

Central San Diego before 1930

The San Diego trolley in the early 1900s, the elusive Putnam sisters, and someone who remembers the Marstons, Klaubers, and Colonel Fletcher

Clang, clang, clang In the summer you could get a fifty-cent pass for the whole week. ” She recalls passing her ticket out the window to a friend to squeeze two rides for the price ...

Tension in Mt. Soledad, cockroaches in Logan Heights

Manual labor: I sweat right in front of you

Here to Clean Up Bruce’s departed tenant had left telltale signs of the "young bachelor" — a floor so encrusted with dirt in places that I had to chisel it off with a knife, a ...

Near desert places

A changed Jacumba, the little towns of Highway 80, and the drama of Warner Springs

A Quiet Street and an Old Hotel He smeared my whole body and face with mineral oil and began rubbing it around with a machine that whined and felt warm. A cord led from his ...

Abortion as a moral conflict

Truths and Consequences We absolutely didn’t have a clue about what we were doing, but each one of us were self-motivated. It was like if you want it done, you do it yourself. That’s kind ...

That Seventies vibe

Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog San Diego covens. Force claimed he had played a role, witchwise, in the indictment of San Diego's former Mayor Curran and his staff, in the Yellow Cab scandal. By ...

OB hippies, San Diego oceanfront lots, Sunset Cliffs deaths, Pacific Beach gangs

Beach life: 1981-1991

Low Tide at OB Today, although drug traffic is still heavy, the overall crime rate for serious offenses – including rape and other sex crimes, assault, burglary, robbery, grand theft, auto theft, and petty theft ...

A Padres retrospective

"Most people remembered the Padres’ Bircher contingent as 'Eric Show and those other two guys.'"

Clinton-and-Brown-Loving, Rich Texas Liberal Seeks Date with Padres Most of the money Moores gave to the Clinton camp came through the Democratic National Committee. “Federal law limits individual gifts [to presidential candidates] to $1000 per ...

Music of the 1980s

The Tubes, the Beat Farmers, Psychotic Waltz, and when rap and norteño entered the scene

My Son the Tube When the Tubes appeared on the Cher TV special in April of the next year, I was almost overcome by a fit of the whips and jingles as I waited for ...

San Diego's place in world history

Spanish Civil War vets, Contras and drugs, Sandinistas, Korean War vets, the Chosin Few

Never Say Retreat "Almond ordered the Marines north behind Faith to the Chosin Reservoir. Winter had now arrived, and things were getting weirder and weirder — irrational. It was on November 15 that General Oliver ...

San Diego high schools in the old days

San Dieguito strife, Poway wrestlers, Morse gangs, Helix football, Mission Bay reunion, Waldorf nurturing, Top 10 schools, and unusual homeschoolers

SD’s Top 10 High Schools “I think my eyes were opened freshman year [at Torrey Pines]. People think that when you go here, you’ve got this, like, perfect life made out for you, and, you ...

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