“I came out one morning, and there’s my wife having her feet soaked in my large prep bowl. I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to the store to buy a new bowl.’ "
  • “I came out one morning, and there’s my wife having her feet soaked in my large prep bowl. I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to the store to buy a new bowl.’ "
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Survivors

“[I said,] ‘You know what I do? You have to get the ickies out, otherwise, it’s going to eat you up inside and make you feel horrible.’ So she and I would be driving back from the beach, and she would say, ‘I’m going to scream, now, okay? OOOOHHH I HATE DIVORCE! AAAHHH I HATE LIVING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!’ The next thing, we’d be laughing and just having a good time. It helped her work through things.”

Nov. 2, 2000 | Read full article

Rene: “The power of Harvard is absolutely immense."

Rene: “The power of Harvard is absolutely immense."

Far from Empty

Rene speaks of Harvard with a touch of wonder. “The power of Harvard is absolutely immense. It’s a world totally to itself; you’ve got everything. They make sure that their graduates are going to be the fat cats, the leaders in the world. Of course, you’ve got to have the brightest. If they see a little Einstein coming their way, he’ll get a scholarship up to his eyebrows. In the future, he’ll be a Harvard man.”

Nov. 22, 2000 | Read full article

Jason: "Julie gets kind of upset when I tell her that she doesn’t clean. She thinks she does, but really..."

Jason: "Julie gets kind of upset when I tell her that she doesn’t clean. She thinks she does, but really..."

Our Bed Is Never Made

"We almost bought a house — it was actually in ... they call it ‘Baja Kensington.’ Actually, it was north of Meade, where Fairmount comes up and meets Meade. There’s an elementary school there, and a road — Felda. There was a house there, a cute house: three bedrooms, built in the ’40s. But there was a fence at the end of the backyard, and right behind the fence was Fairmount It was a little loud.”

April 12, 2001 | Read full article

James Jr., Draco, and Imani. "We teach the kids reality at a young age."

James Jr., Draco, and Imani. "We teach the kids reality at a young age."

Ghetto Beauty

“I was living in Murphy Canyon — Navy housing. The first time Brian came to pick me up for a date, my father’s face just went [ashen]. Brian was a cool surfer type of guy, and he was, like, ‘Hey, man! Hey, dude!’ to everybody. He was trying to be cool to my father, and my father just started cleaning his gun. The first thing out of his mouth, [he said to me], ‘Don’t bring home no gray babies.’”

Aug. 16, 2001 | Read full article

Kim: “I like to do a lot of things, but if I get to do them, that’s another question."

Kim: “I like to do a lot of things, but if I get to do them, that’s another question."

A Thigh for Everybody

She pours about three quarters of an inch of vegetable oil into a stock pot on the stove top. “I like to use this pot so the grease doesn’t splash too bad. When I’m frying, I like to use a lot of grease. It ain’t good for you, but it’s good to eat, you know? We worry about that later, when we get sick and the arteries are clogged up. We don’t worry about it now.”

June 13, 2002 | Read full article

Heather Siegel: "What better way to honor my father than having dinner with you on the eve of the 8th anniversary of his passing."

Heather Siegel: "What better way to honor my father than having dinner with you on the eve of the 8th anniversary of his passing."

Guess How Many Legs I’ve Got in My Closet

Two chairs and a couch line the wall opposite the office. The chairs are covered with bedsheets; the couch has been patched with duct tape. The cream-colored walls are bare except for two clocks, a calendar, two framed paintings of Parisian scenes and a framed magazine cover featuring a smiling little girl. The pale carpet is stained. “I can’t remember the last time I sat down here and had dinner with another human being.”

July 18, 2002 | Read full article

Garth Murphy: Plans to set this second novel in Mission San Luis Rey.

Garth Murphy: Plans to set this second novel in Mission San Luis Rey.

Now This Is Living

“It’s mostly junk; it’s the main cause of marital dissension. She’s been bringing stuff in for years. I beg her to stop. Her theory is that when I’m dead — she’s convinced she’ll live longer, like a good Indian — she’ll be able to support herself by opening the house as an antique store. The house has commercial zoning, and she says she’ll serve tea and sell junk and empty the house as she gets older.”

Feb. 6, 2003 | Read full article

Lizzie, Chris, Junior, and Laura. "If God were to bless us with another one, then of course I would love the child."

Lizzie, Chris, Junior, and Laura. "If God were to bless us with another one, then of course I would love the child."

You Have to Know Yourself

“One of the things I love to do is the yardwork — not that I enjoy the yardwork, but I like the feeling I get when the lawn is properly manicured and I’ve got the flag fixed right and the car’s washed — pop a lawn chair in front of my house, nice and peaceful, and look at the trees with a beer in my hand right underneath the American flag. I say, ‘Now, this is living.’”

Feb. 27, 2003 | Read full article

 A master bedroom in deepest Kensington, one of those homes on the ridge above Mission Valley. On the wall, in gilt-framed glory, a Varga pinup girl lying on her back and clad in sheerest black lace.

A master bedroom in deepest Kensington, one of those homes on the ridge above Mission Valley. On the wall, in gilt-framed glory, a Varga pinup girl lying on her back and clad in sheerest black lace.

Domestic Spy

First stop, a 5/5 (bedrooms/bathrooms) on Goldfinch, a half block north of the first house I hoped to buy, the brick one on the corner of Goldfinch and Bush. (The agent was gentle in letting me know that it was out of my price range.) Bowers said that anything under 900K tended to fly off the page in Mission Hills, but this is Mission Hills below Washington, so perhaps things aren’t moving quite as fast here.

March 20, 2003 | Read full article

Alan, Yehuda, Esther, Shira, Elisheva. There is harmony here — Alan and Elisheva have realized at least some measure of what they desired.

Alan, Yehuda, Esther, Shira, Elisheva. There is harmony here — Alan and Elisheva have realized at least some measure of what they desired.

The Door’s Open. Go In!

Some beards, like Alan’s, are magnificent in their autonomy — they grow as they wish, untrimmed and untamed. “You shall not round the corners of your beard.” These beards grow in wide bushes, or they hang long and white and straight; on some of the younger faces, they sprout like scraggly chaparral. But many beards are trimmed — full beards that have been reined in at the base; close-cropped beards that still cover much of the face.

June 12, 2003 | Read full article

Homes in Otay Ranch. “He likes stuff in the garage. All that man stuff, all the toys."

Homes in Otay Ranch. “He likes stuff in the garage. All that man stuff, all the toys."

Suburban Artery

“My wife and I know what to expect. I just feel bad for them. That’s why the divorce rate is so high in the military, especially in the Navy — because we have one of the highest rates of separation. After about every deployment, you’ll come back, and when you come back, it will be divorce after divorce. The husband or wife has found somebody new; they got lonely after a few months and moved on.”

Sept. 25, 2003 | Read full article

Lisa Gay: “I’m staying in this house until I can get ready to buy or open up a café or something."

Lisa Gay: “I’m staying in this house until I can get ready to buy or open up a café or something."

Lisa Makes Sunday Dinner

Except for her stint in the Army, Lisa has lived in Spring Valley all her life. “My mother thought about Temecula, but I told her, ‘If you move up to Temecula, you won’t be seeing me too much.’ They stayed for six months, then they sold it and moved back down here. She worked in La Jolla and he worked in El Cajon, and he was spending $350 to $400 a month on gas — just for him.”

Nov. 13, 2003 | Read full article

Steven and Jennifer. “That’s our long-term plan. For her to be a lawyer and for me to be her permanent client.”

Steven and Jennifer. “That’s our long-term plan. For her to be a lawyer and for me to be her permanent client.”

Gongolians

He became so enamored of their way of life that he made up his mind to live in a Socialist country and joined the Army after graduating high school with an eye toward defecting to the Soviet Union. But he joined in 1988; when the Berlin Wall came down a year later, it took with it his dreams of Socialist living. He returned to America, used his Army earned college funds to attend UCSD.

Nov. 20, 2003 | Read full article

“I came out one morning, and there’s my wife having her feet soaked in my large prep bowl. I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to the store to buy a new bowl.’ "

“I came out one morning, and there’s my wife having her feet soaked in my large prep bowl. I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to the store to buy a new bowl.’ "

You Get More Boring

Ozzie lays down a sheet of tinfoil on the cutting board and begins spreading a layer of onions and fennel over it. “Because the fish gets direct heat from the bottom when it’s on the grill, it tends to scorch a little bit. You put the onions and fennel down so they take the heat. When you slide the fish off, it should be fine.” He lays the salmon on its bed.

Jan. 15, 2004 | Read full article

“Don’t you love it when the other person sucks? It’s the most cruel thing in the world, but you look way better when the other person sucks.”

“Don’t you love it when the other person sucks? It’s the most cruel thing in the world, but you look way better when the other person sucks.”

Family Circus

Leo, Chadd, and Ariel fall into a lengthy discussion of lizards — Ariel’s iguana has been ill of late. After a while, Craig coaxes them over to the piano to take a crack at the Dave Grusin song. Chadd fetches his alto saxophone; Ariel and Craig assemble their clarinets. Leo sits at the piano. It is pleasant to listen to the song emerge from the jumbled first runs, out of the false notes and missed unison.

Feb. 19, 2004 | Read full article

Darlena (center):  “I go out just about every night.”

Darlena (center): “I go out just about every night.”

On a Street Named after Grandma

“Del Mar people got dressed up, but it’s very casual at the 94th. We’re trying to get them to dress. The men are California” — meaning “stubbornly casual” — “but I tell them, ‘You have only one chance to make a good first impression.’ ”Wear a nice, crisp shirt and tie. Don’t wear a golf shirt. Jeans can be all right — I’ve seen guys come in white shirts, jeans, and a camel hair sport coat and look great.”

March 4, 2004 | Read full article

Klaus handles the principal entrées and Tamara contributes “desserts and salads and appetizers and, to some extent, drinks.”

Klaus handles the principal entrées and Tamara contributes “desserts and salads and appetizers and, to some extent, drinks.”

Heart Attack House

“Denver in the 1950s seemed to be a haven for a lot of these Jewish people who left Eastern Europe,” he says. “But the Romanians wouldn’t talk to the Hungarians, and the Poles wouldn’t talk from one city to the next. It was truly Old World; the Romanians and the Russians and the Poles hated each other almost worse than the Nazis from whom they were fleeing or the Americans to whom they were strangers.”

March 18, 2004 | Read full article

From left to right: Patty, Paul, Jack. “I’ve been called Patty by my kids forever. I was hipper than all the latest jargon on how to bring up kids."

From left to right: Patty, Paul, Jack. “I’ve been called Patty by my kids forever. I was hipper than all the latest jargon on how to bring up kids."

The Idea Is to Make Something Beautiful

Del Mar was an attractive community to the former Ojaians. “There’s this intellectual, offbeat group of people that Del Mar represents,” begins Paul. “All the UCSD professors moved out here at a certain time. La Jolla is much more money-oriented, whereas Del Mar has more of a heady environment.” “Well, we have the racetrack,” offers Patty. “People have come here from all over the world because of the racetrack and the fair.”

Sept. 30, 2004 | Read full article

For more articles by Matthew Lickona visit his staff page.

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