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Ian Anderson and the Reader

A thousand bylines later

Anthony Purpura, Nate Auspurger, Albert Harmon of the Legion  - Image by Matthew Suárez
Anthony Purpura, Nate Auspurger, Albert Harmon of the Legion

How Ian Anderson came to the Reader:

While visiting the Reader web site a few years back, I noticed it was accepting public submissions of concert reviews. I can't remember what they paid, but it was enough to cover the cost of a couple tickets, so I sent one in. It didn't get published.

However, the music editor took a few moments to give me notes, and encouraged me to try again with another show. I heeded those notes, and before long my review of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers appeared in the paper. Even better, a couple weeks later, a check showed up in the mail. For some reason, a couple years went by before I tried again, got a second review published, and another check in the mail. Another year went by, and a third review published. Except this time, no check followed.

After a few weeks, I called the Reader offices and was quickly routed to accounting. Someone on the other end of the phone said the music editor would have to confirm a pay order before they could cut me a check. He or she routed my call to the editor. Make that, the wrong editor. He explained that he edited the news section, not music, and had never heard of me or my review of indie rock band, Speedy Ortiz.

"Sorry about the mistake," I said, "But before you transfer me again — what kind of news stories are you looking for?"

I got my check, and he sent me a couple of Neighborhood News assignments, really sexy stuff about about political lawn signs, and a vacant lot in Point Loma. I tried my best, and wrote the hell out of them, because writing's my passion, and that's how I approach every project. Within a couple weeks I was on the phone with another Reader editor, who asked me whether I had any experience with food writing. As a matter of fact, I did...

More than a thousand Reader bylines later, I'm still writing about food, and drinks, and have had the opportunity to write longer-form cover stories about a host of unique and interesting topics, the kind of stuff you can only get away with at an alt-weekly.

Ian Anderson's favorite stories he wrote for the Reader

Junkyard across the street
  • Death of a Landlord

  • Rod never owned a computer, and probably never even had an email account. Other than a TV and flip phone, the most advanced tech in his home was a VHS player. His sign was a hand-scribbled “For Rent” and phone number on a scrap of paper, tough to spot in a second-story window on a low-traffic street. I parked in front and called. (May 25, 2016)
  • How I learned to stop worrying about the Chargers and love rugby

  • Unfortunately, the years of foreplay required to lure an MLS expansion franchise have started to feel distastefully similar to the public relations mess winding up to the Chargers’ departure: demands for a new stadium, a fractious public vote, and that unsavory cocktail of politicians making deals with developers. (May 23, 2018)
  • Brews that built San Diego beer

  • The first microbrew brewed in San Diego County came from Bolt Brewing, a short-lived Fallbrook brewery dreamed up by a trio of La Mesa homebrewers, led by Paul Holborn. Bolt cheaply took over the location of a would-be brewpub called Fergie’s, recalls Clint Stromberg, who served as assistant brewer. Downie’s research suggests Fergie’s never got a license to sell beer, which wasn’t a routine operation in San Diego at the time. (Oct. 24, 2018)
  • He said he would destroy our neighborhood

  • Another neighbor, Dawn Taggett, watched the contractors from her home, next door to the house to be demolished. She recalls, “They came down, they cut down the trees, they flattened out a large portion of the stream bed, they removed a lot of vegetation… it was a bushy hillside, but very steep.” (Aug. 30, 2017)
How you spell success. California burrito. La Posta de Acapulco.
  • For better or worse: the late-night Cali burrito

  • I'm not sure who first came up with the California burrito, but I'm pretty sure that's what they were going for – stuffing a cheesy burrito with potatoes, just enough to get you home, not enough to put you to sleep immediately. It's not midnight food, it's middle of the night food. And because your recollection of it will be dim, and because you can blame the hangover for how awful you feel the next day, you will remember it fondly. (Apr. 14, 2014)
  • Shopping like a foodie: Heart and Trotter

  • The young foodies spoke for several minutes about the eggs, in fawning terms and completely without irony. Indeed, each of the eggs were slightly different in size, ranging in hue from cream to brown, sandy to a pale green, with slight spotting or pebbling accenting some of the shells. Gorgeous? I don't know if that's the word I'd use, but these sure looked pretty in comparison to the uniform whites and tans that make it into the supermarket. (Apr. 2, 2015)
  • Building begins on busy corner in Point Loma

  • A Chevron gas station that once occupied the land closed in the early 1990s — back when gas still cost less than two dollars per gallon. While the structures and underground tanks were removed at that time, the lot required extensive sweeping and several years' worth of soil testing to meet environmental regulations overseeing brownfield redevelopment — a process that consumed many years while the lot sat vacant. (Dec. 3, 2013)
  • Speedy Ortiz blazes through Soda — in shorts

  • While the music geeks in attendance had to practically drag Dupuis back onstage for an encore, they were rewarded with a smoking rendition of the group's must-listen Bandcamp single, “Ka-Prow!” during which the group's other lead guitarist Matt Robidoux unloaded the contents of his backpack onto his upturned instrument for a feedback jam assisted by no less than books, notebooks, and wadded up copies of San Diego alt-weeklies. (Aug. 2, 2013)
  • Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

  • Steve Martin says Hollywood will never buy the truth — that he happened upon a performance by bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers during a vacation to their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina — so he's readied a more bankable story: "We met in rehab." (Oct. 11, 2010)
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How Ian Anderson came to the Reader:

While visiting the Reader web site a few years back, I noticed it was accepting public submissions of concert reviews. I can't remember what they paid, but it was enough to cover the cost of a couple tickets, so I sent one in. It didn't get published.

However, the music editor took a few moments to give me notes, and encouraged me to try again with another show. I heeded those notes, and before long my review of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers appeared in the paper. Even better, a couple weeks later, a check showed up in the mail. For some reason, a couple years went by before I tried again, got a second review published, and another check in the mail. Another year went by, and a third review published. Except this time, no check followed.

After a few weeks, I called the Reader offices and was quickly routed to accounting. Someone on the other end of the phone said the music editor would have to confirm a pay order before they could cut me a check. He or she routed my call to the editor. Make that, the wrong editor. He explained that he edited the news section, not music, and had never heard of me or my review of indie rock band, Speedy Ortiz.

"Sorry about the mistake," I said, "But before you transfer me again — what kind of news stories are you looking for?"

I got my check, and he sent me a couple of Neighborhood News assignments, really sexy stuff about about political lawn signs, and a vacant lot in Point Loma. I tried my best, and wrote the hell out of them, because writing's my passion, and that's how I approach every project. Within a couple weeks I was on the phone with another Reader editor, who asked me whether I had any experience with food writing. As a matter of fact, I did...

More than a thousand Reader bylines later, I'm still writing about food, and drinks, and have had the opportunity to write longer-form cover stories about a host of unique and interesting topics, the kind of stuff you can only get away with at an alt-weekly.

Ian Anderson's favorite stories he wrote for the Reader

Junkyard across the street
  • Death of a Landlord

  • Rod never owned a computer, and probably never even had an email account. Other than a TV and flip phone, the most advanced tech in his home was a VHS player. His sign was a hand-scribbled “For Rent” and phone number on a scrap of paper, tough to spot in a second-story window on a low-traffic street. I parked in front and called. (May 25, 2016)
  • How I learned to stop worrying about the Chargers and love rugby

  • Unfortunately, the years of foreplay required to lure an MLS expansion franchise have started to feel distastefully similar to the public relations mess winding up to the Chargers’ departure: demands for a new stadium, a fractious public vote, and that unsavory cocktail of politicians making deals with developers. (May 23, 2018)
  • Brews that built San Diego beer

  • The first microbrew brewed in San Diego County came from Bolt Brewing, a short-lived Fallbrook brewery dreamed up by a trio of La Mesa homebrewers, led by Paul Holborn. Bolt cheaply took over the location of a would-be brewpub called Fergie’s, recalls Clint Stromberg, who served as assistant brewer. Downie’s research suggests Fergie’s never got a license to sell beer, which wasn’t a routine operation in San Diego at the time. (Oct. 24, 2018)
  • He said he would destroy our neighborhood

  • Another neighbor, Dawn Taggett, watched the contractors from her home, next door to the house to be demolished. She recalls, “They came down, they cut down the trees, they flattened out a large portion of the stream bed, they removed a lot of vegetation… it was a bushy hillside, but very steep.” (Aug. 30, 2017)
How you spell success. California burrito. La Posta de Acapulco.
  • For better or worse: the late-night Cali burrito

  • I'm not sure who first came up with the California burrito, but I'm pretty sure that's what they were going for – stuffing a cheesy burrito with potatoes, just enough to get you home, not enough to put you to sleep immediately. It's not midnight food, it's middle of the night food. And because your recollection of it will be dim, and because you can blame the hangover for how awful you feel the next day, you will remember it fondly. (Apr. 14, 2014)
  • Shopping like a foodie: Heart and Trotter

  • The young foodies spoke for several minutes about the eggs, in fawning terms and completely without irony. Indeed, each of the eggs were slightly different in size, ranging in hue from cream to brown, sandy to a pale green, with slight spotting or pebbling accenting some of the shells. Gorgeous? I don't know if that's the word I'd use, but these sure looked pretty in comparison to the uniform whites and tans that make it into the supermarket. (Apr. 2, 2015)
  • Building begins on busy corner in Point Loma

  • A Chevron gas station that once occupied the land closed in the early 1990s — back when gas still cost less than two dollars per gallon. While the structures and underground tanks were removed at that time, the lot required extensive sweeping and several years' worth of soil testing to meet environmental regulations overseeing brownfield redevelopment — a process that consumed many years while the lot sat vacant. (Dec. 3, 2013)
  • Speedy Ortiz blazes through Soda — in shorts

  • While the music geeks in attendance had to practically drag Dupuis back onstage for an encore, they were rewarded with a smoking rendition of the group's must-listen Bandcamp single, “Ka-Prow!” during which the group's other lead guitarist Matt Robidoux unloaded the contents of his backpack onto his upturned instrument for a feedback jam assisted by no less than books, notebooks, and wadded up copies of San Diego alt-weeklies. (Aug. 2, 2013)
  • Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

  • Steve Martin says Hollywood will never buy the truth — that he happened upon a performance by bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers during a vacation to their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina — so he's readied a more bankable story: "We met in rehab." (Oct. 11, 2010)
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Comments
2

Ian, it was nice meeting with you and the others at the mag. You got good stuff, bro!

March 16, 2019

Agree! I've been reading Ian's articles for years.

March 16, 2019

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