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Sue Garson and the Reader

Murderer next door, Chabad, Oakwood Apartments, Russian yuppie, nomadic street kids

Aleksandr Gibalevich: “Reagan is strong. He says to whole world, ‘We are strong but don’t touch us.’”  - Image by David Covey
Aleksandr Gibalevich: “Reagan is strong. He says to whole world, ‘We are strong but don’t touch us.’”

How Garson came to write for the Reader:

When I stumbled into a small piano bar in Bankers Hill called the Caliph, a steady stream of after-hours nocturnal characters drew me to them as they created a spontaneous cabaret. An airline pilot with a rich baritone voice sang a number from Showboat. A soprano from Starlight theater dropped in post performance, and two tenors from Palermo who had just finished servicing and cleaning airplanes at Lindbergh field stopped by close to midnight to belt out a few Puccini arias before going home to their families. Nobody wanted to leave.

These characters soon appeared in my typewriter. I mailed a copy to Jim Mullin, then editor of the Reader. Three days later he called, my tale of the Caliph quickly appeared in print without a single edit, a $50 check promptly surfaced, and I was immediately assigned to write other stories. Before long I was pitching story ideas which almost always came to fruition. DG Wills bookstore in La Jolla became a productive hang-out for cover stories. Even some events in my own family became suitable stories. The most memorable of these was "Postcards from Kiev," which described my arrival in Russia on the day that Chernobyl blew.

Another favorite story was "For Whom The Bells Tolled." At a documentary film shown at UCSD I met eight San Diego Veterans of the Spanish Civil War who were members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. All of them claimed to have met Hemingway, of course.

More of Garson's favorite stories she wrote for the Reader:

  • The Boy Next Door

  • We first learned of the murder on television. The lead story on Channel 8’s five o’ clock news one evening in February of last year was the arraignment. We heard and watched en famille in stunned disbelief. Appearing in handcuffs, Rob had already earned the media sobriquet ‘‘Toy Box Killer.” (As a child, had he pulled wings off butterflies? Had he teased the neighborhood dogs? Had he been abused? My kids said there were no indications. (Jan. 20, 1983)
  • Chabad Squad

  • Visiting dignitaries, some of whom look like direct descendants of Marc Chagall’s lithographs of Torah-bearing, wistful, black-cloaked men, travel not by horse or wagon from distant Sholom Aleichem snowy villages within the Pale — places near Vilna, Lublin, and Minsk — but by jetliner and automobile from within the vast, sun-soaked megalopolis — from Los Angeles to Chula Vista — to 6115 Montezuma Road in San Diego. (March 5, 1981)
Rabbi Fradkin: “So how much can I put you down for?... That’s very kind of you."
  • The Good Life At Oakwood Apts

  • “On Sunday mornings people start coming down to the rec room for brunch around elevenish. Table conversations are lively. There’s plenty of gossip over juice, bagels, and cream cheese, and coffee, and there’s usually someone playing the piano — oldies or semi-classical stuff. People share each other’s newspapers and there’s always some wise guy around who wants every section but the news." (June 18, 1981)
  • The Blood Upon His Hands

  • He appeared at the Cassius Carter in The Hot L Baltimore, and the following year, he won an Atlas Award as best supporting actor for his role in That Championship Season. His mother put the award in the living room on top of the TV, right next to the hollow plastic madonna in which Mark would deposit $100 every month from his SSI check. (March 9, 1989)
  • The 200% Americanization of Aleksandr Gibalevich

  • “For Russians there are three symbols in San Diego,” he continues. “Avocados, tequila, and beaches. For us the avocado symbolizes home; tequila is our symbol of relaxation; the beaches symbolize for us the enjoyment of life. To Russians, money is not a symbol of materialism — it is for us the symbol of freedom.” (Oct. 18, 1984)
  • The House on Elm Street

  • ast March 16, Marshall could no longer tolerate sharing a dingy nine-by-eleven-foot room with someone who talked nonstop about the CIA and who woke him intermittently during the night searching for bullet holes. “Living with screwballs is driving me nuts,” he told the assistant manager of Central Manor. “If I don’t get my own room, either he’ll kill me or I’ll kill him,”'he warned. “I can’t stand it another minute!" (Aug. 6, 1987)
  • Remember The Mane

  • Five years ago, when I moved to San Diego, I found a better bargain. Roger Goldstein, trained at Vidal Sassoon’s in New York City, opened a beauty shop in Kearny Mesa called The Great Haircut. His approach to hair was “natural” (no teasing, no rollers, no pins, no hooded dryers, no spray), and I was chicken. But because he offered Monday night freebies in order to give his staff an opportunity to perfect his technique, I offered my children's heads. (Sept. 8, 1977)
Some nomadic teenagers use only their initials. Others take on street names — Cucamonga, Danny Boy, Cobra, Dragon, Snake, Bean. One of the girls floating around Twelfth Avenue calls herself Bubbles.
  • Wasted

  • At the Jack-in-the-Box across the street on C Street, she counts on her fingers the number of brothers and sisters she has. Blood siblings, half siblings, and step siblings. And a brother in Samoa. Since she’s been on her own — living here and there for more years than she remembers — she has also acquired a vast network of street family, none of whom has an address or a known last name. (July 28, 1988)
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Aleksandr Gibalevich: “Reagan is strong. He says to whole world, ‘We are strong but don’t touch us.’”  - Image by David Covey
Aleksandr Gibalevich: “Reagan is strong. He says to whole world, ‘We are strong but don’t touch us.’”

How Garson came to write for the Reader:

When I stumbled into a small piano bar in Bankers Hill called the Caliph, a steady stream of after-hours nocturnal characters drew me to them as they created a spontaneous cabaret. An airline pilot with a rich baritone voice sang a number from Showboat. A soprano from Starlight theater dropped in post performance, and two tenors from Palermo who had just finished servicing and cleaning airplanes at Lindbergh field stopped by close to midnight to belt out a few Puccini arias before going home to their families. Nobody wanted to leave.

These characters soon appeared in my typewriter. I mailed a copy to Jim Mullin, then editor of the Reader. Three days later he called, my tale of the Caliph quickly appeared in print without a single edit, a $50 check promptly surfaced, and I was immediately assigned to write other stories. Before long I was pitching story ideas which almost always came to fruition. DG Wills bookstore in La Jolla became a productive hang-out for cover stories. Even some events in my own family became suitable stories. The most memorable of these was "Postcards from Kiev," which described my arrival in Russia on the day that Chernobyl blew.

Another favorite story was "For Whom The Bells Tolled." At a documentary film shown at UCSD I met eight San Diego Veterans of the Spanish Civil War who were members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. All of them claimed to have met Hemingway, of course.

More of Garson's favorite stories she wrote for the Reader:

  • The Boy Next Door

  • We first learned of the murder on television. The lead story on Channel 8’s five o’ clock news one evening in February of last year was the arraignment. We heard and watched en famille in stunned disbelief. Appearing in handcuffs, Rob had already earned the media sobriquet ‘‘Toy Box Killer.” (As a child, had he pulled wings off butterflies? Had he teased the neighborhood dogs? Had he been abused? My kids said there were no indications. (Jan. 20, 1983)
  • Chabad Squad

  • Visiting dignitaries, some of whom look like direct descendants of Marc Chagall’s lithographs of Torah-bearing, wistful, black-cloaked men, travel not by horse or wagon from distant Sholom Aleichem snowy villages within the Pale — places near Vilna, Lublin, and Minsk — but by jetliner and automobile from within the vast, sun-soaked megalopolis — from Los Angeles to Chula Vista — to 6115 Montezuma Road in San Diego. (March 5, 1981)
Rabbi Fradkin: “So how much can I put you down for?... That’s very kind of you."
  • The Good Life At Oakwood Apts

  • “On Sunday mornings people start coming down to the rec room for brunch around elevenish. Table conversations are lively. There’s plenty of gossip over juice, bagels, and cream cheese, and coffee, and there’s usually someone playing the piano — oldies or semi-classical stuff. People share each other’s newspapers and there’s always some wise guy around who wants every section but the news." (June 18, 1981)
  • The Blood Upon His Hands

  • He appeared at the Cassius Carter in The Hot L Baltimore, and the following year, he won an Atlas Award as best supporting actor for his role in That Championship Season. His mother put the award in the living room on top of the TV, right next to the hollow plastic madonna in which Mark would deposit $100 every month from his SSI check. (March 9, 1989)
  • The 200% Americanization of Aleksandr Gibalevich

  • “For Russians there are three symbols in San Diego,” he continues. “Avocados, tequila, and beaches. For us the avocado symbolizes home; tequila is our symbol of relaxation; the beaches symbolize for us the enjoyment of life. To Russians, money is not a symbol of materialism — it is for us the symbol of freedom.” (Oct. 18, 1984)
  • The House on Elm Street

  • ast March 16, Marshall could no longer tolerate sharing a dingy nine-by-eleven-foot room with someone who talked nonstop about the CIA and who woke him intermittently during the night searching for bullet holes. “Living with screwballs is driving me nuts,” he told the assistant manager of Central Manor. “If I don’t get my own room, either he’ll kill me or I’ll kill him,”'he warned. “I can’t stand it another minute!" (Aug. 6, 1987)
  • Remember The Mane

  • Five years ago, when I moved to San Diego, I found a better bargain. Roger Goldstein, trained at Vidal Sassoon’s in New York City, opened a beauty shop in Kearny Mesa called The Great Haircut. His approach to hair was “natural” (no teasing, no rollers, no pins, no hooded dryers, no spray), and I was chicken. But because he offered Monday night freebies in order to give his staff an opportunity to perfect his technique, I offered my children's heads. (Sept. 8, 1977)
Some nomadic teenagers use only their initials. Others take on street names — Cucamonga, Danny Boy, Cobra, Dragon, Snake, Bean. One of the girls floating around Twelfth Avenue calls herself Bubbles.
  • Wasted

  • At the Jack-in-the-Box across the street on C Street, she counts on her fingers the number of brothers and sisters she has. Blood siblings, half siblings, and step siblings. And a brother in Samoa. Since she’s been on her own — living here and there for more years than she remembers — she has also acquired a vast network of street family, none of whom has an address or a known last name. (July 28, 1988)
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