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Stories by Abe Opincar

Reader writers honor Mom

"Careful, Ma; don't spill your soup," I warned. "First time you spill, that's it — you're going to the home.” Mom's reply was immediate. "I know. I've picked out what I want to take with me."

Bleach, Hand Cream, and Onions

"I visited your father's grave," my mother said when she last called. "And I gave his headstone a good kick." This is the sort of joke we share, my mother and I. Survivors of an ...

May 5, 2005
Neighborhood: small towns of San Diego

I see Asian gang cars some nights, in a long caravan down the Mira Mesa Boulevard. They meet at In-N-Out Burger before heading off for illegal street races on Kearny Villa Road or in Sorrento Valley.

Normal Heights

Before the newlyweds across the street went on their honeymoon, they asked me to keep an eye on their house. Yesterday, a neighbor two doors down, an elderly Mexican woman, brought me a big bowl ...

Nowhere Zone: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Normal Heights

“Of all the things we did for Normal Heights, the most important was down-zoning. When the community plan was finalized in 1985, no one could build any more of those big ugly apartment buildings.”

November 27, 2002
A visit to a Tijuana morgue

Not long after my brother died and was buried in Oregon, I found myself in the depósito de cadáveres, or morgue, at Tijuana’s Autonomous University of Baja California. My hand rested on the handle of ...

October 31, 2002
Tijuana's Cultural Center turns twenty

“On the morning of January 20, 1974, the police came. The neighborhood’s name was Tierra y Libertad, ‘Land and Liberty.’ The police marched right into the neighborhood. Perhaps they were state police. I’m not sure. ...

October 10, 2002
Tijuana Dream Tracker

"Just like Florence, just like Rome, Tijuana, too, has its monuments." Professor Julio Rodríguez steers his blue Ford through Zona Rio, gesturing at one statue after another. "And what are monuments? What do they represent? ...

October 18, 2001
Reader writers tell funny stories about dead colleague, Steve Esmedina

Esmo’s phone manner was so hugger-mugger that I could be sitting four feet away and could not make out a single word. For all I could tell, he might have been laying fifty on a pony.

September 20, 2001
The Shadow Knows

In late January 1954, Dick Tracy found an infant abandoned in a tree. For more than a week the comic-strip detective searched for the mother. Suddenly, “as if dropped out of nowhere,” a Mrs. Catchem ...

September 20, 2001
Married to the Peso

In Mexico City in June of 1994, Pat Nelson took a friend, a Mexican financial consultant, to lunch. "My friend said to me, 'Pat, in '92 and '93 the Mexican government issued short-term bonds that ...

June 28, 2001
Survival Poet

'I'm totally lyric," says Erika Lara, a woman in her early 30s who sits on a metal folding chair on the marble landing before Tijuana's municipal government building. "A lyric poet. Uneducated. I barely finished ...

May 24, 2001
Our Students Don't Kill

'We currently have 20 kids here who've committed homicides. We get about one a month. In every case except one, it was an armed assault, usually a robbery, involving money, drugs, or both. The one ...

April 19, 2001
Alejandra's Difficult Choice

'Let me explain it to you slowly, because my life is very complicated. When I was 15 years old, I went from my small town in Puebla to Tecate, where I crossed into the United ...

April 5, 2001
San Diego has largest community of Mexican Jews in U.S.

“I even speak Yiddish with a Mexican accent. I can’t help it.” If you call the Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan and ask to be referred to a Yiddish speaker in San Diego, you’ll ...

March 29, 2001
Tijuana's Troubled Families

'Go to the border between 5:00 and 7:00 in the morning, and you can understand something about my patients' lives. At that time in the morning, the border is crazy. People honking, yelling, fighting for ...

March 1, 2001
Rules for Your Life

"I knew Somalis who drove taxis and said I should try it.. For three months, I've been driving a cab. I live with a friend in a small house in Lemon Grove. I pay $300 a month"

January 18, 2001
Escape from Iraq

"There weren't so many big strong guys in Iraq, and so Saddam Hussein's security service was looking for strong guys to work as his bodyguards. You looked big. You looked frightening, like you might kill some people"

December 7, 2000
Cornucopia: Stephen Facciola's edible world

“You’re eating bug excrement.” Stephen Facciola and I are standing in the parking lot of a Middle Eastern grocery in disheartening Anaheim. The streets are eight lanes wide. The blocks, a mile long. The air ...

November 22, 2000
African Luck

"As an African you think that you're going to have a lot in common with black Americans. You don't. They really don't like us. So, in 1998, I went back to my village"

November 9, 2000
When There's Trouble in the World

'In late 1985, we fled Kabul and crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan in the dead of winter. We walked ten days and nine nights. There were about 60 people in all. Friends, neighbors. Eight members ...

September 21, 2000
Fraternal Spiritualist

Denomination: Fraternal Spiritualist Address: 4720 Kensington Drive, Kensington; 619-281-4557 Year founded locally: 1932 Senior pastors: Millie Landis, Chris Christensen Congregation size: 83 members Staff: all volunteer Church school enrollment: no Sunday School Annual budget: $99,000 ...

September 14, 2000
American Cabstand

"People jump out of the cab to keep from paying. I had one Mexican guy jump out of my cab while it was still moving. Some day one of these people is going to get hurt.”

August 17, 2000
Cracking the Coconut

"Back in the late 1960s, there was only one Thai market I was aware of, Bangkok Market on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. It opened in 1968 and it carried mostly canned goods, no vegetables, no spices."

Check in at Hotel Internment

A wicked Hungarian count tries to seduce a pubescent American blonde. A resort manager falls hard for a German baroness. Hitler masterminds the slaughter of millions. There are love ballads and some tap dancing. When ...

July 6, 2000
29 Reader writers on their fathers

To commemorate Father's Day, this issue contains a collection of reflections from Reader writers about their fathers: The Last Tag Sale — Jeanne Schinto An Air of Exoticism — Duncan Shepherd Kinder Than I Would ...

June 15, 2000
His Lightness, My Weight

Until he lost consciousness eight hours before his death, my father was lucid. He did have night terrors, usually around 4:00 a.m., when, animated by morphine dreams, he’d rise cackling from his bed, hairy arms ...

June 15, 2000
Galli's Survival

Last December Todd Galli made a list he entitled "Things I Want to Accomplish in My Life." Dissatisfied with how that sounded, he started again with "Things I Will Accomplish in My Life." At the ...

June 1, 2000
Long Gray Line

"The Japanese were literally dying in the streets from hunger. MacArthur commandeered all the food that had been stored up but never used for the invasion of Kyushu, and he turned it over to the Japanese people.”

May 25, 2000
Mark Chapman's Bane

On the evening of December 8, 1980, Kristy Mundt, a cashier at Vons, was relaxing in her Lemon Grove home, watching the Miami Dolphins play the New England Patriots at the Orange Bowl. When Howard ...

May 18, 2000
A roasting hen and divorce

l baked a chicken the night I left my wife. It was a chubby-thighed roasting hen I rubbed with olive oil and salt and hefted into a 500-degree oven where I left it to sizzle ...

May 4, 2000
Art of Glass

For the past 25 years, Peter Dreher, an artist from Freiburg, Germany, has painted the same 100-year-old, half-liter glass 3200 times. Dreher's method is simple: in either day or night, in either artificial or natural ...

March 23, 2000
In Defense of the Ultimate Underdog

'Let's say that you're an American man, living in France, and you meet and marry a French woman. You decide to spend your honeymoon in America, and while you're here your wife discovers she loves ...

February 17, 2000
What it means to be Chinese in San Diego

“I can tell when someone’s from that area. There’s a way they pronounce words, a certain intonation. Sometimes they’ll try to disguise it. The Chinese are just as class conscious as anyone else, maybe more so.”

February 3, 2000
Reverend Cindy Witt – Lutheran and lesbian

When Martin Luther invented Protestantism, he created anarchy. Luther's unmooring of Christianity from centuries of Church practice and teaching generated ironies and contradictions that remain unresolved. Reverend Cindy Witt is a recent orphan of the ...

December 9, 1999
The Hmong of San Diego

He pointed out the apartment where, in 1992, two Hmong boys had been shot by Crips. With his finger Vang traced the path across the lawn that one boy had taken as he tried to escape.

December 2, 1999
What Mexican cooking's Diana Kennedy has to do with San Diego

At around 1:00 a.m. a hard rain began to fall, chasing everyone from the plaza, sending dogs scuttling under trucks, silencing the skyrockets that had rattled the air above this small town since dawn. Midday ...

November 24, 1999
Author David Sedaris visits San Diego Zoo primates.

Sedaris was smoking a Kool near the entrance to the La Jolla Marriott when I explained that the zoo was probably touchy because the feds had recently nailed the zoo's reptile curator for dealing snakes on the side.

November 24, 1999
San Diego's Persians find a home in Balboa Park

"You must understand," she says, "the attitude toward Iranians when we first came here. The revolution. The hostage crisis. People thought we, who'd fled the revolution, were all terrorists. We were all suspect.”

August 26, 1999
Tijuana poets lost and found: Eduardo Arellano, Elizabeth Cazessus, Alfonso Garcia, Francisco Morales

The evening began a little after eight in the bar at Sanborn’s on Revolución where eight poets gathered for drinks and chisme (gossip). Around midnight one of them suggested we move on to El Lugar ...

Brett Hesser made the doors. He charged $7200 for them.

On the coffee table in front of the fireplace the maid set out Earl Grey tea and thick slices of Christmas cake. A German shepherd dozed on the Oriental rug near the crackling, popping fire. ...

February 4, 1999
John Chane, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, blames Catholic Church for conservatism among Anglican

Those unfamiliar with the Anglican Communion's range of belief and practice were puzzled in early August when, on the lawn of Kent University in England, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Nigeria tried to lay hands on ...

November 25, 1998
Baptist pastor Tony Crisp on Park Blvd.: "Being abusive, wife-beating are very un-Christian"

Viewers tuned to the June 12 broadcast of CNN's Larry King Live were treated to an exercise in confusion. King's guests were at such opaque odds, spoke at such broad cross-purposes, that the program seemed ...

August 20, 1998
Roger Hedgecock and His Vegas Lawyer

Secretaries and a janitor crowd around John Hunter in the leafy courtyard of a Carmel Ranch office building. They squeal and whine "I wanna try it! I wanna try it!" like crazed kids and paw ...

August 6, 1998
Aryan Nation's man at the Escondido Denny's

'I have known persecution and oppression all my life," Neuman Britton says and clasps his callused hands above his coffee cup in an Escondido Denny's. "Oppression and prejudice. We were more discriminated against than any ...

July 30, 1998
Poway teen tweaker busted in mom's gourmet kitchen

At 1:00 a.m on July 4 two teenage girls entered the courtyard of a 4000-square-foot Spanish-style home in what realtors might call “Poway’s prestige gated community.” A lighted fountain splashed near the courtyard’s entrance. Jasmine ...

July 16, 1998
Robin Spark of San Diego claims his aunt Muriel Spark is Jewish

On a well-to-do street in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, June 18, a 60-year-old gentleman named Robin Spark received an anonymous package from San Diego, California, and promptly called the police. In a very short time, ...

July 2, 1998
Axciom DataQuick of San Diego gives Canadian prisoners internet access

A few weeks ago, some folks in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho got calls from Calgary Herald reporters informing them that Axciom DataQuick, a San Diego-based company, had given 200 convicts in several Canadian prisons ...

July 2, 1998
Cares for AIDS patients, becomes Cambodian Buddhist monk in Linda Vista

'I was in the middle of death. I was surrounded by death. Most Americans, most Westerners, wouldn't think this was a good or healthy thing because we either try to hide from death, or we ...

June 11, 1998
Child porn case in England leads to history major at San Diego State

'How did you get this number?" snarled an unidentified male voice at the other end of the line. "John isn't involved involved in anything! Don't ever call here again!" John's phone number isn't hard to ...

June 4, 1998

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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