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Stories by Bill Manson

Rat rod

Everybody wants a piece of artist, Eddie Montoya

I’m like everybody else on the street. We’re bending over, craning our necks to see inside. It’s like a rusty version of every getaway car you ever saw in movies such as Bonnie and Clyde. ...

O.G. Gringo

In the lost cinema of the barrio

“Let me show you something,” says Gary Harper. It’s around nine on a Thursday night. We’re both taking a moment out on the sidewalk away from the music at Border X in Barrio Logan. I ...

The other truth

“How did I become a Flat Earth believer?”

Rosie Gutierrez is 33, looks 23, and is not easily dissuaded. She’s a trainee nurse, wife, mother, works in a restaurant to pay the bills, and, oh, by the way, believes that the earth is ...

Last day

“Nobody thought this was the right choice”

Michael Schmid has decided to end his life. I first met Michael at the Café Madrid in Coronado. First thing you notice are his electric-blue eyes. The next is his soft voice, which makes you ...

Theater of war

“There goes a certified hero.”

I spot him walking his bike along the avenue, downtown Coronado, Sunday morning. Blue and white Hawaiian shirt, jeans, spikey gray hair, Beach Cruiser bike, heading for a coffee at Café 1134. I’d asked to ...

We’ll help Trump build the wall

“The press makes us look evil, criminals. But we come in peace."

“The Hondurans aren’t bad, but their effect is ba-ad,” says Jorge. He’s driving me in his taxi from downtown Tijuana to the caravan’s rained-out encampment. “Now, I wait two hours for a job. It used ...

Reader Holiday issue

SD Mission candlelight, Borrego's Christmas Circle, Oceanside boat rides, Rose Parade floats, Jewish Christmas, Julian tea, Tierrasanta lights, North Pole train, Kumeyaay solstice, Irish New Year

You don’t have to do anything this holiday season. Despite what the song says, you don’t have to deck the halls, join the chorus, or don any sort of gay apparel. You don’t have to ...

Raul Urreola’s night shoot

“If a scene is too complicated, too expensive, I find a way around it.”

Half past 10, Sunday night. Coronado. Just happen to walk into this parking lot outside an eatery called “Nado Republic.” Two men are standing in the lot’s shadows. One has black eye-liner and black polish ...

Float your troubles away

The launch of Loi Krathong, the basket-floating festival

The young man in his sampot chong kraben picks up a red traffic cone and uses it as a loudspeaker. “Let’s go!” He’s launching the parade around the temple grounds, kicking off Loi Krathong, the ...

Star Bar’s star

“This is our refuge, our comfort. She is good people.”

“Longevity!” says Mr. Evans. “That’s the thing. Longevity: I come in here, and it’s familiar, welcoming, comfortable, like home. Like $2 beers on Thirsty Thursday. Still. Price unchanged! And Loni? Don’t get her mad. She’s ...

Dulzura’s full of schist

“Where there’s schist, there’s gold”

“Donald Sheckler always told me, ‘If you find schist, there’s gold somewhere nearby.’” Jim looks at the piece of schist rock he’s just kicked out of the dirt here, halfway up Mine Canyon. It’s a ...

Winter fun in San Diego

Hot springs, Sleeping Giant at La Jolla Cove, pickleball, puppets, special trails, minus tides, snow, poinsettias, wind tunnels, San Diego Gulls

Drums, giants, and Mother Goose Stargazing in Anza-Borrego 652 Palm Canyon Drive Borrego Springs This year, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was officially designated an International Dark Sky Community, thanks to years of concerted effort to ...

Water ahead of the caravan

“More than 11,000 migrants have died out there since they first built the wall in 1996.”

“Here,” says Hugo Castro. “Put it under the branches, in shade, but where they can see it.” A gecko darts out. I lean over. I’m expected to dash off a little note on the bottle ...

To see him face consequences

I’d read my fellow Golden Dreams writer Matt Lickona’s funny July 3rd account of the “Before I die I want to…” chalkboard outside The Alibi bar, in Uptown at University and Richmond. I happened by ...

National champion auto racer

Poway's Dakota Dickerson: automobile racing is surprisingly cerebral

The guy is 21. When I was 21, I didn’t yet have my first car (which would be a Fiat 500). This guy ­— from San Diego — is driving Formula 4 cars 150 miles ...

Grow your guitar

"We need to reforest and recycle San Diego.”

“San Diegans could be growing their guitars in their front yard,” says Scott Paul. Say what? “Yes! Thousands of trees reach the end of their life cycle, and what happens? Too often, cities will mulch ...

Public pianos

"Sometimes I play here for hours. It gives me peace of mind”

They’re are a worldwide phenomenon. They say 38 cities have installed pianos worldwide so far, including London, Boston, Los Angeles. And Coronado. Saturday afternoon. Sunny, breezy. Chloe Albert’s bored. She’s with her mother, the Coronado ...

Adios, Costa Azul

Everybody’s la-la-ing like crazy

Adios, Costa Azul

Dead Owl, lost pearls

“Pearl Ship in the Desert” is El Centro's greatest mystery

Dead Owl, lost pearls

Mr. Stein’s ghost

Things are strangely quiet here

Mr. Stein’s ghost

Urban forester

“Trees are sentient beings, our partners. We need them”

Urban forester

The two coasts: drifting apart?

How do we define “evolution”?

Are San Diegans becoming as different from New Yorkers as bonobos have become, say, from chimps? Biologist Nathan Lents was in town the other day, talking at the Central Library and on KPBS about how ...

Jaws of life (Release the Kracken!)

Their eyes pop out and their stomachs explode through their mouths

“Conserving our planet one fish at a time.” You do a double-take when you see the sign. Because Randy Hupp’s a commercial fisherman. But he is serious about this. What he’s started, from his home ...

Joy Juice

"We just want to take the edge off."

“Two claps!” says Tysheen. “Now, shout it out.” “Bula!” “OK. Gulp it down in one. And, one more clap!” This is kava-drinking in City Heights. Boy. Have to say. It’s ceremonial and it’s fun. Only ...

The heart of democracy

Peace, after more than 20 years of horrible warfare

The one thing you notice about these taxi drivers is they’re always talking. Laughing, shouting, arguing, confiding. They’ll stop only if a passenger comes trundling across from the Santa Fe Depot to their Kettner Boulevard ...

Avenue Mural Project brought in a heavy

“This is about nothing but love.”

Has anybody seen the movie, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment? About this crazy artist who couldn’t bear to see a bare wall? Each time, he had to fill it with a mural. It was ...

Willy Clauson came back to Tijuana

An original who touched greatness with "La Bamba"

My passport ran out of juice last year, just when the Mexican government was deciding it wanted to see official papers as foreigners headed south. That’s the only reason I didn’t hear, until the other ...

Latin jazz for the pure of heart

"Don’t try too hard."

Bill Caballero turns his trumpet towards Roy Robinson. Robinson lights up. His hands flail back and forth from one conga drum skin to another. Then Caballero’s wailing trumpet takes up a response. People watch the ...

French bowls without wine

“It’s more social than intensely competitive.”

This is Chris Conway’s first day. He’s been meaning to come do this with his dad Gareth for years. But now here he is, in a game he’s never played, French bowls — boules, if ...

Why not fish jerky?

and, Requiem for a Persian

Why not fish jerky? “I was sitting on a mountaintop in the Gila Wilderness,” says Nick Mendoza. “I was thinking beef jerky, and then the thought came: beef jerky? Why not fish jerky?” Mendoza was ...

How to stop the lemmings

Marshall's Plan

Is an upstairs office in downtown Coronado going to save the world? Out of his modest headquarters on Orange Avenue, Marshall Saunders founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby back in 2007. His idea was that we had ...

Draw the dog

Nate Kapnicky: Quartyard's canine caricaturist

Lyla sits still like a pro. Which is a miracle here in the middle of flailing dogs and foamy beers and baby strollers. The little black and tan pooch obviously doesn’t know what’s happening, because ...

Ben Franklin, Kim Kardashian, and me

Psoriasis provides a reason to ride 60 kilometers

“What do Ben Franklin and Kim Kardashian have in common with me?” asks Cristy Boisvert. “Psoriasis.” I’ve just met Cristy here, on Silver Strand beach, soaking up the morning sun in today’s cold wind. Behind ...

Dance like everybody's watching

"Once we face an audience, I become this other, sexier, younger, woman."

Another lunchtime, another sandwich and coffee in the park. Horton Plaza, where the sunken space is now strewn with Parisian-style park tables and chairs. It feels oddly underemployed, even though lots of folks are out ...

"This is how it should be."

Low riders and more at the 48th annual Chicano Park Day

“You see this? This is how it should be,” says David Sanchez III. He’s leaning over and pointing to the exaggerated solid chrome wheel rim of a black 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that’s sitting on ...

"You can eat this?"

Mushroom hunting in the foothills of Mount Palomar

“Watch out for rattlers,” says Will. Which is a problem, because my mycological friend Kim and I are down on our knees in the thick, soft, untrodden leaf loam they call oak duff. We’re looking ...

The Chart Lady of Point Loma

When marine electronics fail, you're going to need a paper chart

“Paper charts need no batteries.” Ann Kinner, Captain, US Coast Guard, has put the little sign strategically among all the rolls of charts in her Seabreeze Book and Chart Store in Point Loma. It’s the ...

Sacred acorn paste of the Kumeyaay

Eat the way the local Native Americans ate, but better

Tipoff from my friend Ed: “Haute Kumeyaay Cuisine. Barona. Be there or be square.” “There” is at Barona’s Cultural Center. This Mexican pop-up chef, Gilberto Morales, who created his Baja-based Restaurante Nomada — Cocina Itinerante, ...

Sushi's cruel amusements

Shrimp Liberation Front, anybody?

Can we stop this already? I’m in a Japanese sushi eatery. The sushi chef - attractive girl – takes this live shrimp, throws his rear end into the fryer, brings it out red and cooked, ...

Quartyard II aims for East Village's sweet spot

If you build it, will they come...again?

By the time you read this, Quartyard II should be up and running. That’s what they promised. But I’ve been wandering past this replacement location at 13th and Market in East Village for months, chafing ...

How wrong we’ve been about saké

Young, hip San Diegans are the hope

The other day, Cowboy Star, the very Texan steakhouse on 10th and Market, staged an interesting dinner: a nine-course meal built around Wagyu steak and saké. “We had seven different sakés to pair with the ...

$350,000 just the beginning

Dauntless schooner for sale

I admit it. I’ve got the bug. There’s something about wooden boats that makes me go all gurgly inside. But add in the word schooner, and I go twice as gurgly. Those yachts with their ...

A shark-sized bite out of the real Coronado

New landlord in, old businesses out

It has that weird feeling, like Dead Man Walking. We’re at the bar. Jimmy has got me my regular Arrogant Bastard. Tiger does a pretend growl. “That Arrogant Bastard.” Miguel the chef sits with his ...

Birdman of East Village

They’re not pets

Has anybody seen the Birdman of East Village lately? Okay, that’s just what I call him. I met Victor Vasquez, 53, taking his three birds: Sydney, 30 years old, a medium sulphur-crested cockatoo from Papua ...

Original Pulp Fiction manuscript found in a Carlsbad garage

I also write introductions for art books

OMG: I’m holding it in my hand. A hand-typed script movie people would kill for. I just ran across it in this rare and ancient bookshop and literati haven, in an alley off Carlsbad Village ...

The $400 hangover cure

Doctor housecalls making a comeback

“Always have a job and a hustle.” That’s what Cheré’s mom told her. Cheré Amor Vassell has followed her mom’s advice. In her 13 years as a nurse, she has worked in Virginia, Japan, Florida, ...

How to tie a bow tie

Advice from the Guinness World Record holder

The Pass, the Under, the Wings, the Flop, the Hole, the Prep, the Stuff, and the Cinch. That’s all you’ve got to learn if you wanna tie a bow tie in front of other people ...

Skydive dive

Indoor skydiving place has cafe for decompressing

It’s not what you expect to find next door to Father Joe’s, but right on the corner of 14th and Imperial you can now join the craze for indoor skydiving and then nosh on a ...

San Diego sidewalk cafe rules don't make sense

Set my drinkers free

Question: How come you can drink a glass of wine at some sidewalk cafés and not others? Scene One: You don’t even want to know when this is. But I was a student, in Wellington, ...

Fun things to do in San Diego

A million things under the sun — we offer a few (some indoors)

County Administration Center Waterfront Park In 2014, 12 acres of former parking lots were converted into a public park facing San Diego Bay. Running both north and south of the county government headquarters established in ...

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