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Stories by Ken Kuhlken

"You Don't Do Anger"

She was willing to bawl me out.

Judith came out of nowhere. She called one evening and asked if I'd like to write something for the Reader. I'd read the Reader enough to feel flattered, since the writers I'd encountered in it ...

Mary Jackson's Faith

Mary Jackson founded a ministry in Barrio Logan. She helps women learn job skills. Mary drives a new Honda Element. “Do you want to hear how I got such a nice car?” she asks. I ...

A Summer on Desolation Row

"Like a Rolling Stone," the most famous song on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, portrays somebody who thought she was on top contending with her fall to the bottom. It's a fun song but not ...

Minimalist on a Motorcycle

Michael Emerson, the optician at Hart Optical, rides a big Suzuki. He tells me, “It’s a Cavalcade 1400 cc. Suzuki gave up on them in ’88 and built the last generation in ’89 from parts ...

Not Good for the Minds of Proper Girls

A hunt for the elusive fotonovela.

Reading Sandra Cisneros's recent novel Caramelo, set in Mexico City during the late 1950s, I wondered about the fotonovelas that are mentioned again and again over the course of the book: "The Awful Grandmother" locks ...

Paul and His Dueling Mufflers

Paul Koch spent six years as road manager for the San Diego Chicken. Now that he’s in real estate, you might see his Cadillac around town. “I drive a big car with a big name,” ...

Where Do Those Poor Kids Go?

SDSU classes get bigger and easier

Many students take 18 or more units and really do well. If you pin them down, you find that what is demanded of a student at San Diego State is not much.

La Mesa

The doctor says, “You’re a few pounds overweight, your cholesterol’s a bit scary, and your blood pressure…” “Yeah, okay,” I grumble. “So what’s your prescription?” “You could change your diet.” “Not for the better, I ...

Tijuana Songbird

Ginny Silva arrested for drugs at Rosarito Beach Hotel, converted by Mother Teresa's priests.

When Ginny Silva began her singing career, Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución was infamous, a raunchy place of strip clubs, where hookers and drug pushers worked in the open and where we young fellows went if we ...

Public Art's Hurly-Burly

Consider people who rant on issues about which they believe themselves experts. Everybody holds an opinion on everything -- like a fellow on the radio contending that the National Endowment for the Arts should be ...

Vandal on the Green

San Diego Country Club - a little history, and some personal stories.

My smugness was arrested when a man appeared out of nowhere, wearing an apologetic frown. He said, “Sir, um, jeans aren’t allowed.” The pro shop charged $35 for a pair of shorts.

Where Sweet Peace and Love Abideth

La Mesa Boulevard began as a wagon trail

The stretch of the Boulevard people call “the Village” runs from Spring Street up past Fourth. The Village hasn’t changed much since my boyhood, when I could overlook it from my bedroom window.

Sex Education

My kids are considering San Diego State, and I'm interested to see if this fall's Daily Aztec newspaper staff carries on last year's most notable last year's most notable traditions: careless prose and a dependence ...

I Quit, Love Clifford

Shell-shocked letters from Vietnam.

Prompted by a second glass of wine, Clifford’s dad said, “The way I treated my son, pushed Cliff into that war, I wouldn’t blame him if he accused me of intentionally wrecking his life.”

Santa Didn't Give Them Dope

Rebellion, madness, and the last of a misspent youth.

A half dozen Indians stood pointing hoses from which I could see no water escaping — they looked like a mime troupe parodying a fire brigade. One man threw down his hose and began stomping a circle around himself.

See Donald Plot Murder, See Jane Pray

Santa didn’t give them dope

Now, anybody don’t trust me, he ought to say so. He ought to come clean.”“What happens do he say so?” Pill queried. Donald leaned closer to me, “Boy come clean, he go back to the hall. That’s what.”

Dear Jane, Please Send LSD

I took a job substitute teaching for the Grossmont high school district and tried writing a novel. My desk was in the dining room, but most of my roommates had day jobs, so the afternoons were quiet enough.

An Existential Honeymoon

Newlyweds visit a haven for angst-ridden white people

The first night I lay awake listening to jungle noises—night birds, a laughing burro, strange swishes that made me picture Tarzan riding a vine from tree to tree, and the cackles of stoned people.

That Howl Is the Hound of Heaven

Spiritual disillusionment in Balboa Park.

Downtown looked like a fashion show for uniforms. Bob suggested we forget the crusade and follow the swabbies to the Hollywood Burlesque. Cliff asked, “Why bother with the Hollywood when in TJ they show it all off?”

Coast to Coast in Kerouac's Time

Disillusionment on wheels

Over lunch, Tony’s family debated the benefits of Chicago and San Diego. Mrs. Russo, Tony, and his sister preferred Chicago. Mr. Russo claimed he would have stayed out West except for the family’s nagging.

Nietzsche should have died in that VW

A very San Diego story involving Kerouac and Dostoyevsky

“Look what’s changed in the last two months. Eric died. We barely escaped a nuclear war. By June, Kennedy might attack Cuba, and the Russians could retaliate by invading Hollywood. Bonanza could be in Russian.”

Socialists Anarchists Hobos Chicken Thieves Outlaws

Utopia and bloodshed in Tijuana

A few decades ago, during the era when my friend Henry and I devoted many hours to exploring Tijuana, we found a saloon that I later learned was around the corner and up a block ...

Rats in the Ivory Tower: Affirmative Action, Low Pay, and Other Anxieties of Higher Education

San Diego State part-time teacher explains how it works

Between preparation, class time, grading, and office hours, only a magician or malingerer could teach and manage a three-unit class in less than 10 hours each week, so four classes each semester easily requires 40 hours.

I Wish You Could See Shirley in Action

The principal principle

Middle school and I go way back. My mother taught eighth-grade English and social studies. I attended PTA meetings before entering kindergarten. On Friday nights, the principal would show up at our house and play ...

Farewell to Baseball's Good Old Days

Mourning the replacement preseason

Ted Leitner made a crack about feeling disgraced to involve himself with these nonmajor leaguers. His yawning insinuated: “Don’t bother to pay attention. These guys aren’t going to be here. Anyway, they’re scabs.”

Metaphysical Okie: Jim Thompson In San Diego

Sojourn of a novelist in the 1940s

In 1944, at age 37, Thompson became a Marine. He lasted 12 weeks, plus a few in the infirmary, with rheumatic fever. His family got by on the salary Alberta made as switchboard operator at Solar.

No Fossils, No Fat Guys: Are These the New Padres?

Replacement players on an authentic vision of the Pads

I asked how they felt about the union. Pete jumped on that one. “Well, they’re calling us scabs. They’re trying to intimidate people into not playing. They’re trying to enhance their position. And we’re trying to enhance our position.”

Conviction of Things Not Seen

This cover story has not yet been posted. However, you can download the digital edition to view any story from this issue.

Elegy for Young Superman

A hasty kiss in Pacific Beach.

We later drove up Mount Helix and paced around the cross in the mountaintop park, staring all around, and every few minutes one of us would offer a reason why Eric couldn’t possibly die.

Rough sketch: rattlesnakes, outlaws, and hardship didn't deter Painter Charles Fries

San Diego's early painter - from Laguna mountains to 9th and E, downtown San Diego

I learned to write by watching my grandma at her easel. First she’d sketch, then stroke on the base colors, then dab until details began to appear. Around that time she’d step back, gaze, meditate, ...

The Giveaway: Some Spring Valley Hippies Hit the Jackpot

Our strange East County friends

A bushy-haired kid was hitchhiking on Sweetwater Road. I picked him up at the crest of the hill, just past the light at Kenwood. He mumbled something, hung his head crookedly so he could watch ...

See Stephanie Steal. Watch Wyatt Smoke Dope. Hear Amber Cuss. See Vanessa Stab Her Sister. Watch Mom Call Toughlove.

See Mom Call Toughlove: When the fruit of your loins turns into a raging demon from the pits of hell, don't despair.

Chester phoned and asked what I knew about Toughlove. I told him I’d look over a book somebody’d loaned me, call the person I got it from. Find out all I could, and get back ...

Loss: All We Left Behind In 1992

Unlike 1984, when Ronald Reagan made it a point to finish his campaign at a giant rally in the parking lot of Fashion Valley, George Bush came to see the All-Star game and was booed by the locals.

Golf in the Age of Anxiety

Deep inside San Diego's courses

Seeking Tranquility in Bonita My father died on Christmas night 1961. The next day I went to Singing Hills Country Club and smashed balls until my arms, legs, brain, and the rest felt like bubble ...

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