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Stories by Ken Kuhlken

San Diego's punk music, goodbye to Lennon

Soundtrack: Notes gave pathos to clouds My father bought my first piano from the Briscoes in Sumter, South Carolina. We knew the Briscoes from church and because Brother Briscoe, as we called him, was in ...

July 5, 2020
Best Reader stories from 1993

In time for the morning glass For a few years back in the '60s, Mike Doyle was the hottest surfer in the world. With an unusual combination of power on big waves and stylistic grace ...

January 4, 2020
Holy Week in San Diego: our mish-mash of Christianity

Medical explanation of Christ's crucifixion and other Easter stories The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly ...

April 15, 2019
Ken Kuhlken and the Reader

How Ken Kuhlken came to the Reader: Not long after my second novel came out, Reader editor Judith Moore phoned me. I didn’t know Judith but was quite familiar with the Reader, because I found ...

February 24, 2019
23 Reader writers describe the regime of editor Judith Moore

Busy Fingers Are Happy Fingers — Joe Deegan Mother Reader — Barbarella Build Your Writing Muscles — Ollie Let the Tape Recorder Do the Work — Matthew Lickona Faith — Abe Opincar Make Something Better ...

"You Don't Do Anger"

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 ...

August 16, 2007
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 ...

September 8, 2005
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 ...

August 11, 2005
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 ...

July 14, 2005
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,” ...

May 12, 2005
Where Do Those Poor Kids Go?

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.

June 17, 2004
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.

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 ...

December 24, 2003
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 ...

January 30, 2003
Fletcher Hills water tank, Carlsbad's Split Pavilion

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 ...

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.

October 1, 1998
God's love for El Cajon Blvd dirtbag motels

In 1972, Tony Tarantino was a street evangelist. A thin, gentle kid of 20 with bushy reddish hair, he roomed with his older sister up the street from the Spring Valley house where Laura and ...

September 17, 1998
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.

November 20, 1997
Sex and San Diego State

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 ...

August 21, 1997
Shell-shocked letters from Vietnam to San Diego

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.”

February 27, 1997
Ken Kuhlken: Santa didn't give them dope

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.

February 20, 1997
See Donald plot murder, see Jane pray

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.”

February 13, 1997
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.

February 6, 1997
An existential honeymoon in Guaymas

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.

January 30, 1997
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?”

January 23, 1997
Coast to Coast in Kerouac's Time

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.

January 16, 1997
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.”

January 9, 1997
Utopia and bloodshed in revolutionary 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 ...

September 5, 1996
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.

December 14, 1995
I try to serve as Black Mountain’s principal for a day

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 ...

October 12, 1995
Ted Leitner dismisses Padres replacements as scabs

On day 193 of the major-league baseball strike, we were five rows behind the Padres dugout in the seats my friend Anna had struggled to reserve. Anna lives in Scottsdale. One Saturday, she set out ...

April 6, 1995
Metaphysical Okie: Jim Thompson In San Diego

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.

March 30, 1995
The pinch-hitters answer questions on the Padres strike

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.”

March 16, 1995
Inside Faith Chapel and through the Akiki trial

Please understand my cousin P. and how she landed in the church and singles group that became notorious on account of Dale Akiki’s trial. P.’s a hero of mine. She got raised by a stern ...

September 22, 1994
Living on my own at 16 in a La Mesa house

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.

September 15, 1994
Rough sketch: rattlesnakes, outlaws, and hardship didn't deter Painter Charles Fries

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

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 ...

December 23, 1993
See Stephanie Steal. Watch Wyatt Smoke Dope. Hear Amber Cuss. See Vanessa Stab Her Sister. Watch Mom Call Toughlove.

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 ...

September 30, 1993
Reporter Ken Kuhlken interviews novelist Ken Kuhlken

At the height of my ambition, I could write 12 or 14 hours straight. Afterward, I’d collapse and daydream while my mind decelerated. I might relive old times, check in on lost friends, brood about ...

May 27, 1993
Mother Teresa's Tijuana legacy

A couple of years ago I was coming home from a wedding reception in Tijuana, in winter, about 2:00 a.m. While I waited in line at the border in drizzle and showers, a boy around ...

January 7, 1993
Loss: what San Diegans 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.

December 23, 1992
A story of World War II Tijuana

Long ago, while my friend Steve, a cartoonist, and I sat lamenting our poverty, he suggested I write a short story for the swinging singles’ magazine to which he'd agreed to contribute a weekly strip. ...

May 21, 1992
A guide to deep inside San Diego's golf 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 ...

May 7, 1992
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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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