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Stories by Laura McNeal

My Arizona and Utah family, a daughter disabled since birth at Friendship House

A Fairy Godmother’s Art I can recall the way a certain blouse, puffy-sleeved and lace-collared, tugged at the pits of my arms the year I fell in love with Matt Denhalter. The same mistakes I ...

October 30, 2021
The 1930s Depression in letters from San Diego, early hunting in Mission Valley

Depression Letters “He had been working since May at Balboa Park, cutting wood, gardening, cleaning up ravines, canyons, etc. When he was put on the Federal work card, a foreman's name was on the card. ...

October 11, 2021
Subs off Imperial Beach, Yamamoto's killer, a kid in WWII San Diego

Lie Down in Darkness The submarine had been discovered by two San Diego State students who were financing their educations by salvaging objects. They had located S-37 about 300 yards off the coast and in ...

September 20, 2021
Country fans at the Renegade, fireworks fanatics, the troubles of apartment ownership

San Diegans at the Renegade explain country music The Renegade does not hide behind that generic tyranny of the latest urban middle-class version of good taste. The tavern is in-your-face like Willie Nelson with his ...

September 5, 2021
San Diego's weasels, squirrels, worms, rats

I Wanted to Own Him Until He Opened His Mouth Six days later, on a morning when the air was light blue, the weasel left his kill on the driveway, a young opossum so dead ...

August 14, 2021
San Diego's highway landscaping, how to beat avocado thieves

Ground Cover One of the Brazilian peppers, a 20-foot umbrella of lacy foliage, blocks an exit sign for Genesee Avenue. “Look at that sign. Kind of hard to see what it says, isn’t it? You’ve ...

July 18, 2021
Moon flowers, a romantic Ocean Beach garden, the Monterey cypress

The Lesson the Moonflower Teaches He showed her that everything he’d planted had grown: the cosmos, the tomatoes, the chamomile, the mint, the marigolds, the nasturtiums, the baby’s breath, the basil, the oregano, the anise, ...

June 6, 2021
Wholesome and off-beat homeschooling, Helix High football, Mission Bay High reunion

The Only Kid at Whitebread Central Who Listened to Danzig Many people have asked me why I’m not in school, and when I explain that I am on home study, they want to know why. ...

May 1, 2021
Balboa Park's dressed-up dachshunds, Kleenex at the pet cemetery, pigeons as mediaries

Low to the ground Dachshunds and the people who love them. “One afternoon in the park I said it would be fun to run one of those free classified advertisements in the Reader and see ...

April 3, 2021
San Diego gun slingers, secret gardens, quilters, stamp collectors, chess fiends

Arms and the Men: Shooting for Happiness These were good men, overzealous to a fault, maybe, but not killers. Hell, Rudy is of Samoan descent. Wil is a liberal Communist activist actor. It was the ...

March 22, 2021
Fletcher family pathos, how Sol Price founded Costco, mafioso Alan Glick

What Happened? A Pioneer Family's Tragedy While Beatrice and Eric were talking about packing up and going home, the phone rang. It was Dan Bridge, his father’s old friend and a childhood friend of Walter ...

March 21, 2021
Local rocker Chris Squire troubles, intimate murder, abortionist Bertha Bugarin

He Should Have Known Better It had been another sleepless night for Chris Squire, pedaling around San Diego delivering drugs. When the sun rolled into the sky on August 14, 2006, he knew he was ...

November 2, 2020
Beating back fear of Tijuana, why I keep thinking about Mexico, a cross-border kidnapping

Baja is back Hip and delicious. There’s no reason not to get in your car and go. By Elizabeth Salaam, July 24, 2013 | Read full article I was hit with the realization that half ...

October 25, 2020
Not your average street person, not your average refugee, a bicyclist dies, cross-border kidnapping

Street neighbor in the East Village Kazakhstan national can’t get her daughter back Yes, I was on the street, but I was home-schooling my daughter. By John Brizzolara, July 26, 2013 | Read full article ...

October 3, 2020
Afro hair, piercings, obsession with abdomens, T-shirts talk, the beauty of henna, worry about fat

Afro Puffs ’Dos that don’t. I’m overjoyed that my daughter loves her hair. I’m also afraid there will come a day when she tells me she wishes it were long, straight, and yellow. By Elizabeth ...

September 21, 2020
Oddness of the Waldorf School, food critic Eleanor Widmer, why San Diego's light is unique, MiG killer Randy Cunningham

A Single Mother Alone in the World If the child-support check is late, I let it be. I resent having to beg for anything. I used to be on my ex like white on rice, ...

September 14, 2020
San Diego's undercovered violent side

He Should Have Known Better It had been another sleepless night for Chris Squire, pedaling around San Diego delivering drugs. When the sun rolled into the sky on August 14, 2006, he knew he was ...

July 26, 2020
Mexico after the millenium

Smugglersville “The cops mess with us. The thieves mess with us. Everybody messes with us.” I was hobbling back from the store with a liter of milk, when I saw three young men sitting on ...

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
Cross-border kidnapping, German cyclist killed at Camp Pendleton

Street neighbor in the East Village Yes, I was on the street, but I was home-schooling my daughter. By John Brizzolara, July 26, 2013 When Vietnamese people say American they always mean white I grew ...

June 6, 2020
My daughter's Afro, tongue piercing, obsession with stomach looks

Afro Puffs I’m overjoyed that my daughter loves her hair. I’m also afraid there will come a day when she tells me she wishes it were long, straight, and yellow. By Elizabeth Salaam, July 11, ...

May 31, 2020
That pesky natural San Diego light

A Single Mother Alone in the World If the child-support check is late, I let it be. I resent having to beg for anything. I used to be on my ex like white on rice, ...

April 18, 2020
Deep into Alpine, North Park, Normal Heights, Fallbrook – and Sabre Springs

Where the Mountain Meets the Sky “We had grapes, for example. Grapes were hauled from here to the railroad station in Lakeside. We had wheat, olives, citrus fruit, barley. Chickens and turkey ranches. Also, John ...

April 12, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2010

Reader writers on why Christmas is magic By Dorian Hargrove, Elizabeth Salaam, Ernie Grimm, Jay Allen Sanford, Melissa Wiley, Ollie , Walter Mencken, Dec. 22, 2010 San Diego women who have converted to Islam Over ...

March 1, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2002

He's sad for ships DeRosset doesn’t speak abstractly about his work. He’s a storyteller. “What’s really nice,” he told me before I’d had a chance to see the painting at the church, “is that I’ve ...

February 2, 2020
Best Reader stories from 1997

Childhood's End: Dr. Spock at 94 53-year-old Morgan, Dr. Spock’s second wife, has been relentless and inventive in her search for ways to keep her husband youthful and healthy. For his 75th birthday, for example, ...

January 18, 2020
Best Reader stories from 1996

Mafia in San Diego before World War II (first in series of six stories) “The raids, all made with search warrants, started soon after noon and were not completed until early evening. All of the ...

January 12, 2020
Fallbrook – 56 miles and an eternity from San Diego

When I say Fallbrook, nothing comes to mind “They are going to fix the streets? For whom? Every other shop is vacant and has been for the last few years. There’s no draw for tourists. ...

Laura McNeal and the Reader

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and is the author, with her husband Tom, of four young adult novels published by Knopf: Crooked (winner of the California Book Award ...

April 7, 2019
Love and Mariachis in Chula Vista

This is a love story. It begins in Guadalajara and is rekindled four times a day in room 1204 of Chula Vista High, a setting that is not romantic. The windows of the band room, ...

February 9, 2011
Reader writers on our country this July 4th

I grew up in a religion that loved everything I would be taught to disdain in graduate school: America, authority, marriage, motherhood, and divine revelation. My father was a history-reading intellectual who treated me like ...

June 30, 2010
Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion comes to Coronado

When I signed my son up for dance and deportment lessons, I didn’t tell him. For one thing, it was called Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion, and I couldn’t shake the image of Mr. Benjamin Bunny, Peter ...

May 5, 2010
The Chula Vista kidnapping of Eddy Tostado by Arellano cartel

At 3:39 a.m. on January 7, 2007, Columbia Street was almost deserted. Little Italy had been plagued with car burglaries — “It got where you couldn’t drive too many of the streets down there without ...

April 7, 2010
She Really Was a Fashion Plate

In 1930, the San Diego yellow pages were as yellow as an egg yolk, the white pages listed the occupation of every customer, and the modern Woodmen of America met every Wednesday at Germania Hall. ...

July 23, 2008
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 ...

How Truth Can Be Told

I was 26 and unemployed when a friend told me about the San Diego Reader and its editor, Judith Moore. I had published a few essays and stories in small literary journals while amassing a ...

August 16, 2007
Laura McNeal brings a small man into the world with a detailed account

When I informed my best friend almost nine years ago that I was expecting a male child, she said, after a distinct pause, "I can't even imagine you with boys." I couldn't imagine it either, ...

May 11, 2006
Moms pregnant with Down's Syndrome baby should visit ARC

A heartbreaking job among the innocent and challenged.

February 23, 2006
Crushed: A Novel

Crushed by Laura and Tom McNeal. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006; $15.95; 308 pages FROM THE DUST JACKET: The acclaimed authors of Crooked and Zippedbring their signature suspense and razor-sharp dialogue to this compelling new novel ...

January 26, 2006
22 Reader writers on school experiences

My first day in school was really my second day — Jangchup Phelygal The Radiators That Ticked Heat into the Room — Laura Rhoton McNeal Rear Rank Rudy — Jim Morris Forget-me-nots — Rosa Colwin ...

September 8, 2005
The Radiators That Ticked Heat into the Room

The winter I was in fifth grade, my father brought home a National Geographic book that seemed to consist entirely of swamp photographs. He turned the thick, glossy pages for me, and I stared at ...

September 8, 2005
Notes Give Pathos to Clouds

Artur Schnabel Plays Beethoven, Volume 1 Sonata no. 19 in G Minor, op. 49, no. 1 My father bought my first piano from the Briscoes in Sumter, South Carolina. We knew the Briscoes from church ...

August 11, 2005
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."

As Thin as Butterfly Wings

My mother was born in the high desert of northeastern Arizona. Even now it's a hard place to thrive, with rain unlikely and resources few. Her father built their house out of adobe bricks he ...

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.

Fallbrook

I often feel in downtown Fallbrook that I have walked through a door into the past, the door I have been looking for all my life. It happens at Jerry’s Barber Shop most often. Jerry’s ...

Natasha. Papousek of La Mesa does henna body art

Natasha Monahan Papousek is not Iranian. She is not Lebanese, Moroccan, Indian, or Pakistani. She lives in La Mesa, she has the red hair and pale skin of her Irish-Czech-Norwegian-American parents, but she’s a henna ...

May 15, 2003
Fallbrook’s home ec teacher spoils daughter's hot chocolate with strychnine

The body lies in a position of repose, a 12-year-old girl in pajamas, on her bed, in Fallbrook, California. Her blue eyes, though open, see nothing, and for ten more minutes, no one sees her. ...

November 7, 2002
Horses and their San Diego women

It's nine o'clock on the day before the last day of Diane Wilson’s horse-showing career. Outside her window, the pointy hills of Escondido are wet from the rain. Inside, it’s warm because she has just ...

March 7, 2002
What’s going on in City Heights’ Waldorf School?

After the morning verse, the class sings a medieval round in preparation of the May Faire, and then it’s time to recite the choral passages of the play they’ll perform next month: scenes from Homer’s Odyssey.

February 21, 2002

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