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Stories by Laura McNeal

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
Sheep to Sweater in North County

The Shepherdess Rancho Borrego Negro is home to white sheep, black sheep, black fish, a black-and-white sheepdog, and a couple of near-black llamas, but for Kathy Gluesenkamp, the hardest thing to produce on the Ranch ...

May 17, 2001
Sanctuary: A San Diego Man's Homage to the Missions

Between 1769 and 1823, Franciscan padres, Spanish soldiers, and Native Americans built an astonishing chain of settlements — 21 missions and four smaller asistencias — between San Diego and Sonoma. The money to start them ...

February 17, 2000
Black birdmen

During World War II, Germans called them the schwartze vogelmenschen or “black birdmen.” White American bomber crews called them the Black Redtail Angels. Various other white Americans called them spades, spooks, coons, or sambos, and ...

February 3, 2000
When we had an orphanage – San Diego Children's Home

AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, they were called orphans, and they lived in a home on five acres in Balboa Park. Those who weren’t orphans were “half-orphans,”“abandoned children,” or “those for whom we temporarily ...

September 10, 1998
Old-style San Diego: when women wore hats

Although Beatrice still has, at age 72, all of her gloves, it was the hats she loved. "I tell you," she says Some people go buy shoes when they're depressed. I sued to buy hats."

September 3, 1998
Tarantulas – the Clara Barton of arachnids

Six days later, another tarantula crawled into a friend’s house across town. His kitten stalked it and his wife screamed. By then we had learned that tarantulas are “beneficials” who kill insects in the grove.

January 22, 1998
Rats and Lilies

The rules of gardening and housekeeping are clear on rodents and lilies. Lilies are good, rats are bad. Childhood reading had ill-prepared me to whack off rats’ heads. I was raised on Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry.

December 11, 1997
San Diego avocado growers fight off thieves

Despite the revolver, the man got out and tried to push the car. It wasn't until Jeanne fired a shot in the air that he stopped, got out of the car, and put the avocados back into the bin.

November 26, 1997
I track the previous owner of my sewing machine to Sun City

The next week, I met Mrs. Ferguson, aged 82, during Mike’s regular Thursday visit to Sun City Gardens, a triangle of blue-carpeted buildings by the freeway that overlooks, on three sides, the hot suburban desert.

October 30, 1997
What's on a San Diego cheerleader's mind at UC Irvine

It's noon on a midsummer Saturday in a camp of the church of cheer, and eight million blades of grass are about to die. For the next four days, UC Irvine’s Mesa Court Field will ...

August 28, 1997
Booze and death for the Fletchers in Borrego Springs

At midnight on August 24, Kent rang the doorbell at the Fletcher Hills house of his grandfather, Ed Jr. The housekeeper testified that Kent asked to come in the house and sleep, but she told him that was against his grandfather’s orders.

San Diego Mormons explain longevity

That the children may live long, And be beautiful and strong, Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise Drink no liquor, and they eat But a very little meat... - from a 19th-century Mormon song ...

July 17, 1997
At Sharon’s Worm World in Ramona, they live on horse manure.

Sharon has found vermiculture to be fun and profitable, but her friends and relatives thought it was a nutty idea. “They thought I was absolutely crazy.” They’ve changed their minds now that she’s making money,

June 12, 1997
Henry Huntington once bought a whole garden simply to preserve wisteria,

My husband, too, is a temperate, practical man, so the walls of our house are barren, but certain members of the vine family are making their greedy way. We planted two wisteria by the front porch.

January 30, 1997
St. Johns, Arizona – my mother's hometown

Outside the windows, chimes touch together. They ring exactly as they did when someone lived here, when Blue Willow china was set on the table and cows were milked in the barn.

January 2, 1997
Important features of squirrel husbandry

By June the Beecheys and their dark-eyed young promised to become an Egyptian plague, and my husband, who carries spiders out of the house instead of flushing them, suggested poison.

November 28, 1996

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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