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Stories by Neal Matthews

Don Zub – symbol of and insult to Coronado

A few days before the election, he was arrested for drunk driving on Orange Avenue

It was one of those Friday afternoons along Orange Avenue in Coronado when even the threat of rain couldn’t chase off the boys in wetsuits pulled down to their waists, the women in muumuus and ...

They fix Miramar's Screaming Eagles

When you take care of a Navy F-14, you own it.

It is the E-3 airmen and the E-4 third class petty officers who do most of the work on the airplanes. “It takes a college degree to break an F-14, and a high school diploma to fix it.”

The F-14: a bad bird?

"That crash over El Cajon just had a total hydraulics failure."

The F-14 Tomcat prototype crashed on its maiden flight December 21, 1970, and ever since then questions about safety have dogged the Navy’s frontline fighter/interceptor. Five F-14s, four of them based at Miramar, crashed in ...

Larry Stirling may be the most self-righteous, impatient, indignant state senator in California history

And he hopes to improve on that record.

Early on a frigid Tuesday morning in Sacramento, state senator Larry Stirling is quietly answering constituents’ letters in his office. You walk in, he jumps up and says, “You asked me yesterday about what I’ve ...

Old downtown San Diego landlords replaced by Japanese

The final frontier

Four high-rise office buildings opened for business downtown in 1982, flooding the market with 1.7 million square feet of office space and immediately giving San Diego the highest vacancy rate in the nation. But what ...

Do California drunk-driving laws make the problem worse?

Drinker, driver, slammer

Eugene Ellis is a forty-nme-year-old San Diego lawyer specializing in defending drunk drivers. He recently agreed to speak with reporter Neal Matthews about the changing nature of drunk-driving enforcement Matthews: In the city of San ...

Unlikely result of San Diego's massage parlor crackdown

Bob Hannibal was one of the good guys. Or so he thought.

Now that he’s out of jail, off probation, and living contentedly in Vista, former San Diego vice squad officer Bob Hannibal can finally talk publicly about the job that precipitated his downfall. He says that ...

New Hope Rock, Boomer Beach, Bird Rock

Every dive around San Diego yields discovery

At the Thirty-second Street Naval Station, the instructors made us conduct a search on the bottom of San Diego Bay at night without lights. There was no moon, and we crawled along the bottom muck in total darkness.

La Jolla gallery owner Tasende at the top

Doesn't know if he loves art or hates it

José Tasende has one request: “Make me the subject of your interviews, not the object. Take what I say and use it. But don’t make me the story. Write about what I say, not what ...

Central Federal and a seedy tale of San Diego bankruptcy court

Debtor: The inglorious road to financial ruin

When Jay and Geri Sobarnia filed for bankruptcy in 1980, they owned a $550,000 house, a couple of small businesses, and two apartment houses, and their monthly payments were current on the $1,670,000 they owed ...

Final days of vegetable farming on Otay Mesa

Death of a growing season

It’s not quite 7:00 a.m., and the fog hangs so thick over Otay Mesa that Richard Cacho cannot see all the way across his cucumber field. At least it’s not windy, or raining, or freezing, ...

San Diego could go another 150 years without another earthquake. But it’s possible the whole damn thing could blow tomorrow.

A rumble in Rose Canyon

San Diego's first and only official earthquake alert was sounded in June of 1985, after swarms of small earthquakes started a five-day rumble beneath San Diego Bay. Three of the biggest shakers, with Richter scale ...

Southeast San Diego: it's more than mean streets

Gateway Center East, Skyline, Emerald Hills, Chicano Park, Valencia Views, Catfish Club

He turns a corner near 38th and Acacia, where a new auto body shop has been squeezed between two homes. Nielsen shakes his head. "Only in Southeast. Where else would that be allowed to happen?"

Jerry Gross – San Diego's sportscaster who sued the Padres

He bounces back on KVSD

Thirty years of accumulated sportscasting experience was about to be marshalled into two hours on the evening of September 30, when Jerry Gross sat down at the microphone to perform his radio show, Hotline Sports, ...

The Spaceman of OB Checks In

In May of 1986, Clint Cary, the Spaceman of Ocean Beach, was convalescing in a South Bay nursing home. It looked like curtains for him, after the sight in his one remaining eye was destroyed ...

Neglected trees of Balboa Park

Color them gone

IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, the San Diego City Council will be grappling with a proposed master plan for Balboa Park. In all, there are now six alternatives to that original plan, drawn up by ...

No Mexican steers entering U.S. will have hard ticks


IT IS SIX IN THE MORNING at the stockyards in Mexicali, and Frank Enders is rummaging for his cowboy boots and his ancient straw cowboy hat in the back seat of his U.S. government-issued Chevette. ...

The controversy surrounding the California condor may well outlive the species

“The people behind this have the rainbow-trout mentality”

On Sunday, April 19, the last known California condor was snatched from the wild. Depending on your viewpoint, this event was a great tragedy that marked the extinction of the wild condor or a great ...

The importance of Avenida Revolucion

Gringo street

Avenida Revolucion, where two great civilizations collide to form a Himalayan range of apposite images and attitudes, has made business geniuses out of men like Hector Santillan. Starting as a shoeshine boy in the 1940s, ...

Engineer claims damage from PCBs at Westgate Hotel


George Gueria was an engineer at the posh Westgate Hotel on Second Avenue downtown from 1978 to 1984. now he's designated by the Social Security Administration as "totally disabled." he contends in a lawsuit filed ...

Anti-Castro Cubans take on Mayor O'Connor

¡Cuba, sí!

Today Ataricio Loriga Gomez’s right wrist works again, and Pablo Pena Valdez no longer shows the unmistakable symptoms of starvation. When the two former political prisoners were released from Cuba six months ago and introduced ...

Larry Himmel — Channel 8's clown

Life begins at 7:30

In a morning’s work in Alpine, Larry Himmel has interviewed Aggie McGuffie at her soda fountain, provided some smart-ass, on-camera commentary poking fun at the Alpine Mobile Estates sign, spent five minutes trying to get ...

Camp Mataguay — not for sissies

Boy Scouts will be boys

The first time the Boy Scouts wrecked a backpacking trip for me was in 1976, on the trail up San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains. Two of us had struggled for most of a ...

So many cars stolen in San Diego

P.S., your car is gone

Greg Garver has the look of a man who knows his way around dual carbs. More precisely, with a rounded mustache and goatee on his boyish face, he looks like rock star Bob Seger, which ...

The Indians and Edward H. Davis

Historian recorded lives of Native Americans in San Diego at the turn of the century

George G. Heye a wealthy New Yorker established the Museum of the American Indian in New York City. In 1915 Heye purchased Davis's collection and appointed Davis a field collector for the museum.

San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad hopes for profit

Little train on a big track

It is just past 9:30 on a cool Thursday night when locomotive engineer Jim Scudella radios for clearance from the San Diego Trolley controller to move out across the trolley tracks at Thirteenth and Imperial ...

San Diego Mission's oldest remains covered up

History paved over

In the beginning of the end, which for West Coast Indians was 217 years ago, the site of Mission San Diego de Alcala was an Indian village known as Nipaguay. Indians had occupied the site, ...

The seven wonders of San Diego

Lilac Road Bridge, boulders in Boulevard, Sealab II

The biggest shootout in San Diego police history took place on April 8, 1965 at the Hub pawnshop downtown. The shootout is the case the California Supreme Court used in abolishing the state's death penalty in 1972.

Ballast Point's whaling station unearthed

The blubber digs

The season of the gray whale migration is approaching, just as archaeologist Ron May and his volunteers complete their summer excavations on the old Ballast Point whaling station. The group had discovered the station during ...

Bill Kellogg fights Imperial Beach breakwater

Predicts disaster for Silver Strand

“They don’t know what they’re doing, but they go ahead and do it anyway,” says William Kellogg, referring to the Army Corps of Engineers, the California Coastal Commission, and the City of Imperial Beach. The ...

Archie Moore still doesn't pull his punches

A few rounds with the Mongoose

“You’re like my opponents. Inquisitive. But they are not to touch me.” — Archie Moore Archie Moore was true to his words. I never really touched him. You don’t touch the Mongoose, by consensus the ...

Escondido's Stephan Reiss finds primary water – where no one else can

Fracture zones below the bedrock

Just three weeks ago an octogenarian, who is either truly brilliant or merely skillful, moved down from Ojai, southeast of Santa Barbara, to rural Escondido. His name is Stephan Riess. He’s eighty-seven, and for fifty ...

San Diego homicide teams descends on Golden Hill

San Diego police department claims eighty-two percent of murders solved

Late on a cold Monday night Jose Griego took his place on a pile of weeds outside his small apartment in Golden Hill, the seventh of what were to be nine San Diego murder victims ...

San Carlos family deals with adult schizophrenic son

A chronicle of illness, fear, and frustration

November 5, 1984 I returned home around 6 o’clock to find Billy in yard shouting obscenities loud & clear. Neighbors came over to say that police had been called — that Billy was breaking things, ...

Tight-lipped submariners aboard the Blueback open up

One of only five remaining diesel boats in the U.S. fleet

Twilight has descended on the eight officers and ninety-four enlisted men of the submarine Blueback (SS-581), and on this warm Saturday evening in mid-October the waning of an era has occasioned some serious celebrating. Garbed ...

Boxing comes to the Palisades Garden roller rink

San Diego vs. Tijuana bouts

Two hours before the fights begin, the boxing ring is a clean canvas framed by loose ropes and illuminated from above by stars of blue neon. Surrounding the ring, the wooden floor at the Palisades ...

The luring of the 1988 Super Bowl to San Diego – and all that went on before

Leon Parma, Dick Grihalva, and the Copley Press

So rabid for a stadium was Jack Murphy that several of his columns dealt with an idea, proffered by a local design firm, for building a floating stadium in newly developed Mission Bay.

San Diego's last vaquero – his dad drove cattle from Pendleton to Cuyamaca

"We had the best o’ meat and the worst o’ everthing else"

I’ve always been really puzzled at what kind of grudge Teddy Roosevelt had agin’ ol’ Grover Cleveland, to name this goddam brush patch here as a forest after him.

Duke Cunningham's dogfight with MiGs over North Vietnam

An extraordinarily long and complex aerial chess match

Randy Cunningham taxied the F-4 Phantom onto the catapult aboard the USS Constellation, and both he and Bill Driscoll, the radar intercept officer in the back seat, turned to look at the spinning fingers of ...

Cops in Pacific Beach blame Diego's

Diego's tells them to investigate Hedgecock

Diego’s nightclub in Pacific Beach may be all the rage with the disco/video set, but its popularity also extends to the nightstick/badge set. Officer Gary Hill, who patrols the beach on the late shift, says ...

Drunk on a bike on Mission Beach boardwalk

They've got you by the handlebars

Until last October 7 at 1:15 a.m., John “Dirty Foot” Shultz thought he’d seen it all. Since graduating from Mission Bay High in 1961 Shultz has pretty much been a regular along the boardwalk in ...

Naval Electronics Lab: SWATH boats, pulse-height analyzer, compass checker, lift sling

Inventions, inventors, patents, and military secrets atop Point Loma

“The patent office people call me all the time, asking about new stuff like this that might be patentable,” says Cooke, who holds four other patents for the navy and three for General Dynamics.

United Front Vietnamese and the murder of refugees here and in Texas

The war back home

They massed in the parking lot of the Lockheed building on Harbor Island one Saturday in mid-September, a disciplined group of Vietnamese refugees all wearing the brown shirt and tan slacks that constitute their uniform. ...

Bodysurfers from Oceanside to the IB Pier

Most maniacally anti-commercial faction is the Boomer Beach crowd

It was a ride that replays itself periodically in his mind, a rare moment of physical and spiritual revelation. The place was Petacalco, on the western coast of southern Mexico, where the waves break inside ...

The profundity of the Vietnamese poets in San Diego

Nam Xuyen, Ha Thuc Sinh – "it's very hard"

Cockcrow at midday! Oh, how it makes me remember! Alone in a strange land Suddenly my soul flies far away To my home town in the middle of the day . . . Cockcrow at ...

Oceanside police use tougher dogs

K-9s trained in Rose Canyon by Fon Johnson

North’s jaws clamped around my left forearm and a bolt of comprehension peeled back the night. As his teeth began to squeeze through my jacket, all that I had been learning about police dogs became ...

Phony Texas oilman dupes, marries La Jolla real estate woman

And that's just the beginning

You have before you the offender, Donald Marshall Mabry. His ample girth fills completely the fold-down seat in Judge Michael Greer’s courtroom. It is judgment day, and outside, the May morning is hot, the air ...

City Councilman Bill Mitchell openly talks of est and self-actualization

In search of the metaphysical vote

Dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang. The grandfather clock in Bill Mitchell’s city council office strikes 11:00 p.m. Time has run out on his campaign for mayor. The last of ...

Chamber of Commerce's Lee Grissom knows every San Diego leader

And more influential on San Diego than anyone except Pete Wilson

Twenty-five white caps were lined authoritatively straight and even on the table in a large banquet room at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island. Each one bore the gold band signifying its owner was a ...

Down the corridors of San Diego County Mental Health

Voices in the dark

All he knows for sure is that he woke up beside Otay Reservoir, just north of the Mexican border, on a Friday evening in early November, and that now he’s in the county’s emergency mental ...