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Stories by Stephen Dobyns

Immigrants flock to San Diego

Border Angels "We know the kind of people we catch here. They're horrible people." The Border Patrol agent's tone was no more than blandly informative. It was 7:00 p.m. July 16, and we were at ...

August 9, 2020
San Diego inside sports

Lakeside's Big Man There are roughly six million boys between the ages of 16 and 18 living in the United States. There are approximately 26,400 high schools and close to that number of starting centers ...

August 1, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2006

Border angels I wanted to learn about a group called Border Angels that, among other things, sets out water in the desert areas of the 66-mile San Diego sector. Usually, gallon bottles of water are ...

February 16, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2005

Salvation Mountain The Slabs are Slab City, three miles east of Niland, between the sultry Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains. Years ago the concrete slabs supported the barracks of Camp Dunlap, where General George ...

February 15, 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
Stephen Dobyns and the Reader

Stephen Dobyns wrote cover features for the Reader from 1998 through 2008. Dobyns’ poetic works count among them the 1971 Concurring Beasts, a National Poetry Series award winner (Black dog, red dog), and a Melville ...

July 20, 2019
Other San Diego summers

Phoenix without apologies Traveler, consider our Phoenix. An hour away by air, this flat, posh suburb of Greater L.A. is your finest summer vacation bargain. For the price of a bad weekend in a tacky ...

July 6, 2019
Certain San Diegans feel their missing limbs

Most stories begin with a person or an event. This one begins with a book. Last summer I read The Brain That Changes Itself by research psychiatrist and psychologist Norman Doidge, M.D., which discusses developments ...

July 9, 2008
Bodies…The Exhibition. at University Towne Centre

Maybe it’s my age — the dark side of my sixties, an elder proto-baby boomer, those 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Maybe it’s because I’ve been tearing my hair filling out Medicare ...

March 5, 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 ...

Make Something Better

I never met Judith Moore. To me she was a voice over the phone: slangy, half-cynical, eager to talk about her dog, and passionate about writing. I first talked to her in the summer of ...

August 16, 2007
Enrique Morones put out jugs of water in Otay Mesa, in Ocotillo, in Jacumba, in Campo

"We know the kind of people we catch here. They're horrible people." The Border Patrol agent's tone was no more than blandly informative. It was 7:00 p.m. July 16, and we were at the edge ...

December 7, 2006
Reader writers tell of great wedding moments and minor disasters

At Times It Was Like Shared Music, at Times Like a Skin Graft or Root Canal — Stephen Dobyns I do at a coffin sale — Dorothy Stewart A Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cake ...

At times it was like shared music, at times like a skin graft or a root canal

Chunks of ice rode the whitecaps as the Nantucket ferry steamed out of the harbor in Woods Hole and into the Atlantic. The March wind had driven Isabel into the warmth of the cabin, while ...

June 1, 2006
Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain at Slab City

My friend Rex says, "You'll love the Slabs in August. Some would call you adventurous and brave, and some completely out of your mind." The Slabs are Slab City, three miles east of Niland, between ...

November 3, 2005
Thomas Lux's The Cradle Place

"Much poetry is arbitrary, obscure, and inaccessible. It makes people feel stupid. That has a great deal to do with Modernism and Post-Modernism, even though many of the Modernists were great poets undeniably."

April 8, 2004
Will Bob McElroy's Alpha Project solve San Diego's homelessness?

Bob McElroy, head of the Alpha Project, and Martin Luther King III were walking slowly along the sidewalk as McElroy was telling King about homelessness in San Diego and the problems of alcohol and narcotics ...

December 12, 2002
Casa Raphael in Vista takes on drunks

John’s eyes were red and unfocused. He couldn’t stand still but took a few steps into the parking lot, then kicked the railing of the stairs leading to the second floor. “They set me up, ...

December 5, 2002
Tugboats of San Diego Bay

From the wheelhouse of the Harbor Commander, I spotted two fat sea lions lounging on a buoy about halfway between the Silver Strand and the Navy shipyard. It was a bright warm February morning, and ...

January 24, 2002
San Diego blacksmiths as fine artists

The black-caped, cast-iron devil figure was playing the violin and wearing a top hat and heavy horn-rimmed glasses. It rested on a cast-iron drum with a drumhead made out of a $450 piece of cobalt ...

January 10, 2002
They make their home by the San Diego River

His name was Petey and he had lived in the riverbed for 20 years. “It’s a nice place.” He told us that that morning 30 “Mexican kids” had come down looking for a chrome bike, which had been stolen.

October 18, 2001
Cajon Speedway, the fastest 3/8 mile pave oval on the West Coast

Like two dancers executing half a pirouette, the two 3000-pound late-model Sportsman-class stock cars spun out side by side, squealing their tires, as their rear ends slid toward the crash wall and their front ends ...

September 6, 2001
San Diego drag queens' allure for heterosexuals

To walk through Horton Plaza at lunchtime on a gorgeous day in late spring with a flamboyantly beautiful woman on your arm is a sure way to snag a lot of looks — quick, long, ...

March 1, 2001
San Diego's top tango dancers, Ive and Ludmilla Simard

Like two predatory birds performing a mating ritual high above the mountains, twisting and looping around one another before they lock together and fall hundreds of feet, still spinning, until they break apart moments before ...

October 12, 2000
A precarious life in San Diego Bay's A-8 anchorage

“The Port Authority took away all the good anchorages and they put us out here because they knew we wouldn’t last, but it’s the furthest place from anything too. They couldn’t put it anyplace else.”

29 Reader writers on their fathers

To commemorate Father's Day, this issue contains a collection of reflections from Reader writers about their fathers: The Last Tag Sale — Jeanne Schinto An Air of Exoticism — Duncan Shepherd Kinder Than I Would ...

June 15, 2000
Positioned on a Pedestal

My father died in the autumn of 1989 of congestive heart failure. His name was Lester and he was 79 and, as he recedes into the past, he gradually ceases to be a single human ...

June 15, 2000
Barrio Logan's Mini Truck Dismantling Center

Support your local junkie,” read the bumper sticker. “Ahh, Marion, do you have to?” said the police in Barrio Logan. The junkie is Marion Martinez, part-owner of Mini Truck Dismantling Center, what used to be ...

May 4, 2000
On January 22, San Diego Opera will burn a witch

A cockroach looking down toward the empty end of a cereal box — that’s my sense of the bare stage of the San Diego Civic Theatre viewed from the first row. No trace is left ...

January 13, 2000
Moody's, Fiesta, Hector's bring lunch to San Diego worksites

In and out, in and out – it reminds me of my grandmother darning the toe of a sock as the needle came and went, except these are lunch trucks see from far away: white, ...

July 29, 1999
San Diego's intrepid metal finders

The faint sound through the earphones is like the buzz of a mosquito on the other side of the room when you're trying to sleep. It nags at your attention, keeping you alert. Then, when ...

July 1, 1999
Pt. Loma's Glen Fisher plays electric bass with everyone

The drummer wears a puffy red cap over his dreadlocks, and dangling behind his head from a nail in the wall of the garage is a squashed red, yellow, and blue Sesame Street ball, so ...

January 21, 1999
San Diego Zoo animals get emotional support

I tighten my right arm around the cheetah’s neck. He has a deep purr, like a Harley-Davidson heard cruising along two blocks away. I try not to think of his teeth and claws, but his ...

October 15, 1998
Poet Stephen Dobyns hires escort and takes her to reading at D.G. Wills in La Jolla

The woman is sexy but very classy. She is tall, about five feet nine, with tousled brown hair. Her skirt and tight white blouse show off her figure in a way to bring about cardiac ...

August 6, 1998
UCAN's CyberCop vs.Oceanside's TechnoSearch

The names and ages of your spouse and children. What kind of car you drive. The value of your house and how much you pay in taxes on it.

September 11, 1997
Balboa Park museums do surgery on masterpieces

Bringing new life to half-eaten breakfasts.

January 16, 1997
Coronado lifeguards on the other side of the beach

“You play games in the winter. You see how long you can drive the truck without stopping. You close the truck windows and turn on the heat full blast. The first one to open the windows loses.”

August 15, 1996
Bad news from the Tijuana estuary

“They can be clumsy mothers. We’ve got videotapes of the mothers knocking the eggs out of the nest and sending them tumbling down the cliff.” Videos also show the mothers jumping up and down on their eggs.

September 28, 1995
Alcoholics Anonymous meet in San Diego

AA has been swamped by people sent to the program by courts: people arrest for drunk driving or other alcohol-related crimes.

June 29, 1995
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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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