Back to profile

Stories by Thomas Larson

Best Reader stories from 2003

P.B Rec Center, Marilyn Monroe, North County sex slaves, Christian cowboys, Mark Twain's daughter, Bataan Death March survivors

The white mask On Saturday, September 6, 1958, Marilyn Monroe and the 175-person company of Some Like It Hot arrived at the Hotel del Coronado to begin location shots, after filming in Hollywood the previous ...

Best Reader stories from 2000

Penasquitos teens in big trouble, Stephen Facciola, Olive Street, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, San Diego Chinatown, Padres and the Mob

Rancho Peñasquitos boys, charged with hate crime The teenagers shot at Roman from the Subaru with the BB gun during three or four passes. They took turns shooting at him as they drove by, but ...

Best Reader stories from 1999

Jesse Ventura, La Costa, amateur astronomers, beachside dwellers, TJ poets, father of jogging, Andrew Cunanan, Bompensiero, kidnapped at Coronado Cays

Was Jesse Ventura a SEAL or a UDT guy? Well, I thought, Jesse certainly looks and sounds like many SEALs I’d known during my 16 years in the Teams. But I’d never known or even ...

Paradise Hills strives for cohesion

Half the town has sidewalks, half doesn't

Origin Guy Preuss is an affable, tanned, retired Navy Master Chief, a Vietnam vet. As the 30-year self-described “temporary” president of the local village council and the chair of the planning committee, he does what ...

Ramona – a lot of stories

Helen Hunt Jackson, Mesa Grande Indians, San Diego Country Estates, Mt. Woodson, Ramona grasslands, Cedar Fire

Was Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona real? During late winter and early spring of every year, a bit of confusion reigns up north in the town of Ramona. The folks at the chamber of commerce there ...

Sorrento Valley – what little there is

Lost roads, The Corner House, fights with Mira Mesa, how to go south on 805

Lost roads of San Diego:Sorrento Rd., Smilax, Edelweis There was also once a Smilax Road in Sorrento Valley, one in a series of short roads named for local flora. It paralleled the railroad tracks on ...

San Diego State – an elite school

69,725 apply for 5400 freshmen spots

The Event: College Fair Night. The Venue: San Diego Convention Center. The Scene: A big-box room rowed with white linen-covered tables behind blue-curtained backdrops. The Hosts: More than 300 college admissions table-sitters selling the glories ...

University City – UCSD's bedrooms

Trolley, Regents Road Bridge, San Clemente Canyon, Miramar jets, traffic

No trolley in my backyard A group of neighborhood conservationists in University City are hoping to put the brakes on a plan to extend trolley service from downtown San Diego's Santa Fe Depot to a ...

35 glimpses at Lemon Grove

Including the 1931 Lemon Grove Incident

1 On January 5, 1931, 75 Mexican-American children were expelled from the Lemon Grove Grammar School. By decree of the school board, the principal, Jerome Green, blocked the doorway, proto-George-Wallace style, telling the kids to ...

What they do with San Diego's abandoned babies and homeless dead

For example: the eight-month-old child thrown out of a third-story window in Escondido

Today, a brace of mourners is bidding farewell to twins Baby Andy and Baby Honey, the briefest of brother and sister. Their scant hours among the living are over, the endlessness of eternity begun. Days ...

Sorrento Valley lacks stickiness

But they want Mira Mesa to stop the land grab

In August 2018, many of us were aghast at a news story, summed up in the Union-Tribune’s webby headline, “Three dead in wrong-way I-805 crash in Sorrento Valley that shut down freeway for 6 hours.” ...

Little Italy’s big — massive redevelopment

In my heart I hate it — arguments with Little Italy's density flacks

The Little Italy I love has always been its sumptuous food and sensual people, both of which, despite the nouveau riche takeover of late, remain as present and prosperous as ever. That Little Italy is ...

Downtown San Diego's C Street: the manifestation of our vitality and gloom

The oracles of doom go unheeded

It’s decision day in the city-council chambers, Two Broke Girls vs. Billions. Call it a classic smackdown between local architectural preservationists who want to save any Spanish Colonial Revival building (and think someone should pay) ...

San Diego’s top 12 philanthropists

Joan Kroc, Irwin Jacobs, Ernest Rady, Robert Price, Conrad Prebys, Gary West, Donald Shiley, Robert Howard, Ted Waitt, Andre Viterbi, Charles Brandes, Malin Burnham

San Diego’s richest person is someone I’ve never heard of: Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer. The Rancho Santa Fe resident owns a 7 percent stake in the family business, Cargill, a purveyor of grain and agricultural commodities ...

The oldest things in San Diego

Presidio cemetery, Casa de Carrillo in Old Town, Pekin Café

Cemetery The thing about the dead that haunts us, in addition to having lost them, is that they are here, in the ground, buried or scattered, bones or ash. Their remains are marked, heralded, and ...

Noisy Margaret Noble seeks friend not foe

Sound to give back silence

Every scene in a drama, according to the late director Mike Nichols, is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. He added, as a footnote, the same is true in life. The thrill, or ...

The photo is not the boss of Kim Reasor

A sinister blame creeps in

No one ogles the industrial vistas of Southern California. Those unsightly realms where giant cranes stipple the skyline. Where ship containers are stacked unemptied of their new Curvy Barbie dolls for Walmart. Where thickets of ...

Between words and images

Skewering politics is a hi-def pleasure

Now open at Cedar and Kettner downtown is yet another San Diego monument to the commute: a $24 million, trolley-side, ten-story (three levels below ground, seven above), 645-space parking structure, bestowing parking slots on County ...

I don’t know why I’m a musician, because I don’t really care about music

Joe Garrison is a musical survivalist. The 64-year-old jazz and new music composer has shaped his artistic life to favor more beginnings than ends. Like his hero, Igor Stravinsky, he’s learned that to reinvent himself ...

Before 16, Sherry Sotelo became adult in San Diego's juvenile court

Pregnant at 15, she says she was “hopping from couch to couch”

Emancipation is designed to support kids, not to relieve parents.

Defibrillators spread around San Diego

But what about advertisements everywhere?

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees ...

Printers that can make (almost) anything

Nutella chocolates, no problem; a functioning liver, not so easy.

I have always thought that among humankind’s most lofty inventions is the printer — the machine, not the person.

San Diego’s most polluted areas

Barrio Logan, Tijuana River, Loma Alta Slough, Camp Pendleton, ocean plastics

Urban drool seems to be the least of our problems.

San Diego reservoirs at record lows

Headwaters of the San Diego River dry, too

How dry is it? Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry.

Contrary to popular wisdom, drones are already among — or above — San Diegans

Let's call them "flying robots"

I want to believe that when we talk about drones — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems — whose bodies vary from pterodactyl-big to mosquito-small (the Robobee, a robotic insect, weighs ...

The freeway struggle from Fallbrook – why migrants want that legal status

Slog for a green card

In California, legal noncitizens are 10 percent of the population.

Hugh Tech High alum Nico D’Amico-Barbour says no thanks to college

Uneducated but not unlearned

Young guys explain why they are passing on going to college. Absurd expense and subsequent debt is one reason, but even a young man from a well-off family sees other deterrents.

Curious objects from San Diego's past

Wyatt Earp note, Lindbergh jumpsuit, Bob Simmons surfboard, Heaven's Gate shroud, Navy cross, rattlesnake basket

San Diego's curios — each with their own separate stories.

Escondido maintenance man loses home to foreclosure defrauders

The unscrupulous Zepeda brothers

At least 550 Southern California homeowners have been victimized by the Zepeda brothers — their scheme to rake in foreclosure funds.

Kent Keigwin tases and strangles friend John Watson in La Jolla

A long plan to get money

It was March 2009 when the British-born siblings Gillian Ison and John Graham Watson met at Zermatt, a resort in the shadow of Switzerland’s Matterhorn. There, with family members, they indulged a passion for skiing: ...

Stars gas station owner gets employees to burn his Ramona house

Debt. Arson. Murder.

John Nesheiwat was parked in his car, a rosary on the seat beside him, about a mile from the North Woodson Drive rental home owned by James Kurtenbach, a 4000-square-foot luxury house in one of ...

Is He a Citizen?

On Sixth Avenue, across the street from the block-long Family Court building, stands a row of converted single-family Victorian homes, their yards parking lots, their windows barred. Today those residencies are family-mediation agencies and immigration ...

Driving after midnight in Poway, you will be stopped

Nighttime patrol is never monotonous

"Basically,” says Aaron Meleen, a deputy sheriff traffic investigator working the night shift in Poway, “we don’t have much going on right now.” It’s a Monday evening, the onset of his 12½-hour shift, and we’re ...

Russian boars let loose on Capitan Grande Indian Reservation

Four years later, hunters pursue them south of Julian

The only sign of life in Julian at 5:00 a.m. this April morning are men in white paper toques rolling out pie dough at the bright-lighted Julian Bakery. It’s a deep black morning when I ...

The death and attempted suicide of Ginger and Frank Bass

Till death do us part. It's the only way we will.

When Ginger Bass filed for divorce from her husband Frank in November 2007, she hoped he would not contest the dissolution. She offered to buy out his interest in their Lakeside home so both could ...

After the Music Died

No Art Left BehindDespite a maddening mix of fact and fiction about music and our children’s interest in it, local music education is thrumming along. In the past six years, San Diego Unified School District ...

Nonprofits Nonplussed

At the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista, things are humming along as they have since the center was founded in 1932 as a settlement house for families of Italian and Portuguese fishermen. Having moved ...

Ex pros in San Diego: Ron Mix, Todd Washington, Eddie George, Matt Birk, Lamond Murray Geoff Miller

After the fourth quarter, where do they go?

If ever there were a San Diego Charger whose postcareer success has matched his years spent on the field, it’s the great Ron Mix. Mix’s glory years came in the 1960s, when the Chargers were ...

San Diego City Council chiefs of staff

John Rivera, Christina Cameron, Jamie Fox-Rice, Jimmie Slack, Jaymie Bradford, Ana Molina-Rodriguez, Aimee Faucett

The tenth floor of San Diego city hall is like a submarine in the sky. Behind sealed windows and an electronic-buttoned security door are the cramped offices of eight councilmembers, who themselves are sardined in ...

Why is Palomar Pomerado Health advertising?

Healthcare is like burgers — sell, sell, sell

Many of us watched the Chargers’ season-ending run this past winter and, amid the cheers and groans, saw a 30-second TV ad starring LaDainian Tomlinson. Well-dressed and calm, he’s holding a postgame news conference. A ...

Abortionist Bertha Bugarin heads to jail

Chula Vista clinic operator wanted to practice medicine badly

In October 2007, Michael Varga, a police officer assigned to the Chula Vista Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit, began interviewing women about the abortions they had received at a local clinic, Clinica Medica para la ...

Chris Cantore and Hilary Chambers leave San Diego Clear Channel stations

Why local radio is no longer local

If San Diego has a voice, it may be the plummy bass of Chris Cantore. Until December 2007, the Brooklyn native was an audible fixture on 91X’s Cantore in the Morning, his 5:00–10:00 a.m. show, ...

San Diego prison bureaucracies deny basic medical care

Go directly to jail...and die

Francisco Castaneda came to the United States from El Salvador during its civil war of the 1980s. Fleeing the violence, his mother crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 1982 with Francisco, aged 10, and his ...

San Diego women who kill the ones they love

Intimate murder

In each of the last three years, there were roughly 17,000 murders in the United States. Of these, about 11 percent were committed by women. In most cases women kill to defend themselves during a ...

How UCSD Spent Over $500,000 on a Home Remodel That Never Happened

The house on the Land of the Dead

Perhaps the most prized piece of real estate throughout the University of California, San Diego, is the seven-acre site of University House, home to the UCSD chancellor. The rambling adobe home, with its row of ...

San Diego's highest paid executives

AMN Healthcare, Qualcomm, Sempra, SAIC, Amylin, Leap Wireless, Jack in the Box, Cubic – all contribute

Salaries, stock options, corporate jets, limousines, interest-free loans, trust funds.

Sad San Diego foreclosures and how we got there.

Of course you qualify!

Mario is a recent immigrant from Mexico, and he's typical of homeowners facing foreclosure. He doesn't want me to use his surname; he's ashamed of getting behind on his payments. He thinks he's been irresponsible, ...

23 Reader writers describe the regime of editor Judith Moore

She hated adverbs

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 ...

"It's a Good Story for You"

I was grateful just to be called, to be trusted.

Though she was my editor, I never met Judith. I knew her instead via calls and e-mail. When she phoned, there'd be that throaty alto, so sure, so self-possessed. I'd grab a pen, and she'd ...

San Diego's world of the nose: coffee, spices, cow manure, perfume

What an aromatherapist does

Andrea Kane is new to San Diego: the Navy has stationed her husband here, and they've landed in Imperial Beach. While he serves, she's become an aromatherapist and a perfumer. Locally, she's already making a ...

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader