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Stories by Thomas Larson

The Hemet-San Diego State commute, bulldozing Mexicans out of central Escondido

Chinaberry Farm: Finding Home Half our belongings still packed in the barn, paths form a quotidian maze between stacked boxes. The house livable, anyway. A rat takes up residence in Cindy’s paintings stored in the ...

July 12, 2021
Jack Kemp and the fugitive, U.S. Grant's son, Seals ambivalent about Jesse Ventura

Kemp and the Fugitive Fotomat also gave Graham a political base. One of the first beneficiaries was Jack Kemp. On May 23, 1968, the San Diego Union reported that Kemp had “joined Fotomat Corp., La ...

July 5, 2021
San Diego stupid

Sign of the Times: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla, written and published privately in 1976 and reissued in April, is a sudden bestseller. Hardly unexpected, given the times. If you’ve ...

June 30, 2021
San Diego's worst white collar crime these days

White-collar criminals come in all sizes and styles, but they share a motive: to steal money. Anyone’s stash will do. According to the FBI, they are experts at “deceit, concealment, [and] violation of trust.” Of ...

May 5, 2021
SEALs talk war atrocities, Rolling Stone embeds at Camp Pendleton

A Soldier's Pay Bradley is an animated woman of 36, whose tousled long black hair and French accent give her an exotic cast. When I acknowledge her accent, she replies, “Yes, I’m sorry, I’m from ...

February 27, 2021
Will sand save San Diego North County's bluffs?

The Sand at Encinitas Jayme Timberlake — tide-watcher, restoration ecologist, avid surfer — light-foots it down Encinitas’s iconic Stone Steps. She’s barefoot, having kicked off her shoes and left them on the sand-dusted floor of ...

San Diego's shadiest characters: John Moores, David Malcolm, Dick Silberman

UCSD, Big Money, and the Ball Club When Gray Davis appointed Padres owner John Moores to the Board of Regents of the University of California, Dynes said, “I’m really looking forward to working with him…I’m ...

January 4, 2021
San Diego's gay bathhouses, wild life of our foreign cabbies, best light in the city

Bathhouse Quagmire "I was in those San Francisco bathhouses in the late 1970s," says James Hartline, an HIV-positive Hillcrest man who is campaigning to get San Diego's three bathhouses shut down. "Those bathhouses were a ...

November 23, 2020
Border Angels, being Muslim in San Diego, what's a green card worth?

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 ...

November 14, 2020
Tijuana country club kidnapping, shootout near school, nostalgia for Jai Alai, casino, racetrack

Don't look now Abduction and murder at T.J.’s Camp Campestre Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult not to stare at ten men dressed in black who brandished submachine guns. Under normal circumstances, ten men ...

November 9, 2020
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
Race in 19th century San Diego, Marilyn Monroe in Coronado, early drive-in theaters

None Darker Than Me Racial obsession in 19th-century San Diego People of color were beginning to move into Sherman Heights and Golden Hill. There were colored Civil War veterans who lived in Golden Hill — ...

October 31, 2020
What restaurant staffs eat, Eleanor Widmer, how far San Diego's food comes

What Insiders Eat Restaurant staff gab and gobble. Travis Murphy, also a cook, planned the staff’s daily dinner. At Nine-Ten, he said, the hardest part of arranging the staff meal, also called the “family meal,” ...

October 18, 2020
San Diego fishing life, dirty work, tools of the trade

Tools of the Trade The implements for bringing home the bacon. Have your friends and neighbors looked weighed down, put upon, or bent low to the ground lately? Perhaps they are! After all, many of ...

October 17, 2020
The Chargers crowd, the Padres crowd, where old Chargers are

Cheerleading Is More Dangerous than Fighting Cage-fightin’ rock stars. It’s Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., and I am waiting for amateur mixed martial arts fighter Jaime Reyes at the Lakeside Cafe. When he walks past me, ...

October 11, 2020
In vitro baby trouble, Mark Twain's daughter, after foster care

Never Die Like many newly married couples, Cristen and Jeffry Hays wanted to get pregnant soon after their wedding in 1992 but felt it best to wait. They used birth control until Jeffry finished three ...

October 10, 2020
Orchid zealots, brave beekeepers, pit bulls not so bad, vicious seagulls, San Diego birds surveyed, a cactus will take a bullet

Hive Mentality Beekeeping runs in families. “The book said to call the fire department and tell them you’ll take swarms. That’s what I did. I got the swarms.” By Shari McCullough, Sept. 16, 2004 | ...

September 27, 2020
Korean War survivors, Hotel Del expels Prince Edward, Spanish Civil War vets, escape from Vietnam, tortured by Japanese

The Forgotten War Conversations with men who never forgot I do not recall putting my foot on Korean soil for the first time. I only remember the cold rain, and running, and others running with ...

September 20, 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
Mark Twain's daughter ends up at the Bahia Hotel, Osama bin Laden's brother at USIU

Third Spud from the Sun: Cameron Crowe Then and Now “A couple things about Cameron set him down a peg from even the rank and file of ’zine greenhorn dust-suckers. He for all intents & ...

September 12, 2020
Most notable San Diego Reader stories of the early 21st Century

Bathhouse Quagmire "I was in those San Francisco bathhouses in the late 1970s," says James Hartline, an HIV-positive Hillcrest man who is campaigning to get San Diego's three bathhouses shut down. "Those bathhouses were a ...

August 23, 2020
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
The glamour and crime of Tijuana

Don't look now Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult not to stare at ten men dressed in black who brandished submachine guns. Under normal circumstances, ten men dressed in black who brandished submachine guns ...

August 8, 2020
Hard times for San Diego County cities

San Marcos City Manager Jack Griffin begins his annual June letter to the mayor and city council, “It is kind of my pleasure to submit the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Operations and Maintenance Budget.” That “kind ...

Snakes are the new hamsters

To hold an anaconda, it’s best to spread your hands out like spatulas and let the snake lie there, feeling supported. If the serpent doesn’t feel buoyed in your hands, it will squirm and droop ...

July 29, 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
A select view of San Diego history

My Highschool Days With Lester Bangs When Lester Bangs moved to Detroit to join the staff of Creem magazine, we kept in touch with letters and phone calls that came less and less often. The ...

July 19, 2020
What San Diego restaurant staffs eat, dumpster diving for dinner

What Insiders Eat Travis Murphy, also a cook, planned the staff’s daily dinner. At Nine-Ten, he said, the hardest part of arranging the staff meal, also called the “family meal,” was “to find something to ...

July 4, 2020
Waiter at La Jolla's Tapenade, toilet cleaner at Spanky's

Tools of the Trade Have your friends and neighbors looked weighed down, put upon, or bent low to the ground lately? Perhaps they are! After all, many of the people we see around us tote ...

June 28, 2020
Poignant human drama in San Diego

Never Die They used birth control until Jeffry finished three years of chiropractic school, passed his preceptorship, and established a practice in San Diego. Then, in their mid-30s, with “it’s now or never” nagging them, ...

June 20, 2020
Spanish civil war vets, harrowing escape from Vietnam, POWs of Japan, Prince of Wales tossed from Hotel Del Coronado

The Forgotten War I do not recall putting my foot on Korean soil for the first time. I only remember the cold rain, and running, and others running with me. By David Burge, June 20, ...

May 24, 2020
San Diego history you never knew

90 Years of Curl Elwell says Kahanamoku surfed the OB Pier, and when he did, he asked a teenaged lifeguard named Charlie Wright if he could store his board in Wright's beach shack. By Jeannette ...

April 19, 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
Little Italy – will the flavor last?

Tiny rooms in Little Italy On a Little Italy plot where a Victorian house stood for more than a century, construction of tiny apartments is underway. The house, built in the 1890s at the corner ...

Padres bribe city councilwoman (Moores gets off), Padres and the mob

Fun with Ralph: Excerpts From a Busy Man's Calendar Councilman Inzunza’s frantic lunch hours. “Virtually every business day at the stroke of 12 noon, the 34-year-old councilman can be seen strolling out of his 12th-story ...

April 5, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2019

Hillcrest: gayborhood or ghetto? “I was only in West Hollywood for four years and I came from the East Coast by way of Las Vegas,” he says. “To me, Hillcrest is just normal. At least ...

April 4, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2013

Movie lover's paradise Meanwhile, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video have shuttered their local outlets. Owner and buyer Guy Hanford understands why. “When you went into a Blockbuster or Hollywood to rent a film, you never engaged ...

March 14, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2009

A San Diego Charger football game is one thing, fandom is something else Silva's powder blue coffin was trimmed with gold — Charger colors. His body was dressed in a jersey honoring his favorite player, ...

February 29, 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 2003

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 ...

February 8, 2020
Best Reader stories from 2000

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 ...

January 26, 2020
Best Reader stories from 1999

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 ...

January 25, 2020
Paradise Hills strives for cohesion

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 ...

January 22, 2020
Ramona – a lot of stories

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 ...

San Diego's changing bugs

On the northwest corner of Montezuma Mesa, Marshal Hedin and I are easing down a steep stairway, scorched by the noonday sun. A biology professor at San Diego State, Hedin specializes in arachnids. He’s already ...

November 20, 2019
Sorrento Valley – what little there is

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 ...

September 23, 2019
San Diego State – an elite school

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 ...

August 14, 2019
University City – UCSD's bedrooms

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

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 ...

April 10, 2019
What they do with San Diego's abandoned babies and homeless dead

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 ...

January 23, 2019

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