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Stories by Thomas Larson

Beautiful Light

I ask everyone I interview to name places each would consider the most dramatically lit in San Diego.

It's not even noon and already I'm closing the blinds on the south-facing windows of my home office. That pesky natural light is overrunning the glow of the lamp by which I work. Too much ...

Scary Pictures: What Kids See on TV

TV invades kids’ minds.

Ten-year-old Olivia Palmer, a fifth grader at Pacific Beach Elementary, picks up the television remote, presses "on," and touches two numbers, 3 and 6, on the keypad. The TV goes to MTV's Real World. It's ...


Raymond Baumgartner and the Marty Brothers busted for pit bull fighting on Rainbow Glen Road.

RILEY has had trouble sleeping ever since he was left in this pen, its gate locked, its concrete floor hosed off every morning. He hates the constant barking either side of him, that deep ruff-ruff ...


Where few slow learners survive.

Finding yourself in jail or prison for the first time unlatches a simple conundrum: you can’t know what you’re about to face because, had you known, you might have avoided the crime, or at least ...


Asked where I live in San Diego, I always say “beautiful Clairemont,” because I’m a smartass and because it’s the truth. I might qualify (place, not beauty) by adding “North Clairemont,” to distinguish our geographical ...

To Fuse Wind and Its Motion

Guy McCaskie has seen the 21 species of gulls in San Diego County. 99 percent of the gulls seen locally are 4 species.

LO AND BEHOLD, said the Mormons, God sent in thousands and thousands of California gulls to devour the devourers.

Under Our Perfect Sun Mike Davis Finds Trouble

It’s an August midafternoon in El Cajon. It’s 100 degrees, and the sane people are in the shade, keeping still. Not Mike Davis. For an hour, the most famous social historian of Southern California has ...

The White Mask: Marilyn Monroe and the Hotel Del Coronado

Even Arthur Miller couldn't make Billy Wilder happy; Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis did their best.

“There was no connection. No more mystery to it than that. She was not the kind of woman a sex bomb is supposed to be, and it wore her out. She never found anyone who understood her.”

A Soldier's Pay

Some San Diego military families go hungry

It may be the ultimate irony of the conflict with Iraq that to glimpse the difficult home lives of our soldiers, their spouses, and their children, America needs a foreign war. And even as those ...

Reina's Story

North County's sex slaves -Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad, next to strawberry fields in Carlsbad, and next to San Luis Rey River

In April 2001, 15-year-old Reina was leaving her home in Tenancingo, a high-plateau town west of Mexico City. She was happier than she’d been in a while, traveling north to Tijuana, in the company of ...

I Am Your Loving Daughter Clara Clemens

Decent men elude Mark Twain’s child - she ends up at Bahia in Mission Beach.

In 1940, the recently widowed and wealthy Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch bought a small estate in the Hollywood hills and sought counsel from a medium named Sardoney about her love life. Known also by his epithet ...

El Cajon Mojo Master Lectures Spielberg

It was no accident, said San Diego clairvoyant Dr. James Capers, that movie mogul and occult aficionado Steven Spielberg attended his lecture in February, when Capers demonstrated his "spiritual gifts" at the Los Angeles Conscious ...

Does the City Care How Much Water You Use?

In recent years, the 855 employees of the San Diego Water Department have faced scandals, alleged mismanagement, media scrutiny, and the rebuke of the city council. All this began in 1999 when news stories appeared ...

Almost beautiful

Nathaniel West, Hollywood soothsayer, killed near El Centro

They were distraught, talking incessantly, since they had just learned West’s dear friend F.Scott Fitzgerald had died. Dateline Hollywood. Sad news to report today, the voice of the flapper generation has been silenced.

Writer, interupted

Romance and music waylay an author

Believe it or not, with this piece, the University of California, San Diego, accepted me into its Ph.D. program in composition. So family and I came west in 1982. You’d think I would have been ecstatic.

How Steam and Sun Can Light Your Life

Who among us has not twitched a little during this, the year of California’s power crisis, upon hearing Tales of the End Time of the Fossil Fuel. For more than a billion years, the planet’s ...

Swords Unsheathed

Next week's runoff election in District 6 for the city council seat vacated by Valerie Stallings last January will close a match between first-time candidates Steve Danon -- former chief of staff to Ron Roberts ...

The John Moores Exemption

Why did Stallings take the fall?

The grimy facts behind Valerie Stallings' guilty plea.

Jenna's Dad

Last spring I had only begun to follow the renowned psychologist Ken Druck and the grief he bears for losing his 21-year-old daughter, Jenna, when he called one day to say he was with two ...

Adult Boys of Rancho Peñasquitos

Last March California voters approved Proposition 21, the anti-juvenile crime initiative, by a gang-busting 62 percent. San Diegans passed the measure by a full two-thirds. To date it’s been a galvanizing nine months for local ...

Making News

Day-of-Air Today at the East County Community Health Services clinic in El Cajon, Supervisor Dianne Jacob is holding a “newser,” an announcement directed at the media. Because Scripps East Hospital in El Cajon has recently ...

Real Parents

Dad was adopted.

At breakfast my father asked me what I thought we should do if, in Grandma and Grandpa’s safety deposit box, we found the document identifying his real parents. The year was 1967, and he and ...

Fairy Shrimp, the City of San Diego, and the Mayor of Poway

The sad fate of vernal pools and their inhabitants

“Oooh, what’s that?” Kelly says, touching the water. “There’s a shrimp.” He says it’s long and translucent. “See it?” What I can make out looks like a near-invisible minnow. Shrimp swim upside down, Kelly explains.

Never Die

The down side of in vitro fertilization at UCSD

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 years of ...

California, Here I Come

Divorce in the Golden State

I froze, shut my eyes, while the steam rose. How many times had she pecked at me to drive off the beaten path, search for a restaurant, an antique shop, a flea market. “Stop!” she’d say.

City of Artless Politics

The San Diego Convention Center board of director's vote was tied Friday, November 19, three for Nancy Rubins's proposed Harbor Drive sculpture -- the 102-foot-high, 100-ton arch of 60 cabled-together fiberglass boats -- and three ...

Last Light

What distinguishes San Diego landscape

He compares California light to New England’s or the Pacific Northwest’s, where “there’s a haziness to the light that you don’t have here. Here it’s sharp, almost desert-like, but it still has the moisture.”

Everlasting Uncertainty

How I became a Marxist at UCSD

I was aghast to find that UC grad students who have chosen their specialization do not devote themselves to the “primary” literature — a poem, a novel, or a genre—but to the “secondary” literature.

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