San Diego Reader
Dudes to Dads Print E-mail

20240214(San Diego Reader February 14, 2024)

Many fathers, including myself, know the feeling: a strange and heady mix of joy, wonder, and fear, brought on by the first meeting with our progeny. We went into the hospital as supportive partners for our laboring women. We emerged as parents. We drove mother and baby home and helped get kiddo settled: cuddled, kissed, swaddled, and tucked into the crib. Then we surveyed the scene, marveled at our handiwork, took a deep breath, and said — possibly out loud, but to no one in particular — what the fuck do I do now?

Justin Lantzman is the 39-year-old president of a Sorrento Valley lending company. He knows the feeling; he can still recall the sudden joy and discomfort of the birth-day, six years ago. As we sit in his spacious, windowed office, he recounts that he and his wife — five years younger and an equestrian — were “resigned” never to have kids. (By design, all spouses and children will go unnamed here.) A semi-posh life, no money woes, but then, upon retiring from sport, she — they — suddenly wanted to get pregnant. There was fear involved with a later, riskier pregnancy, but that abated with a doctor’s OK. “We got into the pregnancy,” Lantzman says. “We had a good time.”

Very Good Boys & Girls Print E-mail

20240110(San Diego Reader January 10, 2024)

It’s an evening in early October, and Charli King, co-founder of Pawsitive Teams, is opening a new class for dog owners, canines in tow, who aspire to help people in need. That need is great — society is rife with both anxiety and trauma, and people need comfort: people in hospitals, assisted-living homes, airports, rehab centers, even college campuses during finals week. “Comfort” here means reduced blood pressure, reduced heart rate, reduced stress. That’s comfort that dogs can provide, but in order to fill that basic therapeutic role, those dogs must be trained by volunteers to the point where they can demonstrate fundamental skills with strangers and always, always display a calm demeanor.

Noise Is a Necessary Obscenity Print E-mail

20230823(San Diego Reader August 23, 2023)

I’m not sure why but my hearing capacity is large and, lately, my ears have grown scarily irritated by noise. That’s putting it mildly. I wish I could annihilate lots of sounds, silence their obnoxious producers—the rifling of popcorn from a plastic bag behind me at the Rady Shell or the vibratory menace of subwoofer speakers quaking like the San Andreas from a car stopped beside me. But no can do. I hear it all, the soft, the loud, the aural invasion of my everyday life. On planes I listen to Wayne Shorter on earbuds and affix, over them, form-fitting earmuffs, the sort workers who guide planes into their slots on the tarmac wear. If I don’t, I go screwy with the dopey chatter, the squalling babies, the engine rumble, and, for me, the audible internal terror, set to buzz, like a Geiger counter—turbulence. My ears need their privacy, dressing them, as I must, behind a curtain. No wonder I prefer a life writing alone in my double-paned windowed home office.

San Diego Smart: In Search of (Local) Intelligence Print E-mail

20230208(San Diego Reader February 8, 2023)

The first thing you realize once you start investigating “intelligence” is that no two people—whose personalities and abilities, capacities and traits, are as different as their DNA—use the word the same way. It’s one of those concepts like pleasure or truth or value where the variety of individual variation makes a reliable definition unlikely.

If, on my block in Clairemont, I ask ten neighbors what they think they are smart at, I’d get unique profiles from each. One has an affinity for native-plant gardening, another is a crackerjack piano teacher, another is a pickleball champ, still another’s Master’s in computer graphics is in such high demand that soon she’ll move out of Clairemont. Each person is better-than-average and one-of-a-kind, a credit to the species. So they will all say. It’s hard to control for self-aggrandizement, the stats tell us: When 64 percent of Americans rate their driving skills as excellent, the same folk score drivers of their own age and skill at 22 percent.

Life in Calipatria Print E-mail

20220831(San Diego Reader August 8, 2022)

In the infinite flatness of southern California’s Imperial Valley, an irrigated desert of cropland and skin-frying heat, lies Calipatria State Prison, a mostly maximum-security Level IV warren of cellblocks, surrounded for miles by massive ag plots: white plastic-coated storage barns of alfalfa hay; acres of livestock to which the bales are fed; fields of greenly ripe, ruler-straight commodities like sweet corn and leaf lettuce; flocks of snowy egrets that feast in those fields on lizards, snakes, and mice; and, powering some of the valley’s energy, large pitches of solar arrays on barren parcels. More widely diffused are the sun-withered towns, mottled and cracked by dust storms, where cadres of prison guards live. Not much moves in the desert other than the birds and the wind, breezing over Colorado River water rushing down the concrete ditches. And, arriving every hour, females driving families in battered Corollas who come to visit their lost loved ones.

Jackie Bryant Builds a Platform: The News Will Never Be the Same Print E-mail

20220126(San Diego Reader January 26, 2022)

It’s been a couple years since City Beat, a Reader-like junior of local news, irreverent columns, and cultural coverage went silent. The rag disappeared after a cascade of events: Times Media Group in Arizona purchased the publication, fired the editor, reset the weekly to a monthly, cut an Uber-load of writers, shrunk the pages and the ad space, and eventually “paused” the enterprise as Covid roared to life. A death by many front-office cuts. Their erstwhile marijuana columnist, Jackie Bryant, known in weed world as the Cannabitch, told me that the suits who took over struck her as a lot of “visionless losers who couldn’t put out a good paper to save their lives.”

Unchurched Print E-mail

20210901(San Diego Reader September 1, 2021)

In 2011, Colby Martin, an assistant pastor in a Gilbert, Arizona, evangelical church near Phoenix, was summoned one day to a board meeting of the elders. The concern was a Facebook post Martin shared about President Obama lifting the ban on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military regulation by which an LGBTQ person keeps that fact private. To the post, Martin appended six words: “I’m glad this day finally came.” Martin, who is 39 and met me for breakfast in Del Cerro, possesses a confessional well-being, equal parts vexed and resolute. Rigorously thoughtful, he took his time with my questions, waiting a bagel slathered with cream cheese. For those six words, a storm blew in. Further comments on Facebook hatched his superiors’ suspicions, and he was called on the carpet.

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