San Diego Reader
No Bad Jobs, Just Bad Attitudes Print E-mail

20061228(San Diego Reader December 28, 2006)

If you've walked the concourse at Lindbergh Field, on the way to baggage claim you may have noticed the wall-mounted advertisement, "Welcome to San Diego—Home of 7 of the nation's top professional speakers": Tony Alessandra, Rick Barrera, Ken Blanchard, Scott McKain, Brian Tracy, Jim Cathcart, and Denis Waitley (McKain now lives elsewhere).These are motivational speakers, and more than 100 live in San Diego. Though they are based locally, most have peripatetic lives: they fly in and out constantly to address corporate audiences in America and around the world. They maintain websites, publish books (some, business best sellers), and offer programs; the last are notorious for their quasi-scientific design and ecstatic promise: Rancho Santa Fe's Denis Waitley runs the Waitley Institute's "Seeds of Greatness System"; Carlsbad's Jim Cathcart oversees "The Grandma Factor—Lifetime Customer Loyalty." Del Mar's Tony Robbins, who has been the longest-running San Diego-based motivator, hosts TV spots that, according to his website, "have continuously aired on average every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day somewhere in North America" since 1989.

Dig a Little Deeper: The Murder of William H. Thompson Print E-mail

busted2(San Diego Reader October 12, 2006)

In September 2003, Brian Burritt rode the elevator down to the basement of the San Diego Police Department where the "murder books," the binders of the department's cold cases, many decades old, are kept in cool, dry storage. The books are paper tombs, weighted with hundreds of pages—evidence lists, crime-scene diagrams and photos, lab reports, autopsy reports, witness statements, and more. Each begins with a one-page synopsis of the crime. Over several weeks, Burritt, whose title is criminalist, checked out binders and quick-read the synopses, looking for mention of liquid evidence, typically swatches of blood or semen he might use to establish a DNA profile of a perpetrator. Most of the cases contain such testable evidence, which Burritt, the forensic lab, and the cold-case team would eventually investigate. But one case caught his eye. A murder from 1987, whose crime scene was documented by Lieutenant Dick Carey and whose thick binder signaled much physical evidence and a detailed inquiry. There were fingerprints, 11 usable "latent lifts." The majority belonged to the victim; 2 or 3 were from an unidentified person. "It took me less than two minutes," Brian Burritt told me nearly three years after his discovery, "to see the evidence I wanted to test. There's a blood trail leading from the body in the house to the stolen car—and the blood was in the car." He read on.

The Guest Is Like God Print E-mail

20060629(San Diego Reader June 29, 2006)

One Sunday in November 1989, Barry Lall, an Indian-American doctor, was driving over the Coronado Bridge with his wife Hema, their four-year-old son Arjun, Lall's father and mother, and a real estate broker. They were on their way to inspect a 12-room motel for sale at the corner of Third Street and Orange Avenue, which, if priced right, Lall hoped to buy. Beneath them was the beautiful blue and iridescent channel, the port of San Diego where ships off-load containers from as far away as Hong Kong. At the time, Lall, who was practicing family medicine at Kaiser Hospital in Chula Vista, was not yet a citizen. He was here by way of a transnational diaspora common to many Indian immigrants. Lall's route had begun when his parents left the state of Gujarat, India, for the East African country of Nyasaland, where Lall was born; later, after medical studies in England and Scotland and an arranged marriage, he, his wife, and his parents ("she married them, too") emigrated to the United States in 1980, settled first in Georgia and then in San Diego. Lall wanted to believe that the long geographical road that he and his family had traveled to get to America had prepared him for the longer personal road he was now on in America.

A Tenth Grader's History of the World Print E-mail

20060622(San Diego Reader June 22, 2006)

During the 2005-2006 school year, 8250 tenth graders in the San Diego Unified School District were enrolled in World History 1 and 2. The students focused on world history in modern times, roughly from the 1700s to the present—ancient civilizations are covered in sixth grade, medieval and early modern times in seventh. (Students take U.S. history and geography in eighth grade and an elective in ninth.) The tenth graders listened to lectures, made class presentations, and cracked the textbook, where they saw, for example, a brightly colored map of "Napoleon's Russian Campaign, 1812," his advance arrowed in blue, his retreat arrowed in red. The majority of these students, 5651, or 69 percent, were enrolled in world history, while 2213, or 27 percent, took advanced world history. (Three hundred eighty-six tenth graders were in advanced-placement world history, where a passing grade may be transferable to college, depending on the school.) Each class had its own text.

Dirty Jobs Print E-mail

20060427(San Diego Reader April 27, 2006)

At 6 a.m., Ramon Salazar is readying to leave the vehicle yard of Spanky's Portable Services in Escondido. It's Monday, and Mondays are rough. "Man, I needed an hour more sleep." He yawns. He climbs the two serrated step boards to the cab of his big white pumper truck. He bounces onto the seat, then starts the diesel motor. Rolling a blue kerchief tightly, he bands it carefully around his shaved head and square-knots its ends just under the occipital bone. The snug cinch means business. An ex-gang member and former director of rehab at Victory Outreach ministry ("God found me," he says, "I didn't find God"), Salazar has the bruised look of a man who's bucked too much authority.

He Never Displayed Any Meanness Print E-mail

bickerstaff(San Diego Reader September 29, 2005)

Up there in the pantheon of California's 1990s financial swindlers is Donald Marquis Bickerstaff. Bickerstaff was charged in 1997 with a Ponzi scheme involving 75 investors, the majority women, in San Diego and Marin counties. The investors—one was the unwitting mother of Bickerstaff's partner—lost $11.8 million. Using client money, Bickerstaff bought multimillion-dollar homes in Poway and Mill Valley, a $93,000 Porsche and other sports cars, a 5.5-carat diamond ring, 31 thoroughbred horses in Kentucky and southern England, and membership in the Turf Club at Del Mar. At the time of his indictment, Bickerstaff was trying to keep his business, Bickerstaff Financial Associates, afloat; he was being sued for securities fraud by Prudential Securities; and his legal bills had grown sizable.

The Good Shoemaker and the Poor Fish Peddler Print E-mail

20050818(San Diego Reader August 18, 2005)

On the afternoon of April 15, 1920, in the small industrial town of South Braintree, Massachusetts, a paymaster named Frederick Parmenter and a guard named Alessandro Berardelli set out to carry cash boxes—which contained the payroll of the Slater & Morrill Shoe Company—from the factory's upper office to a lower one at the end of Pearl Street. Due to a spate of recent payroll robberies, many of which were committed by gangs of Italian immigrants, Berardelli was armed. South Braintree lay ten miles outside of Boston, and as Parmenter and Berardelli passed by its stables, poolrooms, meeting halls, and factories, they chatted with some of the city's 15,000 residents. Parmenter was in his early forties—a burly, loquacious man. Berardelli was a quiet and withdrawn 28-year-old. Each held a steel box fastened with a Yale lock. Taken together, the boxes contained $15,776.51. Midway up Pearl Street, Parmenter and Berardelli were attacked by two men who had been idling beside a fence. One wore a cap; the other, a felt hat. The man in the cap grabbed Berardelli's shoulder, swung him around, and fired three shots into his chest.

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