San Diego Reader
Soundtrack: Roy Harris's Third Symphony Print E-mail

soundtrack_t245(San Diego Reader August 11, 2005)

Forth From My Pioneer Speakers

The summer of 1976, PBS broadcast The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard by Leonard Bernstein. Each week Bernstein explained the structure and the meaning of music as well as the crisis of harmony composers faced in the 20th Century. I was in my 20s, a folk-blues-ragtime-jazz guitar player, a composer of songs and instrumental pieces that fit that wide vein. But I was also bored with the smallness and the lack of abstraction of these musical forms. My musical-analytic interests were spiraling outward like a nautilus. But whither? In lecture five, Bernstein played Charles Ives's "The Unanswered Question," a mystical work for strings, woodwinds, and trumpet.

Bankrupt Print E-mail

20050512(San Diego Reader June 12, 2005)

Every weekday, in a small room on the sixth floor of the Wyndham San Diego Hotel at Emerald Plaza, dozens of people come to close the book on their personal bankruptcies. Today eight debtors have shown up in suite 630 well before their 8:00 a.m. appointment to file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 with an attorney present and in front of a United States trustee. They sit apart from one another in rubber-upholstered chairs and stare at notices on the wall. One notice tells them to read the pink form and fill out the white form; both forms are prominently displayed in plastic racks. Most cast their eyes over the notice but don't seem to read it. They look lost or anxious, thumbing wrinkled manila envelopes brimming with paperwork. A few finger their purses or wallets that once bulged with a half-dozen credit cards. Awaiting attorneys, most may wonder what a debt-free tomorrow will look like.

The Controversialist: Dinesh D'Souza Print E-mail

20050414(San Diego Reader April 14, 2005)

Not long ago, Dinesh D'Souza, who is an Indian immigrant from Bombay, one of America's prominent conservative authors, and, like William F. Buckley Jr., an enthusiastic and skilled debater, was discussing things political and personal with a group of Indian-American students. One young man tentatively asked, "How will I know when I've become an American?" A quipper in the tradition of his hero Ronald Reagan, the quintessential political quipster, D'Souza replied, "One way you'll know is by voting Republican." What he meant by that, he tells me at his home in Fairbanks Ranch, where he, his wife Dixie, and their ten-year-old daughter live in a very big house, "is that the Republican Party is the party of the insiders, the guys who feel at home. So when the immigrant feels he can vote Republican, he's saying, 'I'm on the inside of the system. I'm not throwing stones from the outside. It benefits me to be on the inside. I believe in the team.' " Given a question about self-discovery, D'Souza opts for a partisan answer. It's the kind of response he's good at—glib, provocative, tendentious.

At Home in San Diego: University City Print E-mail

20041230(San Diego Reader December 30, 2004)

University City encompasses the Golden Triangle (Highway 52 on the south and the I-5 and I-805 merge on the north) as well as much land around UCSD, the biotech firms on North Torrey Pines Road, and portions just east of I-805 near Mira Mesa Boulevard. According to San Diego magazine, three times more people live in north University City than in south University City. (In group terms, that's students/researchers versus families/retirees.) Traffic tie-ups are regular now at Genesee and I-5 and on Genesee from Nobel Drive south to the 52. Along this stretch, condos grow unmercifully.

Every weekday afternoon, the cars flee the offices and the malls of UTC, Costa Verde, and Eastgate. Seventy-five percent of the traffic on Genesee is "through movement," that is, nonlocal. Cars nose toward freeways and queue; in the argot of traffic engineers, intersections fail. It's gotten so bad that the community is polarized: you're either with the traffic-congestion relievers or you're with the traffic congestion.

Elections San Diego Style Print E-mail

20041025(San Diego Reader October 28, 2004)

A Mostly Republican History

What chance is there in San Diego for an honest young lawyer who is a Democrat?

—J. Robert O'Connor, U.S. attorney for California (1900)

"A choice, not an echo" was Barry Goldwater's slogan in his campaign for president in 1964. Goldwater lost the election to Lyndon Johnson by a landslide, in part because the conservative Republican dared promote himself in such unequivocal terms. For as long as San Diego has been holding elections, candidates have seemed, with their gloves-off campaigns, to offer a choice, but typically they present no more than an echo. Case in point, during much of 2004, is the mayor's race.

Beautiful Light Print E-mail

20041007(San Diego Reader October 7, 2004)

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 of a bright thing. Most mornings, in the cliché of coastal overnight and morning low clouds, the daylight coming into my room takes its time. Like age or awareness. But now, at 11:44, the light's pouring in. If I don't mute it, my eyes'll hurt. I'll disappear in the glare. I might be struck impotent, literarily speaking. Shades inside and sunglasses outside attest to my contending with the slow-unfolding, then Wham! Southern California light. How did it get so damn bright when it's not even that hot?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Print E-mail

20040724(San Diego Reader September 29, 2004)

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 bark, deep as a dungeon. He's enticed by dozens of familiar and strange smells emanating from the drain. He's confused by passers-by who peek in, murmur an apology, and don't yell at him. For them, Riley curls his backside into view: nice tight skin, nice silky coat. Then he turns, brings his pant front-and-center for an even better display: cropped ears, massive chest, wide mouth, viselike jaw, sledgehammer head, lodgepole neck. And his disposition (let's not get too carried away). Riley's handler (I'll call him Reggie) used to praise his three-year-old, praise Riley can still hear—You're just the best or You got game, boy, you got it, you little monster. The gashes on Riley's face and neck are still not healed. They'll be scars. And because of them, most visitors who peer in and lock eyes with Riley will turn away in fear, not get to know the real pit bull. One thing Riley can smell is fear, and fear means something worse is coming. But if you look close you can also see wonder in his green eyes: How long am I in here for? Where's Reggie?

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