San Diego Reader
To Fuse Wind and Its Motion: A Meditation on the Seagull in Fourteen Parts Print E-mail

20031204(San Diego Reader December 4, 2003)

Disperse • Sunday morning, Clairemont Square Shopping Center parking lot. An asphalt expanse between Town Square Stadium 14 and Burlington Coat Factory. A few gulls perched on the edge of a roof. Fifteen more scattered on the pavement. From one, from another, a plaintive cry, that squeaky swing-set sound, an alien despondency. The 15 in tightening togetherness. Separate, too, and separating, mocking togetherness. Flocking in anti-flock. A club, every adult member identical, their grey-and-white plumage fixed. Otherwise, a few embrowned young. At first glance. Then, a sense that they are one. Their response—silence, a discontent, standing stock-still. Nobody speak, as if to say we are not one—gull, seagull, shorebird, vagrant, visitor, coastal fisher, scavenger—we possess individualities, alas, that no one can see.

Under Our Perfect Sun: Profile of Mike Davis Print E-mail

20031016(San Diego Reader October 17, 2003)


It’s an August mid-afternoon 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 been walking me through Bostonia, a two-square mile enclave just north of El Cajon, where he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. With hat and sunglasses, I’m burning up; head and eyes uncovered, Davis beads a lone ball of sweat. Having lived in Los Angeles, London, New York, and Hawaii, he has once again settled in San Diego. Though he’s fidgety about being back, he seems at home in East County, especially since he’s been writing about the place that made him. The author of City of Quartz and other books about L.A.’s past and future woes has, with two local authors, just written a new book, Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See. It’s a history of local sleaze, in "the most corrupt city on the West Coast," beginning with His Highness of Corruption, Alonzo Horton, and ending with Her Majesty of Folly, Susan Golding.

The White Mask: Marilyn Monroe and "Some Like It Hot" Print E-mail

20030804(San Diego Reader September 4, 2003)

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 four weeks. The movie, cowritten and directed by Billy Wilder, is about two musicians, played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, who, to elude a gang of bootleggers, dress up in drag and join an all-girl band. Tony Curtis falls in love with the band’s lead singer, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, played by Monroe. Wilder set the movie in 1929 Chicago, which was recreated at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, and at a resort hotel in Miami, Florida, for which the Hotel Del was the stand-in. The San Diego Union’s drama editor, Edwin Martin, noted in a puff piece that Monroe was “still beautiful and still shy.” He said her playwright-husband Arthur Miller was expected, along with Paula Strasberg, her “dramatic mentor, wife of the famous head of the New York Actor’s Studio,” where Monroe, who had not done a Hollywood picture in two years, had been studying.

Soldier's Pay Print E-mail

20030821(San Diego Reader August 21, 2003)

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 lives arise from obscurity, we have heard about of the front-line fighters much more than the base-bound families, especially the youngest, many of whom are poor and do, on occasion, go hungry. Proof of their need is how high the compassion index shot up this spring in San Diego. A half-dozen outreach groups and food drives were organized, among them Operation Homefront and Navy Wives Food Locker, to assist families. Some groups, however, are always on watch. One such is Military Outreach Ministries, sponsored by the county’s 33 Presbyterian churches and the Presbytery of San Diego. Begun in the early 1960s as Military Parish Visitors, the original band of volunteer women visited military bases, in times of war and peace, to ask wives about their needs. Today, the Ministries—its name now forms the acronym MOM.—runs bi-weekly food supplements and weekly bread drives to women and their children, who are surviving on an enlisted man’s salary.

Reina's Story Print E-mail

20030807(San Diego Reader August 7, 2003)


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 Arturo López-Rojas. At 32, Arturo was nicely dressed, heavy, and short, barely five feet tall; Reina, with a pretty round face, was shorter by several inches. Arturo was taking her to the border crossing at San Diego to get her into the United States; he would then deliver her to her new job as a housekeeper, maybe with children to watch; he also vowed that once she had established herself, they would marry. This bundle of offerings excited Reina. She knew of other girls who’d made the trip to California, who were cleaning grand houses with grassy yards and swimming pools and sending money to their loved ones in Tenancingo—dollars instead of pesos.

Struck Rich! Winning the California Lottery Print E-mail

LotteryPostcard1_preview(San Diego Reader June 26, 2003)

"You won how much?" I asked again.

"Ten million," he repeated, as though it were the time of day. Then, just as flatly, he asked that his name not be used, though he would "throw" a few facts my way, careful to conceal his identity behind cryptic remarks. In 2001 the former San Diegan had won $10 million on the SuperLotto Plus (matching six of six numbers), after buying an "Instant Millionaire" winning ticket in 1994. "I’m really blessed," he said, "basically because I’m a really good person. To somebody who never had money, the first time I won was a nightmare. You get under a lot of stress when you make investments. I like to gamble—I’ve been gambling since I was 21—[so I] walk into these Indian casinos and right away, just because of my past, they think I’m doing something. My past is my past; it’s over with. Now I live a simple, humble life. I’m married and I have a beautiful dog. That’s the way life is. I still work for a corporation in San Diego," though now he’s moved to a high desert community, where he continues to bet on the Lotto.

I Am Your Loving Daughter, Clara Clemens Print E-mail

20030508(San Diego Reader May 8, 2003)

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 the Human Radio, Sardoney channeled news that a fresh husband was in transit and that Clara could not “escape this appointment with Destiny.” The irrepressible Clara opened herself to the possibility. Soon she met and started dating a dashing Russian émigrè musician, who claimed to have conducted many of the world’s greatest orchestras and to be well-acquainted with several U.S. presidents. (Nearly all his claims were lies.) Jacques Samossoud was the man and Clara was smitten. In 1944, the pair were married. In a nod to the New Age, she wrote of their union as “positively miraculous in its multifarious strata of rainbowism.” He was 50, and she was 70.

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