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Abe Opincar and the Reader

Love of TJ, drugs on Market St., Neil Morgan and Walter Cronkite, John Steinbeck IV, Susan Sontag, David Sedaris, Tom Metzger's son, torture in Tijuana, Mother Teresa's priests, Dr. Seuss

San Diego is small. As I began to see Dr. Johnson in early spring, I began to meet others of his patients.
  • San Diego is small. As I began to see Dr. Johnson in early spring, I began to meet others of his patients.
  • Image by Dan Perkins

Opincar wrote for the Reader from 1984 through 2008. He is the author of Fried Butter (Soho Press, 2003).

Editor's picks of stories Opincar wrote for the Reader:

  • My psychiatrist is dead; all falls apart

  • Such are the conceits of first-world living — they follow you. A late-night call from San Diego slips through a satellite onto the shore of a beleaguered nation with the news of my psychiatrist’s death. (February 4, 1988)
  • Tijuana mi amor: intimate scenes of city love

  • Each story is a discrete memory. You see a time and a place, and for a while it was everything you knew. Irrevocably. Beyond measure. Zona Norte hasn’t changed. It is still the wild side. Desperate; sure of itself. Dark-skinned guys from the interior still come here for one last sinful evening before crossing to the other side. They are short and dark, more Indian than anything. (Feb. 25, 1988)

Turn your back on the city, and look the other direction. You know that barren stretch of ground that runs west from the bridge.

Turn your back on the city, and look the other direction. You know that barren stretch of ground that runs west from the bridge.

  • Love and smoke

  • Don’t flatter yourself. My life is not an open book. "You don’t learn this from no fuckin’ book. Don’t need no education for it,’’ says Jerome. You don’t. You really don’t." (November 10, 1988)

Four of us walk toward Market. Outside Los Panchos Taco Shop at Ninth Avenue, forty men and a dozen women mill around the street and parking lot. A stream of men — one by one — approach me. I explain: Jerome, not I, is looking to buy.

Four of us walk toward Market. Outside Los Panchos Taco Shop at Ninth Avenue, forty men and a dozen women mill around the street and parking lot. A stream of men — one by one — approach me. I explain: Jerome, not I, is looking to buy.

  • White on white

  • He is handsome — square jaw, even features, blond hair brushed in the blunt, semi-pointy cut preferred by surfers. And his voice carries a pronounced Southern California quality as well: slightly nasal, issued from the back of the throat. He is composed. He smiles readily. Laughs. A smooth and accomplished performer for a young man twenty years old. (Nov. 10, 1988)

Tom and John Metzger. "I got hit in school because I was Tom Metzger’s son and ... that hurts, you know, it hurts you."

Tom and John Metzger. "I got hit in school because I was Tom Metzger’s son and ... that hurts, you know, it hurts you."

  • I'm Morgan, he's Cronkite

  • This past August, while San Diegans tanned and party delegates decided our nation's fate, a paper was delivered to 300 sweaty, sausage-chomping academics at the Second Polish-American Semiotics Colloquium held in Atlantic City. The paper, entitled “Buttocks of Iron, Thighs of Marble, Feet of Clay — Sign, System, and Function,” changed forever the way many Americans would think of San Diego. (Dec. 22, 1988)

Careful lest the public forget how very close they are, Morgan has chronicled his Master’s every move, thought, and desire. They have even sailed together, as Morgan ofttimes has reminded us.

Careful lest the public forget how very close they are, Morgan has chronicled his Master’s every move, thought, and desire. They have even sailed together, as Morgan ofttimes has reminded us.

Illustrations by John Workman

  • Christmas day in Tijuana with Mother Teresa's priests

  • Christmas morning. East of downtown Tijuana, along a swamp behind the Otay central bus station. An hour past first light. Roosters crow. Dogs bark. Rain, an inch of which fell last night, still falls, falls now into deep, churning mud. Two men, ankle deep in that mud, ragged clothes colored by mud, look up at the sky and then down. (Jan. 26, 1989)
  • John Steinbeck was my father

  • John Steinbeck IV, John Steinbeck's son moved to La Jolla 18 months ago. In 1970, during a winter and spring offensive in Laos, John was holed up during the monsoon in an old French hotel in Vientiane, and again read The Grapes of Wrath. "By that time I was writing. I saw the nuts and bolts of his writing. That was a impressive to me as the historical value of the book, and what the book did to America." (March 30, 1989)

John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV.  "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."

John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV. "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."

  • Torture in TJ

  • "They apprehended me of work and handcuffed me They took me in on old grey van with, I think, blue license plates—maybe I didn't see them well. the inside of the van was really scratched up, and there was a mattress in back. And they started to kick me in the stomach and climbed on top of me and slapped me hard, twice. (June 14, 1990)

“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep."

“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep."

I was amazed that someone of her stature could be so ungenerous.

I was amazed that someone of her stature could be so ungenerous.

Steven Cerio

  • I was Susan Sontag's San Diego escort and I was sorry

  • This was my question: How does being Southern Californian affect artists and thinkers? I set out to find people with whom I could discuss my notion that a recognizable artistic regionalism had at last emerged from Southern California. I made lists. I made phone calls. And it was perhaps the sin of pride, or of over-reaching ambition, that caused me to make my fatal mistake: I wanted to speak with someone truly famous. Someone whose words might lend glamour to my not entirely original or interesting idea. (Dec. 17, 1992)
  • San Diego, Texas

  • Our namesake lies due west of Corpus Christi, past flat miles of sorghum, wheat and cotton fields, and towns with shops smelling of blood that, for pennies per pounds, will butcher the deer you shot. (January 27, 1994)

Rodolfo Curiel shares something strangely in common with other prominent San Diegans — he lived in San Diego, California. Curiel was a linebacker for Serra High School's team in the late '80s, and his picture hangs on the "Wall of Fame" in the Round Table Pizza in Tierrasanta.

Rodolfo Curiel shares something strangely in common with other prominent San Diegans — he lived in San Diego, California. Curiel was a linebacker for Serra High School's team in the late '80s, and his picture hangs on the "Wall of Fame" in the Round Table Pizza in Tierrasanta.

  • Ted Geisel, his first and second wives, Neil Morgan, and the Jewish question

  • The 21st of March in this nation’s finest city
  • An unrepentant Nixonite did something rather pretty.
  • The giant book he published in consort with his wife
  • Detailed a children’s author’s obscure and privileged life.
  • The Nixonite was Morgan; his close friend, Dr. Seuss.
  • Their friendship rendered Morgan a little bit obtuse.
  • (May 18, 1995)

In Morgan's life of Dr. Seuss what mysteries remain/  That must have put their friendship under terrible strain.

In Morgan's life of Dr. Seuss what mysteries remain/ That must have put their friendship under terrible strain.

  • Comedian in the mist

  • Jennifer at the San Diego Zoo's media relations office adopted a strident tone. "Well, if you can't tell me exactly what Mr. Sedaris will be writing — I mean, if you can't give me a clear idea of exactly what he's going to do, then I'm afraid we can't help you." (Nov. 24, 1999)

David Sedaris at the San Diego Zoo. "What exactly does he want to write about monkeys?" Jennifer was getting testy.

David Sedaris at the San Diego Zoo. "What exactly does he want to write about monkeys?" Jennifer was getting testy.

Stephen Facciola. Fifteen hundred books stand in tall tidy stacks throughout Facciola’s Vista home. Useful Plants of Ghana; A Guide to Mangoes in Florida; Traditional Bulgarian Cooking; Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies; Lost Crops of Africa; Medicinal Plants of Vietnam...

Stephen Facciola. Fifteen hundred books stand in tall tidy stacks throughout Facciola’s Vista home. Useful Plants of Ghana; A Guide to Mangoes in Florida; Traditional Bulgarian Cooking; Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies; Lost Crops of Africa; Medicinal Plants of Vietnam...

  • Cornucopia: Stephen Facciola's edible world

  • “You’re eating bug excrement.” Stephen Facciola and I are standing in the parking lot of a Middle Eastern grocery in disheartening Anaheim. The streets are eight lanes wide. The blocks, a mile long. (Nov. 22, 2000)

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