Joe Applegate and the Reader

Richard Henry Dana, Lamb's Players, Brawley Cattle Call, Skip Frye, San Diego bungalows, Ace Parking

Chris O'Rourke. He motions for me to touch his head, which I do, gently — three fingertips pressing the lightly yellowed skin above the ear. The skin gives, as though there's nothing behind it but pulp.
  • Chris O'Rourke. He motions for me to touch his head, which I do, gently — three fingertips pressing the lightly yellowed skin above the ear. The skin gives, as though there's nothing behind it but pulp.
  • Image by Jim Coit

Joe Applegate wrote for the Reader from 1976 through 1990.

Editor's pick of stories Applegate wrote for the Reader:

  • When Richard Henry Dana returned to Point Loma

  • On the 22nd of August, 1859, the little steamer Senator called at San Diego with passengers from Los Angeles. It rounded the point under the lighthouse and entered the harbor’s narrow channel at about 8:00 (November 21, 1990)
  • The small airports of North San Diego County

  • Harry Aberle died in the Pitts Special. He crashed after takeoff while Yvonne watched from in front of the hangar. "The only other witness said he was doing an aerobatic maneuver, but I know he wasn't.” (May 24, 1990)

Jacque and Bob Herendeen. He is 62 and flies a Pitts out of Ramona. She flies a modified Christen Eagle II. He flew attack aircraft in Korea and commercial aircraft during 30 years with TWA.

Jacque and Bob Herendeen. He is 62 and flies a Pitts out of Ramona. She flies a modified Christen Eagle II. He flew attack aircraft in Korea and commercial aircraft during 30 years with TWA.

I felt like running to him and offering my support, as one unrecognized writer to another, shouting. “Neil! Neil Simon! Compadre!” and giving him a warm abrazo.

I felt like running to him and offering my support, as one unrecognized writer to another, shouting. “Neil! Neil Simon! Compadre!” and giving him a warm abrazo.

  • Lamb's Players Theatre – like a commune but...

  • Except for its Christmas festival, the company's plays are not bombastically Christian. In one season, the play selection included Rhinoceros, an adaptation of Dracula, Dames at Sea, and Godspell. On record, the theater declines to call itself Christian at all. One reason Smyth gives is that "Christian theater" usually means second-rate. (March 15, 1990)

This classic ensemble theater has been achieved at the price of ensemble everything, where members can't get away from work or each other. During one two-year period, four couples at or near the center of the company went through divorces.

This classic ensemble theater has been achieved at the price of ensemble everything, where members can't get away from work or each other. During one two-year period, four couples at or near the center of the company went through divorces.

  • The unlikely rescue

  • For an hour and a half, 80-year-old Tony Carrasco had been waiting for a deer to pass within range of his old bolt-action Remington, but now he was getting bored. (January 11, 1990)

Shane Snider, Mike Baxter. Mike stopped and called out to ask if they shouldn’t go right, but Shane didn’t reply.

Shane Snider, Mike Baxter. Mike stopped and called out to ask if they shouldn’t go right, but Shane didn’t reply.

Ropers prep for Brawley cattle call

If he wanted to get ahead in rodeo he'd have to make the commitment to travel. He'd been told as much m a roping class he'd taken in Brawley "Get out of the valley,” said Taylor, summarizing the instruction. (Dec. 7, 1989)

You're so beat up inside that after a while, you can't even open the door without getting your foot in the way.

You're so beat up inside that after a while, you can't even open the door without getting your foot in the way.

  • Down the lane with Jacob Dekema

  • He takes it for granted that suburbs are great. “We built these freeways, and they’re not generating less trips, they’re generating more. More freedom. People want to live out away from the city and drive in to work." (March 23, 1989)

A civil servant with something to look back on — 11 freeways totaling 450 miles, about half of them in metropolitan San Diego.

A civil servant with something to look back on — 11 freeways totaling 450 miles, about half of them in metropolitan San Diego.

  • Requiem for a rebel

  • In relationships of all kinds, Danny liked to stir things up. “You’d be sitting there listening to the radio and he’d pick it up and throw it past your head,” said someone who knew him only slightly. (May 19, 1983)

As they were crossing Vulcan and entering the ice plant by the railroad track, they saw the Amtrak train coming up from the south. Danny and Max started running for it.

As they were crossing Vulcan and entering the ice plant by the railroad track, they saw the Amtrak train coming up from the south. Danny and Max started running for it.

  • Skip Frye is still stoked

  • Frye is back at Gordon & Smith after a voluntary layoff of four years — "my wilderness years," he calls them — during which his marriage dissolved and he retreated, in reverse of the hermit crab, from a larger shell into a smaller, and into a smaller. He gave up his job, his dwelling, his church, his car, until he was living in a backyard shed in Pacific Beach and riding a bike. (April 14, 1983)

3309 Thirtieth Street, San Diego. The typical court consists of eight to twelve dwellings set in a U-shape about the perimeter of a rectangular lot.

3309 Thirtieth Street, San Diego. The typical court consists of eight to twelve dwellings set in a U-shape about the perimeter of a rectangular lot.

  • Eight ball in the corner pocket

  • To promote the development of the Gaslamp Quarter he once asked Mrs. Yamada if she were interested in selling. She replied with a quiet word about wanting to keep going for a year or two. (November 4, 1982)

I would call the ABC Club the freest pool hall in town — not as comfortable as Chris’s on Kearny Mesa, nor as competitive as the College Billiard Center near San Diego State or the Billiard Tavern at Broadway and Twelfth Avenue — but free, at liberty, if a little scary.

I would call the ABC Club the freest pool hall in town — not as comfortable as Chris’s on Kearny Mesa, nor as competitive as the College Billiard Center near San Diego State or the Billiard Tavern at Broadway and Twelfth Avenue — but free, at liberty, if a little scary.

  • What greater curse than life without verse

  • A few months back, John Theobald, the former chairman of the English department at San Diego State University, went out to campus with a clipboard and a pen to solicit signatures for a nuclear-freeze petition. He’d taught for twenty-three years at the school, but having retired in 1969, was unknown to the present mass of students. (July 8, 1982)

John Theobald listened to Frost talk about his apple crop in Vermont, and later, inevitably, about rival poets: Carl Sandburg, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

John Theobald listened to Frost talk about his apple crop in Vermont, and later, inevitably, about rival poets: Carl Sandburg, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

  • A bump on the head could kill Chris O'Rourke

  • Here at Windansea Beach in La Jolla, surfers prefer the Vespa motor scooter for solo transportation. This is a low, fat motorcycle that you'd be crazy to take for a long fast ride. Your Vespa in the parking lot makes silent claim that you have come a short distance to Windansea beach, and this implies that you live nearby, which is definitely the best place to live. (Aug. 3, 1978)
  • Did somebody call a cab?

  • There is only one Easy Street in San Diego and Pierre Taheri, ace cab driver, doesn't know where it is. He knows the tourist bars and the Navy gates and the Travolator Hotel where the flight crews for National Airlines stay. Taheri knows what it's like to be thrown into his windshield at two in the morning, and once he had foreknowledge of when he was going to be robbed. (May 18, 1978)
  • A step closer to suburbia

  • The house sits up from Juniper Street in North Park on a square of lawn girdled by pink cinderblock. The gables above the front door and window make the house look slightly exotic — English or Bavarian. (Dec. 18, 1980)

He had hoped for a while that he would turn out like Wallace Stevens, plodding to the office every day, turning down the rides that neighbors in station wagons offered.

He had hoped for a while that he would turn out like Wallace Stevens, plodding to the office every day, turning down the rides that neighbors in station wagons offered.

  • Fisherman's knot

  • A couple of months ago a friend of mine named Gregg wrote from North County asking if I could spare a week to camp and fish with him in Baja. Gregg is a teacher, thirty-seven years old, with a capillary-red nose and a beard more white than black, and with a head of gray-brown hair at just that point of thinness that he likes the way he looks in a hat. (Feb. 28, 1980)

Gregg sees the Baja peninsula as the only frontier he’s ever known, in the sense of being a land that still attracts frontiersmen, people with nothing to lose.

Gregg sees the Baja peninsula as the only frontier he’s ever known, in the sense of being a land that still attracts frontiersmen, people with nothing to lose.

  • The rise of Ace Parking's Jones family

  • On the afternoon of the All-Star baseball game in July, Evan Jones was standing on top of one of those pedestrian towers that corkscrew up the side of San Diego Stadium. (Nov. 22, 1979)

Evan Jones resembles the Don Quixote described in Richard Wilbur’s witty poem — a man with a view of success in every direction.

Evan Jones resembles the Don Quixote described in Richard Wilbur’s witty poem — a man with a view of success in every direction.

  • Got to know Dad in La Paz and Cabo San Lucas

  • I might have forced the money on him, but the day was too young to be ruined, and we had a four-hour bus ride ahead of us. Dad always wins because it’s not only easier to give in, it’s cheaper. (May 24, 1979)

We crossed the Sierra de la Victoria and skirted the Sea of Cortez, which was pretty but boring — like a lake, without surf or people.

We crossed the Sierra de la Victoria and skirted the Sea of Cortez, which was pretty but boring — like a lake, without surf or people.

  • Postcards From Western Civilization

  • Some years ago at Christmastime, when I was a teller at a bank downtown, I came to know Wayne Boyer, who was then an apprentice bum. I met him in the Jack-in-the-Box on Broadway, where I had stepped inside for a Coke; he was in the next line over, standing on crutches, his right leg in a cast from ankle to hip. I was twenty-two then and he looked about my age, but different in other ways. (Dec. 10, 1981)

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