Stephen Dobyns and the Reader

Amputees, Border Angels, Salvation Mountain, tugboats, S.D. River homeless, S.D. Bay anchorages, food trucks, metal finders, Coronado lifeguards, art restorers, least terns

Michelle and author Dobyns enter D.G. Wills bookstore

Stephen Dobyns wrote cover features for the Reader from 1998 through 2008. Dobyns’ poetic works count among them the 1971 Concurring Beasts, a National Poetry Series award winner (Black dog, red dog), and a Melville Cane Award winner (Cemetery Nights). Dobyns’ novel Cold Dog Soup has been made into two films, the American Cold Dog Soup and the French Doggy Bag.

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

  • Certain San Diegans feel their missing limbs

  • Most stories begin with a person or an event. This one begins with a book. Last summer I read The Brain That Changes Itself by research psychiatrist and psychologist Norman Doidge, M.D., which discusses developments ... (July 9, 2008)

Leon Valent receives mirror therapy for phantom pain in his amputated right leg.

Leon Valent receives mirror therapy for phantom pain in his amputated right leg.

  • Border angels

  • "We know the kind of people we catch here. They're horrible people." The Border Patrol agent's tone was no more than blandly informative. It was 7:00 p.m. July 16, and we were at the edge of a hill above the beach in Border Field State Park.... (December 7, 2006)

Enrique Morones

Enrique Morones

  • Salvation Mountain

  • My friend Rex says, "You'll love the Slabs in August. Some would call you adventurous and brave, and some completely out of your mind." The Slabs are Slab City, three miles east of Niland, between the sultry Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains... (November 3, 2005)
  • Tugboats of San Diego Bay

  • From the wheelhouse of the Harbor Commander, I spotted two fat sea lions lounging on a buoy about halfway between the Silver Strand and the Navy shipyard. It was a bright warm February morning, and and as they lolled in their languorous stupor, they seemed the embodiment of indolence. I raised an arm in a casual salute. The bigger of the sea lions raised a flipper in apparent response. (January 24, 2002)
  • They make their home by the San Diego River

  • His name was Petey and he had lived in the riverbed for 20 years. “It’s a nice place.” He told us that that morning 30 “Mexican kids” had come down looking for a chrome bike, which had been stolen. (October 18, 2001)

Jeff Viator. What struck me as somewhat peculiar is that Viator said he had never seen the police and the police said they had never seen Viator.

Jeff Viator. What struck me as somewhat peculiar is that Viator said he had never seen the police and the police said they had never seen Viator.

  • Home on the Water

  • “The Port Authority took away all the good anchorages and they put us out here because they knew we wouldn’t last, but it’s the furthest place from anything too. They couldn’t put it anyplace else.” (Aug. 3, 2000)
  • We've got to roll, brother

  • From this distance it is impossible to see what companies the trucks belong to. At least one is surely from Moody’s, the oldest and largest company, with nearly a quarter of the 215 or so routes in San Diego County. And one might be from a mid-sized company like Fiesta, with 14 routes, but Fiesta tends to work the office complexes and small industries to the north. (July 29, 1999)

“You have to go into each stop completely full, and you can never let anyone think you’re running out."

“You have to go into each stop completely full, and you can never let anyone think you’re running out."

  • The world you have and the world you want

  • "A lot of the girls have plastic surgery," she tells me, "but I'm completely natural." She lightly holds my arm as we walk up Girard Avenue in La Jolla to D.G. Wills book shop, where shortly I will be giving a poetry reading with the poet Thomas Lux. The beautiful woman is my date. (Aug. 6, 1998)
  • San Diego's intrepid metal finders

  • The faint sound through the earphones is like the buzz of a mosquito on the other side of the room when you're trying to sleep. It nags at your attention, keeping you alert. (July 1, 1999)

Bill Hotchkiss: "Last week I nabbed three Rolex watches.”

Bill Hotchkiss: "Last week I nabbed three Rolex watches.”

  • Coronado lifeguards on the other side of the beach

  • “You play games in the winter. You see how long you can drive the truck without stopping. You close the truck windows and turn on the heat full blast. The first one to open the windows loses.” (August 15, 1996)

Mike Neil: “They say a hammerhead shark once bit a guy in the butt off those rocks.”

Mike Neil: “They say a hammerhead shark once bit a guy in the butt off those rocks.”

  • Life is like a candle and the wind approaches

  • “Even early in this century, the dominant issue in restoration was to make the painting look new again. A restorer might sand off the old paint and repaint the whole canvas. That is no longer seen as ethical." (Jan. 16, 1997)

Sarah Murray. The rosary altar was receiving what Murray called the 200-hour treatment.

Sarah Murray. The rosary altar was receiving what Murray called the 200-hour treatment.

  • The least tern says something ominous is coming

  • The reserve is the largest salt marsh in Southern California. It is the only one open all year round to tidal flushing, a process sometimes called “nature’s kidneys,” in which water is purified by being swept back and forth through the marsh. This flushing is particularly necessary because most of the estuary’s 1700-square-mile watershed lies in Mexico, including Tijuana.(Sept. 28, 1995)

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