Bob Owens and the Reader

Baja upholsterers, drug smuggler, Baby Rock owned by porno king, Agua Caliente racktrack, sunken subs off La Jolla

Talóns

Bob Owens wrote for the Reader from 1983 through 2001.

Editor's picks of Owens' stories:

  • Tijuana’s upholstery heyday

  • Jose Quezada, 47, calls himself a talón. “A talón is like a hustler. And a talón is important here. Some of the workers–” he rolls his eyes back to the shop where men are banging dents from cars — “think a talón is expendable. ‘We can do without him.’ But the boss thinks, ‘No, a talón is indispensable. (Aug. 30, 2001)
  • The amazing and slightly sordid story of Aqua Caliente racetrack

  • The latest chapter in the. strange and turbulent history of the Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana began at about 10:30 a.m. last September 13, a Monday. Forty-six-year-old Edward M. Spector pulled into the primary inspection line at the Tijuana border crossing; he was heading into San Diego from Mexico. Immigration inspector Robert McGowin leaned down to the window of Spector’s 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, ascertained that Spector was an American citizen, and asked him if he was bringing anything in from Mexico. According to notes McGowin made at the time, Spector replied, “All I want to declare is money — $20,000.” (July 21, 1983)

Few U.S. bookmakers will accept a bet on any horse running at Caliente.

Few U.S. bookmakers will accept a bet on any horse running at Caliente.

  • Tijuana man gets $5k/week as burro for drug kings

  • For nine months in the early 1990s, a young Tijuanan named Victor worked as a burro; marijuana was his specialty. In the living room of the same modest house in which he lived as a drug smuggler, he tells his story while chiding or cuddling one of his three children. He is tall, wiry, and animated. As he speaks he slides between Spanish to English, which he says he learned by watching hours of American cartoons. (July 23, 1998)
  • The flood of 1998

  • On Wednesday, February 4, 1998, José Tovar Serrano, 35, and his brother Rubén, 33, were killed in the torrential El Nino storm that began on the night of February 3. They were among the first known victims of the deluge that claimed a reported 15 lives in the Tijuana-Rosarito area. (March 5, 1998)
  • Lie down in darkness

  • The night sea off the coast of La Jolla was smothered in fog on December 18, 1917, and in those pre-sonar days the American submarine F-1 had no way of knowing that she was on a collision course with her sister ship, the F-3. At about 5:30 p.m., the F-3 punched a wide hole in the hull of her fleetmate; the F-1 sank in ten seconds, taking 19 of the crew with her. Only the captain and four others were rescued. The corpse of the old sub is still there, in 600 feet of water some six miles off Bird Rock. (Sept. 10, 1992)

There are 13 subs beneath local waters: S-37, Slapjack, Searaven, Tuna, Moray, Sabalo, Skate, Aspro, Archerfish, Burrfish, Red-fish, Sea Devil, and Trepang.

There are 13 subs beneath local waters: S-37, Slapjack, Searaven, Tuna, Moray, Sabalo, Skate, Aspro, Archerfish, Burrfish, Red-fish, Sea Devil, and Trepang.

  • San Diego's porno king Donald Wiener denies owning part of Baby Rock

  • Baby Rock has been a preferred nightclub for some of the super-rich exporters of illicit drugs and their hirelings. A Tijuana resident cognizant of the goings-on in the border city said that the notorious Arellano Felix brothers - the second most powerful narco ring in Mexico and much sought after by U.S. authorities - used to patronize Baby Rock. (July 10, 1997)

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