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Best Reader stories from 2009

Charger fans, Thanksgiving, San Diego alleys, Tom Gores, San Salvador pictographs, UCSD transgenderism, abortionist Bertha Bugarin

“Living in Tijuana is easy. It’s surviving that’s hard.”
  • “Living in Tijuana is easy. It’s surviving that’s hard.”
  • Image by Omar Martinez

 if the traffic leaving the stadium is heavy, they’ll have a follow-up session after the game, “just to socialize and scream at Norv” — Turner, the Chargers’ coach.

if the traffic leaving the stadium is heavy, they’ll have a follow-up session after the game, “just to socialize and scream at Norv” — Turner, the Chargers’ coach.

  • A San Diego Charger football game is one thing, fandom is something else

  • Silva's powder blue coffin was trimmed with gold — Charger colors. His body was dressed in a jersey honoring his favorite player, Lance Alworth. (Not, however, the jersey that Alworth signed for Silva with his old Bambi nickname; that one still hangs, under glass, on the wall in the Silva home.) On his feet, his Charger shoes; on his head, his Charger hat. “It was awesome,” recalled his son Armando during a recent tailgate party in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Dec. 2, 2009

COVER PHOTO/ART DIRECTION BY KIRSTEN SORTON; TATTOO BY DAVIDE

  • After the fourth quarter, where do they go?

  • Ron Mix’s glory years came in the 1960s, when the Chargers were in the American Football League. Back in the day, Mix was listed at 6’ 4” and 250 pounds, known as a weight lifter long before football players commonly pumped iron, and nicknamed the “Intellectual Assassin.” On the field, he achieved something that’s never been equaled: in ten seasons, he had two holding calls against him. Off the field, he blazed a trail by becoming one of the few players to earn a law degree
  • By Thomas Larson, Nov. 4, 2009

  • Baseball anecdotes plus Padres songs

  • Over at the nearby Friar Shack, kids 52 inches and under can order hot dogs, Smucker’s PB&J sandwiches, popcorn, cinnamon grahams, fruit cups, juice boxes, and milk for $1.50 each. The aforementioned Power Alley is a batting cage set up inside the stadium walkway, just a few feet from the Friar Fastball pitching cage. Get your tokens and test your skill: one for $3, two for $5.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Oct. 14, 2009
  • My husband is slowly falling in love with San Diego

  • The first friends Aaron and I meet in San Diego want us to go bike riding. It’s September, and we are invited — at 8:00 in the fricking morning — to join these folks on a ride around Mission Bay. I become nervous when I notice the spandex they wear and the enormous water bottles strapped onto their ten-speeds.
  • By Siobhan Braun, Sept. 23, 2009
  • A tour of San Diego alleys

  • Jack Whalen hands me a beer. “I’m king of this alley,” Whalen says, then points west. “Down there, the king of that next alley is Tom Sweet. He’s 97.” Whalen has been king of this Pacific Beach alley for 20 years, ever since he rented the two-car garage in which we’re standing. By law, he explains, landlords must provide parking with beach rentals, but some rent out garages separately because there’s such a demand for them. All Whalen’s friends rent illegal garages. It’s an alley subculture.
  • By Alex Finlayson, Sept. 16, 2009

The drawings were stick figures of men, rectangular grids, and most notably, a tall sailing ship, complete with a mast and furled sail.

The drawings were stick figures of men, rectangular grids, and most notably, a tall sailing ship, complete with a mast and furled sail.

  • Pictographs of Cabrillo's San Salvador east of Jacumba

  • "There’s some petroglyphs over in Pinto Canyon," Frank said as he passed me on the trail. Frank Johnson, a handsome 75-year-old man, with flowing white hair and a superb knowledge of hiking trails, is something of a Sierra Club celebrity, and he was leading our hike into Fossil Canyon — just south of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I was frustrated that a man of his age could outpace me, but I’d never hiked ten miles in the sand before.
  • By Robert Marcos, June 3, 2009

  • Billionaire Tom Gores, the Union-Tribune's new owner

  • In a March 19 story announcing its takeover by Platinum Equity, the Union-Tribune reported that Gores had “immigrated to America with his Greek family when he was 5 and eventually became a U.S. citizen.” But there is more to the story of Tom Gores and his large, extended family.
  • By Matt Potter, May 13, 2009
  • Mommy, why are they shooting at us again?

  • For those who are staying behind, either because they have no choice or out of pride of place, military authorities recommend they stay at home if there is no important reason to go out. The official murder count for 2008 was 843, though suspicious Tijuanenses say there were probably a lot more. Of the 843, Frontera reported at year’s end that 25 were innocent bystanders.
  • By James Iverson, April 1, 2009

Cárdenas isn’t sure what form of body hacking he may perform on himself or what the end of his transsexuality will be. “I’m still a work in progress.”

Cárdenas isn’t sure what form of body hacking he may perform on himself or what the end of his transsexuality will be. “I’m still a work in progress.”

  • My gender is bunny

  • I’m sitting on a leather couch in the middle of a darkened black-walled, black-ceilinged room talking to a man who, at taxpayer expense, takes hormones to become more like a woman yet is in the middle of an experimental performance in which he seeks to become a dragon.
  • By Ernie Grimm, March 25, 2009

Bertha Bugarin. “I didn’t call the police, because it didn’t occur to me that she’d be doing” abortions herself. “I didn’t want to believe that she’d be doing that.”

Bertha Bugarin. “I didn’t call the police, because it didn’t occur to me that she’d be doing” abortions herself. “I didn’t want to believe that she’d be doing that.”

  • Abortionist Bertha Bugarin heads to jail

  • Clinica Medica para la Mujer de Hoy, a storefront clinic, with its dull turquoise awning, was located on Broadway, next door to Plaza’s Mexican Food. Its windows were blacked out and the image of a stylish woman was drawn onto one pane. For years, the clinic had targeted Spanish-speaking women with low-cost terminations of their pregnancies.
  • By Thomas Larson, Feb. 18, 2009

In March of 1981, my small family and I moved into the house before which I now stand. We paid $60,000.

In March of 1981, my small family and I moved into the house before which I now stand. We paid $60,000.

  • The spell of verticality on Curlew Street

  • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Freud pointed out. He would never have said the same thing about a house. Certainly Carl Jung would not. In my case, as I approach my former address at the edge of Mission Hills, right where that neighborhood turns into Hillcrest, I am approaching a time machine as surely as if I were walking toward and lifting my hand to knock at the address of H.G. Wells’s Victorian scientist in the famous story from 1895.
  • By John Brizzolara, Jan. 28, 2009

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