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Best Reader stories from 1993

Mike Doyle, Tarawa, El Centro, Dahmer's Diner, Baja boom towns, Chinese refugees, Dale Akiki, San Diego tomatoes, Balboa Park violence, Mexican fighting bulls, Mother Teresa's TJ, Zeta

These Santee boys, graduates of Santana High School, have even been banned from the Spirit Club.
  • These Santee boys, graduates of Santana High School, have even been banned from the Spirit Club.
  • Image by Randy Hoffman
  • In time for the morning glass

  • For a few years back in the '60s, Mike Doyle was the hottest surfer in the world. With an unusual combination of power on big waves and stylistic grace on small waves, he became one of the sport's first professionals — meaning somebody who actually made his living from surfing. But in those days top surfers weren't handed paychecks after winning a contest, because there weren’t any sponsors.
  • By Mike Doyle and Steve Sorensen, Dec. 2, 1993

Mike Doyle today in front of his Cabo San Lucas home, 1993.

Mike Doyle today in front of his Cabo San Lucas home, 1993.

  • Bloodiest 76 hours of World War II – Tarawa

  • My name is Clinton G. Brame. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on November 14, 1942, at the Federal Building on Market and 12th Street, San Diego. From there I was dispatched to MCRD. The training program in boot camp, because of the war, was reduced from 12 weeks; but boot camp was the same for any young fella from any time — it sticks in your memory; you hate your DI, you’re going to kill him, until you get out, when all of a sudden everybody wants to buy him a present.
  • By Ray Westberg, Nov. 18, 1993

"It was stinkin’ from the time we got on that damn island."

"It was stinkin’ from the time we got on that damn island."

Mikhail M. Zlatkovsky and Robert Burroughs

  • Out here in the middle of nowhere

  • Along El Centro’s Adams Avenue, the only pedestrians at night are the streetwalkers. Small moving shadows on this wide boulevard turned nocturnal strip, they brave the heat to stand under the crackling motel neons, waiting for the trucks that furnish El Centro’s giant sugar factory. You see them slipping by the bungalow walls, under the blue neon Baptist cross and under the brilliant yellow and green sign of the Kon-Tiki motel, a palm tree that sputters all night long.
  • By Lawrence Osborne, Oct. 21, 1993

"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild."

"El Centro’s not so bad, just be watching yourself on Friday night pay day. That’s when the cowboys will be going wild."

  • The impossible shore

  • The bow of the To Ching No. 212 looks like the nose of a fighter who should have quit sooner. Another almost catastrophic dent distorts the port stern. Above it some 20 feet of deck rail caved in, without casualties probably, but how would we ever know? Now, pinned between a 60-meter patrullero and the Ensenada Naval Pier, she’s no longer a danger. When Mexico officially seized the ship, its crew, and 254 undocumented Chinese passengers, it did the sea a favor and decommissioned her.
  • By Larry Siems, Oct. 7, 1993

Coastguardsman throws blanket to refugees

Coastguardsman throws blanket to refugees

  • So far from God, so close to the United States

  • High over the Tijuana-Ensenada toll road, in the midst of bald, colorless hills, the orange stucco bridge of Real del Mar stands in antiseptic isolation. Square towers and a multitude of purple flags give it the look of a fortress, as do its deserted roads that wind their way uphill through ghostly rows of auctioned, vacant lots. In its setting, it comes as a surprise. Yet this is not a remote secret barracks of the Mexican army nor the long-abandoned set of some gaudy science-fiction movie.
  • By Lawrence Osborne, Sept. 23, 1993

Real Del Mar

Real Del Mar

  • Speak memory

  • The Dale Akiki case has so far involved three months’ testimony from 60 prosecutorial witnesses and 45 criminal charges whose penalties, if served consecutively, would amount to more than a century. There have been allegations that Akiki stabbed babies, giraffes, elephants with a “crocodile knife,” and shot chickens in the presence of his preschool-age charges.
  • By Abe Opincar, Aug. 19, 1993

Many stole what seemed to be curious glances at Akiki. “I can't remember” was a frequent reply....

Many stole what seemed to be curious glances at Akiki. “I can't remember” was a frequent reply....

  • San Diego's best tomato breeds: Better Boys, Early Girls, Yellow Taxis

  • The ripe round red tomato sitting on the kitchen table is alive and busy. While we are asking, “How shall I eat it?” the tomato is huffing and puffing, sending signals throughout its meat and juices that cue color, texture, and flavor changes. The tomato, if it could talk, would tell us it doesn’t give a damn how we eat it. It only wants to get its seeds out into soil and make more of itself. It’s dying, it would say, to do that.
  • By Judith Moore, July 8, 1993

Pat Welsh says that locally the pest that most troubles tomatoes is tomato hornworm, a large caterpillar that can grow as long as four inches,

Pat Welsh says that locally the pest that most troubles tomatoes is tomato hornworm, a large caterpillar that can grow as long as four inches,

  • Labyrinth of the Radiant City

  • A Sunday evening in April. Traveling north on foot from that section of San Diego called Little Italy. My destination is Balboa Park. My goal is to seek out and live among San Diego’s homeless. Another goal is truth. The one absolute. And honesty. If I am to pry into the affairs of these modern-day Miserables, invade the world of people whose lives are invaded without end, I must have a noble cause.
  • By David Rioux, June 3, 1993

Suicide bridge, near El Prado. Al grabs the scruff of my neck and shoves my head far over the railing. The view below seems to drop straight down to Hades.

Suicide bridge, near El Prado. Al grabs the scruff of my neck and shoves my head far over the railing. The view below seems to drop straight down to Hades.

  • Why Mexican bullfighting bulls are better than Spanish ones

  • One of the most famous bullfighters working in Spain today, a native of Valencia known as El Soro, recently stepped into a small, stone-walled ring on a ranch not far from Tecate. Two veteran Mexican matadors accompanied him, as did two promising Mexican novices, and the American restaurateur and bullfight lover Paul Dobson. None of the men wore a suit of lights.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, March 18, 1993

Nando Limon: “It’s the most complicated and the most beautiful form of animal breeding.”

Nando Limon: “It’s the most complicated and the most beautiful form of animal breeding.”

  • Mother Teresa's Tijuana legacy

  • A couple of years ago I was coming home from a wedding reception in Tijuana, in winter, about 2:00 a.m. While I waited in line at the border in drizzle and showers, a boy around ten years old approached my car. One of the legion of Chiclets vendors, he held out a box with little packs of candied gum and opened his mouth and moved his tongue. No sound.
  • By Ken Kuhlken, Jan. 7, 1993

Looking north from Missionaries of Charity courtyard. The place spooks me. But not half so much as did the thought of going to stay there with an order of priests.

Looking north from Missionaries of Charity courtyard. The place spooks me. But not half so much as did the thought of going to stay there with an order of priests.

Jesus Blancornelas: "We, the writers, owned the paper — we couldn’t be fired. It was difficult for the government to pressure us."

Jesus Blancornelas: "We, the writers, owned the paper — we couldn’t be fired. It was difficult for the government to pressure us."

  • Tijuana's weekly paper Zeta – its prosperity started with a gunshot

  • “In March of 1980 I found out there was a warrant for my arrest. I had presented evidence to the judge that showed the fraud had never happened, but I knew I would not get a fair trial. I fled to the United States, where I lived for two years. First I lived in Point Loma and later in Chula Vista in an apartment on Telegraph Canyon Road.
  • By Abe Opincar, March 11, 1993
  • Eating people Is the ultimate control

  • You won’t find Dahmer’s Diner on the bill at the Cannibal Bar in Mission Beach. In fact, DD has been banned from all but two venues in town, SOMA and Cafe Chabalaba, though they are embraced at certain clubs in Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, among other places. While they have been interviewed by the punk rock press ’zines from places as far away as Holland, they have real trouble in San Diego.
  • By John Brizzolara, Oct. 14, 1993

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