Publications
Fairy Shrimp, Vernal Pools, and the Mayor of Poway Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20000420(San Diego Reader April 20, 2000)

Royce Riggan Jr., a biological consultant in San Diego for 25 years, was driving back to his office one Sunday afternoon in January. His route, from the west end of Miramar Road to his working place in the heart of Mira Mesa, took him through the Miralani Business Park along Trade Place, where for a mile one long warehouse abuts another. The route also took him past a lone, fenced wetland habitat, alien to such a locale, on Arjons Drive. It was a habitat he knew well. Riggan, who describes himself as "one of the gray-haired guys" in environmental consulting, had helped designate this 8.7-acre parcel above Carroll Canyon in 1977 as a preserve, for it was home, at the time, to three threatened species—the San Diego fairy shrimp (a crustacean), the button celery (also called coyote thistle), and the San Diego mesa mint—each of which have become federal-listed endangered species. (The plants are also state-listed.)

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Never Die: Dawn of the Stem Cell Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20000323(San Diego Reader March 23, 2000)

Like many newly married couples, Cristen and Jeffry Hays wanted to get pregnant soon after their wedding in 1992, but felt it best to wait. They used birth control until Jeffry finished three years of chiropractic school, passed his preceptorship, and established a practice in San Diego. Then, in their mid-30s, with "it’s now or never" nagging them, they dropped their protective shields and went at it, a pleasure as often as it was a duty.

For a year, nothing happened. Something was wrong, and the Bakersfield natives suspected the problem was inside Cristen. An insulin-dependent diabetic since 12, Cristen wears an insulin pump, monitors her intake by pricking her finger and testing her blood-sugar level ten times a day, and lives at times emotionally weakened by the high maintenance her illness requires.

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He Could Always Teach: An English Professor's Education in Fifty Vignettes Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Weston-Self_Portrait(Compiled Spring 2000)

(1)

Herb Caen, the great San Francisco Chronicle columnist for close to fifty years, liked to retell an anecdote about our society’s estimation of its teachers. It seems Caen was having lunch one day with his cronies at Enrico’s Coffee House when the great novelist John Steinbeck joined them. Steinbeck had just arrived in the city on his trip west, a journey which would form the basis for one of his most beloved books, Travels With Charley, a road-trip adventure story starring Steinbeck and his poodle companion.

"When Charley and I were driving through the redwood country," the famous author said, "I looked around till I found the largest redwood in the area—an absolute beauty, probably two thousand years old, a considerable tree before Christ was born. And then I let Charley out of the camper so he could go and pee on that tree. Now I ask you, gentlemen, what is left in life for that dog?"

There was a silence which brought nods to the sublime. Nothing could top such a holy moment for Charley or the group. Finally, an advertising executive at the table named Howard Gossage said, "He could always teach."

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California, Here I Come: Divorce in the Golden State Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

The author with his kids 1983(San Diego Reader February 24, 2000)

I was trembling, tearing open the envelope, with its official return address, University of California, San Diego, Department of Music, Graduate Division. “I am happy to inform you,” it began — but didn’t I know the rest, hadn’t I known it in my gut for months, ever since I kissed and mailed the application, that my westering dream would, in fact, come true? “The Department of Music is recommending that you be admitted,” and then I couldn’t see the words, for I was crying and running to tell my wife and four-year-old twin sons: We’d be moving to Southern California.

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"In Spite of Everything": The Definitive Indefinite Anne Frank Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

anne_frank(Antioch Review Winter 2000, Volume 58, Number 1)

The definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published in English in 1995, restored her original entries which her father, the diary’s compiler in 1947, had deleted from the first edition. Many of the new edition’s reviewers (Or is it readers? Can one "review" Anne Frank’s diary?) have expressed the standard adoring praise. In fact, one writer noted that even the reborn diary’s 30-percent more material "does not alter our basic sense of Anne Frank." I didn’t know we shared the same "basic sense" about her. What is meant, I suspect, is that despite the additions Anne remains a victim par excellence, whose afterlife must forever gather together—and give thanks to—the penitent rememberers of the Holocaust. But studied carefully, away from Anne’s iconolatry, the new edition disrupts this putative notion of her goodness. This version, in Susan Massotty’s brilliant translation, is an even more incisive and tangled human document in its final form than the text which preceded it. It is true that Anne’s anger with her parents and confusion with her own feelings were in the original diary. But now the definitive edition accumulates and intensifies so much more about her inner life that Anne’s self-scrutiny dissuades us from enshrining her "goodness" and challenges us to love her honesty. (Which is what all teenagers seem to want.) This complete text discloses an author whose artistic subtlety and autobiographical truth-telling alone can command reverence.

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City of Artless Politics: Rejecting Nancy Rubins Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

nancy_rubin(San Diego Reader December 2, 1999)

On Friday, November 19, the San Diego Convention Center board of director's vote was tied, three for Nancy Rubins's proposed Harbor Drive sculpture—the 102-foot-high, 100-ton arch of 60 cabled-together fiberglass boats—and three against. The deciding vote would come from the board's seventh member, chairman William A. Roper.

"We have a split decision," Roper said. "It's not wrong that we have a difference of opinion, [and] that doesn't make me a bad person. I'd rather not be the tie-breaking vote here."

Before casting his vote, Roper said it was necessary to categorize the responses to Rubins's piece that the board had received: first, the phone calls were "overwhelmingly negative"; second, e-mails, faxes, and letters were "two-thirds positive, one-third negative"; third, the two public-art meetings the previous day, totaling 75 people, were "roughly mixed." He said they could "tally it" either way, as many yeas as nays.

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Housing Is a Verb: In Twelve Cobbled-Together Parts Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

recycled_house(San Diego Reader November 18, 1999)

1.

If you cross into Mexico at Otay Mesa, continue south on Calle Mazatlan and cut over to Boulevard Insurgentes, you'll eventually dip down to the Tijuana River which winds through the vast and growing working-class colonias of east Tijuana. Here lives, in congested communities, tens of thousands of residents, most recent arrivals usually from the northern part of the country. Not long ago, some of these people lived in quick-built dwellings alongside the river. But because a hard rain falls every six or seven years, the river floods and people have to move, on top of the mesas or partway up the gently sloping ravines. The newly risen colonias have colorful names—El Florido, El Pipila, Ejido Mariano Matamoros. People have moved in because of the flooding, but they've also come because of the new economic opportunities in northern Baja. Before 1993 these neighborhoods were not here. Then came Nafta and the promise of factory work at the maquiladoras. A visit today reveals that those soccer-stadium-sized American-owned plants continue to thrive.

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