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Sex traffic survivors to business women

February 26, 2020 |

“Investors told me I was crazy.”

Cynthia Luvlee-Austin is doing what she was told could not be done. Her non-profit organization, Shyne San Diego, seeks to equip survivors of human trafficking with tools and skills to improve their economic security. 

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Frozen pipes – winter on Mount Laguna

January 15, 2020 |


The temperature drops steadily as I make my way east on Interstate 8 — 57 degrees, 54, 49. I have brought four hoodies and the down jacket I wear only when I visit my mom in … Read More

Decay, growth, and rebirth on Pacific Highway

January 8, 2020 |

A trumpet-shaped flower on Cedar and Pacific Highway PHOTOGRAPH BY MATTHEW SUÁREZ

Pacific Highway doesn’t look like it sounds. The name calls to mind surfboard-topped VW buses, sunsets, and bike-riders in bathing suits, something like what you’d see on Highway … Read More

A week in San Diego without a phone

November 6, 2019 |


I never take my phone out on the water in Mission Bay, where I go to stand-up paddle board a couple of times a week. Sometimes I wish … Read More

Airplanes, Instagram, and Digging Deep

March 19, 2017 | 2

Yesterday I had the afternoon to myself. The idea was to grab a sandwich (Turkey 2, no onion) at Influx on Broadway and eat it at Golden Hill Park. Then I planned to write.

My writing coach, a brilliant woman … Read More

Press 1 for Spanglish

June 3, 2015 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader June 3, 2015)

My friend Pati has lived in San Diego County for 25 years and has never been to Balboa Park. On a Tuesday afternoon in March, … Read More

Not that horrible woman from the Reader!

May 13, 2015 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader May 13, 2015.)

When I open the door to Room 315, I receive a standing ovation from kids I’ve never met before. They stand around clusters of desks, … Read More

Give me the pills and nobody gets hurt

April 1, 2015 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader April 1, 2015.)

At around 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13, a man in a blue hoodie, brown beanie, jeans, and work boots walked into a La Jolla CVS, and … Read More

The visionary behind the Help Neil Catch Fish Foundation

March 4, 2015 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader March 4, 2015.)

Keith Berkley wants to share his lobster with me. And by “share his lobster with me” I mean, he wants me to witness the bay-to-table journey of … Read More

Pennies an Hour

January 21, 2015 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader January 21, 2015.)

In April 2013, Ryan Grainger and Bobby Sullivan found themselves faced with a particular First World problem at Coachella. The then-20- and 19-year-old University of … Read More

I’m Judo Math Dude

December 31, 2014 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader December 31, 2014.)

Annette Wilson stands in front of her sixth-grade class wearing a Karate Kid–style bandana tied around her forehead. She explains to her students at Vista Innovation … Read More

Door-to-door fraudsters steal local nonprofit’s identity

December 10, 2014 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader December 10, 2014.)

Around 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday evening in October, San Diego resident J. Turco opened his front door to a man selling candy on behalf of a youth … Read More

The Pink Wrap Dress That Changed My Life

November 19, 2013 |

(Originally published in Elle magazine, October 2013.)


Pink, fitted, and four times as expensive as any item I’d ever bought, the Monah Li dress was everything my mother had raised me to resist.

I had to have it.

Although … Read More

The first time I see Eliza Jane Schneider onstage, I want to be her friend.

October 16, 2013 |

Image by Daren Scott.

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader, October 16, 2013.)


The first time I see Eliza Jane Schneider onstage, I want to be her friend.

Or maybe her writing partner, or her personal … Read More

We’re doing arms tonight, FYI.

August 14, 2013 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader, August 14, 2013.)


In a few minutes, Yoni Baker is going to take off all his clothes.

I will see him naked. I know it. He knows it. The camaraderie … Read More

What am I doing in Eastlake?

July 31, 2013 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader, July 31, 2013.)


The first day I took my daughter to her new school, I questioned whether moving to Eastlake was the right move for our family. I had stopped by … Read More

Baja is Back

July 24, 2013 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader, July 24, 2013.)


In a December 2011 Vanity Fair article, writer Dana Vachon described Chula Vista as “a sputtering neon error of beauty academies and pawnshops, recently terrorized by a homicidal Tijuana drug … Read More

BACKSTORY: My New Best Burlesque Lady Friends

May 7, 2013 |

After starting several opening paragraphs for this post, it occurred to me that most who visit will care less about what I have to say than they will about getting a peek at the dancing ladies. And so I’ll jump … Read More

From Sheep to Sweater in 12 Hours

April 24, 2013 |

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader April 24, 2013.)


Kelly Friedlen believes every home should have three alpacas in its backyard.

She’s so adamant that, in the two days we’ve known each other, she’s said it … Read More

BACKSTORY: The World of Alpacas, Wool, and Weaving

April 23, 2013 |

I love my job. Until I started working as a journalist, writing was a way for me to make sense of the world and my place in it.  As an emotion-centric person, I tend to feel my way through life. … Read More