Mario Escalera, who’s spent 18 years working in the city’s streets division, remembers a pothole the size of a hot tub.

“I could have gotten in, put some water in there and taken a nice shower,” he tells us in this week’s Q&A. It took 40 minutes and about ton of asphalt to fill, a process that isn’t easy since the city uses at least four different types of asphalt and the crew has to do its own traffic control.

Escalera tells us about the smell of asphalt (he actually likes it), his scariest moment (it involved a transient with a knife) and the growing level of appreciation he sees. “Lately I’ve been noticing the people are more thankful to us. Every time we’re patching or something, the people that go by they go, ‘Hey thank you guys, we appreciate it.’”

These Actresses Must Not Be Amused

Think of the day-to-day clothes that Victorian-era women had to put up with: dresses, petticoats, bustles, corsets and bloomers. Then imagine being on stage and having to take some of these things on and off in a play about a rather intimate treatment for the supposedly hysterical women of the time.

It would be a challenge, to be sure. And, as Kelly Bennett discovers, it’s a tough task for a costume designer too. Kelly tags along for the fittings during preparations for performances of “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

School’s Out for Summer

Summer school for high schoolers in San Diego is on the chopping block again, a year after it barely avoided getting cut. If a proposal goes through, only about 170 high school students would attend instead of 5,800.

Join thousands of San Diegans who get the day’s news in their inboxes every morning. Get the Morning Report now.

The problem, Emily Alpert writes, is that summer school may end up only reaching seniors “at the last minute, instead of helping troubled freshmen set their report cards right. Delaying chances to make up classes for failing high schoolers will hurt kids who are already the most likely to drop out — and who need help fast to turn things around.”

By Land or By Sea

“I couldn’t run because I had been sitting in the boat for so long. But the pilot kept yelling, ‘Run! Run! Run!’ It was terrible.” Those are the words of a 40-year-old Mexican mother of two who tried to escape the Border Patrol when a rickety boat deposited her at a Camp Pendleton beach. She failed, as the LAT reports in a story about the problem of illegal immigrants trying to get to the U.S. by sea.

“Similar scenes are playing out with increasing frequency along the Southern California coast as smugglers launch more immigrant and drug-filled vessels than ever before toward the state — about one every three days on average,” the paper says.

Meet the New (and Unexpected) ‘It City’

You may think of Yuma as a pit stop on the way to Arizona or, as an alternative newspaper in Phoenix nastily puts it, another kind of pit where “the scent of old people is everywhere.” (This from a city where antiperspirants go to die.) But never mind all that: Yuma has made the big time, swathed in recent positive media coverage including a Sunset article that raves about the “good eats and gorgeous gardens in this revamped river town.”

So grab the kids, jump in the station wagon and head east. When it starts smelling like shuffleboard and Geritol, you’re in the right place.


What We Learned This Week:

• Big and Battered: The for-profit higher education company Bridgepoint has become the county’s fifth-largest private employer, reaching a new pinnacle of public profile and influence. At the same time, it’s facing an onslaught of accusations and investigations from places as high as the U.S. Senate and the federal government.

• Save and Spend: Other places have adopted water-rate plan that give big incentives to those who conserve while zinging water-wasters, but San Diego has stuck with its system. Change isn’t coming anytime soon.

• No Way to Stay: While the poorest San Diego schools struggle with the prospect of losing hefty numbers of teachers to layoffs thanks to the district’s seniority system (veteran educators tend to end up in richer neighborhoods), Los Angeles has embraced a different approach.

• The Call Box Shuffle: If you own a car, you pay $1 a year for a county emergency call box program. Sounds reasonable, even in these days of cell phones. But, as CityBeat finds, the funds is are being spent on more than just call boxes: “flying fire engines, lackeys in cell-phone costumes and a Big Brother transportation system” are getting a share of your dollars too.


The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to savor over a cup of joe)

• ‘The Biggest Lie Ever Told’: A half-century ago, San Diego didn’t turn out to be the integrated promised land that some African-American transplants expected. We examine the city’s history of segregation, enforced through deed restrictions, and hear from a 91-year-old woman who hasn’t let bitterness get her down (or affect her own reaction to non-black newcomers).

• The Match Game: We capture the moment-by-moment story of a married pair of medical students on Match Day as they await the big news about where they’ll be spending their residencies.

• They’re Hardly Punky Brewsters: Drinking beer is easy but making it is hard, requiring knowledge about everything from flocculation (less horrible than it sounds) to centrifuges and aerobic activity. Join us as we take a science-oriented tour of a local brewery.


Quote of the Week: “The two biggest pigs in local faux journalism in a catfight to the death.” — a Rancho Santa Fe blog on the dust-up between two community newspaper publishers.


Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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