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BEST OF SAN DIEGO 75 things we love about San Diego right now. Ideas on what to eat, drink, do, see, lose a day or month of your life to. Compiled by 20 writers who kick the tires on what’s new and good in this city every day p 92
BELOW THE SURFACE Solana Beach photographer Todd Glaser shares his best 13 photos of all-time, featuring surf legends Rob Machado, Kelly Slater, Jack Johnson, and more p 108
AUGUST 2022 14
CULTURE 28 Calendar Shakespeare at The Old Globe, SD Symphony closes its summer season at the Rady Shell, our Best of San Diego party—your itinerary for the month. 32 Arts La Mesa’s Gail Roberts debuts Color Fields, an exhibition of paintings depicting flowers in her home garden, at the Oceanside Museum of Art 34 Music Courtney Barnett talks her new album, brings Here & There Festival to Humphrey’s; Particle FM ups the diversity and pres- ence of the city’s electronic scene 38 Made in SD Electra’s new and vintage bicycles continue to delight riders around the globe, including here at home
40 Books Local author and journalist Mike Sager runs an indie book press out of his Bird Rock home FOOD +DRINK 48 Beer San Diego’s Estate Beer Project aims to redefine what “local” means for craft beer 50 Hot Plates News you need to know about the city’s food and drink scene. 52 What We’re Loving With Dolly’s, North Park gets its very first rooftop bar 54 Review Absinthe-minded French bistro Wormwood wins over North Park with some magic sauce LIVING 68 Style Jewelry designer Katey Brunini channels brutalist architecture in her latest collection
70 Design Architect Soheil Nakhshab is building community, preserving history, and reframing how we co-exist on some of San Diego’s oddest-shaped lots 80 Tastemaker Lisa Corolla’s Fish & Co is on a quest to create meaningful spaces without killing the planet ESCAPES 116 Travel News Updates from Hawaii and the border, as well as a fleet of new direct flights from San Diego to points farther afield 118 Weekender Top minds behind Montreal’s natural wine scene suggest the best places to sip au naturel
on the cover
On the 19th floor of the InterContinental San Diego is Seneca, a buzzy Italian restaurant owned by Consortium Holdings and designed by AvroKO. Photography by Garrett Rowland.
IN EVERY ISSUE 20 Content Chief Note 128 Sacred Spaces Inside the studio of Grammy-winning DJ, composer, and UCSD professor King Britt SPECIAL SECTIONS 85 Guide to Aging Well 91 Best of the Best 126 Parties
AUGUST 2022 16
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18 AUGUST 2022
Chances are, you know your blood type, but do you know your money type? We all have one. And understanding your relationship with money is one of the key components to building the retirement you’re dreaming of. Unlike a blood type, you’re not born with a money type, but it probably did develop in childhood. Ask yourself these questions: • Do you avoid conversations about money even with your spouse or partner? • Do you promise yourself that you will spend less and save more but never follow through? • Do you know where your money is going? Even if you check your monthly bank and credit card statements, it is easy to miss fees and subscriptions that you may have on auto-pay. Do you really want or need them? If not, why are you still paying for them? WHAT IS YOUR MONEY TYPE?
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orth County Fair landed like a mothership, and just in time for puberty. I was 13 years old, and its arrival on the cultural dandruff of suburbia was like a ticket to a better universe. It had a food court and a Sam Goody (first two CDs purchased with my own N What Was and What Will Be money: MC Hammer and Ziggy Marley). Just like that, we had a neon wonderland where we could walk around in herds, walk past girls in their own herds. Every time, we’d pretend we had the courage to talk to them. Every time, nope. I remember when they put a skate park in Ocean Beach. It felt like our entire childhood had been decriminalized. I remember when Nobu opened in San Diego. I sat in a room with chef Matsuhisa and his business partner Robert De Niro, asked them hard-hitting questions about wasabi. I was Don Lemon of the rainbow roll. At one point in the conversation, Robert’s eyes got real wide and he wildly reached out at me from across the table. I remember thinking,“How cool is this? I’m gonna get strangled by Robert De Niro.” A quarter-second later, the tall TV light he was trying to save me from would land square on my skull. I remember when Region opened in Hillcrest. It wasn’t the first time a chef cooked exclusively in-season food from local farms, but it sure felt like it. The term “farm-to-table” was so new then, so full of hope, not yet gutted for commercial gain and left for dead on the side of
The Rady Shell: al fresco music church, public park for the ages, and instant icon.
weather. It gave our symphony a new home, and in its off time gave the rest of us a public park for yoga and roller skating or just fooling around on the grass. It’s our version of the Sydney Opera House. For this issue we asked over 20 writers—whose job it is to constantly scour the city—for their favorite things about San Diego right now. It’s our way of shining a light on the people and places doing and creating the remarkable. Things that, years from now, we’ll remember. Our cover of this issue is Seneca Trattoria—the rooftop restaurant that feels like a jungle grew inside of a wooden cruise liner, where they hand-pull fresh mozzarella at your table. It’s atop the Intercontinental Hotel at the corner of PCH and Broadway, which is important. From this vantage point, you can look down on the corner of San Diego where all next things are happening. Where billions of dollars and massive ideas will soon transform our waterfront forever: the tension point of new directions, equally full of promise and apprehension. You can stand at the edge of Seneca, Negroni in hand, and see the future.
the marketing campaign. I remember discovering the pho at Phuong Trang, realizing what I’d been told was “good soup” all my life was a lie. I remember finding Voz Alta, a Latinx art-and- performance space in Downtown where creative 20-somethings drank beers in paper bags and sweated on each other to DJs and poets. I remember seeing my first concert at Copley Symphony Hall, how regal I felt, how I desired a monocle. I can still smell the stage fog from my first plays at The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse. I remember when Petco Park opened, that old LEGO- looking building as the foul pole. Felt like the Padres would never lose. And I remember when I read the first “Best of San Diego” issue of SDM. I was working as a music writer at the time, so the only thing I thought was cool was the Casbah. As a fairly pretentious New Yorker subscriber and KPBS listener, I remember scoffing because it wasn’t an 80,000-word literary opus on the cultural significance of the Slinky. But as I read it I found myself saying “oh, cool” and “oh, cool” and “that’s right, that happened.” That’s what this issue is. An annual almanac of San Diego’s now. A yearbook for the city. A celebration of compelling things that happened this year; things that will happen. Places that in some way enlivened our city, making it more compelling, weird, world-class, or just our kind of class. Like the Rady Shell. It’s as if Red Rocks mated with the Guggenheim. A mind- blowing altar to music and our famous
Troy Johnson Chief Content Officer
20 AUGUST 2022
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Things to Do Festivals, art exhibits, and more to check out each week and month.
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I’m a Pro-Choice Woman of Faith SDM’s digital editor shares her thoughts on the overturning of Roe v Wade and digs into the research on maternal mortality.
Alex Morgan Rides the Wave to Her New Hometown U.S. Soccer legend brings goals and subtle star power to San Diego. GET ACCESS TO INSIDER INFO EVERY WEEK! Sign up for our e-newsletters at sdmag.com/enewsletters sandiegomag sandiegomag sandiegomagazine sandiegomag
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AUGUST 2022 22
THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE
Sharp HealthCare is not for profit, but for people. As San Diego’s health care leader, we continuously evolve to meet the needs of our community.
ENVISION, the Campaign for Sharp HealthCare, is our comprehensive effort to bring new technology, innovation, facilities, and more of the best and brightest clinicians to San Diego.
Learn more at sharp.com/envision .
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Tammy Russell, PhD ’24 NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Continue the Exploring like on other
From our perch on the Pacific, future thought leaders are looking at marine stewardship with fresh eyes. One of them is doctoral student Tammy Russell, who is researching the impacts of climate change and plastics on seabirds — and by extension, every living thing. Finding creative new ways to help the brightest minds improve the health of our planet is empowered by generous donors who contributed more than $3 billion to the Campaign for UC San Diego. And while the Campaign has come to a close, its legacy will benefit the planet for decades to come.
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CALENDAR p 28 GAIL ROBERTS p 32 Culture COURTNEY BARNETT p 34 ELECTRA p 38 MIKE SAGER p 40
Re-Tooling the Timken
Renaissance work finished in 1557, a full 200 years before missionaries landed in San Diego. The painting’s hazy, bucolic scene—a river, a mountain range, a peasant scattering seeds—symbolizes the importance of giving to others. As one of the Timken’s 84 classic art pieces, it expresses the venue’s mission of embracing art to enrich lives and nurture creative spirits. Other significant treasures include Bartolomeo Veneti’s Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress (1530), Luca Carlevarijs’ The Piazzetta in Venice (1700-1710), and Ella Ferris Pell’s Salome (1890), and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s View of Volterra (1838), which illustrates the rugged countryside of the Italian town and is an early example of Plein-air painting. The museum’s fall exhibition,“Exchanging Words: Women and Letters in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting” (September 18 to December 31), features a Timken work, Girl Receiving a Letter (1658) by Gabriel Metsu and other paintings that were considered provocative at the time—because they all portray women absorbed in intellectual pursuits. — Liz Goldner
mericans spent the pandemic gussying up their homes, and San Diego’s art museums did the same. Last fall, the Mingei emerged with an additional 50,000 square feet for exhibitions, a theater, a new restaurant, and more. April saw the breathtaking, $105 million recast of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla with four times the gallery space and works from the likes of John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Sam Gilliam, Robert Irwin, Barbara Kruger, Bruce Nauman, and Helen Pashgian. But don’t overlook the sprucing that happened at 57-year-old Timken Museum of Art, known as the “jewel box of Balboa Park.” Closed for two years during the pandemic, a far more modest $3 million did it well— renovating the bones and modernizing exhibition spaces. Six refurbished galleries feature newly painted neutral walls, which creates a stark relief for chronologically organized art. The didactics have been given new details and perspectives, and high-end HEPA filters benefit both visitors and fragile masterworks. About the art: it’s old, impressively so. Parable of the Sower by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is a Dutch-Flemish
27 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
by Erica Nichols
San Diego Museum of Art’s book club, Art of Reading ,
highlights fictional reads that pair with the museum’s exhibits. This month, it’s a discussion about Deborah Davis’s Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X — Sargent’s most famous painting, and one that nearly ruined Madame X. Total scandal. sdmart.org Hillcrest’s CityFest is known by locals as Pride-Light, a massive neighborhood block party. The annual festival celebrates the restaurants and shops that make up San Diego’s most iconic LGBTQ+ neighborhood with six interactive art installations and performances over the nine-block span. fabuloushillcrest.com. 14
California native, singer, TikTok superstar and supreme hair-owner Oliver Tree is coming to Petco Park’s Gallagher Square alongside alternative/ indie singer Jawny. Last fall, the Santa Cruz singer/filmmaker announced his latest album, Cowboy Tears , may be his last. Hand-wash your primary-color track suit and tear-up like a real cowboy. padres.com/concerts
Summer isn’t officially official until—please hold for the plane
passing overhead—Shakespeare outdoors begins at The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Theatre. Bonus points if it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream , which blends poetically with the stage’s Balboa Park backdrop (through September 4). theoldglobe.org
Local bookstore legend Warwick’s has been bringing
big names in the literary world to San Diego for decades. This
month at Balboa Theatre, it’s iconic investigative journalist Bob Woodward , giving an inside look into his reporting on Watergate, Washington, and political dynamics. warwicks.com
Twinzers, bonzers, rhino chasers. If those words get you emotional,
head to the full display of San Diego surf culture at One Paseo’s Summer Surf Fest . Alongside live surf rock performances, pop-up shops, and interactive art installations, you can gawk at vintage surfboards and cars. onepaseo.com/events
At ArtWalk @ Liberty Station you can score a new painting
In Here There Are Blueberries at the La Jolla Playhouse, World War II-era
or vase or unidentifiable yet oddly compelling thing you just really need — and get the story of the pieces from the makers themselves. The festival gathers local and national artists who specialize in all forms, from ceramics to watercolor to sculpture, with demos and interactive pop-ups. artwalksandiego.org
Fresh off their new self-titled album, Muna is taking the stage
photographs lead a museum archivist and a Nazi descendent down separate rabbit holes of discovery. Slowly the stories behind the photos unfold, along with new revelations on the Holocaust and humanity (through August 21). lajollaplayhouse.com
at The Observatory in North Park. The L.A.-based trio has carved out a name for their punchy, electronic indie-pop that addresses sexuality, gender, and love. casbahmusic.com
26 AUGUST 2022 28
Shaping the community is in our DNA. With a 125-year history of academic excellence, student success, groundbreaking research and service to the community, we continue to reimagine experience-driven education and inspire the city’s future leaders. Transform your tomorrow at SDSU. Transforming Tomorrow
Learn more at SDSU.edu
See the works of some of the county’s most expressive young artists during
ICA San Diego’s Graduating Artist Exhibition Performance . The showcase is a one-night-only event highlighting the pieces from students in MFA and BA Visual Arts Programs across San Diego. The exhibition with their works is on display now through September 4. icasandiego.org
Australian artist Courtney Barnett is redefining music touring. For the past
10 years, the musician has curated a roster of indie artists under her label Milk! Records. Now, Barnett views tours as inside looks into the magic of that label. Here and There Fest at Humphreys by the Bay is an intimate evening of music hosted by Barnett with performances by Indigo De Souza and Ethel Cain. hereandtherefest.com
At the World Bodysurfing
Championships in Oceanside, the art (we stand by that) of bodysurfing steals the spotlight over two days. More than 300 participants take to the water to compete for top division titles. No boards necessary. worldbodysurfing.org
There are Broadway shows, then there’s
The Lion King . No other musical immerses you in the experience of “the theater” quite like life-size giraffe puppets slowly marching down the aisles, past your seat, and toward the stage. See it at the San Diego Civic Theatre (through September 11). broadwaysd.com
Oh, c’mon. Getting to see “Love My Way” and “Pretty In Pink” performed on a $98 million outdoor stage on the water with perfect sound? The Psychedelic Furs play with X (another 80s legend) at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. The San Diego Symphony’s summer season closes this month, so it’s your last chance to behold our bayside breathtaker. theshell.org
Explore San Diego on two wheels: Bike the Bay starts at Embarcadero Marina
Park South, crosses the bridge, winds down through Imperial beach, and continues back up the coast of Chula Vista for a 25-mile loop that delivers unbeatable skyline views. bikethebay.net
To know modern jazz is to know Cécile McLorin Salvant . The
Carolina Caycedo tackles the colonial
MacArthur recipient and multi-Grammy- award winner blends global takes on jazz, blues, Baroque, and folk for a distinguished sound in her latest album Ghost Song . Obsess accordingly when she performs at La Jolla Music Society’s Conrad Prebys performance venue. ljms.org
gaze through sprawling photographs, sculptures, performances, and installations rooted in indigenous and feminist perspectives. See her work up close at the ICA San Diego North campus for their regional artist spotlight exhibit (through October 30). icasandiego.org
It’s our biggest party of the year. Best of San Diego is back at
Liberty Station! We gather over 100 of the restaurants, wineries, breweries, distillers, and brands featured in our Best of San Diego and Best Restaurants issues. They share tastes, sips, and samples of what they do best with live music, some sort of acro- yoga-dance thing. It’s a whole awesome thing. sandiegomagazine.com/events
30 AUGUST 2022
Ray Lin, MD, Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and Scripps Clinic
Here for excellence in cancer care. Here for good. Scripps Health and the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center are partnering to bring a higher level of cancer care to people throughout the San Diego region. Our integrated team of cancer specialists works closely together, creating individualized treatment plans that put patients, like Gloria, at the center of everything we do.
To learn more, call 1-800-SCRIPPS (727-4777) and visit Scripps.org/HealingStories .
The Ground Up
We get the dirt on La Mesa artist Gail Roberts, from flower buds to bold canvases blowing up at OMA
by AnnaMaria Stephens
ail Roberts had no idea what she was in for when she decided to paint everything that blooms in the sprawling garden outside her home studio in La Mesa. Not just the decorative flowers planted for their showy good looks, but the fruit trees, vegetables, succulents, and weeds. “It was a daunting task,” says Roberts.“I still have two tables of photographs I want to paint.” Even so, Gail Roberts: Color Fields , showing now at Oceanside Museum of Art through November 27, makes a dazzling collection. Set in a precise grid pattern, the 130 equally scaled oil paintings are arranged by color in spectrum order. The show’s name is a playful nod to the mid-century color field style of abstract painting (Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler) and to the meticulous rows of cultivated color at places like the Carlsbad Flower Fields. “My work has always been about my immediate environment,” says Roberts, who’s spent the last 15 years tilling granite-laden soil and planting her garden across a half acre of fertile land.“I come to have a deep understanding because I stay focused on what’s close to me.”
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: La Mesa artist Gail Roberts painted flowers from her garden with painstaking, breathtaking detail. The resulting exhibit, Color Fields , is showing at Oceanside Museum of Art.
Roberts’ creative process starts with a high-powered macro camera lens, revealing details not noticeable to the naked eye.“Some of the flowers are as tiny as a pinhead and others are ten inches across,” she says.“It’s so surprising when you look at some of those tiny flowers and they have as much complexity of pattern and design as magnificent cactus flowers or lilies or roses—any of those flowers that are more recognizable.” Take the humble California buckwheat, a native plant that produces a cluster of tiny white flowers popular with pollinators.“Every little flower is complex and unique,” says Roberts.“And it has this little knot where the stamen and pistil come together—you just can’t see that.” Even the most minute details are magnified in saturated color. Stretched to the edges of canvases, every bloom gets its day in the sun. Roberts, who learned all about her plants as she went along (their origins, their early uses, their migration patterns, etc.) says it’s difficult to pick out the pesky weeds from the prize winners. “Nature is remarkable,” she says.“As humans, we couldn’t possibly come up with the sense of invention and design that you’ll find in nature. We give ourselves way too much credit. We’re influenced as artists, at least I am, by the variety and incredible way in which these shapes and colors come together. I feel like I learned so much more.”
33 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
Time to Shine BREAKOUT AUSTRALIAN STAR COURTNEY BARNETT FINDS POSITIVITY AND PARTNERSHIP ON THE ROAD
by Danielle Allaire
COURTNEY BARNETT IS NOT ONE to shy away from a difficult conversation. The Aussie’s debut hit,“Avant Gardener,” was written about an anxiety attack. She touts song titles like “Crippling Self-Doubt And A General Lack of Self-Confidence,” but don’t mistake her vulnerability for emotionally induced loafing. Barnett is an artist of reflection and action. Her approach to troubadouring indie rock is singular in its honesty. She documents the acute, and sometimes painful, minutiae of life, zooming out for a macro vantage point, full of possibility. Her first two records brought lackadaisical melodies and crunchy guitars along with her signature wit and TMI lyrics. Despite the apparent openness, there was something concealed; a little like lying to your therapist.“I would talk about how it was vulnerable,” she says.“But, in hindsight, I feel like it was very guarded. This one actually feels vulnerable.” “This one” is her latest album, Things Take Time, Take Time . On it, she proves that transparency and, yes, time heals all wounds. After an exhaustive tour for her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel , in early 2020, Barnett needed a break. Maybe it was pandemic prescience, but self-care was already at the top of her to-do list. Back in her hometown of Melbourne, the slowdown and solitude of lockdown let her relax, reclaim life as a person—not as a touring musician— and reconnect with herself. It was during this respite that Things Take Time, Take Time took shape. Going back to her bedroom-musician roots, she notes,“I did find myself working in a different way, kind of with different restraints,” with new instruments, a softer sound, and home recording techniques among them.
This is Delicious WITH PRIMAVERA PIZZA
Welp, they did it. The brewers at Stone Brewing have spent a couple decades trying to create the ultimate food-pairing beer, and Stone Delicious IPA is it. They used citrusy hops (like a squeeze of lime or lemon in pho), and sweet specialty malts that play well with spicy foods. To celebrate, we’re taking Delicious on the road to shine a light on some of the dishes and people we love. This month? The primavera pizza at Amalfi Cucina Italiana from six-time World Pizza Champion, chef Marcello Avitabile , in San Marcos. Flour imported from Naples, San Marzano tomato sauce, marinated zucchini and eggplant, decadent buffalo mozzarella, EVOO, fresh basil—baked, blistered, melted, and burbled in his angry-hot Stefano Ferrara oven (that’s one famous oven). Total veggie dreamboat.
SCAN THE CODE to watch the video of this pizza coming to life, and our upcoming series of videos and podcasts dedicated to San Diego restaurants.
Barnett found kinship with Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, who also spent lockdown in Australia, and the two found a way to transcend the historic confines by fostering a creative support group. Mozgawa acted as Barnett’s studio sherpa, offering fresh alternatives when Barnett had “hit a wall,” as she puts it. This foundation of trust found its way onto the record as a recurring theme. Whether it was working with Mozgawa or Zooming a group of friends every Tuesday, Barnett found “a new level of gratitude for friendships that had been there for so long that I had maybe taken for granted,” she says. Ironically, the isolation of the pandemic forced her to create connections—and that was the key to breaking down her defenses. Galvanized by her fleet of new, more optimistic tracks, Barnett sought to find that connection on the road as well. Inspired by the Sonic City festival she curated in 2019, Barnett has crafted a new kind of tour, called “Here And There.” Instead of touring with the same opening bands, it’s a hybrid of intertwining tours with over 20 different bands supporting her on a string of 15 U.S. dates.“The fun part of the idea was that people could jump on or off for a couple of shows, or just one show,” she explains. Think of it as a traveling mixtape, with Barnett pushing the buttons. The festival line-up is punctuated by friends and icons, Sleater-Kinney, as well as indie darling Japanese Breakfast. At her San Diego stop at Humphrey’s (Aug. 28), like-minded chanteuses Ethel Cain and Indigo de Souza will jump on. As for how she managed to land all the star-studded support, she says: “Basically, I wrote a dream list of artists I loved.” Honesty (and flattery) is the best policy. When asked how the experience of writing Things Take Time changed her, she says,“I probably did a bit of deeper digging. I feel like a totally different person in some ways— philosophically and psychologically.” Transformation takes time, takes time.
Off the Dial San Diego’s never really been known to have a thriving experimental or electronic music scene. But Christian Gonzalez hopes to help change that with Particle FM, a DIY online radio station he created in October. The station is now raising money to set up a physical space. Gonzalez, who first began DJ’ing at UCSD’s student-run station KSDT, was inspired to create Particle FM by online radio stations like Dublab, London’s NTS, and Lisbon-based Radio Quantica, on which he had his own show for a time. Particle FM’s shows run the gamut, featuring everything from mutant jungle and heartfelt pop to international music and ambient sensory experiences—but the throughline is that you’re unlikely to hear these sounds on mainstream radio. Gonzalez created Particle FM because he was frustrated by the lack of diversity in San Diego’s music and radio scene. “Our goal really is to give underrepresented people the chance to share their music,” he says, including LGBTQ+, people from minority backgrounds, and all those whose music tastes fall outside of the mainstream. Currently, half the station’s DJs identify as women or nonbinary. Since its creation, the number of shows on the station has doubled. And though the vast majority of its DJs are San Diego-based, they’ve found listeners in countries across the world. Particle FM hopes its future physical space will give more people the opportunity to get involved, especially those who may not be able to afford the gear necessary to broadcast from home. “I picture it as a nexus for camaraderie, creativity, and learning facilitated by a shared passion for music,” said Laurie Piña, the station’s community outreach coordinator. “I honestly think it’ll mark a turning point in San Diego’s underground, and its music scene in general.” —Jakob McWhinney
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Cruising in Style
by AnnaMaria Stephens
brands. And, most importantly, it was painstakingly designed to be easy and comfortable. “It’s our flat-foot tech,” says Cox.“And I say that tongue-in-cheek because it’s not so technical. You can put your feet flat on the ground when you stop without having to jump off the seat.” In a market once dominated by road, mountain, and BMX bikes, the cool- looking comfort bike became a sensation. “The Townie got a lot of people on bikes who thought they’d never ride again,” he says. Today’s much-improved Townie has stood the test of time, and it’s also gone electric.“In 2012, we took our best-selling Townie and made it an e-bike,” says Cox, describing the Townie Go! “That’s our biggest evolution. We’re still a lifestyle bike brand, but we’ve transitioned into being a leading global e-bike company.” Cox adds that just like the comfort bike, e-bikes are for everyone. Even though he’s a longtime avid road cyclist— the high speeds and Spandex kind—he and his family spend weekends cruising around their Encinitas neighborhood on Townie Go! bikes. “We’re the 90 percent brand,” says Cox. “There are hundreds of millions who ride bikes, but only 10 percent of those are high-end enthusiasts. The rest are leisure lifestyle riders.”
KEVIN COX gets a kick out of spotting vintage Electra bikes. In Holland, while strolling scenic canals, the Electra president saw several classic Townies, the laidback bike with braun that made the Encinitas-based company a global hit in the early aughts. In Idaho, it was an old- school Electra Townie Go!, which is one of the best-selling e-bikes on the market today. “You could tell this thing had been ridden a gajillion miles,” says Cox.“That’s awesome. People are using them all the time. They really don’t wear out.” Electra turns 30 next year, and it’s been quite a ride. For the first decade, the brand turned out a stylish modern riff on the mid-century American beach cruiser—think a souped-up Schwinn in fresh colorways. “The ocean and beach are part of our DNA,” says Cox, wearing a Hawaiian shirt in his Electra HQ office filled with surfboards and bikes, just a 30-second walk from Moonlight Beach.“You can’t take that away from us. It’s ingrained in who we are as a company.” Then came the Electra Townie in 2003. The attractive bike landed somewhere between a beach cruiser and a Euro-style commuter model. It had sturdy gears and brakes. It came in fun and edgy hues and graphics packages, including collaborations with artists and other
On the eve of its 30th birthday, Encinitas bike-maker Electra stays true to its roots, building casual cruisers for everyday riders.
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Formerly itinerant journalist Mike Sager runs an independent publishing house from his Bird Rock home The Not-So-Lonely Hedonist
by Jackie Bryant
“YOU SHOULD CALL THIS PIECE ‘The Not So Lonely Hedonist,’” says journalist, author, and independent book publisher Mike Sager as we look at the ocean from his home in Bird Rock. He’s referring to the title of one of his essay compilations, The Lonely Hedonist . It’s filled with stories about other people, but the title is an apt description of Mike. If anyone else in the world tried to tell me how to title my piece, I’d have bristled. But one of the quirks of writers writing about writers (also why we typically avoid it) is that it becomes a collaborative process. Collaboration is something the now-publisher knows well. Though if someone asked him, he’d say he’s been going it alone for years. He moved to La Jolla in 1997 from Washington D.C., where he began his storied journalism career in 1978 at The Washington Post . “I was a rogue hire,” he says, downplaying his success, per usual. Sager was just the copy boy who freelanced on the side. But after 11 months, he broke a story on abuses in the Department of Agriculture and, instantly, famed editor Bob Woodward promoted him.
What followed is a long, still-active career writing for titles like Rolling Stone , Esquire (where he’s been a contributing editor for 20 years), and many others, including this magazine. At Rolling Stone , Sager was the rag’s contributing editor who wrote about drugs. He got paid actual American dollars to smoke crack with Rick James and write about the experience. But he also ghost-wrote for Hunter S. Thompson when the gonzo wordsmith was too inebriated to file copy on his own. Sager’s since become one of history’s best chroniclers of people—often the world’s most interesting people. He has an uncanny ability to pick up on the quirky things they do, identify the fascinating contradictions they inhabit that make them both relatable and also utterly foreign. To that point, it’s no wonder he’s especially drawn to writing about celebrities, sports, and various drug cultures. Sager’s pieces are so vivid, the characters so alive, that it’s no surprise more than a dozen of his articles have been turned into films. Ever heard of Boogie Nights ? That was based off
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PHOTOS BY ARIANA DREHSLER
Sager’s Rolling Stone piece “The Devil and John Holmes.” So was Wonderland , starring Val Kilmer, as well as 2012’s The Marinovich Project , an ESPN documentary based on Sager’s piece on the former NFL quarterback and the effects of the all- consuming training regimen he was put on at such a young age. There are also stories about “The Pope of Pot,” who ran New York’s first marijuana delivery service, and another dispatch from the underground world of Southern California’s hash scene. These days, he also runs his own publishing house, The Sager Group, which is HQ’ed where many businesses are these days—his home. Sager started the imprint in 2012 as a “multimedia content brand” geared towards “empowering those who create.” he knows better than anyone that a media career these days doesn’t exactly guarantee riches, even more so with print journalism. And though he’s made out okay—he calls his La Jolla perch the “house that Hollywood built”—he also knows he’s been lucky, and he wants to pay it forward. Plus, he likes staying in the mix. To do so, Sager finds who he considers the best, brightest, and most underexposed writers kicking out the most interesting stories. He works with them to develop and bring to completion books and e-books. He lends a hand with heavy edits and helps with product design, and thanks to his Hollywood connections, the press also helps authors turn their books into documentaries and feature films. Since 2012, they’ve published more than 80 books (a dizzying eight per year), including a Women in Journalism series, which Sager claims is the “world’s only three-volume textbook or anthology of great women writers.” A cursory Google search confirms that. Many of these books are being turned into movies. Shaman and Labyrinth of the Wind have been optioned by TIME Studios, plus Bang Bang Productions in India. They’re also working with fiction and long-form journalism publisher NeoText, whose parent company recently became part of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nine Stories Productions. Currently, the dual production teams are creating a film, podcast, and documentary to accompany Deadliest Man Alive by Benji Feldheim, published earlier this year. It’s about Chicagoan John Keenan, a martial arts expert with a “Most Interesting Man in the World” sort of pedigree. He also ran occult and pornography shops, harbored a lively cocaine habit, and was rumored to be linked to the mob. I joke to Sager that he could qualify as “the Most Interesting Man in the World.” A tour through his office and studio is a look into where he’s been, what he’s seen. Pictures of Sager with various celebrities line the walls next to his many books— some he wrote, the rest classic and obscure works, many penned by friends. One photo shows Sager
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cautiously, with some distance, putting his arm around Paris Hilton. In another, he’s got fists up in a defensive boxing pose with “Freeway” Rick Ross, the crack kingpin of 1980s L.A. In yet another, he’s chatting with the second-to-last king of Nepal, King Birendra, who was later assassinated by his own son. Life is much quieter and more consistent for Sager these days: he’s in a new relationship, he lives next door to his mom, and he spends most of his time at home, promoting Sager Group writers. He’s got a few recent releases of his own. Hunting Marlon Brando , which is also available in audiobook, details his experience of chasing the iconic late actor across the globe trying to score an interview (spoiler: he eventually succeeds—sort of). A Boy and His Dog in Hell is an anthology of what Sager calls his “greatest hits.” Upcoming releases include My Father’s Con by octogenarian Pat Jordan, the great sportswriter for Sports Illustrated and the New York Times , as well as The Devil Took Her by New Zealand “off-kilter short story writer” Michael Botur. While finishing this story, I asked Sager if there’s anything I missed, a fascinating anecdote we somehow overlooked. Over the next few minutes, I watch the text bubbles on my phone appear, then disappear, when a photo of him and a white-haired man appears. It’s Sager with Jonathan Goldsmith, of Dos Equis commercial fame. Another text bubble, then: “One of these guys is the Most Interesting Man in the World.”
TOP: A signed video jacket from porn Star John Holmes, the subject of one of Sager’s most famous stories BOTTOM: Sager posing in his home office, shadowed by Marlon Brando
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