Fall 2019/Issue 9

alta cover, fall 2019, issue 9
Alta

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Features

SEARCHING FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE

Armed with the lowest of tech—cheap antennae and clusters of commodity computing—a team from Caltech has built the world’s most interesting telescope in the Owens Valley as it tries to prove that we may not be alone after all. By Po Bronson

LIFT EVERY VOICE

Straddling the line between cabaret and jazz, Bay Area vocalist Paula West has created a devoted following in the music world. So why isn’t she better known? By Marcus Crowder

BURIAL AT BERRYESSA

Napa County’s largest lake covers 1.6 million acre-feet—and submerged an entire town. Dorothea Lange photographed the flooding of the valley in the 1950s. By Joy Lanzendorfer

WEST WINGS

Feng Joe Guey, an immigrant from China, was the first person to pilot a flight on the West Coast. A disparate group of admirers is making sure his name will not be forgotten. By Alissa Greenberg

ALTA Q&A: RUSSELL CHATHAM

The famed Marin County–based landscape painter on where he finds inspiration, what it’s like to work on commission, and why Gauguin brought him to tears. A conversation with Will Hearst

THE HUMMINGBIRD WHISPERER

They’re tiny and they hover, and they’re one of only three groups of birds that are vocal learners. They sing with their mouths and their feathers. No wonder UC Riverside researcher Chris Clark is obsessed with hummingbirds. By Jason G. Goldman

A SCION OF SWINDLERS

How California’s lax governmental regulations make an ideal breeding ground for people like Paul Boaventura-Delanoe, whose businesses target vulnerable customers again and again. By Matt Smith/Reveal

GO CLAIM A ROCK

For decades, Camp 4 was the base camp for climbers scaling the vertical walls of Yosemite. That’s why the legendary Tom Frost fought to have it declared a historic site when its demise was imminent. By Daniel Duane

THE BARNUM OF SANTA FE

A $2 million treasure chest stashed in the Rockies. Possibly 350,000 searchers—including four who have died in the hunt. And nine clues in a poem. The not-so-tall tale of art and antiques dealer Forrest Fenn’s biggest act. By Geoffrey Gray

“YOU GET WHAT YOU DO”

Few resisters from the Vietnam antiwar era had a bigger impact than David Harris, who inspired generations to have the courage of their convictions. Now dying of cancer, he wants his message heard again. By Alan Goldfarb

FROM TADICH GRILL TO MATSUHISA

Working chefs have made up “California cuisine” as they’ve gone along, and the culinary world has been the better for it. We visit 17 of the state’s most influential (and still thriving) restaurants. By Michael Bauer

PORTFOLIO: Japanese American Internment Revisited

A son of internees tracked down survivors to document their experiences for his book Behind Barbed Wire. Photography by Paul Kitagaki Jr.

FICTION: THE GNOME

A new short story about looking for the things that are hard to see, from the author of Other Electricities and Vanishing Point. By Ander Monson

Dispatches

SHOWSTOPPER

After a wild—and wildly successful—45-year run, the camp classic Beach Blanket Babylon ends this December. An oral history of a beloved San Francisco spectacle. By Robert Ito

PLAYING TO A FULL HOUSE

In the world of professional poker, Maria Ho is cleaning up at the tables and changing the rules as she goes. By Bob Sipchen

L.A.’S NEW MOVIE MUSEUM

It’s been a long time coming—and filled with its own moments of drama—but the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is finally set to open. By Claudia Puig

OUR MAGNIFICENT MOJAVE

Twenty-five years after a landmark act of Congress, a writer hits the road and considers the evolving landscape of the California desert. By Matt Jaffe

CELEBRITY HOUSE HUNTER

An entertainment lawyer turned history sleuth uncovers the past lives of homes for clients. By James Bartlett

HALL OF FAME…OR SHAME?

A Sacramento exhibit devoted to legendary Californians could use some more cohesion in telling the story of the state. By Mary Ladd

POEM

“Like an Old Friend Whom You Had Given Up for Dead Rain Returns to Oakland.” By Tennessee Reed

Books

WHAT'S BREAKING AWAY

Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams. Reviewed by Pam Houston

ROOTED IN NATURE

Tawny Grammar, essays by Gary Snyder. Reviewed by David Biespiel

Anonymous Love

Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime by Alex Espinoza. Reviewed by Alexander Chee

Foot Traffic

Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State by Nick Neely. Reviewed by Dean Kuipers

Nonfiction PICKS

Four true stories about dreamers and schemers and a musician named Flea

Operation Occupation

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff  by Anthony McCann. Reviewed by William Deverell

An Acute Observer

An excerpt from Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s, by Joan Didion, edited by David L. Ulin

Unraveling the Myths

Inland, a novel by Téa Obreht. Reviewed by Emily Rapp Black

Fiction PICKS

Two novels—wayward aunts and a small-press editor bent on mysteries—and two collections about being Chicano and Chinese American

Los Angeles After the Unrest

Your House Will Pay, a novel by Steph Cha. Reviewed by Oscar Villalon

Under Extreme Circumstances

An excerpt from the novel The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele

Singing on Their Own Terms

Cantoras, a novel by Carolina De Robertis. Reviewed by Charmaine Craig

Cri de Coeur

Father’s Day, poems by Matthew Zapruder. Reviewed by Paul Wilner

Poetry PICKS

Essential work from Jim Harrison, Kim Shuck, and Forrest Gander

The Big Picture

Greetings from Las Vegas by Peter Moruzzi; San Francisco on Instagram, edited by Dan Kurtzman; and Silver. Skate. 70s: California Skateboarding 1975–1978 by Hugh Holland. Reviewed by Claire Vaye Watkins

ART and PHOTOS PICKS

Art and activism from California’s Native Americans and a celebration of the state’s
iconic redwoods

A Real Trip

The Family Acid: California, a collection of photographs by Roger Steffens. Reviewed by Agatha French

Carrying the Torch

City Lights publisher and executive director Elaine Katzenberger talks about the venerable bookseller and imprint’s future—and its past. By David L. Ulin

TAKING ON AMAZON

Bookshop, an e-commerce service launching this fall, plans to help independent bookstores thrive by offering better shopping experiences and two-day deliveries. By Chris O’Brien

Reviews

REIMAGINING THE L.A. RIVER

A look at architect Frank Gehry’s ambitious vision to transform a forlorn three-mile stretch of the city’s concrete-lined river into parkland. By Joseph Giovannini

BASKING IN THE BAKERSFIELD SOUND

Exploring the vital California connections in Ken Burns’s latest documentary series, Country Music. By Scott B. Bomar

SONOMA FAMILY REUNION

Chef Perry Hoffman takes over the dining room at the Boonville Hotel. By Michael Bauer

TIME TO GET IN STEP

Los Angeles has never had a world-class dance company. Benjamin Millepied and his L.A. Dance Project are out to fix that. By Paul Hodgins

NO ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

Betye Saar, the grande dame of assemblage who explores gender, race, and identity in her work, is finally getting her due. By Emory Holmes II

THE NEVER-ENDING STREAM

A lifelong film critic ponders the pleasures—and perils—of watching more television than ever. By David Thomson

LONG MAY HE REIN

Riverside County’s master braider Modesto Medina keeps a centuries-old vaquero tradition alive. By Ed Leibowitz

Every Issue

Publisher’s Note

On the importance of staying unmoored.

Cold Case

Have adventurers spotted a 17th-century Spanish ship in the desert, or a mirage? By Peter Savodnik

Alta Picks

Balanchine, female shutterbugs, haunted houses, and true believers: the best of the West.

Appreciation

Political activist, newspaper editor, photographer, and college professor Raul Ruiz touched every manifestation of L.A.’s Chicano movement. By Mario T. García

What Next

Those who want to preach the gospel of green this holiday season can start by fostering a Christmas tree. By Zack Ruskin

Altatude

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