Spring 2020/Issue 11

Armistead Maupin: Mr. San Francisco Moves to London. What’s Up With That?

alta cover, spring 2020, issue 11




Quantum computing promises to solve problems no conventional computer can handle. Now, if only the machines would cooperate. By Timothy Ferris • Photos by Gregg Segal

Tribal Travesty on the Rock

In 1895, 19 Hopi men were sent to Alcatraz for being “subversive.” Their story is one of the lesser-known legends of America’s most notorious prison. By Laurie Ann Doyle


A serial killer known as the Doodler, who murdered at least five gay men in the Bay Area 40 years ago, remains at large. By Zack Ruskin

Taming the Flames

California firefighters are gaining vital knowledge from indigenous tribes who have long used controlled burns to manage forests. By Laird Harrison • Photos by Penni Gladstone


A recent London transplant, Tales of the City writer Armistead Maupin discusses why he left his beloved San Francisco, what his next big book might be, and how much he likes his new surroundings (spoiler: a lot). A conversation with Will Hearst • Photos by Christopher Turner

A Survivor’s Tale

One of the biggest trees in the world—the Boole—is thriving despite a devastating logging in Converse Basin, a massive sequoia grove 60 miles east of Fresno. The bigger mystery is why it was named for the man who supervised the forest’s destruction. By Matt Jaffe

Badass Women of the West

Ann Nguyen fled Saigon to carve out a new life in Southern California. She put her sons through school as she worked, like many first-generation Vietnamese immigrants, at the local nail salon. By Susan Straight

The Forgotten Babies

A story hits close to home for a reporter reviewing every child death in Los Angeles County investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services. By Melissa Chadburn • Illustrations by Matt Mahurin

Come Dive With Me

No scuba gear required: A Berkeley submarine collective wants to bring San Francisco Bay sea life up close and personal for the general public. By Zack Ruskin • Photos by Peter Prato

Drowning in Too Much TV

Streaming services have created an ocean of choices for viewers—and it’s only going to get worse as market fragmentation expands. Consumers who’ve cut cable cords may not be saving any money—and are likely feeling overwhelmed. By Chris O’Brien

A Mighty Maestro

The San Diego Symphony’s new music director, Rafael Payare, may not yet have the same name recognition as his fellow Venezuelan conductor L.A.’s Gustavo Dudamel, but he’s got energy and talent to burn. By Catherine Womack

PORTFOLIO: Framable Algae

An artist’s stunning new book, The Curious World of Seaweed, proves that it’s much, much more than a sushi wrap. Photography by Josie Iselin


Whether by fortune or doom or absolute devotion, a young man’s mad, burning love for a married woman is requited. By Dagoberto Gilb • Illustrations by Victor Juhasz


Silent Mode

Those iconic bells along El Camino Real don’t ring, but they’re making noise among historians and activists nonetheless. By Marcela Davison Avilés

Green Warrior

The guerrilla gardener behind YouTube’s Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t channel brings life to forsaken spots in Oakland. By Cirrus Wood

Invisible Life

She’s had to eat her pride—and Oreos for dinner—but one would-be actor still finds joy in being a Hollywood extra. By Rae Dubow


Some San Francisco residents have begun taxing themselves to create neighborhood parks. By Lydia Lee

The Pulp Poet

Twenty-six years after Charles Bukowski’s death, his love affair with Los Angeles goes on. By Santi Elijah Holley

Rise and Shine

It’s batty, raucous, and even educational, yet the nearly 100-year-old Los Angeles Breakfast Club endures. By James Bartlett

A Wild Ride

When Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard tells stories, anyone seeking a life of adventure would be wise to listen. By Doug Robinson


“Downhill White Supremacists March on Sacramento." By Tess Taylor


Checked Boxes

In Conditional Citizens, Laila Lalami offers eight essays that excavate histories of exclusion.
By Ismail Muhammad

Defining Decade

Mike Davis and Jon Wiener deliver a much-needed history of L.A. in the 1960s. By William Deverell

The Lower Depths

The final installment of William T. Vollmann’s “transgender trilogy” plumbs San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. By Paul Wilner

Fruits of Their Labor

The first novel from Rishi Reddi, Passage West, is an audacious look at South Asians in the Imperial Valley. By David L. Ulin

A Poet on Poets

Former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan’s essays give her take on other great poets. By Matthew Zapruder

Bouncing Back

Resilience and a sense of exile infuse the first short story collection from Lidia Yuknavitch. By Emily Rapp Black

Mapping It Out

Two books chart exciting new territory in cartography. By Mark Haskell Smith

Beacons of Hope

Take that, Amazon. The success of independents like Point Reyes Books speaks to the moment we’re living in. By Peter Fish


Patience, Please

The final phase of the long-in-the-making Chinese garden at the Huntington in San Marino opens. By Chris Martins

Take a Whirl

Bigwigs in L.A.’s dance and arts communities back the inaugural Los Angeles International Dance Festival. By Jordan Riefe

Million-Dollar Movie

A restoration of Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives reveals an underappreciated masterpiece. By Dennis Harvey

Coat of Many Colors

Her style, her self-creation, but ultimately her art: a San Francisco exhibit celebrates Frida Kahlo. By Bridget Quinn

Heavy Medal

L.A. is hosting the Olympics in 2028. So why is its architectural game plan lacking urgency and verve? By Joseph Giovannini

Juice It Up

For renters or owners wary of planned power outages, an in-home battery is a worthy investment. By Beth Spotswood

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