Alta’s Biggest Stories of 2019

From the wild horses way up north in Modoc National Forest to the jazz clubs of 1940s Los Angeles, Alta’s biggest stories of 2019 are as eclectic as the coast we love to cover.

From the wild horses way up north in Modoc National Forest to the jazz clubs of 1940s Los Angeles, Alta’s biggest stories of 2019 are as eclectic as the coast we love to cover. Wrap up your year with this recap of our most popular work, including a peek into the underground subcultures of the City of Angels, fiction and poetry from notable West Coast authors, and a podcast interview with the Vietnam War’s most prolific resister. This is a year in the life of Alta.

The ever-growing population of feral horses threatens the Emigrant Springs ecosystem.
The ever-growing population of feral horses threatens the Emigrant Springs ecosystem.
CHARLES POST

1. Feral Horses, Fierce Controversy

Wild mustang populations are out of control, competing with cattle and native wildlife for resources. If the federal government doesn’t rein them in, ranchers may take matters into their own hands. (This cover story also garnered the most reader mail of any story in 2019. Read the highlights.) By Jason G. Goldman

After spending six months in detox at Camarillo State Hospital, a reinvigorated Charlie Parker went to Jack’s Basket Room and gave what is considered by many to be the greatest performance of his life.
After spending six months in detox at Camarillo State Hospital, a reinvigorated Charlie Parker went to Jack’s Basket Room and gave what is considered by many to be the greatest performance of his life.
WILLIAM GOTTLIEB/REDFERNS

2. The Night Charlie Parker Soared in South Central L.A.

After spending six months in detox at Camarillo State Hospital, a reinvigorated Charlie Parker went to Jack’s Basket Room and gave what is considered by many to be the greatest performance of his life. By Lynell George

Hundreds of inexpensively made antennae tuned into the cosmos look for radio waves from potentially habitable planets at Caltech’s Owens Valley Radio Observatory near Big Pine, California.
Hundreds of inexpensively made antennae tuned into the cosmos look for radio waves from potentially habitable planets at Caltech’s Owens Valley Radio Observatory near Big Pine, California.
GORDON WILTSIE

3. The Planet-Hunting Machine

Caltech professor Gregg Hallinan and his team are scanning the universe for possible Earths with cheap antennae built from parts found online, cake pans, and, yes, chicken wire. They’re taking the lonely search for habitable planets and automating it. By Po Bronson

David Harris draped in a beloved American flag passed down through his family, at his home in Marin County, California, on March 20, 2019.
David Harris draped in a beloved American flag passed down through his family, at his home in Marin County, California, on March 20, 2019.
JASON HENRY

4. David Harris Might Be Dying, but He Continues to Resist

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, podcast interview by Beth Spotswood

5. Fall 2019 Book Guide

The team at Alta is especially proud of this 16-page special section of the magazine featuring 28 book titles from West Coast authors, editors, critics, photographers, and poets. Our bookstore partners created in-store displays showcasing books from this section, we recorded a podcast with several included authors, and we hosted a number of events with writers who appear in our Book Guide. Edited by David Ulin

A Cal Fire airplane drops retardant on a large hilltop home that caught fire during a 2014 wildfire in San Marcos.
A Cal Fire airplane drops retardant on a large hilltop home that caught fire during a 2014 wildfire in San Marcos.
ALLEN J. SCHABEN/GETTY IMAGES

6. Fire from Above

Longer fire seasons, bigger blazes, and urban encroachment into the wilderness pose new challenges for those charged with fighting flames from the sky. By Bonnie Tsui

Beneath the tranquil waters of Lake Berryessa lies the village of Monticello. The community was sacrificed as part of the Solano Project, which created the Monticello Dam in the 1950s.
Beneath the tranquil waters of Lake Berryessa lies the village of Monticello. The community was sacrificed as part of the Solano Project, which created the Monticello Dam in the 1950s.
CHRISTIE HEMM KLOK

7. Lost Beneath Lake 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

Lucy Fisher in her office at Red Wagon Entertainment in Los Angeles. The award-winning producer’s films include “The Great Gatsby,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Jarhead.”
Lucy Fisher in her office at Red Wagon Entertainment in Los Angeles. The award-winning producer’s films include “The Great Gatsby,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Jarhead.”
KEVIN SCANLON

8. Writing Her Own Script

Lucy Fisher started out as a waitress and ended up running a studio. Will Hearst sits down for a Q&A with the groundbreaking Hollywood executive. By Will Hearst

ILLUSTRATION BY VICTOR JUHASZ

9. Above Santa Cruz

From the author of Maggie Brown & Others comes a new short story involving a dilapidated mansion, Lizzie Borden, and a feeling of existential loneliness. By Peter Orner

Drag queen and burlesque performer Violet Chachki mid–lip sync.
Drag queen and burlesque performer Violet Chachki mid–lip sync.
© SAFI ALIA SHABAIK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

10. Los Angeles Underground

Far beyond the polish and respectability of Disney Hall and the Huntington lies a vibrant subculture of performance art, drag nights, and bondage and body modification events. Photographer Safi Alia Shabaik is there to capture it all. Photography by Safi Alia Shabaik

Luis J. Rodriguez was poet laureate of Los Angeles from 2014 to 2016. He is also the author of eight books of poetry.
Luis J. Rodriguez was poet laureate of Los Angeles from 2014 to 2016. He is also the author of eight books of poetry.
ARLENE MEJORADO

11. Make a Poem Cry

Luis J. Rodriguez was poet laureate of Los Angeles from 2014 to 2016. He’s the author of eight books of poetry and the founding editor of Tia Chucha Press. By Luis J. Rodriguez

Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times in a $500 million deal and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect. He calls it his “100-year project” and says that resurrecting the newspaper is vital for democracy.
Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times in a $500 million deal and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect. He calls it his “100-year project” and says that resurrecting the newspaper is vital for democracy.
KEVIN SCANLON

12. To Live and Die at the L.A. Times

Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and inherited a hot mess of plummeting revenues, declining circulation, unionization, and a damaging cyberattack. That was the easy part. By Mark Potts

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