Journal of Alta California6 min citite
Background Art
I’m sitting on the last stool at the bar. My drink sits in front of me. I’m waiting for a man who isn’t my husband to fill the next seat over. It’s 10:30 a.m. I’ve been here for an hour. The bar, like any good dive, has a pool table. There are 12 or
Journal of Alta California8 min citite
Good Taste
When I ask Rafael Payare which composers he’s feeling particularly drawn to these days, he answers without skipping a beat. “I really love Mahler, Brahms, Beethoven, Schuman, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Ravel, Debussy, Wagner, S
Journal of Alta California2 min citite
Ways of Seeing
Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel, Valentine, takes place in Odessa, Texas, in the months following a Mexican American girl’s rape by a white oil rigger. It’s 1976, and an oil boom has made Odessa bright and cruel, a place where “we are all praying for
Journal of Alta California8 min citite
The Gold Won’t Go to L.A.
For all their fame, tradition, and monumentality, the Olympic Games are fickle. Cities vying to host the summer Olympics have always lined up and competed with one another ferociously, promising stadiums and arenas that would rejuvenate neglected nei
Journal of Alta California5 min citite
Constant Gardeners
A 320-foot stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in San Francisco had been a popular dumping ground for years. It wasn’t unusual to see abandoned sofas, TVs, and other appliances amid the wild fennel that flourished along the fence above the Caltrain embank
Journal of Alta California2 min cititeEarth Sciences
Unexpected Beauty
Since we often look to artists to help us see the otherwise unremarkable—a tree, a stone, a wave—with newfound wonder, it’s fitting that San Francisco photographer Josie Iselin recalls the exact moment she first became captivated by a marine element
Journal of Alta California2 min citite
My Brilliant Career
I bend the truth constantly when I want something,” admits Prue Van Teesen, the narrator of Anna Dorn’s electric debut novel, Vagablonde. And Prue wants something constantly—she has a loving girlfriend and a promising career, but the 30-year-old Los
Journal of Alta California3 min citite
Alta Picks
In 1956, Jack Kerouac spent 63 days as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in Washington State. His time at a tiny cabin perched at an elevation of 6,102 feet in the Cascade Range helped inspire his novels Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums. While t
Journal of Alta California4 min citite
Bukowski by Bus
I think it was my second day as a Christmas temp that this big woman came out and walked around with me as I delivered letters. What I mean by big was that her ass was big and her tits were big and that she was big in all the right places. She seemed
Journal of Alta California21 min citite
I WAS HERE BECAUSE I WANTED TO BE. I DIDN’T HATE SCHOOL, I especially didn’t hate learning. The main thing they taught me, yelling into my face, was that I was wasting their time and money. It did take me a few incidents, and growing years, to allow
Journal of Alta California2 min citite
The Priest’s Wife: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
1. The priest and his wife were seen skiing together before they were married; or, rather, she was seen skiing and he was around, somewhere. She took the lift to the slope reserved for advanced skiers. She was wearing a black parka and formfitting sk
Journal of Alta California3 min citite
Power To The People
Precautionary electricity blackouts are now a standard of Golden State living. Designed to help prevent wildfires, the outages also prevent your freezer from freezing, your lights from lighting, and your air conditioner from cooling. In response, cit
Journal of Alta California3 min citite
Ham, Meet Egg
You can always tell a first-timer at the Los Angeles Breakfast Club. They’re usually wide-eyed and bemused, and not just because it’s seven o’clock in the morning. On a Wednesday. At the door of the Friendship Auditorium in Los Feliz, the cheery big-
Journal of Alta California1 min citite
The Power of Voice
NONFICTION: Page 82 • FICTION: Page 87 • POETRY: Page 91 • ART & PHOTOS: Page 94 ■
Journal of Alta California3 min citite
A Poet in Her Element
Kay Ryan’s new book, Synthesizing Gravity: Selected Prose, is a pleasing size: 200 or so pages, small enough to balance in your hand. The titles of the essays—“A Consideration of Poetry,” “I Go to AWP,” “Inedible Melons,” “To Be Miniature Is to Be Sw
Journal of Alta California6 min citite
Farewell, Frieda
It was the Saturday of this year’s Women’s March. I was about to finish a weekend shift at the Los Angeles Times when my wife texted me the sad news: Frieda Caplan had died at 96. News organizations around the world quickly published obituaries on he
Journal of Alta California5 min citite
Yvon Chouinard Tells Some Stories
The global brand Patagonia grew out of Yvon Chouinard’s first business: forging pitons—the steel blades climbers of the era would drive into cracks in the rock with a heavy hammer to anchor themselves to the wall. Chouinard writes, “My first blacksmi
Journal of Alta California4 min citite
The Gray Area
In the early 1990s, Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami—then a graduate student studying linguistics in Los Angeles—found herself filling out administrative paperwork at the University of Southern California so she could teach Arabic and French to u
Journal of Alta California1 min citite
Robert Hass
What is your favorite place in the West? My home country is the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada. How has your translation work affected the poems you create? From the beginning. The language of the Old and New Testaments that has filled
Journal of Alta California4 min citite
On a Monday morning in downtown San Francisco, the Blue Bottle on Second Street, like all Blue Bottles (and Starbucks and Peet’s and Dunkin’ and independent coffee shops everywhere), is packed. People sitting at blond-wood counters with coffee in pap
Journal of Alta California1 min citite
Downhill White Supremacists March on Sacramento
High in the Sierragreen summer aspenwhisper to the lake.The snowpack glitters.Over the passesWinnebago thunderout of the wide red flats of Nevada.Huge crooked knuckles,the dark screes loom.Deep in the roadbeds,the bones of the Irish& Chinese workersw
Journal of Alta California3 min cititePoverty & Homelessness
Conditional Citizens
It occurs to me now that poverty is often associated with parasites—and not just in literal ways. In every election, I can count on one or another politician to rail against people who “live off” taxpayers’ money, receiving food stamps, rent assistan
Journal of Alta California1 min citite
Summer Storm In The Sierra
The world goes silver when a storm comes up—a sudden silvery green. Not sure what the verb is for cottonwoods in a princeling wind. Their trunks never seem to stand so still as when the leaves leap and shudder on their stems. Shiver on their stems. T
Journal of Alta California11 min citite
The Most Interesting Machine In The World
Quantum computing—magnificent in conception though embryonic in performance—is being touted as the next great information-technology revolution. Enthusiasts are predicting that quantum machines will solve problems beyond the reach of conventional com
Journal of Alta California4 min cititeHistory
Burn, Baby, Burn
Mike Davis and Jon Wiener’s Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties is both a fierce political and cultural history and a geographic corrective. The Los Angeles of the 1960s is so much more than the hilly bohemia of folk-rock balladeers, their liv
Journal of Alta California2 min citite
Lives Of The Poet
Bob Kaufman had been everywhere, man. Born in New Orleans in 1925, he joined the merchant marine when he got out of high school and saw the world for much of the 1940s. He took his mail in New York, but by the late 1950s he’d also called San Antonio
Journal of Alta California13 min citite
The Hopis Of Alcatraz
On the rainy morning of January 3, 1895, a group of Hopi men waited on San Francisco’s Clay Street wharf for the prison boat to Alcatraz. Wrapped in striped blankets, the 19 Indians stood out, even in a city like San Francisco, filled with people fro
Journal of Alta California2 min citite
Truth or Dare
Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames per second.” Jean-Luc Godard’s famous, albeit miscontextualized, remark is cited twice in Jon Wilkman’s Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America. If Wilkman doesn’t actually quote Godard’s
Journal of Alta California4 min citite
From the Outside In
Lidia Yuknavitch is known for placing those we don’t see or choose not to see at the center of her work. In novels such as The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children and her memoir, The Chronology of Water, she gives life and agency to characte
Journal of Alta California3 min cititeCrime & Violence
Rough Sketch Of A Serial Killer
On the morning of January 27, 1974, at approximately 1:25 a.m., police dispatch received a phone call reporting the discovery of a corpse at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. “I believe there might be a dead person,” the caller said in a calm, male-soundi
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