“It is a 40-square-block island of poverty and squalor.” The Tenderloin remains one of the seediest neighborhoods in San Francisco, mostly unchanged despite gentrification and an influx of tech money into the city. Can the neighborhood change—and just as importantly, should it?
"If there is one ironclad rule that governs cities, it’s that money and poor people don’t mix. Once money appears, poor people disappear. Most American cities used to have Tenderloin-like neighborhoods downtown, but in almost all cases, those neighborhoods have been gentrified out of existence. Take New York’s Bowery, a name synonymous with flophouses and alcoholic despair as recently as the 1990s. Today it gleams with luxury hotels, shops, galleries, and museums. Or Los Angeles’ downtown, long a skid row Siberia, now a bustling yuppie dreamscape. Similar changes have occurred in cities as disparate in size and disposition as Vancouver, London, San Diego, and Dallas.
“By rights, the TL ought to be suffering the same fate.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6528 words)
Nitasha Tiku goes inside the world of OneTaste, a San Francisco company dedicated to the practice of "orgasmic meditation," or OM:
"I first heard about OneTaste in March, at a breakfast meeting with a venture capitalist who had newly moved to New York from San Francisco. She hadn't felt compelled to try it herself, but she had a friend who worked at OneTaste, who would OM if she was nervous before a big meeting. They had lingo for the men who'd perfected the craft: 'Master stroker—that's what it's called!'
"Genital stimulation in a professional context seemed transgressive, even for hippie-hedonist San Francisco. Her friend, Joanna Van Vleck—who is now OneTaste's president—met me in June when she was in New York. 'We don't OM, like, right in the office,' Van Vleck explained. But she said, 'If we have employee problems, we're like, let's OM together. Yeah, if two people have a discrepancy, we say: OM together!'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 18, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8147 words)
The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg reflects on his early career working as a correspondent for Newsweek in San Francisco, covering Jefferson Airplane, Ronald Reagan and hippies:
"If the S.F. music scene (I quickly learned that 'Frisco' was a no-no) was scarcely known outside the Bay Area, and neither was the larger cultural phenomenon it drew strength from. The word 'hippie'—derived from 'hipster,' the nineteen-forties bebop sobriquet revived sixty years later in Brooklyn, Portland, and food co-ops in between—had been coined only a few months earlier, by Herb Caen, the Chronicle’s inimitable gossip columnist. (At the time, as often as not, people spelled it 'hippy.') Ralph J. Gleason, the Chron’s jazz critic, was the scene’s Dr. Johnson. (Pushing fifty, he was too old to be its Boswell.) Gleason’s protégé was the pop-music critic for the U.C. Berkeley’s student paper, the Daily Californian, Jann Wenner. But the national press had not taken much notice, if any. So getting something into Newsweek was a coup."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2143 words)
Jason Everman was kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden, before the bands went on to sell millions of albums. He then decided to do something completely different:
"So in 1993, while living in a group house in San Francisco with the guys in Mindfunk, Everman slipped out to meet with recruiters; the Army offered a fast track to becoming a Ranger and perhaps eventually to the Special Forces. He told me he always had an interest in it. His stepfather was in the Navy; both grandfathers were ex-military. Most of the people he grew up with scoffed at that world, which was part of the appeal to him. Novoselic remembered something Everman said way back in the Olympia days. 'He was just pondering. He asked me, "Do you ever think about what it’d be like to be in the military and go through that experience?" And I was just like . . . no.'"
PUBLISHED: July 2, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4871 words)
A crime writer digs into the decades-long investigation of a serial killer in California, and finds a growing online community of amateur sleuths trying to solve the case:
"The Golden State Killer, though, has consumed me the most. In addition to 50 sexual assaults in Northern California, he was responsible for ten sadistic murders in Southern California. Here was a case that spanned a decade and ultimately changed DNA law in the state. Neither the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s and early ’70s, nor the Night Stalker, who had Southern Californians locking their windows in the ’80s, was as active. Yet the Golden State Killer has little recognition; he didn’t even have a catchy name until I coined one. His capture was too low to detect on any law enforcement agency’s list of priorities. If this coldest of cases is to be cracked, it may well be due to the work of citizen sleuths like me (and a handful of homicide detectives) who analyze and theorize, hoping to unearth that one clue that turns all the dead ends into a trail—the one detail that will bring us face-to-face with the psychopath who has occupied so many of our waking hours and our dreams."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8054 words)
George Visger played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. Now, he's diagnosed with chronic traumatic brain injury, frontal and temporal lobe disorders, generalized seizure disorder and cognitive impairment—and he's trying to make sense of his life:
"On a postcard-perfect Southern California morning, George Visger is pissing blood. This comes as a relief. For me, mostly. But also for him. Things could be worse. He could be having a seizure. Or slipping into a coma. Which means I could be jamming a one-inch butterfly needle into a thumbnail-sized hole in the side of his skull, trying to siphon off excess spinal fluid while avoiding what Visger calls 'the white stuff.'
"The white stuff being brain tissue."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8849 words)
Making sense of San Francisco through Google and Apple's commuter buses to Silicon Valley:
"The buses roll up to San Francisco’s bus stops in the morning and evening, but they are unmarked, or nearly so, and not for the public. They have no signs or have discreet acronyms on the front windshield, and because they also have no rear doors they ingest and disgorge their passengers slowly, while the brightly lit funky orange public buses wait behind them. The luxury coach passengers ride for free and many take out their laptops and begin their work day on board; there is of course wifi. Most of them are gleaming white, with dark-tinted windows, like limousines, and some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us.
"Other days I think of them as the company buses by which the coal miners get deposited at the minehead, and the work schedule involved would make a pit owner feel at home. Silicon Valley has long been famous for its endless work hours, for sucking in the young for decades of sixty or seventy-hour weeks, and the much celebrated perks on many jobsites – nap rooms, chefs, gyms, laundry – are meant to make spending most of your life at work less hideous."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3215 words)
An investigation reveals that Major League Baseball stars including the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and the Giants' Melky Cabrera allegedly received banned substances:
"Open the neat spreadsheet and scroll past the listing of local developers, prominent attorneys, and personal trainers. You'll find a lengthy list of nicknames: Mostro, Al Capone, El Cacique, Samurai, Yukon, Mohamad, Felix Cat, and D.R.
"Then check out the main column, where their real names flash like an all-star roster of professional athletes with Miami ties: San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland A's hurler Bartolo Colón, pro tennis player Wayne Odesnik, budding Cuban superstar boxer Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz. There's even the New York Yankees' $275 million man himself, Alex Rodriguez, who has sworn he stopped juicing a decade ago."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 29, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5544 words)
A crowd watches a suicide in San Francisco:
"Some people look on silently, hands over mouths. A teenage girl in a sundress wipes tears from her eyes. A circle of high school-age kids debate whether a fall from that height would be fatal. A woman in a pantsuit talks into her phone, excitedly describing the scene. Others peck away at keypads. More phones pop up above the mass, angling for a snapshot. A light buzz of chatter hums along, punctuated by a shout.
"Heads turn, seeking out the class clown in the sea of faces. Laughter rising all around, compressed snickers and knee-slapping roars.
"In between chuckles, a man in a blue button-down blurts, 'He said "Jump!"'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3892 words)