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Bummer Beach

Vinod Khosla bought the land abutting a popular surfing cove. Then he boxed the surfers out. The craziest thing? He might get away with it.

Early on the morning of October 21, 2012, five surfers pile into a Chevy Suburban in Half Moon Bay and drive south on Highway 1. Just past the city limits, they pull off the road at the entrance to Martins Beach, a beautiful little cove frequented by generations of fishermen, beachgoers, and surfers. It’s a typical coastal morning: damp, chilly, the sky a latticework of fast-moving clouds. They shrug off their hoodies and suit up. From the highway a single road—the only way in or out—tumbles toward the beach past hay fields, weathered bungalows, and stands of wind-sculpted cypress. The road, which runs over private property, was open to the general public for almost a century. But an automatic metal gate installed by the property’s new owner now bars the way. Signs hang from the gate: “Beach Closed, Keep Out” and “No Trespassing.”

PUBLISHED: March 25, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3876 words)

The Bohemians: The San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature

For this week's Longreads Member Pick, we're thrilled to share the opening chapter of The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, the forthcoming book by Ben Tarnoff, published by The Penguin Press.

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PUBLISHED: Feb. 6, 2014
LENGTH: 45 minutes (11380 words)

What It's Like for Renters in America: A Reading List

Sam Stecklow (@samstecky) is a TV and journalism student based in San Francisco.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 16, 2014

'An Island of Need in a Sea of Prosperity': The Story of San Francisco's Tenderloin Neighborhood

“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)

The Future of the Orgasm Industry

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 Summer of Love and Newsweek

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)

The Rock 'n' Roll Casualty Who Became a War Hero

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)

In the Footsteps of a Killer

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)

The Damage Done

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)