San Francisco

Bohemian Bridges

Slipcase_Bohemian_BridgesA2016

 

The good people at Guardian Stewardship Editions have included my piece on housing rights/squat activist Steve DeCaprio in their new anthology, Bohemian Bridges, which collects writing on American (especially Californian) social, cultural, and political change. I’m honored to be a part of the project.

Articles
California
Legal
Politics
punk
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

From Dave Eggers to Barry McGee

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 8.55.06 AM

 

Another piece from the new Pallet. The magazine has this profile section where one interesting person recommends the next interesting person. In this case, Dave Eggers pointed to Barry McGee, the San Francisco artist and elder statesman of the graffiti world. We talked punk rock, surfing, garbage, and, of course, art. The best part of the piece, to my mind, was running into McGee in the water:

One sunny morning after my studio visit we run into each other in the water. The swell is mixed up—not big, but messy and tough to get a read on. He squints toward the west. “I’ve surfed worse.”
He likes to ride old boards, the heavier and more beaten-to-hell the better, in the interest of seeing what’s possible. His board today boasts a chunky, sawed-off-looking fin, an atavistic thing that’s more dinosaur tooth than sporting equipment. On the horizon, an irritable-looking wave rears up and I paddle toward it, trying to get over it before it breaks on my head. McGee makes the opposite calculation. He catches it, and his head disappears under the feathering crest.
Later, from the beach, I watch him surf for a couple of minutes. He sits by himself, closer to the shore than anyone else, catching one seemingly unpromising wave after another. He crouches low and then arches into standing position, stepping forward and then back on the board as needed, carving playful lines into waves others deem worthless. He tells me that it’s “the garbage waves that I like that nobody’s competing for.”

(Photograph by Carlos Chavarría.)

Art
Articles
California
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

The Dragon and the Dome

Photo by John Ritter

Photo by John Ritter

For this month’s “China” package in San Francisco magazine, I’ve written a history of Chinese-American politics in San Francisco–the story of how, as the subhed so succinctly puts it, “a ghettoized minority cracked the San Francisco establishment–and then became it.”

 

Articles
Politics
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

H8

smith4

My Discharge piece from last year–in which I chronicle an iconic punk band’s disastrous experiment with hair metal–gets a second life as a supplement to the New Inquiry‘s latest issue, titled “H8.” I’m pleased there’s a new audience for the story, of course. The best part, though, is the new title the editors have bestowed on my piece: “Fuck You! Fuck You! Fuck You!

Articles
Metal
Music
punk
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

Reading

image003

Next week I’ll be joining a few of my colleagues from school for a reading at Alley Cat Books, in the Mission. I’ll probably do an excerpt from this piece, my profile of a South African car thief. Come say hello.

Events
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

“But He’s Not a Politician!”

edleeMy profile of Mayor Ed Lee is the cover story in this month’s San Francisco magazine. With photography by the great Jim Hughes. I’ve never met Hughes, but he also shot my profiles of Rose Pak and Aaron Peskin. Here’s the subhed:

Mayor Ed Lee wasn’t supposed to be a polarizing political figure. Then the economy went berserk, and the old San Francisco fault lines cracked wide open.

 

Articles
Politics
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

Inspector General

mag_coverFor this profile of the man who runs field operations for U.S. Customs across a huge swath of the West, I spent a few days talking with Customs agents and hanging out at the Port of Oakland, SFO, and a mail-inspection warehouse. It was totally fascinating.

The Port of Oakland is not a human-sized place.

Stacks of shipping containers stretch into the wide blue sky, monoliths of gleaming metal overhung by skyscraping cranes that methodically load crates on and off of cargo ships. Far below, semi-cabs and SUVs trundle to and fro, mice in the shadow of giants.

In one corner of the terminal, a Customs and Border Protection officer inhabits a specialized utility truck, peering into a few dozen of the 500,000 containers that pass through the California port each year.

Articles
California
crime
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

Poverty is Making Kids Sick

nbh

Or so argues Nadine Burke Harris. And the rest of the medical establishment–not to mention Hillary Clinton–is beginning to listen. In this piece for San Francisco magazine, I profiled a local doctor who is making waves across the country, helping transform the way we think of childhood illness.

Articles
California
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

Rules of the Tribe: Hardcore Punks and Hair Metal in the 1980s

discharge

My latest feature is about punk and metal specifically, but it’s also about tribal loyalties–and what happens when you violate the rules of your tribe. In 1986, the iconic English hardcore band Discharge–inspirations for Metallica and Slayer, among many others–went glam metal. The band then embarked on one of the most disastrous tours in music history. My story for The Appendix, chock full of multimedia and other cool stuff, chronicles that tour.

The chant began less than two minutes into the first song. An undercurrent at first, just a few hecklers. But it got louder with repetition, each wave building on the last. Soon the chant threatened to drown out the band itself.

“Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!”

It was tough to take. But it was entirely in keeping with everything else about this disastrous tour. The angry crowd in Long Beach. The broken-down van in the Sonoran desert. Sixteen tickets sold in Portland. Now, onstage in San Francisco, the members of Discharge—the fastest, meanest, most uncompromising English hardcore punk band of the 1980s—must have wished they were somewhere, anywhere else.

The story isn’t available online yet, but I’ll post it when it is. For now, you can subscribe to The Appendix here.

Articles
Metal
Music
punk
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink

The Kid’s Got Guts

theoMy latest for San Francisco magazine: a profile of Theo Ellington, the rising Bayview political activist who led last year’s fight against “Stop and Frisk”:

 

But Ellington’s campaign showed that the African-American community—down to about 6 percent of the city’s population—still has some fight left. It also heralded the emergence of a new leader. “Brotha Clint” Sockwell, a community activist, a teacher, and one of Ellington’s mentors, puts it sardonically: “Theo represents the hope of the remaining three or four black people in San Francisco.”

Articles
Politics
San Francisco

Comments Off

Permalink