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california

28 articles
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The Talented Mr. Young

Alan Young has been running the same scam for years: posing as a member of The Temptations and smooth-talking his way into luxury hotel rooms and prostitutes. Despite his clear charm, he admits he has “no skills other than being a con man.”

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Piety and Perversity

On the palm trees of Los Angeles.

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Heart of the Emerald Triangle

Life on a weed farm in Humboldt County.

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Check Out the Parking Lot: Hell in LA

Parking garages, prisons, freeways and the world of stuff we’re not supposed to look at.

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Big Water

The California Dream is made possible by old water and big water. Unfortunately, the former doesn’t care about us, and the latter’s running dry.

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American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga

“Too much is being asked of the Delta.”

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The Unknown Soldier

An actor, fresh from prison, attempts to reconnect with his son in 1950s California.

"And he had believed it. Everyone had. Since the day he’d been cast as Lev, Alexi had been aware that he was getting away with something—though, he reasoned, he’d never explicitly lied about anything. He just never told the complete truth. He may have, when asked about his American accent, mentioned the pronunciation workbooks stacked on his family’s kitchen table, as if he, and not just his parents, had pored over them nightly. He may have once, a little drunk at a party, pretended to forget the English words for the pigs in a blanket being passed around. He may have, that night and possibly a few others, begun sentences with, In my country . . . He may have, when asked by the film’s very openly communist director one night over steaks at Musso’s what he thought about Truman, parroted back what he’d overheard at the writers’ table, that he was narrow-minded and ruthless, his doctrine a farce and an affront to civil liberties. He may have, at Stella and Jack’s invitation, attended a number of meetings in their Hancock Park living room, where there may have been some pretty detailed discussions about following their Soviet comrades down whatever path they took. He may have, on one of those evenings, filled out one of the Party membership forms being passed around, simply because everyone else was."

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Mavericks

A visit to the massive Northern California surf break.

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Coronado High

How a group of hippie surfers and a former Spanish teacher built the largest weed-smuggling empire on the West Coast.

Previously: Bearman discusses this story on the Longform Podcast.

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A Literary History of the San Andreas Fault: Bolinas

On the writers, poets and beats in a reclusive California town, where residents repeatedly tear down highway signs indicating its location.

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Jerry Brown's Political Reboot

A profile of the California governor.

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November 24, 1963

On the death of a brother.

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That Other School Shooting

On former nursing student One L. Goh, who killed six people at Oikos University in Oakland, California, and what it means to the Korean immigrant community.

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Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream

On Lucille Miller, who in San Bernadino in 1964 was convicted of burning her husband to death in his Volkswagen.

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This Is Amazing!

A profile of Huell Howser, the happiest man on TV.

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Earth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World

A visit to the newly on-the-market Jamesburg Earth Station, a massive satellite receiver that played a key role in communications with space, and its neighbors in an adjacent trailer park.

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California and Bust

From Vallejo to San Jose, a tour of local government despair:

The relationship between the people and their money in California is such that you can pluck almost any city at random and enter a crisis.
More Lewis: the complete financial disaster tourism series to date.

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Malibu's Lost Boys

The underground culture of big waves and wild times in 1961 Malibu, and the gang of teenage boys who worshiped at the feet of the beach’s dark prince, surfing legend and grifter Miki Dora.

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The Ghost of Wrath

Part one of a planned nine-part serialized biography of Harrison Gray Otis, the “inventor of modern Los Angeles.”

Future installments will include Otis’s interlude as “emperor of the Pribilofs,” his military atrocities in the Philippines, his bitter legal battles with the Theosophists, the Otis-Chandler empire in the Mexicali Valley, the Times bombing in 1910, the notorious discovery of fellatio in Long Beach, and Otis’s quixotic plan for world government.
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When Country Was King

Uncovering Southern California’s country music roots.

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The Madness of Cesar Chavez

On his legacy, his impact on California, and why “saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent.”

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Sweatpants in Paradise

The immersive mise en scène of a Hollister flagship store, redolent of California beach towns that don’t exist, “lazy, hygienic sexuality,” and weed.

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Where the Ghost Bird Sings

The author investigates the massive wildlife die-off in the Salton Sea by rafting from its tributaries in Mexico.

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Designer Drugs

In the early ’80s, underground chemists cooked up synthetic versions of heroin that took over the market in California—and left young users with symptoms typically associated with Parkinson’s.

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The Invisibles

For the members of UCLA’s undocumented immigrant club, going to school means fighting for an education most students take for granted.

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Drink Up

Fred Franzia makes a lot of money selling really cheap wine.

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Candidate With A Diff’rence

In 2003, Gary Coleman ran for governor of California. But what he really wanted was to have never come to Hollywood in the first place.