Outside reports that the COVID epidemic had terrible consequences for the Lake Tahoe resort community:
They just kept coming. The day-trippers, Airbnbers, second-home owners, and unmasked revelers. Unleashed after California’s first statewide COVID-19 lockdown ended in late June of last year, they swarmed Lake Tahoe in numbers never before seen, even for a tourist region accustomed to the masses. “It was a full-blown takeover,” says Josh Lease, a tree specialist and longtime Tahoe local.
July Fourth fireworks were canceled, but that stopped no one. August was a continuation of what Lease called a “shit show.”
The standstill traffic was one thing; the locals were used to that. But the trash—strewn across the sand, floating along the shore, piled around dumpsters—was too much. Capri Sun straws, plastic water-bottle caps, busted flip-flops, empty beer cans. One day in early August, Lease picked up a dirty diaper on a south shore beach and dangled it before a crowd. “This anyone’s?” he asked.
Lease was pissed. He couldn’t believe the lack of respect people had for this beautiful area, his home for two decades. Plus, they’d invaded during a pandemic, bringing their COVID with them.
That day, after the diaper incident, Lease went back to his long-term rental in Meyers, California, a few miles south of the lake at the juncture of Highways 89 and 50, where he could see the endless stream of cars. An otherwise even-keeled guy, he logged on to Facebook and vented. “Let’s rally,” he posted on his page, adding that he wanted to put together a “non welcoming committee.” He was joking—sort of. But word spread like the wildfires that would soon rage uncontrollably around the state. Before long someone had designed a flyer of a kid wearing a gas mask, with a speech bubble that read “Stay Out of Tahoe.” It went viral.
On Friday, August 14, at four o’clock, over 100 locals from around the lake began to gather. They commandeered the roundabouts leading into the Tahoe Basin’s major towns—Truckee, Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Meyers in California, and Incline Village in Nevada—to greet the weekend hordes. Young women in bikini tops, elderly couples in floppy hats, and bearded dads bouncing babies in Björns held up hand-painted signs: “Respect Tahoe Life,” “Your Entitlement Sucks!,” and “Go Back to the Bay.” One old-timer plastered his truck with a banner that read “Go Away” and drove around and around a traffic circle.
But summer turned to fall, which turned to winter, which became spring, and the newcomers are still here. It’s not just the tourists anymore, whose numbers have ebbed and flowed with lockdown restrictions and the weather and whose trash has gone from wet towels twisted in the sand to plastic sleds split in the snow. There’s another population of people who came and never left: those freed by COVID from cubicles and work commutes. They migrated, laptops in tow, to mountain towns all over the West, transforming them into modern-day boomtowns: “Zoom-towns.”
In Lake Tahoe, the unwelcoming party was hardly a deterrence. The outsiders have settled in.
Godfrey Elfwick (authors’ names come out wrong in Outline) says he is a Trans-Black woman. (Actually, he is a sharp-tongued satirist writing for the British Spectator.)
On Wednesday, California became the first state government in the US to adopt a law to study and develop proposals for reparations to descendants of enslaved people and those impacted by slavery. This is positive news and I am hoping it will set an example to encourage other states to follow suit.
As a transblack individual and an immigrant to the United States, itâ€™s pure coincidence that Iâ€™ve recently (since yesterday) been mulling over the idea of moving to California. I believe that I qualify for reparations from the white man who has kept me down and prevented me from achieving my full potential. Only the other week I applied for a position at Microsoft and was told (by a white man, probably, it was on the phone but his voice sounded pale) that I would need a degree in Computer Science to even be considered for any job other than that of a receptionist or cleaner. Now, if thatâ€™s not racism I do not know what is. It is sexism too. How is someone like me expected to obtain such a qualification when the cards are stacked so high against me? This has been proven time and time again. The moment I tell someone I am a Black woman (their ignorance and bigotry only allows them to view me as a white male), their demeanor swiftly changes and the atmosphere becomes tainted with the unmistakable stench of hostility, followed by hysterical shouting and racial slurs. Because Iâ€™m not just going to stand there while some honky crackerjack stares down their ridiculously pointy nose at me. Not once have I been given a second interview. Discrimination.
In my opinion, itâ€™s high time the subject of reparation was taken to a federal level. I mean, if forcing white people to contribute more taxes to atone for the possible sins of their ancestors wonâ€™t end racism once and for all, I honestly do not know what will.
SACRAMENTO, CAâ€”A new California law requires businesses to provide separate restrooms for people who think they are Napoleon Bonaparte.
“Not providing a separate restroom for individuals who believe they are actually the 19th-century French emperor is hateful and wrong,” said Governor Gavin Newsom as he signed the bill into law Wednesday, flanked by several people dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte. “We will no longer allow these individuals to be discriminated against.”
The restrooms will have doorways that are just over 5’7″ tall. 19th-century French classical music will be playing. When the person finishes using the restroom, a victorious military parade will be thrown in their honor as they march out of the restroom and back into the business.
“We must affirm these people’s beliefs that they are actually Napoleon,” said Newsom. “To do anything but reinforce the delusion they’ve built up around themselves is a hate crime.”
A Jeep Wrangler wound up dangling from a cliff on a Southern California bike trail after somebody drove it up there at night and had to abandon it and walk out.
The Ford Motor Company graciously offered to rescue it, and to document the rescue to use in some unaccountable way or other. One has the feeling that Ford Broncos would be involved.
No Bronco, no helicopter! A team from the local off-road club turned up with winches, straps, shackles and more Wranglers and saved the day.
The Drive did us all a big favor, they interviewed the driver and his brother and found out how it got there in the first place.
There’s only one question that still needs to be answered. How the hell did the Wrangler get up there in the first place?
Wonder no more. The Drive has the answer after tracking down and speaking with Car Internet’s most buzzed-about missing man this week: the Jeep’s owner, a local man named Ricky Barba. As you might’ve guessed, it all started with an ill-advised joyride to show off his rig. But there’s no way Barba could’ve known his misadventure would end up garnered nationwide attention from news stations, social media users and even corporate bigwigs.
And yes, what Barba did was dumb, incredibly dangerous, and wildly irresponsible. He could’ve easily died up there, or someone could’ve lost their life in the recovery effort. And we’re not even talking about the damage done to the bike trail, or the potential to start a brush fire at the height of fire season. Do not off-road by yourselves, after dark, in a place where it’s not allowed. Barba is incredibly lucky that he and his Jeep are still in one piece. There are saints out there in the constellation of off-road recovery Facebook groups, but you can’t count on them to save your bacon.
Anyway, the way Barba tells it, the whole thing started around a barbecue grill. He and his brother had dinner Sunday night, after which they decided around to go for a short off-road drive in Barba’s Wrangler around 7 p.m. A crucial detail is that sunset is at 6:45 p.m. in Los Angeles these daysâ€”wheeling alone is never a great idea, and that’s triply true after dark. Still, the brothers took off for a nearby recreational area in the wrinkled hills just south of Loma Linda, California, where he said they’d made memories with their late father years before.
Another key point relayed by Barba: He wasn’t driving. It was apparently his brother behind the wheel.
“So, [my brother] had never driven a Jeep,” Ricky explained. “He was like ‘Let me drive your Jeep’ because I’ve been trying to get him to buy one, so that’s how it started.”
An eager off-road newbie, a darkening sky, and someone else’s Jeep. You can see where this is going.
Now, this area is a network of rolling hillsâ€””mountains” is overstating it, though there are definitely some long, steep dropoffs in placesâ€”along the south edge of the San Bernardino Valley, and it’s a hotspot for off-roaders. However, past a certain point it’s not fit for four-wheeling. A network of backroads winds from one side to the other, changing in elevation and winnowing down to single-track hiking and biking trails like Razor Ridge, where the Jeep eventually became terribly and utterly stuck.
Even though Barba and his brother had been there before, the clock wasn’t on their side this time. It was really getting dark, and a series of wrong turns landed them on one narrow trail after another. Unlike them at the time, you can probably see where this is going.
“We ended up driving farther and farther and farther, and he liked the way it handled so he’d say ‘Let me try this, let me try this.'”
Despite what the photos might lead you to believe, the Barba brothers didn’t make it that far. According to Jorgie Maldonado, a member of the Jalados 4×4 group that successfully recovered the Jeep, it was only 15 minutes from the dirt road in nearby Reche Canyon to the stuck Wrangler. …
Another clarification from Barba is that he and his brother initially made it across that knife-edged ridge in the now-famous photo. But when they got to the other side, they couldn’t see over the crest and decided to try and back up. If your head is spinning right now, you’re not alone
“How we crossed it, I don’t know. Obviously, we’re talking about heights, there was no moon, there were no lights. Only our headlights,” Barba told us.
Via Google Maps
It was during that doomed attempt to reverse back across the ridge that they veered off the narrow path to the east, putting the passenger sideâ€”where Barba was sittingâ€”on a downhill slant.
“We were able to jump out and he was able to put it in park. If we would’ve went down, we would’ve been dead.”
The thing is, though, Barba says he did fall down, which made the situation even more complicated.
“I fell off the cliff, [my brother] called 9-1-1 for them to come and rescue me at that point, [but] that didn’t happen. ..
Finally, they ditched the Wrangler and left the area in the wee hours of Monday morning. Ricky claims they returned in the following days to secure the rig, which explains why later photos show a strap around its front bumper tied to a stake in the ground.
HT: Karen L. Myers.
California features a landscape in which real wilderness closely abuts the most densely populated suburbs. It does not rain typically from April to October, and watercourses become brushy arroyos instead of streams, and these serve as perfect mountain lion highways from the uninhabited mountains right into suburbia.
The Nomenklatura live conveniently in Atherton, Portola, or Pacific Heights, but the proletariat get to catch 2:30 AM buses to work from the 110Â° every day Central Valley. Protocol:
It’s 2:30 a.m. in the Central California farm town of Salida, and the only sound is the tech bus pulling into an unmarked lot surrounded by barbed wire. Men and women in work boots board in the moonlight. Next stop is 11 miles away in Manteca, and then it’s another 55 miles to Fremont on the San Francisco Bay, where â€” an hour and a half hour later â€” the 4 a.m. shift at the Tesla factory starts.
Welcome to life on Silicon Valley’s new frontier. When tech companies first introduced private shuttles for their employees more than a decade ago, they served the affluent neighborhoods in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Now the buses reach as far as the almond orchards of Salida and the garlic fields of Gilroy.
Tech companies have grown tight-lipped about the specifics of their shuttle programs in the wake of high-profile protests in San Francisco. But Protocol was able to locate enough stops for company shuttles to confirm that some tech shuttles now drive all the way out to the Central Valley, an agricultural hub once a world away from the tech boom on the coast.
“That just tells you the story of the Bay Area,” said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of regional think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “We’re going to be in these farther-flung places, and that’s our reality because we’re not going to be able to create affordable housing.”
Tech shuttle sprawl speaks to the unique pressures that the industry has put on the region. High tech salaries have driven up housing prices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay, forcing white- and blue-collar workers alike to move farther away from their jobs. The crisis is compounded by anti-development politics that make it hard to build new housing and patchwork public transit systems that make it difficult for commuters to get to work without driving.
The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.
In the meantime, those companies â€” plus Tesla, Apple, Netflix, LinkedIn, Genentech and others â€” are trying to solve the problem with long-distance buses. They all now offer shuttle service to at least the extended suburbs of the East Bay, according to interviews and reports Protocol consulted. Their longest routes now stretch north across the Golden Gate Bridge, south to the surf town of Santa Cruz, and east to the Central Valley â€” a total service area approaching 3,000 square miles.
"Two-Buck Chuck and the Marlboro Man", Books, California, Charles Shaw Wine, Marlboros, San Joaquin Valley
Aris Janigian admiringly reviews a new book profiling two iconic figures from his own part of the Golden State.
DECEMBER 2, 2019
I WAS BORN AND RAISED a farmerâ€™s son in Fresno and currently live here, working seasonally in the wine industry. But Los Angeles was home for most of my life, and whenever I learned that friends were heading to San Francisco, Iâ€™d suggest they take Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley instead of Interstate 5, which skirts the valley to the west. The 99 is a little longer route but so much more colorful (which isnâ€™t necessarily to say â€œscenicâ€).
No one ever took me up on my suggestion, and they didnâ€™t have to explain why not. After all, their impression of the middle of the state, de rigueur for Angelenos, is that gun-owning, pro-Trump types live there in dusty, beat-up towns with ugly names â€” Arvin, Alpaugh, Delano â€” that reek of cow dung. The valleyâ€™s fields are green but also monotonously endless, and none of its vineyards are rolling and soft on the eyes. Sure, itâ€™s part of California, but not really â€œof it.â€ These scoffers know, in the abstract, that this is where the huge majority of Californians, and a good portion of the entire country, gets its food, but arenâ€™t all those mega-farmers in the middle of the state also stealing precious water from salmon and smelts? The scoffers would much rather chat about their local farmersâ€™ market, urban garden, or at least Whole Foods.
In fact, those mega-farmers are, for the most part, simply proprietors of small farms that, over a generation or two, have grown big. And, true, weâ€™re talking about thousands of tons of tomatoes or almonds, and wells several hundred feet deep, and chemicals siphoned out of 250-gallon totes to keep mold and an array of devastating and exceedingly perseverant insects down; but if it werenâ€™t for the sheer scale and efficiency of farming in the San Joaquin Valley, only the rich in this state could afford a melon or a peach.
Neither, for an office party, would we have the option of picking up a case of Charles Shaw wine â€” which is precisely where Frank Bergonâ€™s storytelling begins in his new book, Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man. As it turns out, Fred Franzia, founder of said winery (a.k.a. â€œTwo-Buck Chuck,â€), went to school with Bergon in Madera, a city about 20 miles north of Fresno. Now, decades later, theyâ€™re at a coffee shop, itâ€™s midmorning, and the writer is trying to tease out of the winemaker the explanation for his mind-boggling success.
Read the rest of this entry »
Wes Enzinna, in Harper’s, describes the bizarre fringe existence of a millennial bourgeois Bohemian trying to find living space in ever-so-rich, ever-so-f*cked-up Bay Area California.
[T]he year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. Iâ€™d found the place just as Septemberâ€™s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole Iâ€™d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentinâ€”a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at itâ€”four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.
The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.
After living on the East Coast for eight years, Iâ€™d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, thatâ€™s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, theyâ€™d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the countryâ€™s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalismâ€™s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someoneâ€™s roof.
Down these same streets, tourists scuttered along on Segways and techies surfed the hills on motorized longboards, transformed by their wealth into children, just as the sidewalk kids in cardboard boxes on Haight or in Peopleâ€™s Park aged overnight into decrepit adults, the former racing toward the future, the latter drifting away from it.
To my mother and girlfriend back East, the â€œshack situationâ€ was a problem to be solved. â€œCan we help you find another place?â€ â€œCan you just find roommates and live in a house?â€ But the shack was the solution, not the problem.
As penance for abandoning my girlfriend, I still paid part of our rent in New York, and after covering my portion of our bills, my student loan payment, and car insurance, I had about $1,500 left over each month. That wouldnâ€™t have been so little to live on, except that, according to some estimates, apartments then averaged $3,500 a month in San Francisco, $3,000 in Oakland. That year, 2016, 83,733 low-income San Franciscans would apply for the cityâ€™s affordable housing lottery, fighting for 1,025 slots. There were still cheap rooms available in the Bay, to be sure, mostly in ramshackle Victorians or weathered Maybeck bungalows where artists or activists or punks lived collectively and were protected by rent control, but these rooms were in dwindling supply and astonishingly high demand. On Craigslist or by word of mouth, vacancies were often offered exclusively to â€œQ.T.P.O.C.â€ (queer and trans people of color) or â€œB.A.B.R.â€ (Bay Area born and raised) roommates, a reasonable defensive measure against the ravages of the tech economy, which, block by block, was replacing the weird old counterculture with Stanford M.B.A.s and Google engineers.
For those of us caught in the middle, it meant that to score a bed, you had to have Q.T.P.O.C. friends willing to make an exception for you, or be a member of obscure Facebook groups like (
â€™â€™â€™ ), which served as an underground network for people seeking shared housing. (The page also offered bartered services like massage and childcare and, on at least one occasion, a â€œfree hearse.â€) As in other cities under intense economic pressure, marginalized inhabitants had created an alternate, black-market rental economy: the currency may have been cultural capital, but competition was still fierce.
I spent a few weeks on friendsâ€™ couches before an acquaintance posted on Facebook about a room opening in his eight-bedroom house in Oakland for $475, a steal, and I messaged him immediately. Thirty people had already written, he said, and his roommates had also received scores of inquiries, so the odds werenâ€™t good. He stopped answering my emails after that. The same thing happened with a few vacant rooms I tracked down at illegal warehouses, cavernous lofts where residents scrimped on such things as functioning plumbing or reliable electricity in order to have space to paint and make sculptures and host bands all night, places like the Dildo Factory, or Hecoâ€™s, or Ghost Ship, whose leaseholder posted a roommate-wanted ad on Craigslist that winter seeking
all shamanic rattlesnake sexy jungle jazz hobo gunslingers looking for a space to house gear, use studio, develop next level Shaolin discipline after driving your taxi cab late at night, build fusion earth home bomb bunker spelunker shelters, and plant herbaceous colonies in the open sun & air.
I didnâ€™t answer the Ghost Ship ad, but I went to a few â€œauditionsâ€ at other lofts. There were so many people vying for the spaces, I rarely got a call back and was never offered a room. Iâ€™d squandered whatever cool I once possessed, it turned out, by building a â€œnormieâ€ career as a writer and editor on the East Coast.