It sounds like a reality show. Young men dispatched from the Shaolin Temple in China’s Henan Province to San Francisco’s Inner Richmond, where they live together in an apartment and practice Shaolin kung fu at their temple’s culture center on Geary Boulevard.

Here, Shi Yanran, Shi Hengyu, Shi Hengyuan, and Shi Hengwu. Photograhs by Chad Riley.



History Written in Water.

We profaned the bay, then tried to save it. Now we’re learning that it has a mind of its own.

A lyrical and powerful look at the story of the San Francisco Bay by the author of Cool Grey City of Love, Gary Kamiya. 

Check out the full story at

(Photos by:  San Francisco History Center/San Francisco Public Library, Jim Hughes, Winni Wintermeyer, Corbis, Michael Short)


There’s more to a mermaid than a pair of seashells and an hourglass tail.

“There’s a huge athletic component to mermaiding,” says Portola resident Luma Gallegos, who goes by the name Atlantis. “It’s a huge ab workout.” Atlantis is the founder of the NorCal Narwhals Mer Pod, a group of 17 theatrical women and men who meet once a month to don monofins, adopt pseudonyms like Mermaid Jewel and Christomer Starfish, and swim at Bay Area beaches and pools.

Check out the full story at

(Photos by Margo Moritz)


On a warm San Francisco night this past September, I dropped my daughter off at Hotel Nikko on Mason and Ellis for a performance by one of her musical theater idols at Feinstein’s. There were probably a hundred people circling the streets looking for parking, but I had my secret spot: Driving two blocks south on Mason, deep into the wounded but still-beating heart of the Tenderloin, I turned right on Turk and parked 10 feet from the corner.

After locking the car, I walked west toward Taylor. Almost immediately, I came upon five or six bedraggled older men standing or sitting on the sidewalk—one of them huddled in a doorway, bending over to light a crack pipe. Just a few feet further along sat another disheveled group—a man sucking on a pipe, a woman slugging a can of malt liquor. They paid no attention to me. A figure lay sprawled in a doorway, out cold. The acrid tang of urine hung in the air. I turned left on Taylor, walked the short block to Market Street, and turned left, passing the refurbished Warfield Building, the new home of Spotify and Benchmark Capital, conjoined to the old Warfield Theater. Midblock, a dozen young men were gathered around two street dice games, wads of money in their hands. A guy near the corner of Mason called out to me, “Hey, Joe, want something to smoke tonight?”

For as long as I’ve lived in San Francisco—going on 43 years now—I’ve been fascinated by the Tenderloin. It is the strangest neighborhood in the metropolis—maybe the strangest on the planet. In the midst of one of the most affluent cities in the world, it is a 40-square-block island of poverty and squalor. Its streets teem with the people the Chamber of Commerce does not want you to see: the ragged, the mentally ill, the addicted, the paroled, the homeless. While all big cities have such denizens, they are usually scattered here and there—not clustered right next to the most valuable real estate in town. But the Tenderloin couldn’t be any more central.

Read more of Gary Kamiya’s story, Arise Tenderloin, on

Photos by Stephen McLaren

On weekends, you can often spot Jay Nelson tooling around town in his tricked-out camper, dwarfed beneath the truck’s shell-like wooden dome. The Sunset district artist is known for his one-of-a-kind plywood rides, as well as his avant-garde tree houses. But lately he’s been prototyping a new product: the Mini Sphere, a cross between a tree house and a hammock.

“I was really excited by the idea of a portable tree house,” he says. “And, unlike the campers, I don’t have to redesign these from scratch every time.” 


(Photo by Erin Kunkel)