Ready to know more about San Diego?


Editor’s Note: Bodies, Brains, Bondage, and Bending

Peek inside our January issue, a celebration of the complex splendor of the bodies we call home
In the January 2024 edition of the San Diego Mag editor's note, Mateo Hoke contemplates the idea that humans have "three brains."

Our bodies are incredible machines made of meat and magic. For instance, the human heart—which will beat nearly three billion times in an average lifespan—is also emotionally capable of loving and breaking so powerfully that it fundamentally alters our lives.

The heart and the belly both contain neurons not unlike those in the brain, which is why it can be said that each of us possess three brains: in the head, heart, and gut. One is great for creativity and cognition, one helps us connect with others, and one tells us the quiet truth about ourselves.

And don’t get me started on bodies that make babies. What kind of divine alchemy is it that, with only a couple of ingredients, certain bodies are able to create entirely new humans, full of nervous systems, vascular systems, digestive systems, feelings, consciousness? Sometimes I look at my young son with his still-pudgy hands and lingering baby belly, toddling around or absorbing a book, and wonder, How did you come to be? How does your little heart know how to keep rhythm, your little eyes to dilate? How did your mother’s body intuitively grow you so well?

My mind—which itself somehow exists invisibly inside my various brains—spins. Our bodies are unbelievable.

For many of us, January is a time to contemplate how we care for our marvelous bodies, which is why we’re dedicating this issue to physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Tending to our mortal forms changes how we feel, how we look, and how we live, so this month we’re celebrating these couriers of consciousness and examining how best to look after them. All this makes for an absolute banger of an issue to kick off the new year.

In this edition, Managing Editor Jackie Bryant explores healing with Japanese bondage after the birth of her own son earlier this year. Associate Editor Amelia Rodriguez meditates on time-traveling bronze hands and other body-inspired pieces at an MCASD exhibition, and Managing Digital Editor Nicolle Monico treks to Utah to push her body to new heights and connect more deeply to herself as she approaches a personal milestone. And that’s just the beginning.

Because our physical forms are sources of pleasure, pain, frustration, and joy, we asked a handful of local writers to intimately and humorously consider their bodies. The essays they gave us touch on size, race, gender, movement, even body hair, offering us all a more empathetic understanding of how others are navigating the world in the bodies they call home.

We’ve also got hilariously regrettable tattoos, an examination of what wellness means in the social media sphere, and a deep-dive into the $31 million revamp of the rooms, restaurants, and (infamous) pool at the LaFayette Hotel.

For San Diego Magazine's January 2024 issue, famous San Diego contortionist Emerald Gordon Wulf posed at Golden Door Spa in San Marcos.
Photo Credit: Erica Joan

And this cover! This model! Do you see the way her back is bent? That’s not Photoshop. She’s really just hanging out like that, communing with the koi. Outrageous. If my body were, for some reason, suddenly bent into that shape, I would die, burst open like a potato chip bag.

That’s Emerald Gordon Wulf—local teenager, scary movie stunt double, and human bendy straw. I met her family serendipitously on Halloween. When her mom mentioned Emerald is a big deal on TikTok, I thought little of it, until she showed me a vid of Emerald arched fully backward, dancing. Ouch, I thought. But it quickly clicked that her talents would make a captivating presence in this issue. Turns out that only a few people in the world are capable of some of the poses she can do.

We asked Emerald and her parents to join us at the historic Golden Door Spa in San Marcos, where a recent renovation has the property looking its Sunday best. There, we invited Emerald to show us her wildest work around the lush, hillside property. You can see more of the results in our spa guide—our annual rolodex of relaxation.

As reporters and editors, we’re always searching for stories that stimulate all three brains, and we’re happy to bring you an issue full of them. So whether you’re running a bath or running on the treadmill, we hope you enjoy.

By Mateo Hoke

Mateo Hoke is San Diego Magazine’s executive editor. His books include Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary, and Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA