Wedding Cake and Siphoned Bile 

Gay wedding photography, naked bookworms, anthropology's Red Scare, and other stories.

I now pronounce you: Growing up as a lesbian, says Jennifer Nannini, "you don't dream of the big wedding." So when Nannini wed girlfriend Andie Bourguet in San Francisco February 20, "we went into it thinking of activism and 'We're gonna stick it to 'em.' Then I saw all our friends sobbing and I realized: 'This is how you're supposed to feel at weddings.' When it got right down to it, it was about me and her."

The San Leandro couple is among those whose photos fill We Do (Chronicle, $19.95), a stirring pictorial celebration of this year's same-sex-weddings -- 4,037 of which were performed in San Francisco alone. At a reception this month in the city's LGBT Community Center, Nannini was among many wearing "newlywed" nametags and sampling slices of a big white wedding cake topped with two tiny brides on one side and two tiny grooms on another. The crowd cheered as Assessor-Recorder Mabel Teng reflected that "we all made revolution together," and the book's editor Amy Rennert, a newlywed herself, declared on the verge of tears that "true love is worth fighting for." The city's poet laureate Janice Mirikitani, reciting a piece written for the occasion, made eye contact with her husband, the Rev. Cecil Williams, and speculated on connecting with his female side.

Nannini wonders why so many critics have a problem with same-sex unions: "Can't they see how good it is for the economy? I mean, all these lesbians and gay men are out there registering at Crate & Barrel, Target, and IKEA."

Another We Do party, cake and all, crowns Pride Week at Cody's Fourth Street on June 25.

Hanging out: One early evening a month ago, Book Zoo co-owner Nick Raymond left his tiny Berkeley shop unattended -- lights off, door open a crack -- and went to water the plants out front.

When Raymond returned, he discovered a customer browsing in the dark. The man was shirtless; bookshelves obscured his lower half. He said he'd met Raymond's partner in People's Park and that the partner had assured him he'd be welcome at the store.

"That's when I realized he wasn't wearing anything," Raymond recalls. He switched on the light. The man browsed on, donning a pair of tiger-striped bikini shorts before leaving.

A few weeks later, another two men arrived, fully dressed, and asked Raymond whether they could please shop naked.

"I said, 'I like books, I like being naked, so I'm not going to stand in your way.' They exchanged knowing looks and disrobed." One of the men had a Mohawk and a herniated groin muscle "that stuck out in a very intriguing fashion," reflects Raymond, who kept his clothes on as he restocked the shelves.

Get a job: Meanwhile, one block away, Shakespeare & Co.'s new owner Jon Wobber was being interviewed by an Oakland Tribune reporter this month when a guy walked into the Telegraph Avenue bookshop and offered Wobber his résumé. Explaining that the résumé didn't properly reflect his extensive literary knowledge, the would-be clerk assured Wobber that he knows a lot about books.

"Okay," Wobber asked him. "Who wrote Finnegans Wake?"

The guy didn't know. Wobber wrote "Doesn't know" on the résumé. The guy snatched it back and left the store. A few minutes later he returned, handing back the résumé. Having erased Wobber's inscription, he'd replaced it with "Fuck you, elitist fuck."

Welcome to Telegraph.

Wobber started selling books thirty years ago as a Sonoma State student selling secondhand volumes off a raincoat on a campus lawn. That's where he met Harvey Segal, a sociology prof and then-owner of Shakespeare, who hired him as a clerk and, this year, sold him the store. Legend has it that Philip K. Dick once worked here too.

Steal a meal: Poachers aren't just some Robin Hoodian relic. In Kirk Russell's new mystery Shell Games (Chronicle, $23.95), California Department of Fish and Game undercover officer Jon Marquez is after abalone poachers -- from Oakland to the Lost Coast, where dead divers, drug smugglers, and thousands of scooped-out shells keep him awake nights. More animal troubles haunt Marquez in the Berkeley author's next novel, Night Game. Due out this fall from Chronicle, it features a bear farm where the creatures are confined veal-calf-style in small cages while being siphoned via slits in their bellies for bile -- a coveted ingestible in certain Chinese-gourmand circles.

A bear can live for twelve to twenty years under such conditions, Russell says. He's no stranger to food trends; his wife Judy Rogers is a co-owner of San Francisco's Zuni restaurant. On the distant horizon, yet another ordeal involving organisms: a third book in which meaty Delta sturgeon wish they'd never met the Russian mob.

Amen to that: Prayer is a loaded word for those who think it has to happen in a pew, or go toward some huge You-Know-Who. In How to Pray Without Being Religious (Element, $19.95), Janell Moon reclaims the concept for anyone who wants to connect with anything, within or without, that can help "tip the balance of the world and tap into a mystery that works on our behalf," says the Emeryville therapist. It doesn't have to mean palms pressed together. It doesn't have to be a cry for help. "Any experience in life can be a prayer. Simply to be present is to be in prayer."

Sometimes words work; sometimes a silent circumambulation of the block is enough. Moon offers anecdotes based on her clients along with hundreds of insights, even for the spirituality-squeamish.

"If you can't say 'prayer,' then use a different word. Call it a dream or a wish," says Moon, who believes it's all good, whether addressed to Athena or Zarathustra or any deity in between, or no deity at all. Raised Christian, she originally titled the book Zero Church.

Oh the humanity: In 1950, Cal Ph.D Cora Du Bois was offered a post as chair of the university's anthropology department, a remarkable feat for a female scholar of her era. She nixed it; accepting would have meant signing the loyalty oath that had been recently imposed on all UC faculty. Although the McCarthy-era FBI could never prove her a Communist, an informant characterized Du Bois as favoring Ho Chi Minh as early as 1953. Cloaks and daggers abound in David H. Price's Threatening Anthropology (Duke, $23.95), which probes the FBI's probes of famous American anthropologists during Red Scares past.

"Anthropology's historic interest in cultural evolution drew anthropologists to Marx's philosophical proposition that specific economic pursuits determine the character of political and social life," Price tells Press Here. "Some anthropologists examined Marx's thesis by using the past and present world as its laboratory, and others considered the possibilities of noncapitalist economies as they studied hunter-gatherers' socialism and other collectivist societies. American Communists and Socialists were also the primary political forces fighting for racial equality in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s; thus anthropologists whose science advocated for racial equality were easily lumped together with Communists and Socialists."

These days, "many anthropology programs have lost connections to the discipline's activist past. Market pressures are squeezing anthropology, and the discipline appears dazed as many students are poised to work in public and private settings for the highest bidder."

Get that bitch: Oakland-based Bitch magazine -- feminism bites pop culture -- is launching a summer subscription drive to fend off what publisher Lisa Jervis calls "a spot of financial peril." Visit BitchMagazine.com for details. Recently dissed in Bitch's "(s)hitlist" section was the media's ho-hum response after beautiful Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, charged lit-crit luminary Harold Bloom with having stroked her inner thigh twenty years ago when she was his student at Yale.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Books

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

© 2016 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation