This Is the Tasty New Wine Book by Bernal Oenophile Alder Yarrow

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A while back, we told you about the book that celebrity oenophile (and Bernal Heights neighbor) Alder Yarrow was working on:

Neighbor Alder Yarrow is the founder and editor of the famous Vinography wine blog, and he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to secure pre-orders for a coffee table book called “The Essence of Wine.”

Well now the fundraising is done, the words have been written, the pages have been proofed, and copies have been printed. Neighbor Alder’s book is finished, and wouldn’t you know it… it pairs nicely with a good glass of vino.

Here’s what the literary foodies from Omnivore Books in Noe Valley had say about it:

Alder Yarrow is widely regarded as the original and most influential wine blogger on the Internet. His award-winning site, Vinography, has been around for nearly 11 years, and in 2011, he was a finalist for the James Beard journalism award. Now after more than a decade online, Yarrow has turned his attention to print, marrying his eye for design and penchant for poetic writing into a 150-page hardcover coffee table book that celebrates the singular flavors and aromas found in wine.

Bernalwood got a taste of the book. We noticed that the layouts are sophisticated and well-balanced, with hints of exotic flavor:

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The photography is bold and exuberant, with earthy notes:

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Plus, with only 78 days remaining until Christmas, you may want to pick up a copy of “The Essence of Wine” for that special oenophile in your life. You can buy the book here, and don’t hesitate to boast that the author just happens to be one of your Bernal Heights neighbors.

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IMAGES: Courtesy of Alder Yarrow

 

Jack London Lived in Bernal Heights Before He Was Cool

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You might have noticed that Bernal Heights is today home to a rather impressive roster of fabulous writers and authors. All Bernalese can feel justifiably proud of our rich literary landscape, but Bernal Heights has been fertile ground for writerly genius for well over 120 years. For example, thanks to some impressive new research published by La Lengua’s rebel propagandist Burrito Justice, we now know Jack London once lived in Bernal Heights.

Yes, you read that correctly: Jack London once lived in Bernal Heights.

Okay, so Jack London was just one year old when he called Bernal home, and he didn’t live here for for long. Nevertheless, his later success provides clear proof that there’s something in the air in Bernal Heights that nurtures literary excellence.

Burrito Justice points to an excerpt from Irving Stone’s 1903 biography of Jack London:

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(Side Note: Jenny Prentiss does not appear to be the namesake for the Prentiss Street in Bernal today. That Prentiss was likely the Civil War hero General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss.)

Anyway, if Jack London lived in Bernal Heights, Burrito Justice moves on to the obvious question:

But where in Bernal? Jack London was born on January 12, 1876, and John London married his mother either in September 1876 or February 1877.

The 1878 SF city directory gives a potential answer:

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Jack’s adopted father was John London, a Union veteran who married Jack’s mother Flora after Jack’s birth. But there are two John Londons! Which one? Also, how does 27th meet up with Harrison? And where is Gunnison Ave and Precita? And how does 28th have anything to do with Precita?

After some further sleuthing, we learn that Gunnison Avenue in Bernal Heights was a short stretch between Precita and Ripley that was contiguous with Harrison Street — until  1895 when it was renamed Harrison. But in this 1889 map, for example, the street was still called Gunnison Ave:

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So baby Jack London lived somewhere just south of Precita Park, along present-day Harrison Street, which today maps out like this:

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That’s just a quick summary of the evidence, but Burrito Justice dug up lots of fun stories and maps and historical geekery to identify where Baby Jack London lived when he lived in Bernal Heights. It’s fascinating stuff, and he did all the homework, so you absolutely must read the entire story on the Burrito Justice blog.

And from here on out, whenever you see some snot-nosed toddler being pushed around Precita Park in a stroller, just remember: That kid might just might turn out to be Bernal’s next Jack London.

IMAGES: Historical maps and text excerpts via Burrito Justice

Sunday: Bernal Author Chris Colin Talks About “What to Talk About” at Heartfelt (Plus: Fancy-Schmancy Ice Cream!)

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Celebrity author Chris Colin and his writing partner Rob Baedecker have written a ridiculously awesome book about the fine art of conversation that’s called “What to Talk About: On a Plane, at a Cocktail Party, in a Tiny Elevator with Your Boss’s Boss.”  It’s sort of a self-help book, and sort of a comedy book, and just enough of each to make it both entertaining and useful and useful and entertaining. I’ve read it, I learned from it, it cracked me up,  and I highly recommend it.

At the same time, Neighbor Chris and his writing partner Rob have honed the book-talk version of their spiel to such such a fine extent that their book talks are also wonderful as a stand-alone performance piece. It’s hilarious, and useful, and useful, and also hilarious, and you can see Neighbor Chris and his writing partner Rob do their live performance thing tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 21 at 4 pm at the fabulous Heartfelt on Cortland.

Here’s the trailer, rich with celebrity cameos:

You really really really should attend this. On Sunday. At 4 pm. At Heartfelt. 436 Cortland. PLUS, Miss Darcy will be personally slinging scoops of fancy-schmancy ice cream from Humphry Slocumb, because that’s how she rolls:

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Tonight! The Language of Food: A Bernal Heights Linguist Reads the Menu

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Oh hey, did you catch that article in the dining section of yesterday’s New York Times about Bernal Neighbor Dan Jurafsky, and his new book on the linguistics of food?

I read the article over my morning coffee, but I didn’t know Dan lived in Bernal… until he reached out to me later in the day. Turns out, Dan Jurafsky is a celebrity neighbor! Love that.

Neighbor Dan’s new book is called The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, and he’s doing a reading TONIGHT at 6:30 at the fabulous Omnivore Books at Cesar Chavez and Church in (scandalous gasp!) Noe Valley.

Neighbor Dan says:

I’m a Stanford professor and Bernal resident coming up on 10 years on Winfield street near the Esmeralda slides. Just letting you know that my trade book from Norton, “The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu” just came out this week and I’ll be talking about it at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley on Thursday night 9/18 at 6:30.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Why do we eat toast for breakfast, and then toast to good health at dinner? What does the turkey we eat on Thanksgiving have to do with the country on the eastern Mediterranean? Can you figure out how much your dinner will cost by counting the words on the menu? In The Language of Food, Stanford University professor and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky peels away the mysteries from the foods we think we know.

Bernal and SF figure heavily in the book, from the SF history of Green Goddess dressing Pisco Punch, and Peruvian food to the tamales at La Oaxaquena, to showing how the meaning of the word “entree” has changed over time by analyzing some of the wording on menus of Bernal restaurants, to the linguistic significance of the rich Cantonese vocabulary for smells.

Sounds very tasty. Congrats, Neighbor Dan!

PHOTO: Dan Jurafsky by by Bernal photographer Kingmond Young

Bernal Neighbor Combines His Words, His Photos in Beautiful Book About Daily Life in Uganda

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From 2009 to 2012, Neighbor Douglas Cruickshank was a Peace Corps volunteer, living in a remote village in the mountains of western Uganda. Today, he lives on Gates Street in Bernal Heights, where he wrote a book about his experiences in Africa.

That book is called Somehow: Living on Uganda Time, and it is very big, very beautiful, and very, very revealing:

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It’s so good, in fact, that it was named this year’s best book of photography by a returned Peace Corps volunteer:

Douglas Cruickshank’s Somehow: Living on Uganda Time, is a big book, and its 400 pages of photos and text are heavy, amazingly so. Not as in ‘heavy going’, but as in profoundly engrossing. To both the author-photographer and his friends the Ugandans, it is heavy with special meanings; stimulating, fascinating, captivating and… You get the idea.

When he joined the Peace Corps and went to Uganda Douglas Cruickshank was 56 and had recently downsized his life. He called it the “Great Shedding of Things”, having sold and given away most of his possessions and encumbrances – except his camera, a sense of adventure and his way of seeing and capturing the essence of life digitally. He entered Uganda as a stranger in a strange land, but not for long. His camera helped make it familiar and meaningful.

Reviewer Don Messerschmidt goes on to say that Neighbor Doug is a “superb photographer and an equally evocative writer, with well defined wit and wisdom.” Bernalwood eagerly concurs with this opinion.

Want a copy? Sure you do. You can get one from the Amazon, but Neighbor Doug will be more than happy to sell you one directly (as well as prints of various images included in the book).

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

New Book About Bernal Library Mural Is Required Reading for San Francisco

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Bernal neighbor Beth Roy has written a short, must-read book about the challenges San Francisco faces as the city polarizes along the fault lines of new vs. old, Anglo vs. ethnic, progressive vs. centrist, forward-looking vs. backward-remembering, and high-tech vs. working class.

Blessedly, that’s not the subject of Neighbor Beth’s book. The subject of her book is the new mural that covers the exterior of the Bernal Heights Library on Cortland, and the intense mediation effort that was undertaken in 2010 to resolve the then-contentious question of whether the old, 1980s-era mural should be restored, or if the facade of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)-era building should returned to its original, mural-free appearance.

Neighbor Beth is a professional mediator, which is a handy thing, because her services were called upon in 2010 to help formulate a plan for the Bernal library that all parties in the controversy could support and feel good about.

That’s what the book is all about. The committee of neighbors who joined the library art committee began as antagonists and cultural rivals, but by the end of the mediation process —and with a lot of patient, hard work — they developed a plan for the library based on a very real, no-bullshit foundation of mutual respect and collaboration.  Even more impressive (if the general absence of substantial grumbling is any indication), the new library artwork that emerged from the process has been a creative success as well. Trifecta!!!

In practical terms, the Bernal neighbors who participated in the library mural mediation a) got some actual stuff done while also b) learning to appreciate each other’s point of view, and c) moving beyond the theatrics and confrontationalism of direct action and political organization. San Francisco could use a lot more of that these days.

Neighbor Beth’s new book is called “The Bernal Story: Mediating Class and Race in a Multicultural Community,” and it was just published by Syracuse University Press as part of their Peace and Conflict Resolution series. Don’t let the academic pedigree and subtitle deter you —  this book is a highly engaging and insanely relevant read. Plus, you probably know a few of the main characters, because they’re your neighbors. Which is fun.

If you’d like a copy, you can get one as you congratulate Neighbor Beth at her glamorous book party this Saturday, July 26 from 5-7 pm at the Inclusions Gallery on Cortland.

Until then, here’s an excerpt from The Bernal Story that gives a good sense of what transpired:

Shortly before the meeting, Johanna called me for help formulating some feelings she was having about Mauricio and his campaign. She had caught a radio broadcast of an interview with him and others from his Save the Bernal Library Mural group. She was upset at what seemed to her to be a misrepresentation of the process we were in, as well as some harsh rhetoric she feared would rekindle flames of opposition just as we were coming together to craft a shared solution.

I supported her to speak her mind and coached her to formulate what she felt in the forms I had taught. When we gathered at the Neighborhood Center the evening of February 24th, Johanna opened the dialogue by addressing Mauricio with her “Held Feelings” and “Paranoias”. Mauricio heard her respectfully, demurring that the sharpest rhetoric had come not from him but from others in his group. Brandon joined the conversation with the “Paranoia” that it nonetheless represented what Mauricio thought. Mauricio validated that such language once might have come from him but he was seeing the value of a non-abrasive approach.

What was true, however, was that, as we approached consensus, he was uncertain how to turn the organizing campaign he had initiated in the direction of collaborative problem-solving. He suggested it was a bit too soon; his people needed more tangible evidence that their voices were in fact being heard before they’d be willing to lower the volume. With all the sweetness and authority at his command, Larry urged Mauricio to accept both the influence he had on his community and the responsibility to use it to support the mediation process.

Once again, this pivotal exchange helped focus the group’s good will on crafting a viable solution, helping to convince people that Mauricio was indeed on board. Terry led off the discussion. He had come into the mediation grounded in his knowledge of the library’s history and wishing it restored to the WPA façade. Now, however, he declared full support for the direction we were taking, looking forward with an historian’s eye to making new art. “What we have here,” he said, “is an opportunity to do a significant event in the neighborhood. This is the time people will look back to fifty years from now, just as we look back fifty years to the original painting.”

Giulio, who had spoken so vividly for the restoration of the mural, now said, “The library’s history is so much about struggle. In the new work, we can incorporate the WPA struggle as well.”

Each person spoke in turn about their hopes for the new work. People imagined plazas reaching to the recreation center, improvements to the playground, and more. With the keen eye of a practical visionary, Mauricio again re-focused the discussion on the library walls.

I very much appreciated the spirit of the meeting. Clearly, every individual in the room leaned toward a creative conclusion. But I knew that there were still major disagreements as well. We had formed a direction in theory, but we still had not truly come to agreement about the thorniest issue: the Cortland wall. Now, as we began to craft the final details of the agreement, I once again named that elephant in the room. I worried that the waves of good feeling might sweep people into an agreement that hadn’t deeply enough addressed the conflict. That was the dynamic that had happened at the end of the second session, and I could well imagine it’s happening again now. I wanted people to look squarely into the face of division and emerge with a stronger consensus.

The group rolled up their collective sleeves and proceeded to take my draft statement apart, line by line. Now and then the discussion stalled on a particular point: on a range from restoring the mural to eliminating it, where should we fall? Would the walls end up mostly bare with a few pale remnants of what was now there? Or would we reproduce the current mural, only in a smaller scale that better respected the architecture? Each time we hit one of those hard disagreements, someone – often Michael or Monique, the two participants least fixed in a position and therefore most able to access creative new ideas – suggested something that re-opened the sense of possibility and re-engaged the group in collaboration.

Michael, for instance, fantasized free-standing objects illuminated at night, perhaps even with changing images projected in space. Monique nudged the discourse away from old-timers and new-comers, or Anglos and Latinos, reminding us of all the young uncategorizable people in the community who were not well described by those terms: same sex families, multi-racial couples, returned descendants of generations-old residents.

As we proceeded, we changed words, substituting, for instance, “Revitalizing the Mural” for “Updating the Mural”. We adjusted the emphasis to focus on meanings of the work and the process by which it would be produced, resisting our own creative imaginings of the artwork itself. “Leave the artwork to the artists” became the motto of the group, even though it was difficult to restrain the flow of creativity released by our process. Finally, we all agreed that the consensus statement should end by quoting the statement Terry had made at the beginning of the evening: We were making history right along with art.

PHOTO: Top, Cortland facade of new Bernal Library artwork, 2014, by Telstar Logistics

The New York Times Loves Bernal Author James Nestor’s New Book, and You’re Invited to His Party on Friday

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Oh, by the way, did you catch that item  in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review? You know, the review of the brand-new book by Bernal Heights author (and anticool motorist) James Nestor?

Neighbor James’s book is called Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, and here’s a taste of what the NYT had to say about it:

In the epilogue, “Ascents,” Nestor comes back up through the depths, rapidly enough to give the reader a version of the bends, but it serves as a beautiful construct allowing him to revisit “Deep’s” dramatis personae. It’s the finale of Nestor’s reportorial trip down to Hades and back again. Through his eyes and his stories, it’s a journey well worth taking.

BOO-YA!  To celebrate this, and the publication of the book, Neighbor James says, “there is a Book Release party, to which all Bernalwooders are invited.” That means you!

The party is on Friday, June 27 at the truly fabulous Ohio Design studio at 630 Treat (near 19th Street) in The Mission. Be there to give Neighbor James a much-deserved high-five:

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