More than one take on the words and visions of Rebecca Solnit's award-winning Infinite City
Among the hard-right compounds providing counterevidence for that demonstration chestnut "the people united will never be defeated": Lawrence Livermore National Labs (birthplace of Star Wars — the Reagan era money pit, not the George Lucas movie); Lockheed Martin, world's largest "defense" contractor; the Hoover Institution, Stanford's reactionary think tank; and Northrop Grumman, missile component designer. It's useful to have so many of them in one place, if queasy-making.
On the lower left of the map sits Sandow Birk's beautifully warped code of arms, which features the Cicero quote (Nervi belli pecunia infinita) that Solnit cites in her chapter title, under a half eagle/half dove, a rifle-toting soldier, and a scythe-clutching skeleton. It should be on the door of every U.S. military recruiting center. (Terrall)
MAP 6. "Monarchs and Queens: Butterfly Habits and Queer Public Spaces"
"How thoroughly the lexical landscape of gay history is invested with [a] paradigm of emergence," notes poet Aaron Shurin in "Full Spectrum," the chapter accompanying Infinite City's sixth map. Like one of the dazzlingly-named butterfly species rendered by Mona Caron on the map, Shurin flits gracefully between memoir and historiography as he tracks San Francisco's ongoing evolution as a locus for queer emergence.
From North Beach to Polk Gulch, from Folsom to Castro, LGBT folk — be they American painted ladies, Satyr angel wings, or Mission blues — have continually migrated to and within the city to shed their cocoons and show their true colors. Local faux-queen Fauxnique traced this metamorphosis at the 2003 Miss Trannyshack Pageant when she climatically emerged as a regal butterfly to Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (apropos to Shurin's royalty motif, she won the crown). So too did the late Age of Aquarius painter Chuck Arnett, who often nestled butterfly imagery into his portraits of SoMa's leather demimonde, and whose murals once adorned some of the many now-extinct bars also denoted by Ben Pease's cartography. Only more than half a dozen of these "wildlife sanctuaries," in Shurin's parlance, have survived, with the Eagle Tavern's announced closure marking another loss of habitat. Queers, though, are if anything adaptive, and my hope is that the future fluttering tribes of San Francisco will keep alighting on new ground to unfurl their wings. (Matt Sussman)
MAP 7. "Poison/Palate: The Bay Area in Your Body"
"Food is part of the Bay Area you hear about nowadays, exquisite upscale food at famous restaurants and gourmet markets. But it's so boring we couldn't stay focused on it in this map." These refreshing, if rarely uttered words come two-thirds of the way through the chapter that accompanies the "Poison/Palate" map, Rebecca Solnit's "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Gourmet."
The phony Tuscany of Napa and the once-orchard-filled, now-EPA-Superfund-site-speckled Silicon Valley are wisely singled out for derision, a convenient duality in both geography and culture and the perfect framework on which to hang a critique of the local culinary community's smug, myopic self-indulgence, by raising the not-so-elite-specters in Bay Area food history (the It's It, the Popsicle, the Hangtown Fry, the Rice-a-Roni), and reintroducing the politics of food into the conversation, in the form of the chemical tonnage used to produce wine grapes, food giveaways at community gardens, Diet for a Small Planet, and Black Panther breakfast programs for school-kids. The sprawling topic is almost given too short a shrift, threatening to leap its mutant-mermaid-bedecked map.
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