Dear Jack, Nun of the Above

Bibliohead is honored to acquire a collection of books owned by the late, great Jack Fertig. Jack and his books

AKA Sister Boom-Boom of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Jack was a dear and complex man who will be sorely missed by his friends, and his partner Elias. Jack passed away from Cancer recently and all too suddenly.  He was a well-known astrologer (sorry, didn’t get any of those books) activist and former mayoral candidate who really helped make San Francisco what it was in the 70’s and 80’s. He was a fiercely creative and irreverent advocate for Queer and immigration rights. I hadn’t seen him much over the years, but he became a frequent customer and visitor when I opened the store eight years ago.

It is fascinating to look at someone’s collection when they go. You see the things someone keeps over time, and often, the reasons why. The books are a window into the owner’s mind, their nostalgias, their interests, what they studied and were entertained by, what they aspired to, what they weren’t finished with yet. Jack wasn’t finished either.

His study with well-kept books and dictionaries of every variety still had the vitality of someone who was still learning. This alone was the best reminder.

The room had great light and an ironic view overlooking St. Mary’s Cathedral. Here I was reminded how smart Jack was, how many languages he knew, how many places he traveled and investigated, how many cultures and spiritual practices he had studied—he was a Muslim Scholar and practitioner, and a proudly practicing gay man. There were other books about fringe cultures and other unmentionables.  Some would view some of these subjects as contradictory. But Jack was just the sort of intelligent, brilliant man that defended and delved into all aspects of all ourselves, and who he himself was. That this is our right, and was his own right to explore and honor and celebrate: the hard extremes, and where they do or don’t blend tidily together. This is how we create room for each other in our society and around the world, how we learn new ways for the future.

I am glad Jack was here to teach us in his mad cap, demanding, and irreverent way. I am grateful I was here to learn and crack a smile. I’m not finished either.