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Affinities: The Original Frat

Our pictorial study of uniquely Bay Area tribes.

SLIDESHOW

James Tucker

(1 of 8)

Jordan Yelinek

(2 of 8)

Michael Tarver

(3 of 8)

John Fox

(4 of 8)

Dan Stoner

(5 of 8)

Zac Hurst

(6 of 8)

Damien Noorbakhsh

(7 of 8)

Edmond Lim

(8 of 8)

 

See all the Affinities photo shoots here.

What do chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli, slugger Willie Mays, and Hizzoner Willie Brown have in common? They all pledged allegiance to the Freemasons, a secretive worldwide fraternity. “The mission of Freemasonry is to make good men better,” says Jordan Yelinek, 35, California director of lodge development and training. The male society, which arrived in California with the gold rush, currently claims 55,000 Masons throughout the state and 10 lodges—official meeting places—in San Francisco. Brothers may be identified through secret handshakes and signs, as well as by their traditional jewelry, ties, and lambskin aprons. (One lodge of dentists in Forest Hill, Yelinek says, were rumored to cast their jewels from dental gold.) Though the society has largely shed its cloak-and-dagger reputation over the years, its monthly gatherings remain steeped in ritual. For starters, not just anybody can join. “You have to be sound in mind. You have to express a belief in deity. You have to be free of crimes of moral turpitude”—there’s a criminal background check—“and you must be ‘under the tongue of good report,’” says Yelinek, meaning that two Masons will vouch for you. After a vote and an initiation (“I’ve taken an obligation not to talk about it,” Yelinek defers), newcomers work their way through a series of degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The process, which entails writing, mentoring, and memorization, can take years. Of course, it’s not all about piety and scholarship. “Typically, you drink various amounts of bourbon while you’re at it,” Yelinek says.

 

Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco

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