Pride Before the Fall

Pushing Mr. Sarah in the '79 Parade a month after he was beaten in the White Night Police Riot. After several brain surgeries, 4 weeks in General and my skilled handling of the chair, he started to recover.
Pushing Mr. Sarah in the ’79 Parade a month after he was beaten in the White Night Police Riot. After several brain surgeries, 4 weeks in General and my skilled handling of his chair, he slowly started to recover.

No self-respecting gay San Franciscan participates in the City’s vast grab for tourist dollars called the Pride Parade. Fortunately for the Visitors Bureau there are still enough self loathers left to lend it a somewhat local feel.

Back in the day it was a street party where you’d run into lots of people you knew being silly and stupid.  You would do bad things like get drunk on a Sunday afternoon and eat those awful barbecued turkey legs because it was the only food around. Once fortified you could go on to do other bad things.

Then the parade became a destination vacation for millions of gays from around the world. It got to the point where you’d be lucky to run into one person you knew.

The parade started going downhill for locals in the late 70’s. My favorite all time float was a truck towing a Mercury Cougar. On top of the car were punks with sledge hammers completely demolishing it during the course of the parade. On the side they’d spray painted “No Assimilation!” I doubt if their entry would pass muster with today’s Committee.  The folks from Omaha just wouldn’t understand.

This year on Pride day I made plans to go with my friend Leigh. I love hanging with her because she has zero tolerance for the banal. I’ve been at the theatre with her where we’ve realized after 15 minutes the play was a dud and she’s turned on a dime, “we’re out of here.” None of this “respect the artist” or “we paid good money for these seats” crap. That Sunday we decided to go down to the Civic Center to check out the scene.

After a late start we hooked up on Polk at 3:00 and walked towards the action. I was astonished that the event which was huge years ago had gotten even bigger. It used to be a stretch to say that a million people attended, million might now be plural. It was claustrophobic but fascinating. So many young people in their underwear, so many old people in items they should not be wearing in public. We watched the dancers a bit, goofed on the odd balls, but basically just tried to stay in visual contact as we fought through the crowd on our way to Zuni.

Some questioned the extent of Mr. Sarah's recovery when he painted his living room fuschia. Eve Ning called it "hematosis red."
Some questioned the extent of Mr. Sarah’s recovery when he painted his living room fuschia. Eve Ning called it “hematosis red.”

The last time I went to Zuni on Pride we sat down and had a late lunch. Not a chance this year. Apparently a decade or two ago it turned into a (mostly) Lesbian hangout on the day of days. It was one huge bar scene spilling out into the street and side alley. Cars detoured into the center of Market to bypass the people but Muni had to sit there and lay on the horns  so they could turn right on to Haight.

Getting up to the bar was impossible but Leigh, in her inimitable way, had our Margaritas in no time. They were so potent we decided to have a second. After a couple sips it was time to leave, we walked up Franklin Street drinks in hand. I did 60’s poses on how to hold a cocktail while she worried we were going to be busted. The fates were with us and the cops otherwise occupied. We avoided the drunk tank.

The carnival spirit of the day made me rethink my animosity towards Pride. I would never begrudge anyone for having such a good time. Still, something about it just doesn’t smell right.

As Mayor Ed Lee, Ron Conway and the real estate developers destroy the fabric of gay life in San Francisco, the City still puts on a good party. But that party benefits City coffers not the gays and lesbians who live here and who are being forced out in droves.

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C’mon Ride that Booty

With the booty-meister, my favorite Bay Area performer. On stage, anyway.
With the booty-meister, my favorite Bay Area performer. On stage, anyway.

Friday night of Gay Pride weekend this year I saw Planet Booty at The Great American Music Hall, my neighborhood music hall. I didn’t get much sleep the night before so I was tired and had to be content just observing and head banging on the sidelines. Usually I prefer to be in the middle of the mosh.

Planet Booty was laying down a solid groove but no one in the hall seemed to be able to break at the waist. The pelvic block in the room was palpable. It dawned on me that millenials may not know how to dance. A lifetime of looking at apps in their laps had left them with no feel for the rhythm of life.

There was a kindergarten sense to it what they did, which may also have been the last time they were encouraged to use their bodies. We’re jumping! And we’re jumping! And we’re jumping! Sloshed childishness.

To their credit there was some creativity like the violent one shoulder twitch. Or the fire hydrant, bending the leg at the knee and doing repeated lifts. One heavy guy kept trying a drunken double dutch, elaborate cross over steps that he could sustain for about 4 seconds then would stop and start over again.

What was happening on the floor was in sad contrast to what was happening on the stage.

I stood there watching and let my mind drift off to Zimbabwe. The only time I’ve ever been white water rafting was on the Zambezi River in 1993.  On one of the rapids I was thrown from the boat. Immediately I felt the serenity of floating backwards at high-speed in warm water. I was digging it until I heard the screams: “The rocks!” “Grab it!” I began flailing to catch the buoy on a rope so they could pull me back in.

That Friday night at Great American there was a woman dancing who honored me with arm movements I’d not seen since Victoria Falls.

Walking home in the 2 a.m. summer fog I thought maybe I was being too harsh on the kids. I was inventing excuses to dislike the techies just to rationalize leaving the City. I should play nice and accept that it was time to go.  Fuck that.

Checking out the ancient trunk.
Checking out the ancient trunk.

Saturday I spent a beautiful summer day on the couch conserving senior citizen energy for Gay Pride Sunday. I had participated in one of the first Chicago Pride marches in 1971 but it had been 25 years since I’d been to one out here. That day in Chicago there was a real sense of relief for being able to walk 20 blocks without getting beaten up. Today’s pageantry does a much better job of capturing the essence of gay life with the drag, the bulges, and Gloria Gaynor for the trillionth time.

Still, 25 years was too long. I needed to check in and take the local temperature, preferably rectally. If nothing else I thought I might get the opportunity to throw a tomato at the Mayor.

Riding the Rapid the Natives Called the Devil’s Toilet

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