If you want to go undercover and pretend you’re a San Franciscan, here are the four absolutely positively most important words you can know: “It’s gotten so touristy.”
We use that phrase to describe almost anything, from the Haight Street Fair to North Beach, from SOMA to the now-defunct Exotic-Erotic Ball. Whether it’s appropriate or not is beside the point.
San Francisco’s annual Pride Parade (once the Gay Pride Parade, then the Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade, then the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Pride Parade, then the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade, and finally the LGBT Pride Parade [and how did the L sneak in front of the G?]) might seem like a case in point, but in this case the point is that “touristy” is a good thing. It’s mainstream. It’s part of Americana. Consider the legendary Dykes on Bikes motorcycle procession. I know a lot of women who have ridden with the D.O.B., and not one of them is gay. Trust me, I know.
Indeed, I believe the majority of spectators along the parade route are NOTAs like me (None of the Above). The heterosexual women were easy to spot: they were the ones who kept posing with the nude gay men. Here are a few random selections from the roughly 300 shots I took on Sunday. I don’t think I took any pictures of nude people (the tourists took care of that for me); if any inappropriate flesh appears, it’s an accident and I apologize. For all of these photos I used my Nikon D40, and almost all of them have had no editing, except to lighten shadows in a few places.
Also, you will see some strong language. Parents, be warned.
I suspect there are people who would not enjoy learning that many Americans don’t mind taking pictures of their daughters posing with adult gay men.
But no matter how intense the parade or the chess game, you still had to eat.
A lot of vendors, almost all Hispanic women, enjoyed excellent sales of–believe it or not–bacon-wrapped hot dogs:
Some more pictures, more or less random:
Snippet overheard at the Civic Center BART. A Caucasian male in his early 20’s is reporting a crime to two police officers: “And then the guy hit me in the face, hit me in the face, and then he realized that my girlfriend is my girlfriend, and he said ‘Oh, s—!’ and he ran away.”
And that brings me to another tradition at the LGBT: homophobia. The number of anti-gay protestors was way down this year, if what I’ve heard about past years was true. In fact, all I saw were a few street preachers on Market Street near the cable car turnaround and one lone gentleman with a small footstool. One of the gay celebrators seemed to feel sorry for this man because no one paid attention to him:
The other street preacher had a better setup, including banners and assistants/bodyguards, not to mention a more powerful bullhorn. He also wore a bright orange top, which helped him stand out. The messages on the banners were really strange; they seemed benevolent on one side, but the other sides were a little uglier.
I honestly don’t know if he wanted to convert or to provoke. And there was little point in asking: whatever answer he gave would probably be incorrect. One woman had her own priorities and created a sign with her response.
Needless to say, he succeeded in drawing a big crowd in a big way. He wanted this: he wanted to draw attention to either himself or his message or both (doesn’t matter which one). However, succeeding in drawing a big crowd in San Francisco has its disadvantages. For one thing, San Franciscans love, no, we absolutely positively adore improv street theater. For another thing, one young person, male or female or both (doesn’t matter which one) did not just absolutely positively adore improv street theater, this person absolutely positively adored creating it.
The street preacher kinda sorta lost the crowd’s attention by this time.
On my way home I walked past the Lower Haight’s famous Mad Dog in the Fog, one of America’s greatest soccer bars, just as England-Italy were deciding their Euro 2012 quarterfinal soccer game via penalty kicks.
Overall, a very good day for people watching and photography and bacon-wrapped pork sausages. Perhaps not a good day for your heart.
As I have written earlier, I like the idea that San Francisco’s Pride Parade has become conventional, accepted, a part of Americana, normal. I like the fact that it has become a celebration for all Americans, including a NOTA like me. Pride Day is slowly but surely becoming a day for all Americans, celebrated by all Americans. Not yet, of course, not now, of course, but it will happen. I would err, however, if I neglected to mention that some people disagree. And you would be surprised who those people are. The day after the parade, I walked down Market Street to another meeting of another one of my theater groups when I espied these signs:
This is San Francisco: walk 10 feet in any direction and you will find someone who will disagree with you on anything.
Vonn Scott Bair