July 2, 2015 | Maurice I. Dowell
Greetings reader of this blog. I hope this note finds you well and that my colleagues and I are painting as vivid a picture of San Francisco as it deserves. As aphoristic as it may be to think so, this summer I am repeatedly reminded of the smallness of my place in the world – the vast amount of it I have yet to see and the insignificance I sometimes feel in relation to the overwhelming amount of life simultaneously happening around me. It’s inexplicably unsettling to realize that I’m not a part of all these lives that I stand next to on the bus or nudge around on Market Street as the 42nd SF Pride Parade rolls towards City Hall. I’m only my body. I’m only this experience. This one set of eyes and opinions and perceptions. SF can feel ginormous because there is so much to see and judge and only begin to take in here. This place is an enigma of shiny tie-dye and residual 1967 Summer of Love vibrations. I find that my favorite cities (SF has quickly joined the list) are those detached islands of cosmopolitan color. Like New York. Like Hong Kong. The places in which the proximity to waterways settle a land that inevitably becomes a melange of mixing peoples. And because somewhat removed from convention, these places exist as a haven of sorts; a destination that the (seemingly) lost seek out and run to in search of community, in search of themselves.
If what you seek is stimulation (in all senses of the term) San Fran abounds. Over and over again. There is a freedom here that is both alarming and inspiring. The drugs, man, are plentiful and way too easily accessible. And people buy them. The people you might picture buying, but also the unsuspecting. It’s sometimes hard to tell the dealer from the user. But I believe this awareness falls in line with my thinking at work. It’s hard to tell the homeless from the home(-with). Group sentiment will echo that we always thought we knew what homeless people looked like, what strung-out junkies looked like. And trust there are examples of you’re thinking, but I find more and more that I truly know nothing about anyone, which is why I find it so frustrating to metaphysically consider my existence and my own story. What qualifies my life experience as better (or worse) than the experience of anyone I meet at at work, or see sleeping in Golden Gate Park? I only conclude (though unsatisfied with its simplicity) that only circumstance is what separates us.
Freedom. Wow, that tangent. This weekend was Pride! My first. And it was awesome. With the decision from SCOTUS ruling in favor of national marriage equality only a day before festivities began, the city pulsed with anticipation. We began early on Saturday morning by bussing to Dolores Park to check out the fever. I’ve visited that park pretty often since we’ve been here and there are always a good amount of people getting into too many things. But on Saturday you could not walk. It was a beautiful, gay mess. We hung out for a bit, enjoying the energy and the music pumping from the barge on the blocked-off street, before heading to Civic Center to volunteer at Larkin’s Queer Youth Space they annually set up for the duration of the weekend. There were carnival games and cotton candy and prizes and families and little boys in rainbow tutus. The Queer Youth Space is the only space provided for youth and their families during the festival, which I think is pretty admirable seeing as how the weekend can feel pretty rated-R otherwise. After work we headed to Castro for the Pink Party! It’s crazy actually, the way the celebration inadvertently pops up all over the city. I left one space expecting the next to be less populated and less excited. Only to find more crowds! More live music. More nudity. More festivity in the spirit of love – all while considering the history of a special pink triangle or Rosa Winkel in German. The triangle badge was worn by Nazi concentration camp prisoners who had been identified and sent to the camps based solely on the premise of their homosexuality. Heavy.
Sunday brought the parade and lots more people! We stood along the route pretty close to work before heading to Golden Gate Park to hear the only American Idol that truly matters, Kelly Clarkson, belt her heart out for us. I think we all appreciated spending and experiencing all of the craziness together. It can be overwhelming. For me, at least, there was a constant state of awe and constant spurts of over-emotion as I looked around to see so many people who just wanted to sure, party hard, but also support a population of people who history books will refer to as marginalized. It’s powerful and would be amiss to stand amongst all that energy and not feel like you’re standing with history. And all at once you consider: though yes, you are a small, useless speck of sand on the cosmic beach of San Francisco, everywhere you turn there are specks just as strange as you. Sifting around on this bizarre little peninsula nestled into the hills of the bay. And so you realize it’s okay not to be everywhere experiencing everything. Yours is important enough and the ripples you create while you’re here you may not ever see. But you definitely made them.