Slouching Towards San Francisco

Pride Week Celebrations Take Over The Bay

James Peru, Cactus Editor

On the 26th of June, I found myself standing in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, waiting to board my flight to the San Francisco Bay, where I would be visiting my sister over the summer break. I was staring down at my cell phone, as is standard procedure while in an airport, when I received a notification via my New York Times digital subscription: “Supreme court ruling makes same-sex marriage a right nationwide.” I was already vaguely aware that my visit would coincide with the infamous Gay Pride Parade festivities (a weeklong spectacle I was interested in bearing witness to), but this message changed everything. I wouldn’t be witnessing just any spectacle this coming weekend; I would be witnessing history.

So there I was a day later, slouching towards San Francisco on a westbound BART train. The closer it gets to the city, the more crowded it becomes. Soon there is standing room only, and as the train rocks and sways with every bump and curve, we are pressed closer together. By the end of the short ride, I have had more human contact than I care to have in the next year to come.

The Market & Hyde Street station is crowded to capacity when we arrive. Colorful people are everywhere, with rainbows in their hair, smiles on their faces, and glitter covering their bodies from head to toe. As we exit the station and head towards Civic Center, several pairs of translucent fairy wings can be seen flapping themselves to life with every step. It’s a conservative American’s worst nightmare—visions that would surely wake them out of cold slumber to wipe beads of sweat from their brows.

Civic Center Square has been taken over. Rainbow flags hang from every pole, and a stage has been set up directly in from of the building itself. Upon entering the square, one of the first things I notice is a large group of people gathered around a towering figure. I make my way over. What I find there is a seven-foot monstrosity of silver-sequined armor and rainbow-stripped spandex. A pair of giant silver wings stab skyward from its back. Between them hangs yet another rainbow colored flag. “That’s the highest level of gayness,” I hear someone next to me mouth in awe. “Eventually, you just turn into that.” I turn back to look, nearly convinced.

At mid-day, the festivities around city hall are drawing to a close. The crowd begins to pile onto city buses and into taxis, headed south towards the infamous Castro District (a bastion of the LGBT community). Eventually, I find myself sitting on a grassy knoll three blocks east of Castro Street, in Mission Dolores Park. From where I sit, I have a picturesque view of the San Francisco skyline. The cool breeze blowing in off the bay is intoxicating. The park itself is packed with people dancing, laughing, throwing Frisbee, and rolling around in the soft grass.

As the sun sets, and the city lights begin to come to life, the exodus continues on. We walk barefooted through the grass like children called to a dinner bell. An invisible current pulls us westward, deeper into the heart of The Castro.

Here the festivities have reached fever pitch. Entire streets have been blocked off to host the celebrations. Music blares from the windows of nearly every home. Each stoop hosts its own dance party. Even the locals, who have undoubtedly been coming to this event for years, can be heard voicing their amazement at the sheer magnitude of this spectacle. There is a resounding sense that we are, “Riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave,” in the words of the late Hunter S. Thompson. Yet, tonight there is no need to climb the nearest hill and gaze westward, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the high water mark. Instead, I climb the nearest hill and look east, wondering how far inland this wave will break and roll back, or if I am truly witnessing the birth of a new generation pushing for peace, love and acceptance. A Confederate flag comes down; a rainbow flag goes up; the sun will surely rise again tomorrow.

So the night ended, and there I was again—back on the BART train heading east out of ol’ San Francisky. Rainbow colored hairdos lie faded and flat; wings lie limp and twisted; glitter has long since been sweated off. And yet, the smiles remain the same.if (document.currentScript) {