Thursday, June 16, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day one, part two

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! the next series of posts will be my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is part two of the first day in the city.

once i was settled in my b&b, i decided to take a walk down into the castro and look around before getting something to eat. i loved the idea that i had nowhere i had to be, nothing i had to do, and nobody i had to meet. i rarely get to indulge that type of freedom. the castro is still the castro, and i confess that i did my best to not look like a tourist. i believe i succeeded on some levels. i mean, i am told that i look like a san franciscan, especially with the beard. but i tend to "fit" into wherever i go--i make that effort. i notice what is going on and i adopt some of it into my manner. the reason for this is so that i can more easily become the observer and not the observed.

i ended up going into "harvey's", a popular bar and restaurant on 18th and castro. it is named after harvey milk. i almost left though, because the bartender seemed to be so busy (i sat at the bar) that i was starting to feel nervous myself. you know how it is so hard to relax in a restaurant if it appears that your server is about to drop dead? well, i stayed, and he provided good service, and i had a very good chicken sandwich. the place was really really crowded, and i found out from the woman next to me at the bar that is was "comedy night", and she knew this because she was going to be doing some comedy herself. naturally, we talked about my history with doing stand-up, and then she commented that she was surprised that i ate the huge sandwich they brought me. believe me, i was just as surprised. i did not stay for the comedy night though--it was late and crowded and i wanted to continue to walk around.

i ended up at a bar, 440, and i ordered a beer and sat at the bar to drink it. it was crowded as well (what is it about tuesday nights in the castro?) i wasn't really in the mood to "meet" anyone, but i enjoyed being out in a fun place. the dj was playing a big variety of music, and at one point he shocked everyone by playing leo sayer's "you make me feel like dancing". not what you usually hear in a gay bar in the castro! i could hear some comments around me from guys old enough to remember the song when i was a hit in the 70's. ended up speaking to one guy when he came up to the bar to get a beer. he told me that the dj was his friend. my "look" didn't fool him, he guessed that i was an out-of-towner, but primarily because he didn't recognize me. he was nice, and i was again surprised at finding myself talking to someone. while i didn't feel like jumping into the middle of things, i enjoyed this conversation. his name was marc.


as i lay in my bed later that night, strangely unable to get to sleep, i began to think about being here, in san francisco, and being out of los angeles, more specifically. i started thinking about my conversations with erica, and with justin, and with the female comic (did not get her name), and with marc. i began thinking about how, in all of these conversations, i was different than i am in los angeles, but also still very much the same. i can't expect my guardedness to disappear and melt away in one evening, but i think i did warm up a bit. i wondered if that was the limit--if i would ever not feel "odd" engaging in a conversation with a friendly stranger, and i wondered if i would move up here and find out that, in the worst sense, "wherever i go, there i am". i thought a lot about it, in these wee hours of the morning, and i finally drifted off to sleep around 3:30 am, having not reached any conclusion.


  1. Hey Tony, from here you even 'sound' different.I really do admire you for the courage and determination you are showing to make this move work for you.
    LA sure had a 'grip' on you are even breathing better.

  2. Tony,

    Only once did I visit San Francisco, and that was on a long weekend in 1979 (I believe). I was by myself. I rarely can talk anyone into traveling with me. I enjoyed my visit and SF is certainly a beautiful city. However, I couldn't envision myself living there because I would be a small fish in a very big pool. I know that sounds self-centered but that's the way I was back in my heyday in 1979. So I left with warm memories but with no intention to ever return. It was nice seeing your pictures and reading your narrative. It brought back fond memories.