notmypresident: (Gay Heart)
Gay Pride always makes me nostalgic. Unable to sleep last night, I spent much of the wee hours of the early morning thinking back on my first trip to San Francisco. I've probably talked about this before, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

I came out to my best friend at the University of Iowa in early 1977 when I was still a freshman. Brad was someone I greatly admired for any number of reasons. Like me, he was a theater major. Like me, he loved to make people laugh. And like me, he loved Joni Mitchell. Also, he was the first flamboyantly Gay man that I had ever known, let alone struck up a friendship with. Brad was that kind of Gay Fairy who could make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. He was a graduate student and lived in a rat trap apartment off campus. But Brad's undeniable Gayness had turned his place into a colorful gypsy tent, complete with old and battered furniture and swatches of vibrant fabric everywhere. In a way, I was more worried about coming out to him because it might put our friendship at risk. I needn't have worried.

I also met Rick not long after, a senior who was planning to move to San Francisco when he graduated. He told me that I should come visit, and I did something daring (for me, anyway) when I called him one day to let him know when I'd be arriving. I planned to stay there just short of a week right before heading back to Iowa to begin my second year.

I remember the trip with almost eidetic clarity. This was San Francisco in 1977, a city that was truly a Gay Mecca. It's almost impossible for anyone today to conjure up what the city was like then. Gay men were everywhere. We weren't just a small percentage of the population; we were a thriving community. You would step onto a bus, and it would be packed with Gay men. You would go to a movie, and the theater would be packed with Gay men. I remember Rick taking me to Castro Street on a Thursday night — a Thursday night! — and the wide sidewalks of the neighborhood were so completely filled with men that you had to walk in the street to get anywhere. There was such a feeling of joy everywhere. Men constantly smiled at Rick and I in all the places he took me to, smiles that were a recognition of community.

Rick lived in a fabulous top-floor apartment with three other Gay men. They had a party the Friday that I was there, and I was knocked over by how kind hearted everyone was. That was also my first exposure to Blondie. Someone put their first (and at the time only) album on the stereo, and I remember liking it so much that I hung out nearby just to listen to it. After the party ended, Rick and I wound up walking around his neighborhood of The Haight. I remember having a late night snack at a cafe housed in the former branch of a major bank. The original heavy wood furniture of the bank was still there, as were the teller windows. You ordered your meal at one of them, got your drinks at another, and paid at the final one. So cool.

That trip was also my sexual awakening. I had come out as Gay before actually having sex, and I would always laugh at people who would ask me how I could be sure I was Gay if I'd never had sex. I actually did have sex before heading to San Francisco, but it was an awful experience. It wasn't until that trip in 1977 that I experienced uninhibited sex — sex, glorious sex! Rick took me to my first bathhouse, but knew of my lack of experience. He told me not to be upset if nothing happened for me. And I thanked him for those words of support the next morning... when I got back to his apartment hours after he did!

So I guess it's easy to see how I fell in love with this city. Things have changed mightily since than, of course. Almost the entire generation of men who made me feel so welcomed then were lost to AIDS, and the city will always bear that scar. I can only hope that future generations get a chance to experience just a taste of what San Francisco was like in 1977. I usually say that my life has been one of always arriving someplace after a party is over, but that year I was incredibly lucky and got there just in time.

Now for Another Hot Guy.

Date/Time: 2017-06-08 05:17 (UTC)Posted by: [personal profile] furr_a_bruin
furr_a_bruin: (Grunge)
I came in at the tail end of so much in SF; only managed to visit the Ambush once before it closed (and on a "gay high holy days" weekend, not seeing what it was like normally) and got just a taste of the after-hours alley cruising scene before SoMa gentrified all that tasty sleaze away.