June 27-28 was Pride in San Francisco, and though this is my second year in the area, this is the first year in which I was actually able to take place in the Pride celebration. It was an exciting time, given the recent activities around Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, and I think it was a good year to have as my first; the energy was high and attendance was even greater than last year's, which was estimated at over 1.2 million (see the chart at the bottom of the page).
On Saturday, I attended the Dyke March in San Francisco's Dolores Park. It was quite a party, and I got to picnic with friends from the Pacific Center while the crowd danced and listened to speakers. I refrained from marching, out of deference to the request that only women take part in the march (I did notice a number of men among the marchers, but I still preferred to sit this one out as an observer). I followed the marchers towards the Castro to see if I could get into Pink Saturday, but when I got to the area it was cordoned off to collect donations and check for booze being smuggled in, and I was still carrying all my gear from the picnic, so I didn't want to go through the hassle of having my belongings searched. Still, I watched from beyond the cordon for a while, admiring the giant disco ball hanging over the streets. Eventually I hauled my gear back to the BART and went home.
The next day I got up and joined the crowd headed into the city for the Pride March proper. It was a gigantic parade, lasting more than two and a half hours, on a gorgeous day with full sunshine (an unusual feature for generally-foggy San Francisco). I stood on the sidelines and cheered the marchers, including semi-celebrities like Dan Choi and Cloris Leachman. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was walking next to the crowd rather than in the middle of the street like the rest of the marchers, and he passed about two feet in front of me; if I'd been one person farther in to the street, I could've shaken his hand.
Once the parade ended, I headed up towards City Hall to check out the festivities. The crowd was intense, elbow to elbow for blocks and blocks. I stopped by a deli to grab a sandwich, then hit the streets to see what was happening. Honestly, it was hard to see much of anything, with so many people, but there were several areas sectioned off for dancing, and a huge main stage with live performers. I was a bit lost as to what to do with myself, but eventually I found an area with dance music being blasted from gigantic speakers, so I jumped into the crowd and started dancing. I only intended to dance for an hour, but I ended up going until the music stopped, at about 7 PM. By that point I was utterly exhausted and totally dehydrated, and though I knew the festivities would be going on late into the night, I dragged myself home and sat in the shower for a while, just trying to ease some of the tension out of my spent muscles.
All in all, I only sampled a tiny fraction of what the Pride events had to offer, but I feel like I had a good, immersive experience, especially dancing in the crowd. It was wonderful to feel so free and uninhibited in a group of strangers like that, simply dancing and letting go without worrying about what anyone thought. I'd need to be in better shape before I made something like that a regular event, though.
Shortly after that, I got onto a plane and flew back to southern Illinois, to visit my friends and family. I hadn't been back to my home state since last Christmas, so it was an exciting homecoming, and I enjoyed every minute of it. While I (typically) forgot to bring my camera along to Pride, I managed to remember it on the Illinois trip, and even remembered to actually use it. A full album of photos can be found on my Facebook site, here, but I'll post a few here just to show off some highlights.
One of the most exciting things about this visit was getting to meet the cast members of the play Ismene, being produced by the Three Graces company. Not only is this the first play ever enacted by this company, but I'm proud to say I wrote the play. As such, it was incredible to meet the people who will be playing these roles, and to listen to them reading through the script with genuine feeling and intensity. Makes me feel like a real writer. Hopefully there will be videos to post once the play is actually performed, and I'll be happy to share them here.
I forced my brother to perform for my amusement, and captured his antics digitally, so that you might enjoy them; above we see him walking a slack line, riding a six-foot-tall unicycle, and juggling flaming torches. Next time I visit I'm going to make him stick his head in a lion's mouth. That's entertainment!
My brother not only does the organ-grinder-monkey thing, dancing about in a ridiculous outfit to stave off the brutal punishments I might arbitrarily hand out, he also keeps me entertained by crafting a wide array of beautiful objects. Perhaps I should unchain him from that workbench for a few hours. Anyway, a couple examples of his handiwork are shown above; his final project from his Blacksmithing class, a jagged monument of hammered steel that epitomizes the potential inherent in thousand-degree heat and the power of my brother's arms; and several experiments in glassblowing and goblet-shaping, a delicate art which also involves searing heat but applied with more gentleness and dexterity. In all seriousness, the dude displays a rare talent which bodes a bright future for him. Can't wait to see what he does next.
My father's birthday wasn't until after I left, but we agreed to celebrate a bit early so I could join in. We bought him a metal firepit to use in the backyard, something he'd been craving for some time, and he seemed pleased by it. My littlest sister also baked him a giant birthday chocolate chip cookie, which was several degrees of magnitude more delicious than any cake could ever have been, so we ate with gusto and had no (well, few) regrets afterwards. Above we see my family gathered around the new gift, caught in the midst of our merriment.
I did plenty of other stuff while I was in Illinois, connecting with old friends and enjoying the familiar sights of home (and the incredible humidity, a feature I had actually forgotten in my seven months on the coast), and I was sad to leave at the end of the week. But sad as I was, I'm excited to get back to my life and see what happens next. I'm getting ready to graduate in October, I'm about to end my time at the Pacific Center (which has been a wonderful place to get started as a therapist, and I'll miss it terribly), I'm moving into a new apartment, I'm looking for a job in the mental health industry, and I've never tried to make a new, real life so far away from everything I know. It's a crazy time, but I'm proud to say I'm doing all right on my own, and I know things are only going to get weirder from here.
Take care, gentle readers, and enjoy this summer. Who knows when we will meet again? Drink, and be merry.