Indian Summer is San Francisco’s High Holidays
This originally appeared in SF Sounds.
Some brilliant bastard called this time of year “San Francisco’s High Holidays”. I wish I could remember who it was, but I did tell him I was gonna steal it, so at least I’m keeping my word.
These couple months between Burning Man and Halloween are the closest thing to magic many of us will ever know.
Starting with Burning Man, you’re either out howling at the universe through a bacchanalia of massive art projects, mind- bending drugs, and casual sex, or you’re celebrating that all those motherfuckers are out of town, by finally eating brunch at Zazie without waiting in line for two hours. The Burners drag their dust covered butts and psychedelically splattered brains back into The City and for a couple weeks, hugs last just a little longer than usual and people seem so much more earnest. It’s like the rapture of the playa manages to rub off on the rest of us for a little while… then again, that could just be dust.
While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is blowing sad kisses to their shorts and sundresses while mournfully closing the drawers their summer clothes live in, San Franciscans are taking off as much clothing as possible and running outside. The jury is still out on whether “Indian Summer” is racist or not, but for this brief period of time, San Franciscans are too busy frolicking to figure out if they should be offended. The jury itself is halfway to Baker Beach as we speak, excited for some nude sunbathing.
It was particularly hot at last year’s Folsom Street Fair. Clocking in somewhere around 90 degrees, oodles of dominatrices hung up their whips for the day complaining the sun was doing all the work for them. Somebody better call their union rep. The Furries had it pretty rough too, as litters of them dropped to the ground, passing out from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Onlookers weren’t sure if it was all part of some new role playing. Regardless, the day was splendid and reminded so many of us that part of what makes San Francisco special is seeing two men dressed as firefighters blowing each other in the street. To everyone who attends Folsom every year: god bless your perverted little hearts.
At some point in the midst of all the frolicking and buggering, Fleet Week arrives on the scene, haircut all high and tight, ready to make it rain in North Beach strip clubs like it was a goddamn hurricane. The streets of The Castro run wild with seamen and the Blue Angels screech through the sky scaring the bejesus out of every fury creature for a hundred miles. If animals were able to keep calendars, this would be the time of year they’d save up all their vacation days for. I imagine plenty of battle veterans aren’t too keen on it either.
That’s one of the many reasons I miss the Power to the Peaceful Festival. Anchored on the other end of our Frisco summer than Fleet Week, it was a free one- day festival that usually started with yoga with Michael Franti, which led to speeches by folks like Angela Davis, and then music by people like Ziggy Marley. It’s where teenagers from Walnut Creek first learned about the Prison Industrial Complex because of a pamphlet they were given and where the American Communist Party and the American Socialist Party weren’t allowed to have booths next to each other due to all their glaring.
Luckily, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is still around and is probably the most incredible free concert in the world. Three full days of world class music and large enough crowds to give even the most serene person a mild panic attack. It must be the only place ever where you can probably sell more Xanax than MDMA… .actually, that does sound like a rather lovely combination.
As if all this wasn’t enough to make you believe in magic, every other October, the San Francisco Giants go to the playoffs and win the World Series. With all the black and orange being worn it’s hard to tell if someone is a Giants fan, a Halloween enthusiast, or both. If it’s an even numbered year nearly all of San Francisco is drunk for the entirety of October. This means lots of babies born the following July and lots of bartenders knowing what it feels like to make fuck you money, even if it’s just for one month every two years.
These months really are San Francisco’s High Holidays and the frenetic energy that surrounds everything during this time orgasms with the costumed revelry that is Halloween. And then San Francisco rolls over, falling fast asleep, with dreams full of fog, and if we’re lucky, lots of rain too.