In September of 2008, I finally threw in the towel and spent countless hours at work researching to the penny the cheapest airfares. I filled out online applications from the San Francisco County Clerk’s office and gave them my credit card number. This was after I e-mailed Other Bill and asked him if he wanted to go to
Other Bill had never been to
We have now done most of the must-sees in
We took a bus to the bridge and decided to walk across. Amazingly enough, there is no pedestrian toll. At the entrance to the bridge there is a telephone that is directly wired to a suicide hotline. A sign above the phone-in-a-box reads:
THERE IS HOPE
MAKE THE CALL
THE CONSEQUENCES OF
JUMPING FROM THIS
BRIDGE ARE FATAL
Like, duh. How many suicidal people get to that phone and think, “Fatal and tragic? I never considered that. Maybe I will just make that call.”
Now the city is considering building some sort of aesthetically pleasing safety net that will catch anyone who jumps. So instead of being dead, they’ll just have ugly, scarring rope burns. Or maybe it’ll be some kind of chain-link catcher, and when you land on it, your body will be ripped into hexagonal pieces that will squirt through the fence as if you were being squashed through a Play-Doh Fun Factory. It will make nice chum for the smaller fish.
So we were walking across the bridge, and there’s this tiny little emergency golf cart thing that someone drives across and picks up someone who can’t complete the walk (or jump). We got to see that in action. I’m not sure if the rescuee was a jumper, or someone like me, who when we got almost to the other side, had the luck of having his back give out. To add to this, it was September when we were there, considered
Travel tip: When you’re on the
After that, Other Bill decided it would be fun to rent bikes down at Fisherman’s Wharf and ride them across the bridge. That way we would always be sitting down. I agreed to riding up to the bridge, but I wasn’t about to compete for sidewalk space on the bridge while operating a two-wheeled vehicle. Other Bill suggested training wheels, so I hit him. People who ride bikes in
On the second trip, we took the ferry to
Travel tip: Never listen to the opinions of straight people when planning your trip. They’re always wrong.
So we got to
One deterrent to the unseasoned big city traveler is that
The less talented but still sharp homeless hang out downtown in the theatre district. I saw one homeless woman walking next to a man for two blocks, trying to convince the guy to give her a buck. “C’mon,” she told him, “if you give me a dollar I promise to leave you alone.” We had to make a turn, so I never saw how it played out. As we approached the
I immediately fantasized about standing over him, screaming, “Why don’t you stand up, go get a shower and a haircut, find a way into rehab, and become a functioning member of society, you filthy leech!” But of course, because I am gay, I have learned to be tolerant of other lifestyles, so I didn’t do it. And I saved fifty cents, which bought me one-half of a Milk Dud at the theatre.
Travel tip: Always carry a pocket knife when you travel so you can split a Milk Dud at the concession stand. Make sure you pack it in your checked bag, though, unless you would rather give it as a gift to a TSA employee.
Getting around in
If you don’t know anyone nice enough to pick you up at the airport, you can either spend about 45 bucks to be cabbed into the city, or, for a little over five bucks, you can take BART, which is a rail system, but you have to take another rail system to get to it. To get to our hotel we had to take a rail system to a rail system to a rail system, all three of which are independent of each other. Frankly, it’s very easy, but entrepreneurs make money taking pictures of the terrified and confused tourists walking around in circles at the airport. Your picture will be made available at the airport before boarding your plane back home. For a nominal fee.
Once you get downtown with your MUNI Passport, feel free to get on any bus, any cable car, any street car, or any MUNI Metro car, but you will first have to pass a test, telling the operator the difference between all four of these. Most people don’t know the difference between a cable car and a streetcar, and if you don’t, they make you walk to the Cable Car Museum to learn. The correct answer is they’re all the same, except the cable cars cost more of you don’t have a MUNI Passport.
Travel tip: I just saved you a long walk to the Cable Car Museum. Or maybe not. You’ll find out.
On the first trip, we selected a room on a fifth floor bed-and-breakfast walk-up. Nothing says “welcome home” to a weary tourist (on the verge of cardiac arrest from climbing steep streets all day) like five flights of stairs. In addition, we got to share toilets and showers with other guests on our floor, all of whom we saw naked or grunting, because they had not yet learned how to use a latch. We soon grew weary at surprising naked people who threatened to sue us, so we bathed and urinated in the in-room sink. Usually not at the same time.
Travel tip: Make sure you add colostomy bags and moist towelettes on your pre-travel list if you are to stay in a bed and breakfast.
But no residents in
The gay tourist should always take the pilgrimage to the Castro, but beware that it is not the Castro of the historic 70’s, when champagne and semen flowed freely through the streets. The Castro is entirely different than it was in the days of Harvey Milk. For one thing, I saw a woman there. Also, the Castro men no longer wear Levi’s and tight t-shirts and leather jackets, nor do they sport thick mustaches. Unfortunately, I do. I was asked if I had just stepped out of a time machine. It was mortifying. So if you’re going to make the trip to the Castro and want to fit in, make sure you are thin, hairless and in your twenties. Otherwise, people will look at you just as they did at me when we were in the Haight, trying to find out if there were any openings in communes. The Castro still has the occasional sex toy shop, but places like Headlines, All American Boy, Mr. S. Leather, and all the cheesy peep shows are gone or have moved in search of cheaper rents. Hopefully they will end up in neighboring storefronts (read: the ground floor cells) at Alcatraz Luxury Condominiums. What is taking that credit check so long?