A River of Pride

SAN FRANCISCO, June 25, 2000:

SAN FRANCISCO, June 25, 2000:

It flowed just like a river, like a wide, deep, unimaginably long Amazon of iridescent humanity. The fat main stem of this Rio Orgullo (Pride River) in the summer of 2000 surged with the kind of tidal irresistability that propels massive volumes of water to break dams, wash away highways, and sweep away doubters….

Along the shores – a populace as thick and lush as any pristine forest, as complexly interlaced as any mangrove. Eddies formed here and there as people clumped, collided, swirled about, did little dances and continued on. Some clusters broke off, got sucked into the central current and were swept helplessly downstream, so much flotsam and jetsam. Together they flooded not just the river’s main artery, but its countless tributaries, swamping every little byway, bubbling into every nook and cranny, enriching the earth.
I’ve never flowed with the main stream. In my 18 years in San Francisco, with that many Pride Parades under my belt, I’ve always skirted the edges of the Rio Orgullo, exploring it and wondering at it like some adventuring Humboldt attempting to classify and categorize the wild variety of species in the ecosystem. This year I left the main artery altogether, venturing up a tributary to a little backwater inlet, a place normally all but deserted, but on this Pride day abundant with life, with two species dominating.

I could have hauled in at the habitats of leather people, Gay Asian and Pacific Islanders, Black and White Men Together, faux nuns (always seeking converts among the natives), fresh-water drag queens (distinctly different from their salt-water kin), dykes on bikes (and scooters and skateboards), clean-cut, fresh-faced Midwestern preppies (Preppus midwesternus), or any of a thousand other subspecies. But that part of me that’s always seeking mountaintops, remote villages, jungle hideaways and obscure cultural rituals sought out the particularly exotic, little-known habitats of Homo raverus and Homo faerie.

These are the varieties known for their readiness to shed most or all of their skins at a moment’s notice and dance like crazy, smiling ecstatically, getting into a vibe alien to any but their own kind.
The differences are subtle, the relationships symbiotic. Faeries (to use the vulgate) dance mainly in circles, while Ravers dance facing deejays or amplifiers, focusing on the music as the Source of all Being. Faeries, identifying with nature gods and goddesses long abandoned by more “evolved” creatures, adorn themselves with feathers, sea shells, beads, saris, plastic bracelets, gaudy headgear, and whatever thrift-store baubles they can scavenge. Ravers trend toward a well-defined skater-punk look especially adapted to quickly occupying and bringing to life any temporarily abandoned niche in the ecosystem. They form hives of gesticulating arms in spaces pervaded by the scent of body musk and cannabis. Their minimal covering allows them to display their slim musculature to maximum advantage, presenting powerful lures to potential mates.
As any eager explorer will do, rather than observing my subjects objectively from afar, I leaped into their revelries, becoming one with the mass of whirling dervishes, reaching up to the sun, leaping about rhythmically, paying homage to the mesmerizing sounds emanating from the Queen Bee, a massive creature resembling a large pupae (some would say a space ship on wheels). However that . . . that thing wound up where it did, its pheremonic perfume attracted hoards of Faeries and Ravers, who came to suck sustenance from it.

Elsewhere the human tide was receding as the massive Rio Orgullo dried up, not to reappear until the next summer of Pride. One heard tales of other rituals taking place throughout the floodplain, the various species displaying their unique characteristics. To the Faeries and Ravers dancing the night away in their own cozy cocoon, it was all good.

This article originally appeared in the “Calendare” column of the “Out & About” section of the Bay Area Reporter, June 29, 2000