One of the first things I noticed about San Franciscans is that they simply refuse to live in a city that does not fully embrace themed public drinking en masse. We’re not talking just your typical St. Patrick’s Days, Halloweens and Prides. Beyond that, every neighborhood has its street fairs, North Beach was even converted into a real-life replica of the Candyland board game. In the fall SF hosts Love Fest and Oktoberfest by the Bay. There’s one day with drunken Santas marching down Market, the next month, drunken brides. And even a Hot Jesus Contest at Dolores Park every Easter afternoon.
The biggest of these fests is Bay to Breakers. What started out as an actual race has become a citywide, drunken attack on fashion sense – a celebration on the outskirts of the race right through to the Panhandle. The idea is to get a team of avid party people and dress like the cast of Jersey Shore or Mario Kart characters, as to be easily identified among the crowd. Cops are stationed at certain parts of the race on more of a lookout for public urination than public consumption. Nudity is legal in the city, so there’s not much more you can do to warrant being arrested under the influence.
From tipsy gals in tight uniforms to old men in drag, one of the most engaging part of of Bay to Breakers is coming up with the costume. A good costume must be creative, topical and gutsy. Unfortunately, not all of us have the imagination to think of something outlandishly original or have the resources to execute the vision. In comes the Bay to Breakers defacto garb: retro work-out gear (think 80’s Olivia Newton-John). A take on the race itself and the contrast between good health (running) and bad behavior (drinking).
So am I going to partake this year? Unfortunately, I’ve taken a hiatus from contributing to Rolling Stone so I can wrap up my novel and an entire Sunday is too great day of a writing day to waste.
But also, because I’ve done it all before. In the middle of February. Minus the masses. In Chicago. A couple of college buddies and I decided to celebrate the first day of above-freezing temperatures by prancing around Boystown in booty shorts, knee-high socks and headbands. What started as a “what if” suggestion rapidly snowballed into a “hell yes!” We did make quite the scene at the American Apparel dressing rooms as we fought over our signature color.
Right as we got on the L platform on that frigid February night, two girls began hollering at us from across the tracks, asking us why we were dressed like that. They were mocking us, but we had power in numbers… all five of us. So we asked them why they dressed their way — leggings and all.
Then came the men whistling, the cars hornking down Halsted and either the icy looks or the warm smiles that greeted us as we walked into bar after bar. Some cheered our tenacity, others scorned us as attention-whores, but everyone had an opinion on our own public, weather-defying, can’t-be-missed march.
A local publication had sent a photographer out that night to take shots for a story on gay nightlife in Chicago, instead he stumbled on the brats of Boystown drinking at Roscoe’s. Shortly after, we ran across the street to Cocktail. Sidetrack and Minibar rounded out our tour.
Overall, we got fondled, photographed, honked at, touched, criticized, admired, shoved, cat-called. We were both celebrities and sinners, rebels yet brainwashed. Just goes to show you don’t actually have to live in San Francisco or wait around until May to bring out your jester for the day and drink yourself silly with your friends. But then again, there’s power in numbers.
BOY TOYS TALK BACK: Have you and your friends gone out dressed in costume? Do you think it’s childish? Does San Francisco need to grow up?