I started to worry that my neighbor, her of multiple cocktails and a mouth that would blend comfortably in most seagoing ports where you’d find a Tourette’s Café in full swing, was going into rehab a day before the hundredth running of the Bay to Breakers footrace. This was a bad sign.
For the first time in a half a decade, we decided not to invite people over to our apartment that is located strategically across the street from the Panhandle that magically turns into a human septic tank on the urine-soaked Sunday of the race. Without our neighbor, The Broad, our four-litre Bloody Mary container may remain in half mast with the loss of our long-established boozer buddy.
For weeks leading up to the event, the apparent lack of advertising had many of us locals wondering if the race was going to indeed happen. Luckily on Saturday when the barricades and riot control barriers were dropped-shipped to corners of the race did many of us start to breathe again.
Even though this was the hundredth running of one San Francisco’s most hallowed traditions, the cops and the City made it clear, this year would be different. No booze and no tolerance for shenanigans.
After ninety-nine years of research, it was determined that the majestic and creative floats that made the papers back East showing the depravity and the San Francisco recklessness that is impossible to capture except on the bed of home-made trailer being pulled by twelve men in Lady Gaga costumes, was actually a front for liquor. It was found that many of these delicious moving pageants were vehicles for carrying 16-gallon kegs. Much like an Egyptian barge with slaves pulling a regal queen, these faux floats were actually S&M slaves from the Mission pulling a Bear Queen from Hayes Valley with surprise! A spigot from a hidden keg protruding somewhere from between her legs. That had to stop.
So they decided to crack down on the Bay to Breakers Race. No booze, no nudity, no floats. Possibly no fun.
Shifting the starting time from brunch to 7 AM, The race officials had hoped to starve off the partiers who like to build a little heat before running the seven miles and some change race.
It initially seemed like it worked. At eight AM, when I first step outside into the overcast morning, the runners on Fell were sparse and few. The Race Gods had set up barricades on Fell so unlike the previous hundred years, there was a separation between the runners and the on-lookers who were perched in their lawn chairs along the fences cheering the runners on.
It had rained all night and without advertising hitting us over the head for weeks like they do with a Hollywood movie or a Facebook page to join, I thought that many of the traditional party-goers were going to stay indoors on this slightly, breezy cold morning.
The scary part was no one was pissing in the Panhandle. The sign of over-crowding, and that a potential mob-riot is forming is when the frat boys start to whiz followed soon by their stooping sorority sisters. When the Big Tree with the hollow doesn’t get any action and the ten Port-A-Potties do, something is wrong in the Park.
People are behaving correctly. What’s wrong with this picture?
And it was that way for most of the morning. There were three stages of real runners who departed from the starting line in staggered starts happening every forty-five minutes until they unleashed the hordes of stumblers, happy out of shaped people, the costumed and what for many is their indoctrination into San Francisco.
What the race officials and City Pa’s and Ma’s don’t understand is, the Bay to Breakers race, like Halloween is the initiation into what most people who live in San Francisco desire, to become a local.
Walking down Market Street, there are people who still gape at a naked man wearing nothing but a parka on hot winter’s day or at the Tranny with a grill of gold selling ice cream cones that come in two shapes: either the Pope’s hat or an uncircumcised dick. Or small and large.
For those of us who are locals, our heads barely move or even worse, we hardly notice what has all the tourists keeping a strong straight face.
That’s what this event is about, joining the San Francisco race. Finding stuff in your closet that doesn’t match and joining another hundred thousand people just like you, only different. If you’ve just moved to the City, this is how you become a part of what is happening, on your own terms and at your own pace.
All you have to do is be adult about it.
And there’s the fly in the oatmeal. Not all of us want to be adult all the time. We have almost three hundred and sixty-four days for that. For one day, some people want to get naked and drunk.
That’s not me. You can thank me now for that, or wait for the pictures from the Eighties, and thank me later. I don’t like to get drunk and run. I don’t even like to get naked and run. When I’m drinking, running hardly ever comes to mind.
But that shouldn’t stop those who want to.
Thankfully, it didn’t.
By noon, the Panhandle was a party. A party with Forest Rangers, Park Police, city cops, highway patrol, and Homeland Security, I think (Black SUV’s) securing the area and constantly hovering around on bicycles, motorcycles, ATV’s, horses and on foot. There were lines at the plastic pee shacks and the costumes like the alcohol was flowing.
I heard later someone had fallen off of the party houses on Fell. This is tragic and sad. But what I saw for the most part was San Francisco out in full regalia and loss of inhibitions. Isn’t that the definition of who we are?
When 4/20 happened at Hippie Hill, the media had to dig for intel describing any violence associated with the Pot Party. There was bogus complaint of two women in their fifties, who were beating each other over the heads with a boom-box. This was filed by the right-wing Examiner and because facts only get in their way, the let the false story lie.
In years past, there were fights out front and a lot of chest-beating by white boys, naked from the brain down. This year I didn’t see any of that.
As the day went on, the sun came out, drying out the wet spots and warming us like toast. More and more revelers came out too.
Thank God the young girls in their twenties didn’t forsake us and kept the nudity and scantily-dressed costumes at a maximum.
There were beer bottles tossed and garbage thrown. It didn’t have the energy of a Daytona 500 where you felt like crazy violence could break out any moment if you said the wrong thing like ‘Dale E. is a pussy.”
It felt very control and yet it wasn’t.
Obviously the City did its job. The hundredth running of the Bay to Breakers had a neutered feel to it. It really felt like someone came and took the writer, Balzac and all his marbles, and went home.
At first in the early morning hours there was something missing. It felt like the chances of seeing someone hold their friend’s hair back while they puked was just going to be a dieter’s dream. But the spirit of the City can never be held down, at least not without a safe word discussed beforehand.
As the day went on, more and more of the San Francisco people who I know and love, didn’t let me down. There were cocktails and strange behavior. All the things I’ve known to love and respect about the City.
I understand we can’t knowingly let people get fucked up and hurt themselves, but couldn’t we have like a Ron Paul Race? A race where if something happens, we have to be responsible for our own behavior and promise not to sue.
We are so close to tolerating most outlandish conduct from the Hipsters and the like. Couldn’t we for one day let the drunks have their way?
I’m just saying as long as they don’t sue and stay naked.