May 22, 2001

I had the best day yesterday. It started out with a wake-up shower listening to American Hi-Fi--specifically my new favorite song "Flavor of the Weak". Then, while getting dressed, I watched the opening cheer in "Bring It On"--possibly the greatest movie in the history of civilization. Then I rushed out the door and went to walk in Bay to Breakers.
I had never done Bay to Breakers before, but my parents have done it three times. As my mom said, after we finished, I never would have thought of doing the race a year ago. But I made up my mind several months ago, after having walked for a few months and started getting in shape, that I would do Bay to Breakers this year. It's a 7 1/2 mile race. It was something I'd always wanted to do but was never in good enough shape for. I was very excited.
My parents were late, as was I but they were later than I was, so I waited for them and took photos of the crowd. It was impressive.

There were some great costumes. The hamster in the wheel was my favorite, but there was also the invisible man, the rolling blackouts, the tiki hut bar and attendees (which I'm told is a staple), the crabs, the penis, the gourd guys...

Mom and Dad showed up and we put on our numbers (I didn't aim the camera well with mine) and we took off.

It was amazing being in the middle of this huge group of people. It reminded me of Halloween in the Castro only warmer and a little less crowded. I looked in front of me and behind me and there was nothing but a sea of people. And everyone was having a good time. There were a number of people with shopping carts with kegs in them. There was a group of people with martini glasses. There was even a group of guys with a grill, cooking sausages.

Speaking of sausages, there were plenty of naked people. As I said to my parents, why is it always the people you don't want to see naked who are quick to take their clothes off? A few examples, the faint at heart should avert their eyes:

However, there were some naked people who looked pretty good. And the naked people who were dancing and having a great time looked especially good in their joyousness.

The infamous Hayes Street Hill was all I had heard about since people started finding out that I was doing the race. It's murder, people told me. My parents said it was no big deal, but then they're used to climbing Mt. Tam. I was concerned, but not afraid. As it turns out, that was the most fun part of the walk. There were spectators everywhere, hanging out of every window of every house, playing loud music to keep us going, hosing us down, taking pictures. Everyone was laughing and having a good time showing off their costumes, looking at everyone else's costumes, drinking their beer, pushing themselves to go faster up the hill.

Again the views were fabulous, thousands before and behind, and when I topped the hill I saw the painted ladies with the city laid out behind it. It was like an initial prize, given at that early mark. It was exhilarating to top the hill, everyone grinning to have made it. Even the Vikings.

It was a little disheartening to turn the corner onto Divisadero to discover we'd only hit the 3 mile mark. Our spirits were raised immediately when 6 gorgeous men appeared on top of a roof--a cowboy, a police officer, a biker, a construction worker, a sailor, and an American Indian. As the strains of YMCA began to the squeals, screams, howls and applause of the racers, we all stopped to watch. After laughing, screaming, and dancing while watching them for a song, I felt energized to go on. Not to mention a fresh burst of sexual energy caused by the cowboy's chest. Woooooo.

There were more spectators along Fell Street, a man rapping from a second floor window, a little boy singing along with Cab Calloway on the steps of his house as we all sang "Hi-dee-hi-dee-ho" along with him. There were the boys offering free breast exams in an effort to enhance their sexual life, much teased by the female walkers. There were the men with a sign asking all nude runners to stop there. I saw a woman flash them much to their delight.

When we entered the park, things calmed down. It got quieter, fewer spectators, people started getting a little more serious. We started walking into the fog, which felt great after the intense sunlight earlier. My battery started to die on my camera, sadly. I just got pictures of the mile markers after that, and didn't even get the last few. But don't think that means I didn't finish.
We were walking through the park and I saw the buffalo for the first time. I've lived in this city for almost 6 years and had never seen the Golden Gate Park buffalo. Hard to believe. And they were every bit as shabby as I'd been told, though seemingly healthy, hair hanging off them in clumps. People were starting to mellow out, tired or just playful, stopping to have a drink or throw a football. My feet started to hurt. Dad's hips started to hurt. Mom claimed to be pain-free. She's a tough one.
At the 6 mile mark they took our picture. I'll be excited to see it, though it will be interesting to see what pose we're in. My dad kept raising one of my arms, with me protesting that my armpit is not the most flattering part of my body, my mom put her arm around me. I suspect in the photo I will be tugging my arm down with my dad grabbing it and with my mom tugging me toward her. Or maybe there will be a nice one of us all laughing. Or maybe they'll have missed us altogether. Hard to say.
At the 7 mile mark I stopped feeling the pain in my feet, knowing we were almost there. People started speeding up, trying to better their times at the last minute. Considering all the loitering to drink, play, ogle, dance, it was hard to believe anyone still cared about their time. Finally we crossed the finish line. It was an oddly anti-climactic moment. I knew I could walk the whole race, knew I wouldn't give up, and I knew it wouldn't even be that hard. I've walked so much, I knew I could handle it. So when I crossed the line, it was kind of a "yeah, so?" moment. But then mom said what she said, about me not thinking about doing it a year ago. And I realized how far I've come. I hated gym in school. I was never an athlete. I was never good at sports that involved moving much, being much better at badminton and volleyball. But here I was, walking 7 1/2 miles without even thinking twice about it, without even being winded, though my feet still hurt. Suddenly I wanted to take up tae bo and soccer and yoga and dancing and every sport that involved being strong and energetic. Because I knew I could do it. I can do everything they said I couldn't do in gym class. I can be something that I never thought I could be. And how fucking exciting is that to realize?

Later that night, after the most satisfying nap I've ever had, I went to the Great American Music Hall to see one of my favorite singers for the first time--Eddi Reader. She was the lead singer for Fairground Attraction and has had a solo career for some years now. She's Scottish and my friend Nate introduced me to her music right before I went to live in Scotland so I have an extra fondness for her. She was opening for Hothouse Flowers. I went with my friend Kelly who also loves her. Neither of us knew much of Hothouse Flowers' music so we were excited to see what they were like, too.

When Eddi took the stage, I was struck by how beautiful she was. Her jacket photos hadn't done her justice. We were sitting right over the stage in the balcony and I was so close I felt like I could touch her. When she began to sing, I did want to touch her. I wanted to hug her to thank her for the beauty of her voice and her music that she had brought into my life. I got that butterfly thing in my stomach when she sang, that I always get when I see someone live whom I've loved through their music. I wanted to jump up and down. When she left the stage, I was so sad, I wished she could have kept singing for the rest of the night.

Kelly spotted her a few minutes later, much to my surprise, over by the CD table. I had already bought both of her CDs that they were selling. Kelly encouraged me to go down, even though I didn't know what to say. He told me to thank her. I grabbed my purse and ran down. I thought I could get a picture of her. When I got down there, I was too afraid to take her picture, didn't want to seem like too much of a goon. But she was signing CDs so I pulled out a CD for her to sign. I was going to have her sign both of them, and started tearing off the packaging from the one in plastic. My hands were shaking. I felt foolish as I struggled with the adhesive on the CD. Finally I ended up handing her the other CD, a live CD. I told her my name and she told me it was pretty. I thanked her. Then when she was finished signing I nervously told her thank you for your voice and your music and how wonderful I thought she was. She looked vaguely embarrassed. She said how sad she was that it was their last tour date. I asked if she was going back to Scotland and she told me yes, after London. I told her that I had lived in Scotland for a few months and that I had discovered her music just before I went and how much it meant to me. She asked where I'd lived and when I told her Stirling she started telling me she'd met someone else from Stirling just a few minutes ago and started looking for him, saying I should talk to him. I thought it was charming, as there were so many people there was no way I was going to find him. I thanked her and said goodbye. I told Kelly later that I didn't think I could ever do that again, my heart couldn't take it. I was still shaking as I sat down.

Hothouse Flowers came on then and they were fabulous. The lead singer was amazing, dancing around and playing his handheld drum and piano and guitar and tin whistle. The band was wonderful as well, and darn cute, especially the bassist. They played an amazingly wide range of music, from rock to blues to folk to old Irish ballads. Everything they did was great.

At least half the audience was clearly in love with them. After an especially gorgeous ballad, one little asian woman hopped on stage to give the singer a big hug. He accepted happily. Later, toward the end, a young woman with a black bob jumped on stage and started dancing. She danced over to the singer on the piano and danced next to him, bumping butts. She danced back to back with the guitarist. throughout the song she danced with the singer, each of them taking turms copying each other's moves. At the end of the song she hugged them all and took bows with them. She was bold and excited and we were all in awe of her for going for it with such success. I've never seen a more welcoming, warm band, especially the singer who walked on the tables at the front of the stage to touch everyone's hands and give them kisses before he left the stage. I left feeling sublimely happy. I got home and went to bed grinning ear to ear, thinking about the most wonderful day I had had.

Posted by Alyssa at May 22, 2001 12:28 AM
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