“Does that make me jaded?” asks the guy in the back of my taxi, after telling me why he’s going home early from The Castro on Pride weekend. “Oh god, I must sound like a grumpy old man!”
“I don’t think you’re that jaded,” I respond absently, winding through the narrow streets above Ocean Avenue, adding, “It seems like a natural reaction to the corporate takeover of Pride, and how the hardships that gay men and women had to overcome in the past are diminished by this mainstream acceptance of the culture…”
Not that I’m an expert on the subject or anything. I’ve just listened to enough rants from numerous passengers over the past couple days. And if you’re any good at driving a cab, the ability to regurgitate conversational threads is akin to remembering how streets intersect.
Outside his place, the guy finishes with, “I put on pink shorts today. I did my best to participate. But it still doesn’t feel right, you know?”
“Well, it’ll all be over with Monday.”
“And I can go back to just being gay in peace again.”
Since I’m in the neighborhood, I hit up Beep’s for lunch and make my way back to The Castro. Get in line behind a Luxor cab. Slowly inch forward as pedestrians crowd the sidewalk and a battalion of dykes on bikes comes roaring down Castro onto 18th.
Finally, there’s someone warming my backseat.
“How’s it going?” I inquire.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!” he says.
I decide to laugh. “Pride got you down?”
On the way to Sutter and Lyon, he tries to reconcile his desire to participate in Pride with his reluctance to participate in Pride.
“It must be hard,” I say, “dealing with the corporate takeover of Pride and how past struggles are diminished…”
Like getting from point A to point B, conversations can be just as repetitive as the destinations.
That’s the easy part of the job.
“Nobody thinks about the struggle anymore. Even though this year is supposed to commemorate Stonewall. But you’d never know, based on everyone partying. Kids today have it so easy.”
While it may seem the young’uns are oblivious to history, perhaps they see just have a different take.
On a triple-dip, I pick up a guy who’s around 25, wearing metallic spandex and a cowboy vest.
“Gays are trending this year,” he jokes, as idle chitchat evolves into another kind of Pride rant. “Some may hate the corporate influences, but ultimately, I think it’s a net positive.”
That evening, I head to Showcase Square to work the end of the daylong Pink Mammoth block party at The Great Northern. Which is mostly a local affair with thousands of half-naked, drugged out partygoers pouring out onto Potrero as the sun goes down.
While the air is still a balmy 64 degrees, I roll with the windows down. But the night chill is too hard on exposed nipples and butt cheeks.
Later, I check events on Jessie Street and at Mezzanine, then The Stud and Eagle, followed by Public Works, Midway and, finally, the Afterglow party at 550 Barneveld, where it’s been reported on Hackers that cabs are getting chased away by security. I loop around the subdivision of warehouses and stumble upon Mary, the commissioner, in a National cab, pointing out a designated taxi stand and ripping into a guard.
I post a picture of the sign to the message group. For the rest of the night and into the morning, until the sun almost threatens to break through the marine layer, Hacker nation works the stand. With everyone from Barry, Ben, Hester, Flywheel Tony, the Buzzard, Clearisol Frank, the Luxor boys, and even Lurch, making sure the partygoers get home from the deep Bayview.
After all, this is cab turf. Where the cab yards for Yellow/Luxor, National/Veterans and Citiwide are just a few blocks away.
Which is nothing to be proud of, really. But after several hours of jamming moist bills into the chest pockets of my denim shirt until they resemble B-cups, I finally head home around 8 a.m., patting them every few minutes and smiling. And that’s some kind of pride.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.idrivesf.com.