This is still my favorite dance bar in San Francisco. The music IS reliable with vocals rather than that techno crap that drones on at so many gay events in The City or the rap you often have to endure at straight clubs. There are monitors around the dance floor and a video d.j. mixes the vids. I am not an alcohol drinker so can't say much about the drinks. My biggest complaint about Badlands is the same complaint I have had about other gay bars. All of us have our straight women that we love but is it really necessary to bring them to the gay club? It seems to me that a lot of young gay men are terrified of other gay men and it looks like they bring their girls to protect them? I don't pretend to understand the need of some gay men to bring straight women to a gay bar. It FEELS like they are "slumming," -a "zoo" mentality. The girls giggle & squeal at the gay men that were in the bathroom when they went to use it. OMG! Squeal. Giggle. It is really annoying. IF you are a gay man that insists on bringing straight women to a gay bar, I would just like to suggest some etiquette for you to convey to her. These apply to any gay dance bar, not just Badlands:
1. Tell your straight bff to leave her coat at home, in the car or CHECK IT! Do NOT put your coats in the middle of the dance floor. Do not dance in a group around a pile of coats!!
2. Do not bring a purse to a gay bar! Leave your purse, backpack, luggage or whatever it is that you are carrying, at home or leave it in the car. Someone trying to dance with a big purse under their arm just looks stupid!! (AND then you won't be whining about your cell phone getting stolen out of your purse! BTW, leave your cell in the car or at home too. You don't need it in a gay bar! You only need an ID and cash.)
3. Do not take your drinks onto the dance floor! Yes, you may see gay men bringing their drinks onto the dance floor but they really shouldn't either! Drink the drinks while your chatting with friends. There are little ledges & tables on which you can leave your drinks while dancing. You do not need those drinks with you on the dance floor! If you have a drink in your hand, are you really "dancing" anyway? (Some gay men are highly skilled at drinking on the dance floor but they have been practicing for years. YOU should not do it!!! You will spill it all over the floor and others near you!!)
4. Do not line dance, square dance, swing dance, ballroom dance or any other kind of dancing that entails holding your partners hand & swinging them around the dance floor, knocking over all the other dancers. This is considered sloppy and rude behavior! Contain yourself in your personal space on the dance floor and avoid throwing yourself into other dancers.
5. No "parking" on the dance floor. You are taking up space from those that actually want to dance.
6. Don't dance in group circles. It's really obnoxious.
7. IF you are a straight women & bring your straight bf to the gay bar, you are responsible for him & his behavior! PLEASE do not feel you have to prove to everyone that your bf is straight by sticking your tongue down his throat. If you want to make out with your straight bf, go to a straight bar or get a room. Look around- Do you see gay men making out in the gay dance bar? Probably not. So why would you think we all want to watch two straight people making out- AND PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you MUST have some tongue, at least get off the dance floor!!!
8. No slow dancing in a gay dance club. Yuck. No "break dancing!" No dancing that entails laying down on the floor. Save all of that for the straight bar, please.
9. We know how much straight women love coming to gay bars. There is a reason for this- they are GAY bars!! Hello? IF you are a straight woman that likes coming to gay bars, please don't come back by yourself with your straight boyfriend, regardless of how "liberal" he is or a group of your straight women friends! You should consider it a privilege that your "gay" brought you to the gay bar in the first place. You shouldn't think that it is now okay for you to bring all your straight friends to goggle the "gays." We are not there for your amusement. A gay bar should not feel like a zoo. Gay bars are not a place for you to "slum." There is nothing that ruins a gay bar faster than a lot of straight people! If you love hanging out with straight people, go to the straight bar where you can dance in a group around a pile of coats and purses and spill your drinks all over the dance floor.
10. Lastly, straight women should not dance like they are a stripper on a pole trying to seduce someone with their hotness. Remember, this is a gay bar! Nobody is interested in how your breasts heave and your ass twerks. Only gay men can get away with those moves in a gay bar because they look "cute" doing it. Straight women just look desperate. If you need a meat rack atmosphere, go to a straight dance club where all those "sexy" moves will be appreciated!!
When I had been living in San Francisco in my late teens, I remember being destitute and walking around San Francisco with only 25 cents to my name. I ate at the "missions" sometimes where you would get soup and a sermon. There were a couple of times that I was desperate enough for a few dollars that I would sell my body for a few bucks to eat. I would go to the unemployment office but could only get sporadic, temporary, minimum wage jobs. On one of those visits, I saw a flyer about a training program that would pay you while you attend classes to become a Licensed Psychiatric Technician. It wasn't long after Kenny had drank drano and killed himself and immediately after Jim Archiquette sent me and Louise suicide notes, that I fled back to Washington State. I worked for my dad at the Brunswick in Toppenish until my mom called or sent a letter to ask if I wanted to come to Upland to participate in a vocation program to become a Licensed Psychiatric Technician. I jumped at the opportunity, feeling like it might be my last opportunity to do something to get on my feet and finally have some independence and security.
After the year long program, I passed the California State board and got my license to work as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician. I had missed San Francisco so much during that year of Southern California suburban freeways. I would spend my weekends driving an hour to West Hollywood where there was a gay community and went to the bars and baths there but it was not the same as San Francisco at all. Gay people in San Francisco had seemed like an extension of the Haight Ashbury hippies, while the gay scene in West Hollywood seemed scattered and plastic by comparison. I returned to San Francisco as soon as I could.
I lived in the hotel over the Rainbow Cattle Company at the corner of Valencia and Duboce streets. I had a $10/week room with a bathroom down the hall and everyone on my floor shared a kitchen and a pay phone. I went out to all the hospitals in the area that had psychiatric units and even hitchhiked down to Agnew's State Hospital, about an hour South of San Francisco, which would eventually become the campus for Sun Microsystems. Then, one day, someone came to get me in my room to say that I had a call on the pay phone. It was Saint Francis Hospital.
Initially, when I first started working at Saint Francis, I would tuck my long pony tail, which went to the middle of my back, up under a synthetic short haired wig. I think I had purchased it at Macy's with Louise one day. I can not fathom why Macy's would have been selling short haired wigs at the time but it looked real enough that I could pass as someone much more conservative. The Director of Nursing at Saint Francis at the time, Doris Weber, was very conservative. I wore that short haired wig for the first six months or so that I worked at Saint Francis.
Since I was 6'4" and male, I was often called upon to manage out of control patients. Registered Nurses were the ones that were in charge and the ones who gave out the assignments and that would direct the activities of the staff. It often felt like I was put into tenuous situations by the R.N.'s. They seemed to have all the power. I wanted some of that.
I started taking pre-requisites at City College of San Francisco and it wasn't long until I had accumulated quite a few credits. It was difficult but I was determined to get through these classes. I had been derailed too many times by drama in my late teens and twenties and I was determined not to be derailed again. Along the way, I met Ron Greene.
Ron was gay and around the same as me but almost entirely bald. He was outgoing and friendly while I was more shy and reticent. Ron initiated our friendship and it was very lucky for me that he did. I had never had the best study skills and had never been one to create study groups. Ron had great study skills and had no problem pulling others into study groups. I really don't know that I would have ever made it through the pre-requisites and nursing school without Ron. When it came to cutting up a frog in Biology, Ron took the knife. I took notes. When it came to handling cadavers in Anatomy, Ron would pull them out of storage. I would observe.
It was the early eighties and gay men had been dying in droves from AIDS. In some of our clinical rotations, we were giving care to those dying of the disease. There were many times that I thought I couldn't do something and then it turned out I could. I always hated needles and giving shots but I had learned to do that as a Psychiatric Technician. Now, there were many other things that were extremely difficult to do that would raise my anxiety, but I found I could overcome my anxiety and actually do these things that seemed so impossible. One night before I clinical rotation where I knew I would have to, I couldn't imagine myself giving stoma care for a patients colostomy. Yet, the next day when confronted with the situation, I was able to step up and do what was necessary. We really are capable of so much more than many of us think!!
We had some great instructors at San Francisco City College. Down through the years, I would hear the misnomer "two year nurse." The fact is, there is no such thing as far as I have ever been able to find. The real fact is that most four year nursing programs include most of the general education courses and the pre-requisites in their "four years." There are some higher level courses of course, but generally geared toward management. For front line nursing, there is no more rigorous a program than what City College offered. The "two year" nursing program was on top of two years of pre-requisites.
On either a summer break or a semester break, as we approached the last semesters of the nursing program, Ron took a vacation to Mexico. He came back sick, complaining of open sewers that drained onto the beaches of Acapulco. He had also traveled on buses into remote regions of Mexico and had drank the water. He received treatment but just seemed to get sicker and sicker. Finally, he was diagnosed with AIDS and would never return to the nursing program. He would die at the V.A. hospital in San Francisco shortly before the rest of us graduated. I owe so much to him but he continued to give and left me his old car, which Milton and i continued to drive for another year or so after that.
I had bought a new Prius in 2010. I had my old Nissan for over ten years. It had a lot of miles on it and had been a great car. I knew Sean was over 16 and needed a car and I hated to just junk the Nissan so I told Darlene that Sean could have the car if he or somebody came down to get it. Milton didn't think I should offer it to Sean because he was certain it wouldn't make it back to Washington and that it would probably break down on the way. I thought it probably would make it and Sean would get a couple of years use from it. As it turned out, I was right.
Misty and Sean's younger brother, Alex, flew down to pick up the Nissan but while they were here, I took them on my "one day tour" of San Francisco.
I had only met Alex a couple of times while he was growing up. I had heard from Darlene that he had been having some problems and had not been going to school for a while. I had seen him briefly and Donna's house on my last visit to Seattle but he seemed extremely shy and disappeared immediately after introductions. When he visited with Misty, Milton and I could both see that he was in some distress. After he and his mom's visit and return drive to Washington, he would ask my sister, Darlene, if she thought Milton and I would let him come and live with us. That eventually did lead to his coming down for another visit and then living with us from 16-18.
My sister, Darlene, and her grandson, Sean, visited the San Francisco Bay Area. They arrived from Yakima, WA on 8/9/11 and stayed a week with Milton and I in Vallejo. We went to The City on Wednesday and had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory over Macy's and got half off tickets in Union Square for Billy Elliot that night at the Orpheum theater. We came home and rested for an hour or so before the show. After the show we went to Mel's diner on Mission. The next day we did some site seeing- a drive through Chinatown, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, The Painted Ladies, Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, The Castro, The Mission, and Ocean Beach. We picked up some Thai from Cha Am for dinner. On Friday we took the ferry over to Fisherman's Wharf. When we got back we went and picked up an iPad for Darlene. On Saturday we went to the Apple Store in Walnut Creek and then out to Brentwood to visit with my nieces Kathi and Deanna and Kathi's family. On Sunday we went to an SF Mime Troupe show briefly, took a walk up Telegraph Avenue and then went to my brother David's house. On Monday, Sean went with David's wife, Leslie, to the 6 Flags amusement park. That night we got together with David and his family for dinner. On Tuesday, Darlene and Sean wanted to go back to Fisherman's Wharf to get some souvenirs before heading to the airport. It was a fun week!
I was working as a Registered Nurse at Western Psychiatric Center within Saint Francisco Memorial Hospital in San Francisco the evening of October 17, 1989. At that time, WPC was divided into a locked unit and an open unit. I believe I must have been working on the open unit that evening. I remember being in the open unit's "day room" where some of the patients were watching a baseball game at Candlestick Park. Suddenly there was a strong jolt that shook everything that lasted only a second. The lights went out briefly and elevator alarms started going off. It was not entirely clear at first what had happened other than it must have been an earthquake.
I believe Saint Francis must have been built on some bedrock as there was very little shaking. Soon we would discover that this had actually been a major earthquake and there had been extensive damage in the rest of San Francisco. Part of the East Bay double decker Nimitz Freeway, the Cypress Street Viaduct on Interstate 880 in West Oakland had collapsed and 42 people were killed. This would come to be known as the "Loma Prieta Earthquake, named after a peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains which was close to the epicenter. Ultimately there would be 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries.
I tried calling Milton and got through on that first call and told him to call my mom and let her know we were alright. He told me there was damage in our flat and the computer monitor we had at the time fell over into a chair. I tried calling again after that but by that time, the lines were jammed and I couldn't get through.
The patients on the psych unit remained calm. I was asked to evaluate a woman that had come to the Emergency Room from one of the hotels downtown. She had been emotionally upset but was not injured.
I wasn't sure for a few hours whether I would be allowed to go home at the end of my shift. In emergency situations, nurses and other medical persons are expected to come in to work or stay at work if they are already there. By 11:30 that night, things on Western Psychiatric Center were under control and was using emergency generators for electricity. I was eager to get home to see if Milton was okay.
I had ridden by scooter to work that day and driving home was eerie. All of the street lights and traffic lights were off. There was very little traffic and everyone was driving cautiously. The streets were eerily dark. When I arrived home, Milton was fine but was shaken. We had quite a bit of damage in the Waller Street flat. There were cracks in the plaster in the kitchen and living room but nothing structurally.
We made a bed at the top of the staircase that led from the front door to our second floor flat. We tried to sleep but the aftershocks kept us awake. We were surprised when the phone rang since it had been out previously. The call was from Peter and Allen in England. They had seen footage of the fires in San Francisco's Marina district which made it appear that all of San Francisco was burning. Milton and I were not even aware of the fires at that time as there was no t.v. and we didn't have a transistor radio either. After a while, we decided our best option was to throw some clothes in the car and head to Sacramento.
Since the Bay Bridge was closed due to damage, we headed out of The City across the Golden Gate bridge. Milton looked back toward The City as we crossed the bridge and could see The Marina District still burning. We would spend the next couple of nights in Sacramento.
I am currently editing this article.. please return in a week or so..
During the period of living on Shotwell, Jim and I were getting along pretty well but we were young gay men and it was the height of the sexual revolution so we were certainly not going to be left out of that. We often went to The Stud on Folsom street and danced. I wasn't 21 but got in easily by just walking past the doorman without giving them eye contact. The place was consistently packed.
We also would visit other bars along Folsom such as the Ramrod. People openly smoked pot in the bars back then. There was a bar across from the Stud that was not very popular and didn't last long and would later be replaced by a restaurant called Hamburger Mary's and the bartender there was very Cockettish. He had a pierced ear and a pierced nostril with a chain going between the two. Jim and I invited him home for a "three way." As I remember that three way and a couple of other three ways I have had in my life, it was kind of awkward. Who do you focus on? Sex with one person can be complicated enough but two was just not my thing at all. There is too much thinking involved and distraction to stay excited.
I just want to say that the sexual mores of the seventies, (pre-AIDS), should not be be judged by the post-AIDS sexual mores and values. The sexual revolution that started in the sixties, after the birth control pill became widely available, and which continued through the seventies came to somewhat of an end, after people started dying in the eighties of AIDS.
Both heterosexuals and homosexuals were experimenting with sex during the seventies. Since gay men had the extra dose of testosterone to drive them, they did, without a doubt, take sexual activity to new levels. The attitude of the late sixties and seventies was "if it feels good and it isn't hurting anybody, do it!" There was a group of sex workers in San Francisco that summed it up- what young people were saying to the old with their acronym C.O.Y.O.T.E., which stood for "Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics."
Gay men were in just the beginning of creating community and discovering who they were. Many questioned heterosexual roles of the past. One did not necessarily have to play the "male role" while the other played the "female role." It could all be interchangeable and new roles could be created. Monogamy was not essential. Open relationships were common in which one could get their emotional needs of a partnership from one person but not have their sexual activity restricted. Of course there were still the human emotions of jealousy and insecurity that had to be dealt with but many couples navigated throught these emotions- some successfully and others not so successfully.
When I hear young gay men today talk about the promiscuity of the seventies with much judgement in their voices, I know they have no way to comprehend the context of those times. Kids grow up so differently today than the kids of the fifties and sixties. Kids today seem so much more knowledgeable of sex and S.T.D.'s and grow up associating promiscuity with HIV and death. In the seventies, there were no such associations. Sex was fun. It could be recreational. If you got a sexually transmitted disease, you stopped by the V.D. clinic and got a shot or a few pills. Nobody died from sex. In the context of post HIV, gay men of the seventies would appear to have all been sex addicts, but in the context of the the 1970's, that would not be accurate. It is all about the context of the times in which one lives and the community in which one lives and the values of that community. The culmination of the 1970's was like a release of pent up energy and a breaking away from the repression of the fifties. Those of us that grew up in the fifties and sixties where there was very little discussion of sex or information about sex, the sudden immersion in sexual freedom was exciting and fun. For those of us that were gay, it
was a new found liberation.
Jim took me to a bathhouse called Ritch Street for the first time when I wasabout nineteen or twenty. The was a three story building designed for gay men to engage in sex with one another comfortably. In bathhouses, you pay for either a locker where you can stow your clothes or a lockable cubicle of about five feet by eight feet with a mattress covered with a clean sheet. There are hooks on which you can hang your clothes. You are given a towel and you quickly learn there are techniques in wrappying the towel around yourself properly so as to make it look cute rather than sloppy. Some men wander around in underwear or in jickstraps or naked with the towel over their shoulder, but most have the towel wrapped around their waist with nothing on underneath. There is a constant pacing through thehallways looking for "Mr. Right Now," a sexual partner for the moment. Lighting is dim and lightbulbs are often red to be the most flattering. Often there
is no verbal exchange between men as it is easier for Mr. Right Now to fit into one's fantasy if he doesn't start talking. If I guy looks like a hot stud and then talks like a mincing queen, it can shatter the illusion and much of the sex in sex clubs and bathhouses is all about illusion.
The difference between a bathhouse and a sex club in those days was that bathhouses had showers where sex clubs might only have a sink to wash up in. There were no private, lockable cubicles in sex clubs. Sex clubs were usually cheaper and one generally spent less time there. You got in and got off and got out, where you might linger comfortably in a bathhouse all night.
Some bathhouses were beautiful environments and some in places like New York even had live entertainment. Bette Midler and her pianoplayer, Barry Manilow famously got their start in the Continental Baths in New York. Ritch Street didn't have such entertainment but it did have a fabulous whirlpool in the basement with an aquarium that must have been about eight feet by six feet with exotic fish swimming in it as a background the the beautiful naked men. You could sit in the cafe that served salads and sandwiches and snacks and watch the men shower and bathe in the whirling waters of the pool.
If I remember correctly, the first floor of the Ritch Street was made up of lockers and cubicles. I think there were some glory holes and showers in one area and a television viewing area. Glory holes are essentially holes in a wall big enough for a penis. A man wanting oral sex would step up to the wall and put his penis through the hole and a man on the other side wanting to give oral sex would be on the other side. Sometimes each cared about who was on the other side and would try to see who entered on one side of the wall or the other but at other times, it didn't really matter who was on the other side as the fantasy in the mind was more significant than the reality of who was on t
he other side of the wall.
In the basement there was a large whirlpool in which probably fifteen to twenty young men would rest between sexual encounters or find another sexual encounter. Above the pool was a huge salt water aquarium in which exotic, beutiful fish were swimming. There were a row of showers along a wall in which the young men could shower off the chlorinated water
of the pool after exiting the soothing. pulsating waters. All of this could be observed while having a healthful snack such as a salad or a sandwich on multigrain bread. The place was beautiful and filled with beautiful men.
In April 26, 1980, CBS Reports episode, "Gay Power, Gay Politics" anchored by Harry Reassoner focused on the growing political power and influence of the LGBT community in San Francisco. Harry Reasoner began the episode with
"For someone of my generation, it sounds a bit preposterous. Political power for homosexuals? But those predictions are already coming true. In this report, we'll see how the gays of San Francisco are using the political process to further their own special interest, just like every other minority group before them. Gay power, gay politics, that's what this report is about. It's not a story about life-styles or the average gay experience. What we'll see is the birth of a political movement and the troubling questions it raises for the eighties, not only for San Francisco, but for other cities throughout the country."
After the episode aired, I remember my sister calling me and asking if those things shown in the sensationalist episode were true. Much of it was. I knew Buena Vista Park well.
"Cruising" with Al Pacino released was released not long after this with the serial killer, killing gay men in New York.
By October 1984, the cities health director ordered bathhouses to close... almost all of these sex clubs and bathhouses were closed and the majority of gay bars began to close and or became straight venues. at that time 723 men in San Francisco had died since 1981.
Milton and I met around 1982-1983. We had been together for 32 years when we got married.
When we were still attending First Christian Church in Vallejo, we had attended a "commitment" ceremony of two male church members. It was not a legal marriage at the time because of proposition 8 but for all appearances, it looked like a wedding. Although we didn't know these guys well, Milton and I were both moved by the ceremony. I did my best to hold in my emotions but I started shaking and tears came streaming from my eyes and I could barely breathe! I muffled my sobs. Later, Milton said that he had felt very emotional, too. I said something to the effect of, "If we get this emotional at somebody else's ceremony, I don't think I could ever survive our own wedding ceremony!"
A few years later, the Supreme Court overruled proposition 8 and Milton and I decided we would get married. Neither of us wear jewelry so we decided we would not do wedding rings. We didn't really need a wedding to keep us together but thought that it would be wise for legal purposes.
I considered inviting my best friend at the time but then Milton wanted to invite a relative of his if I invited my friend. I knew it was going to be an emotional moment in our lives and there is nothing worse for me than to feel a loss of control in public. I hate feeling emotionally out of control in front of others. That is one reason I always prefer seeing tear jerker movies at home rather than in the theater. I just can't enjoy them unless I can let me emotions go.
My grand-nephew, Alex, who had lived with us from 16-18 had moved to San Francisco and was living in his own place by that time. I asked him to come to the wedding and be our witness. He agreed to come, be our witness and photographer.
We got the marriage license and made an appointment for our marriage at City Hall in San Francisco. We dressed nicely but neither Milton or I wanted to wear suits. The woman officiating was very kind. She apologized to us for having had to wait 32 years to get married. When she said that, I felt my emotional control slipping away.
We both cried throughout the ceremony. I was glad that I had not invited anyone else. I know that other people would have made me feel even more out of control emotionally. Alex took the pics and some video:
I think that many of us that lived in San Francisco during the eighties will remember that decade as the decade of AIDS and seeing many of our friends pass away.
The seventies had been an incredible party for gay men in San Francisco. The sexual revolution for both gay and straight people had started in the 1960's. "The pill" had allowed women to take control of procreation in a way they had never been able to in the past. This liberated both women and men from anxieties about pregnancy. Antibiotics had made sexually transmitted diseases more of a nuisance than a worry and many considered diseases like gonorrhea about as bad as a mild cold. There would be some irritation or discharge from the urethra and sometimes pain with urination that let us know something was amiss.
There were multiple bathhouses and sex clubs throughout San Francisco. It was called "the gay mecca." Gay men were everywhere in The City but especially in the Polk Street area, The Castro Street area and the Folsom Street area. Each of those areas was teeming with gay bars and gay businesses including bars, sex clubs, peepshows and bathhouses. There were "glory holes" in many public restrooms throughout San Francisco and you could walk into almost any park after dark for sex. Sixty minutes did an expose of gay promiscuity and focused on Buena Vista Park in The Haight/Ashbury neighborhood but Lafayette Park and Alamo Square were almost as busy. Anonymous, no strings attached promiscuity was the norm. Hardly a day would go by without at least one new sexual partner but several new sex partners in a day was not unusual. Sex had become a recreational pastime. It was everywhere. By the end of the decade, many of us had hundreds, if not thousands of gay partners.
Most of us made frequent visits to the V.D. clinic, (called the City Clinic), for testing. A cotton swab culture of the urethra or a urine test would confirm either gonorrhea or "non-specific urethritis." I was told years later that at that time, the test for chlamydia had not been developed so a lot of the "non-specific urethritis" was actually chlamydia. The City Clinic was full of hot young men and sometimes you could meet your next sexual partner here before you even got done with your testing. Nobody was that concerned about a little "clap."
If one had been a bottom, you were asked to spread your cheeks so a swab could be taken of the rectal area. Often you would be ordered antibiotics whether you were positive or negative as rectal gonorrhea was harder to confirm. After the swabs were done, you would then get some blood drawn to check you for syphilis. I don't think I had even heard of herpes until the very late seventies and it was something that was not tested for at the time.
At first in the seventies, STD's just seemed innocuous but then gradually started getting more complicated as the decade progressed. There was an epidemic of amoebas, parasites, giardia and shigella at one point. At that time, I was seeing a straight physician. I had been having mild diarrhea for about a month and the straight doctor I was seeing had no clue what was the underlying cause. Finally, I went to see Dr. Paul Isakson in San Francisco, who was located in The Castro and had a primarily gay practice. He was pretty sure what the underlying cause was because he was aware of the current epidemic and sent me to the University of California in San Francisco's "tropical disease" department to get my stools tested. Sure enough, the cultures for ova and parasites came back positive and I was treated.
Amoebas and parasites were being transmitted through feces. Gay men were especially prone due to anal sex and sex practices such as "rimming." Most of us were young and naive and didn't know the consequences of some of our actions. As we experienced new diseases, many of us began modifying some of our behaviors and sexual practices.
In 1974 I had contracted hepatitis b and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Apparently it had been contracted through body fluids but it didn't impress me as something that should curtail my sexual proclivities. My understanding was that I was now immune to future bouts of hepatitis b so one less thing to worry about. I recovered fully and became involved in the City Clinic study which would eventually lead to the hepatitis b vaccine that is available today.
Around 1980 my mom sent me an article about something called "gay cancer." A lot of us wondered if this was some ruse by the media the scare gay men. Then we started seeing friends with mysterious lesions. People were not sure if it was connected with sexual activity or something else. Poppers were one of the possibly culprits discussed. Poppers are an inhalant used at the time by most gay men and many heterosexuals during sex but also used on the dance floor. You inhaled some from a small bottle or other devices made specifically for this purpose and you would get a rush of excitement and energy through your body. The smell was familiar to anyone that went to a sex club or dance club during the seventies.
The first person I knew that died of AIDS was a guy I worked with named Paul. He had contracted an unusual type of pneumonia, called pneumocystis. Within a few weeks of his calling in sick at work, he was dead from what was called "gay pneumonia" at the time.
Mysterious illnesses were everywhere very quickly. The Bay Area Reporter, a local gay newspaper that had been heavy on sex ads, now published obituaries of the men dying in droves.
By 1984, San Francisco's Public Health Director ordered 14 bathhouses and sex clubs catering to gay men to close. By this time, scientists still didn't understand the disease that was killing gay men and more and more rapid rate but it was obvious that there was some connection to gay activity. Since 1981, there had been 723 cases of AIDS reported.
Rock Hudson, a famous leading man in Hollywood, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984. He had lost a lot of weight and looked sick and gaunt when he appeared with Doris Day, an actress with whom he had starred in several movies, at her press conference. On October 2, 1985, Rock Hudson's death from AIDS shocked the world and rocked the gay community in San Francisco.
It was about this time that many in the gay community began using condoms and practicing what was being called "safer sex." Poppers disappeared from dance floors. Sex clubs were closed and safer sex was less sex and fearful sex. A lot of us were reading Kubler-Ross' "On Death and Dying" and books by Louise Hay which seemed to tell the dying that they could "heal their lives' through meditation. Of course, the HIV virus didn't care about anything like meditation and ultimately nothing would be able to stop it for years to come.
My ex-boyfriend's, John and Stanley were both diagnosed in the eighties. Both were dead by the 90's.
I was still working as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician on the psychiatric unit at Saint Francis Hospital and going to San Francisco City College to become a Registered Nurse. I was living with Milton on Waller Street and he was also going to City College too.
The first patient I dealt with that had AIDS was when I was still in nursing school with our clinical rotation at the Veteran's Administration hospital in San Francisco. The patient had Kaposi's Sarcoma, which was what had initially been called "gay cancer" at the beginning of the epidemic. He was very sick and in isolation. It was pretty well established by this time that you could not catch HIV or AIDS from touching patients. Many had insisted on wearing gloves when doing any care of an AIDS patient but now we knew that wasn't always necessary and only impeded physical contact. Housekeeping at the V.A. apparently refused to clean his room out of fear of the disease. Besides caring for this early AIDS patient as a student nurse, it also fell on me to do what should have been the hospital's housekeeping department. I cleaned the room. I gave him a bed bath and a massage which was typical care for a student nurse to do. I washed his lesions and made pleasant conversation.
My best friend in nursing school was Ron Green. He was outgoing and friendly where I was more aloof and shy. He got me involved with other students at school and always made me part of his study groups. I don't think that I would have ever got through nursing school if it hadn't been for Ron. During the summer break, he had gone to Mexico and had fallen ill during his visit to Acapulco. Upon return, he continued to be sick and was eventually diagnosed with AIDS before our final semester. He would die at the same V.A. hospital where I had experienced my first AIDS patient as a nursing student.
My place in the upper Haight was had become too cramped and I wanted a little more space. I started looking around at apartments and found a place at 525 Haight Street that had been bought and renovated by some gay people. At the time, this block of Haight street was pretty desolate. Almost all of the businesses were boarded up. There had recently been a major bust of prostitutes and drug dealers that had been doing business openly there for a while. People on their way to the upper Haight tried to avoid walking through this dark, foggy, crime infested area. The only people that had been populating this block were the black underclass of pimps, prostitutes, dealers johns and junkies.
The rent was cheap, though and the apartment meant my needs and so I moved there. Shortly after moving in, I wrote to my brother, Roger, telling him I wasn't sure if I would be shot soon. Being six foot, four inches at the time was probably to my benefit. No one ever accosted me.
San Francisco was on the verge of explosive gentrification. It would become an issue between the African-American community and the gay community. Many successful upwardly mobile white gay people with disposable income were buying up run down and sometime derelict buildings throughout San Francisco to renovate them as homes or income properties. In spite of rent control, the constant change of hands in real estate sent property values sky rocketing. Eventually this would result in a large part of the black community being displaced to Oakland, Richmond, Antioch, Vallejo and other outlying areas of primarily the East Bay. San Francisco would become increasingly white and yuppified (young urban professionals) and guppified (gay urban professionals.
I was ambivalent about the changes. On the one hand, there were places of blight like Haigh and Fillmore in which there were blocks of empty, burnt out, rat infested buildings in which no one lived and primarily traversed by pimps, protitutes and junkies and gentrification reclaimed those buildings for renovation and inhabitation. But when the buildings were renovated, property values all around would go up and rents would go up and even with rent control, the black families that had lived on the periphery of these areas were priced out of the market and were forced to move. Gay white men with good jobs and disposable incomes were about the only ones that could now afford to live in the City and later it would be the dot com yuppies. The city would never be affordable in the way it had been when I had first arrived with the hippie influx of the sixties.
The seemed primarily gay for a moment in time, though... through my jaded gay eyes anyway. There were really about five neighborhoods in San Francisco that I remember having large gay populations and those were the neighborhoods in which I lived: Polk Street; The Castro, The Folsom, Pacific Heights and upper Haight. We were everywhere in mass. It was the peak of the gay party sensibility of promiscuity, poppers, and dancing. Drugs of choice were pot and cocaine for many, meth for others. It seemed like there would never be an end to the party. It was frenetic.
For many, though, including myself, it seemed to be going nowhere. Sex was easy to come by but intimacy was elusive. There was a steady stream of casual one night stands. There was sex in bathhouses, doorways, parks and alleys. How was is possible to be surrounded by hot gay men and be totally unable to connect emotionally with any of them? How could someone having so much sex feel so alone??
I was continuing to see my therapist. When I had first started seeing him, I thought John was going to come to couples counseling with me but John had no interest in working on the relationship and so then I recruited my therapist to help me build the strength to break my addiction to John. I was finally finding myself again but it seemed like there wasn't much there. I had a few friends that I saw superficially but my life really consisted on work, getting high and having recreational sex. I desperately wanted more in my life. I wanted to feel complete on my own but I also wanted a relationship.
My therapist suggested that I try to meet men in environments other than bars and bathhouses. He suggested that I become involved in organizations that gay men attended that centered on other activities besides getting high and having sex. One of the first organizations I got involved with was a gay camping and outdoors group I quickly realized I had no interest in camping or going out into the wilderness even if it was with other gay men. I got involved with a group called Black and White Men Together that met a church in the upper Haight. The first night I went, I just walked around the block a couple of times, unable to work up the nerve to actually walk go in. The following week, I did make it into the actual group.
B.W.M.T. was an organization of primarily black men and white men getting together to discuss issues having to do with racial issues in the gay community and issues that came up in relationships between black men that were into white men that were into black men. It was called a "rap" group, a term that had been left over from the sixties. At each meeting, there would be about twenty men. Occasionally there were Asian men or other ethnicities. There were incredible facilitators in those early meetings I attended and there were some great groups. It was also a great place for cruising.
After the rap group part of the evening, there would often be a potluck and social part of the evening. Usually I fled immediately after the rap part as I was terrified of having to make small talk with anyone. I was not good at it and it made me pretty anxious to consider it. As long as I was part of a structured, facilitated group, I could quiet my anxiety enough to participate but unstructured socializing at that time seemed impossible. I was good at having sex with other men but terrible at trying to have a conversation in a social setting. Actually, I could fake it, and when people from those days discovered my social phobias, they are often surprised as I could appear to others to have no such problem. Marijuana only made it worse and everybody smoked pot in those days.
After I had a fairly amicable break up with Stanley, I moved to 1667 Haight Street in what is called the "upper Haight." I bought my first brand new car in 1977 which was a Toyota Celica. I loved that car and took some great trips in it. Mary Jo and I drove down to San Diego along the coast through Big Sur. We saw Darlene and her kids in San Diego and spent some time at the beach and then drove back up Highway One again and stopped off to see Hearst Castle.
Darlene had been living in San Diego with Misty and Chris and I think she was receiving some government assistance at the time.
It was also during this time that I first discovered Russian River and Guerneville which was becoming a gay destination on weekends. I beleive there were even chartered buses that would take gay people up there but I usually went with my friend Jerry Hoy, who was another psych. tech. that worked with me at Saint Francis. Russian River had nude beaches where we would spend the day. This was really a nude beach phase of my life. Other nude beaches popular with gay people at the time included San Gregorio, Devils Slide, and Lands End.
Although I had come out of the closet to almost everyone by this time, I had not yet resolved all my own issues about being gay by this time. I came across a book that was immensely helpful called "Loving Someone Gay," by Don Clark. It was a revelation for me and helped me immensely. I even made an appointment with the author and talked to him about some of my lingering issues. I think those issues also had everything to do with being in my twenties as well and just trying to figure out where my life was heading. Don Clark was too expensive for me to continue to see and I went to Operation Concern, where they had a sliding scale and met Jim Weber, who would be my therapist for several years.
1667 Haight was a tiny studio apartment with a small galley kitchen and a bathroom. It was about a block from the I-Beam dance club which was the best dance club in the city at that time. Everybody went there for the tea dance on Sunday evenings and if I wanted to meet someone, I just had to go stand outside my doorway and pick one out from the passing parade.
One of the problems with promiscuity is keeping all the men straight in your head. When you are out somewhere and you see someone that looks familiar, it is always a little awkward if you can't remember their name. To solve this problem, I bought a Polaroid camera that took instant pictures and when I brought someone home, which were called "tricks" in those days, I would take a picture of them and write their name on the picture to try to remember who was who. Ultimately, I ran out of film before I ran out of men.
Ever a believer in marketing, I had "trick" cards made that I could hand out to attractive prospects that I might see during the course of my day. They were business card size and had my contact information such as name and phone number and then at the bottom, there was the tag line "Availability subject to change without notice," as I didn't want anyone to think that I had any commitment to actually getting together with them if I didn't remember who they were or lost interest by the time they called.
One night I was trolling outside my front door on Haight street for the man of the moment, and across the street, I saw three attractive black men on their way to the I-Beam. I ran across the street and gave one of them my trick card. His name turned out to be John Perry. I would have a tumultuous relationship with him for the next three years.