Back in the early 1970s I moved to San Francisco from L.A. as a naïve teenager enthralled by the energy and beauty of that city by the bay. That was post-Haight Ashbury meltdown and pre-AIDS devastation, and San Francisco was a magical wonderland that felt like its magic could last forever. I lived just over the hill from the Castro district and, although unambiguously heterosexual, I loved the energy of the Castro community and its outrageous pride parades.
By the time I moved to Boston in the early 1980s I had started to lose friends to some dark and mysterious epidemic sweeping through the gay community. But 1970s San Francisco was still, at least for me, a time and place of exuberance, safety, and joy.
There was one particular occasion I remember from that time in San Francisco when my younger brother came to visit me and I took him out on the town. We ended up late at night at a place called the I-Beam, a gay dance club in the Haight. It was a loud and lively sanctuary where we could dance together, two straight brothers, without drawing any attention to ourselves.
What brings all this to mind, of course, is the horror of the recent Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub – a vicious violation of what should have been a safe harbor. And then today, in this morning’s New York Times, I read several wonderful short essays by contributors who offered their personal reflections on “My First Gay Bar.”
So this is my own modest offering to those reflective waters.