I’m not usually one to wish a month or just time away at all because hey, life is short enough already.
I’m a little glad June is over. It means we are well on our way at getting through the hot summer of Sacramento. The closer to fall, the better.
While I love the things I do in June, it’s always busy. June includes Mom’s birthday, which often falls on Father’s Day (like it did this year), and then my new June tradition, volunteering the entire last weekend of June for San Francisco PRIDE.
It was my third year. Every year, I somehow suddenly remember how fun it is once I navigate parking, BART, and finding the hotel and then venue. Without my dumbphone, I have no idea how people got around…to begin with.
I often wonder how I found my way to high school in the used car I had. Without help.
In 2011, my cousin, Steve, asked if I’d like to volunteer with him at PRIDE. I couldn’t that year. I was about to leave a job for beauty school, I was packing to move, and any amount of time I could spend with Mom was becoming more and more precious. I just couldn’t do it.
He asked again in 2012. I was back in beauty school after Mom’s death. I had some time, and I was game.
My cousin is the Police Liaison between the SF Pride Safety Committee and the SF Police Department. PRIDE pretty much begins on Friday evening, and then goes until late Sunday. Steve plays an important role in the order of the entire event.
According to the Safety trainers, many many years ago, someone died at PRIDE. They were run over by a vehicle in the parade. It was tragic, and it almost shut down the entire PRIDE celebration forever.
PRIDE committee folks told the city that if they could guarantee no more accidental deaths, there would be no reason to cancel the PRIDE celebration. The city agreed, and thus the Safety Committee was born. (And to the PRIDE people reading this blog post, if any of this is incorrect, I’m really sorry. Feel free to message me to so I can make corrections. If it’s close enough, swell.)
I attended a training last Friday that went from 7-9pm. It was at a beautiful church for the Unitarian Universalists…err…Universalist Unitarians…err. You get it. If I recall in my own religious studies, they are a very open, progressive Christian sect. The church was frankly GORGEOUS. Yet smelled old.
The training includes instructions for contingent monitors…the folks who are assigned to the floats/vehicles who are in charge of walking next to the wheels to ensure no one gets under them because of the tragic death from years before.
The second half of training is for the Safety Monitors. That what I’d been the previous two years. We walk around in small groups, looking for broken glass, passed out people, assisting in medical emergencies, etc. It’s fun. You get to walk around and windowshop and be stopped every few minutes for directions to the restroom. That happens on Saturday. On Sunday, we’re assigned to a spot on the parade route and make sure people don’t hop the barriers, direct them to restrooms and MUNI stops (where they can cross Market Street underground) and help apply sunscreen and take group photos for them. I’m also useful when it comes to knowing when the parade is going to actually end. Some years, it seems to go on…forever.
One favorite moment from my first year…2012. I was assigned to Safety Joseiph, a Team Leader. My brother and I and a few others walked around together, stopping at the food vendors and lightly shopping. We approached the “Meet Nude Men” booth and was startled to see naked old men. I said something to Safety Joseiph, and he said, “I’m not so concerned that they’re naked but that they’re not wearing shoes.” You might have had to been there.
Last year was also fun. I was in Safety Joseiph’s group again and felt like his right-hand gal.
I was sitting in the church with my cousin and bro, sitting through the same training we’d had the previous two years Friday night, and Safety Joey snuck into the pew next to me and asked I wanted to be a Team Leader because they were short. I said, “Is it hard?” He said, “No…it’s just getting used to the radio.” I said yes. And then felt like OH SHIT. RESPONSIBILITY.
I joined their training a few minutes later. Trying to listen hard. Safety Joseiph gave me a hug and said he hoped I hadn’t minded…they were short and he said, “I have an idea…” Honestly, I like having power, so deep down, I was excited. I was going to be on radio as part of the safety team in charge of the second-largest PRIDE event in the world. And if that last part isn’t true, oh well. It’s LARGE, okay?
I got a different shirt.
We wore yellow (or GOLDENROD…the joke of the day) and green on Sunday. You will find no selfies of me in the yellow shirt. No matter how tan a blonde is, yellow and blonde never work.
I arrived on Saturday HELLA NERVOUS. For real. Hella nervous.
Headquarters is at the Bill Graham Civic Center. This year, on the fourth floor.
I got a radio. No big deal. I got the inner ear radio instead of the Madonna-headpiece-radio because…because. I’d used radios like all of these when I toured with Cirque du Soleil. I wasn’t worried about this radio. I was only worried about being responsible for the deaths of people at PRIDE because I am terrible at giving street directions out in the event area. That was what my brother was good for, though. (He was in my group.)
Some really cool men were assigned to me. Actually, we all just kind of came together near the food and drink area. It’s loosey-goosey, really. John, Mike, and Ethan (my bro) and I headed out around noon into the madness.
So, one thing we do is walk into that grassy area as a team and look for broken glass, unbroken glass (with gentle reminders to attendees to make sure they throw them away or hide them), passed out folks, etc. Mostly, my morning consisted of ensuring my little group was first inside to get pizza during their break.
Me: “Safety Erica to Safety Command?”
SC: “Go for Safety Command.”
Me: “WE’RE HUNGRY.”
(Not really, but we were the first to go back to headquarters at Bill Graham Civic Center to get sustenance.)
We rescued a lot of glass. We guarded a large truck that was late in providing pieces to set up for a stage near a long row of portable restrooms. We formed a circle, trying to forbid wayward attendees from walking past the truck while also acting as the Potty Police.
“Excuse me, you can’t go through there unless you have to use the restroom.”
“Are you going to use the potty?”
“The last three are vacant.”
Yeah, we all got really good at that.
My first emergency? John developed hives. We were just walking and he said, “Guys…I think I have to go back.” His arms were covered in hives. He said he could feel them under his shirt.
As we were walking back to HQ, we were trying to figure out what we had all eaten and realized the FREE HUG we’d given to the FREE HUG dudes might have triggered some sort of reaction. I mean, those guys were wearing fake fur and maybe some other things…
We left poor John with the medics. “JOHN! I’LL CHECK ON YOU LATER!” I yelled. So professional. We all went back out.
Ethan, Mike and I continued to peruse the event site. I also enjoyed running into senior/regular Safety staff throughout the day, such as Safety Kurt, Safety Panda, Safety Josh (he helped with the toilets), Safety Joey, Safety Joseiph, Safety Joan, Safety Freddie, etc. Fun, fun people.
We did some sweeps of UN Plaza for glass. There is always glass there. Sometimes, you will see a bottle being kicked around by a crowd and by the time you get to it, it’s in one billion pieces. We do our best to get it all up. Cut feet are the most common injury at SF PRIDE.
WEAR SHOES, PEOPLE.
We later learned John received a shot and went back out with another team. I went off radio at about 4:30pm. Mike went out with another group. Ethan and I went our separate ways to get ready for an evening with our first cousin, Steve.
…not before Mike and I snuck a peek across the hall by opening the door to the soundcheck for Robyn and Royskopp. They were performing that night, and I wish I’d known. I love Robyn, since the 1990s. She’s fearless. The things you run into at the Bill Graham Civic Center.
This is what we heard:
The three of us met up at SOMA StrEAT Eats, or whatever it is, in San Francisco. Some famous food trucks are there. We also stumbled across some karaoke. I made Ethan and Steve stay to hear me sing three songs because I had to outdo the three little girls singing Alicia Keys.
Trust me when I say I was amazing. There also wasn’t much to compare me to. I sang Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, and Nicky Minaj. If one can actually “sing” Nicky Minaj.
Next day…early day.
That is Safety Kurt there with the radio, color-coordinated socks and short shorts. My new little team walked by him as he performed “Cold-Hearted Snake” by Paula Abdul. It was spot on.
My new little team: two very quiet brothers (newbies), a dad from a few years before (Jim), Benny (from last year), and my bro. We were assigned to 3rd and Market on the parade route. I’d be near my cousin, too. He was stationed as the Police Liaison near us.
We walked and walked and walked to our spot. Made friends with the folks who arrive early for a good seat. Told them there were 221 contingents. Told them where bathrooms were, where to cross the street underneath Market Street, and to help us locate suspicious bags left behind. There are a lot of people who still dislike PRIDE and what it stands for.
And the parade began.
Lots of rainbows coming your way.
…including Scottish rainbows.
Many contingents walking around me, just like this, including Google and Facebook.
You can also ride the Chipotle burrito after this guy. He did a great job holding on.
And then there was State Senator Mark Leno walking near me in leather pants.
I have no photographic evidence of what happened next, but I made my first emergency medical call when the contingent for Aquarium of the Bay flagged me down because the passenger in their turquoise vehicle dressed like an otter was overheating inside the full-body costume.
I approached the van, and he’d taken his otter head off. He was leaning on the driver and said he couldn’t get up and walk.
Me: “Safety Erica to Safety Command?”
SC: “Go for Safety Command.”
Me: “I have a man who is overheating inside……….an animal costume.”
I remember pausing because I couldn’t tell if he was a squirrel or an otter and then realized it’s an aquarium contingent so likely an otter.
The medical team eventually made it to us through the very large jellyfish dancing around us. Other contingents began to walk around our van, since it was stopped in the middle of the intersection at 3rd and Market.
Eventually, Aquarium of Bay, Contingent #177, rejoined the parade, and Squirrel/Otter Man was alright. I mean, it was 80 degrees in San Francisco that day. That is unheard of for people not from Sacramento.
And then it was over. And the Safety Staff close in and hold hands after the last contingent passes their intersection. We become part of the parade.
We also get a lot of applause from the guests. It’s pretty cool. If you’re on the end, you get to wave like a prom queen. I don’t have a picture of that, either.
Back at Safety Command, I dropped off my radio. Completed my first run as a Team Leader. Got a “thank you” from Safety Marcia, the communications expert. I’d had fun.
Added new “friends” on Facebook. Said good-bye to those not on Facebook. Put on some flip-flops because walking and standing in sneakers for almost two days straight will still make your feet burn.
Got a last minute pic with the bro and cousin.
I’m pretty tall for a gal. They’re clearly taller.
Oh, and there was this from earlier on the parade route with Steve.
And then with the bro. We’re looking a little haggard and a little burnt. Those are all of our fans behind us.
Said goodbye to all the staff I know now and then headed out quickly before they even had the goody bags filled. It was getting late, and I had to pick up my bag from the hotel and find the BART and then fight a lot of stinky attendees for the same BART train. I made it to my station at around 5:30pm, and then home at 7pm.
And then, I went to work the next day.
PRIDE is fun. There are always negative elements to large gatherings of people having a good time…celebrating. The positive always outweighs the negative, though. People make new friends. People can sell their wares. Folks can find like-minded folks all in one place! And then commiserate and celebrate. I’m there to support my LGBTQI friends and family. I love it. It’s a blast ever year. I only wish my day job didn’t interfere with my desire to volunteer more.
I look forward to being a Team Leader again next year. Thanks for asking me, Safety Joseiph and Safety Joey.
My last view of PRIDE before I left.
Until next year. x