April 18th, 2012

My mom grew up before video games and texting and the internet. Before cable TV and reality TV and endless reruns of everything. Plus she was somewhere out in the Midwest. She had nothing. And so, she says, she and her brothers and sister would go to the airport to watch people come and go. Needless to say this was also before 9/11 and they could actually just sit at gates and stare at the passengers getting on and off the planes. Fun times, I’m sure. They were especially transfixed, she remembers, by the Californians, all “weirdos” as she recalls, though this was still the 50s and I wonder what that even meant. Were the men were waiting an extra week to trim their hair? Were the ladies not wearing gloves on the planes?

Still, people watching is kind of a time-honored practice and if it’s something you enjoy, there’s no better place for it than Dolores Park on a sunny weekend. Since my mom was watching the Californians who could afford air travel back in the 50s, San Francisco has been through the cultural revolution of the 60s, allowed the infamous Castro district to rise from its loins, let the dot com-ers redefine professional standards and spawned Burning Man. It is, today, a unique haven for people who want the freedom to look, act and be exactly what they choose, and think it’s possible that the choices they make might scare their families. And all those people go to Dolores Park when the sun comes out. It’s a beautiful, eclectic parade of fashion and culture and these few weeks, spring, are kind of a sweet spot for it. The sun is sparkling and the air is warm and San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the whole world, until the chill of the summer fog rolls in and everyone goes back inside and gets depressed.

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