San Francisco Chronicle, 4/23/02
Our major media breakthrough. The original article was printed on p2 of the San Francisco Chronicle and (for now) is still posted on the their website, where it surely remains one of their most frequently-visited pages.
For the sake of posterity, here’s the transcript:
Party scouts search the city for a good time
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
On the sidewalk at the corner of Howard and 11th there was a little stack of abandoned placards. “Stop the next war before it starts,” read one; “War is bad for Creation,” read another.
Despite a gritty wind and gray skies, the line to enter the How Weird Street Faire was growing, particularly now that the anti-war, pro-Palestinian rally in the Civic Center Plaza was over. “I want to shed the protest skin,” I heard a woman tell her friends.
It was, after all, 4-20 — in San Francisco, a dope-smokers’ holiday that seems to be overtaking Halloween and New Year’s Eve in popular observance. Earlier, I’d come across a dozen people passing around a pipe in an alley. Heaven only knows what was in it; one poor guy was coughing so hard he was bent double.
Beyond the street barriers, hard-core trancers — a tanned guy in huge sunglasses and butterfly wings, a woman with purple hair extensions, people in blue wigs, flowered headpieces, five-inch platforms, green glitter — danced to the music pumping from the Space Cowboys’ Unimog, a converted 1973 Mercedes Swiss Army radio truck topped with a custom-fabricated Plexiglas dome, inside which we could see the DJ grooving like some demented pilot. Huge struts extending from its sides supported some of its 9,600 watts’ worth of speakers.
Later, it seemed like a perfect night on which to crash a few parties. “Not crash,” corrected my new acquaintance, Will. “Visitate.”
He’s one of three members of the Partygoers, a San Francisco group whose self-appointed mission is — to quote their elaborate Web site — “to foster goodwill via the spontaneous visitation of social gatherings and celebrations. ” They’d set up our meeting at Club Waziema on Divisadero, a neighborhood bar with red flocked wallpaper and a funky jukebox.
Besides Will, a graphic designer with glasses and curly hair, there’s John, a sideburned copywriter, and Steve, in a beat-up baseball hat, who says he’s “freelance.” What do these three men want? To “enrich and enliven” the city’s social scene — and get Willie Brown to acknowledge them, something the mayor’s been refusing to do since 1997.
“We’ve stuffed letters under his office door at City Hall,” said Will.
“Gavin Newsom has written us back,” said John. “Mark Leno sent us a couple of nice e-mails. But Willie Brown — nothing. Stony silence from Willie Brown.”
Party visitation, they contend, is a skill all its own, more challenging some nights than others. “Halloween and New Year’s are the two easiest nights of the year,” said John.
“But I think tonight’s going to be a good night,” said Steve. “I’ve got that vibe.” After discussion, we headed out to pound the streets of the Western Addition (or “W.A.,” a coinage for which the ‘Goers insist they’re responsible) in search of a gathering.
We walked to Alamo Square, where a grateful city once dedicated a park bench to the Partygoers. Well, OK: They dedicated it themselves, using a plaque made at a trophy shop. Park workers later duly performed an un- dedication: “It was like when Old Yeller died,” said Will.
They shushed each other and gazed out at the city lights. “Which way is the wind coming from?” asked Steve.
“Well, you’re feeling McAllister,” said John. “Let’s cut down Pierce.”
So, as experts, what would they say makes a party great? “A DJ,” answered Will. “And a kegerator.”
“A good crowd,” said John. “A backyard.”
“A backyard is huge,” agreed Steve.
At quarter past 11 they spotted a telltale knot of people outside a house on Hayes; we marched up the steps and found ourselves in a party of soon-to-be- major proportions. A DJ was setting up in the front room, there was — yes! — a kegerator in the kitchen alcove, and the partially enclosed roof deck, strung with Christmas lights and featuring a view of City Hall’s illuminated dome, was given over to 4-20-ing.
The ‘Goers were in their element, performing introductions and, by some alchemy, creating a circle of hilarity out of a group of strangers. Forty-five minutes later, though, we left in search of another party requiring enlivenment. More people were streaming up the stairs, and a guy was hauling a pair of bongo drums through the kitchen. “We can always come back,” said John.
Still, it was hard to imagine we’d find a better party.
“Never say that,” said Steve. “There’s always a better party.”
July 28, 2011