End Of The Rainbow

Photo by Lo Potter

A personal essay written while living in San Francisco.


Growing up in rural America, I imagined San Francisco as a far off fairytale land with sacred Meccas such as the City Lights bookstore, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Castro – all as mythical as the television show, “Full House.” In college, my girlfriends and I fantasized about a pilgrimage to a place where our futures didn’t depend on hiding our identities. But, when I arrived in 2014, my image of a Gay Promise Land shattered.

I first noticed not the architecture, nor the blending of cultures I envisioned in collegiate daydreams. In all directions, advertisements or billboards smacked me upside the brain with some internet meme derived slogan or, yet another iPhone advertisement. Then, the overwhelming smell of burning marijuana stole a close second, with the thousands of homeless, suffering daily from police brutality visible through the smoke. 

Now here, I watch humans drown in advertisements screaming memes from once-trending YouTube videos specific to the ages of the targeted audiences. Municipal transit lives and breathes what once resided within the confines of magazines and television. To survive, I wear my indifference like scuba gear. Yet, the materialism and the artificial state of California seeps through my protective barriers. Classic business attire implies age because physical appearance cannot be trusted here. Saving money exists as a hobby-like pastime for those wealthy enough to have any part of their paycheck left after paying the costs of living. At the ripe old age of 24, someone assumes I’m in my 30s because I wear east coast style business attire when instructed to dress “business casual” instead of seasonal fast fashion trends business-appropriate enough to pass.

In San Francisco, I learn that to be a member of my community I have to choose: be a walking advertisement and suffer the professional consequences, or be myself and exist just under the calibrated range for Gay-dar. San Francisco redefines Pride for me as between two communities, unable to belong to either – hated by both.

While trying to eat my lunch at work, I listen to a group of San Franciscans talk about how they “totally judge” every single person they meet by their shoes. I try to tune out, but their voices echo in the open floor plan. Tevas, Chacos, Vibram 5-fingers, and Birkenstocks are on their “this person is not worth my time” list – each person shares their particular nuances. I try not to listen and shove my face with Safeway Alaska Roll, hoping the chewing will drown them out. It doesn’t.

According to these white, San Franciscan women, the first offense by anyone wearing these shoes is their lack of fashion sense. Mortal sin if they combine these shoes with socks. The second offense? The price paid for these shoes. Why? Don’t worry. They share that too. Apparently, “anyone choosing to wear any of these brands should be spending their money on much nicer looking shoes” that don’t make them look like “wanna-be outdoorsy people who can’t stand to be in the office.” 

One woman, her Brazilian blowout blonde hair quivering, charges into a rant about a man she sat next to at a conference in Seattle. He wore Vibram 5-finger toes that, without saying anything, conveyed the message, “I shouldn’t be here. I’m too good to be here.” 

I look down at my feet. Having owned a nice pair of black nylon-strap Teva sandals, I listen as these women continue voicing their prejudices against those that prefer durable, comfortable footwear. But this is normal. In San Francisco, I don’t know if the consistency helps. Perhaps I should take comfort in knowing that I can expect strangers will always be judging me based on the appearance of my feet and not on any other qualities of my existence – they are literally looking down on me even when I’m at a shared eye level.

On the train home, I gaze out at this fallen Mecca with its urine-soaked streets and drug numbed population. How did I get it so wrong? “That’s just wrong,” someone echoes. Finding a spot along the seawall overlooking the Bay Bridge, I sit at the Embarcadero. The bay glistens, dancing blues absent of humans. Others find happiness here. Why not me?


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post today. If it speaks to you, please let me know by liking, commenting, or sharing this post. This helps me know which posts my readers like best.

Advertising And Elephant Pants

I wrote the following essay in 2016 while living in San Francisco. At the time I did not own a car and used SFMTA as my primary mode of transportation. As a result, I saw a lot of advertisements. The following was an actual advertisement appearing on MUNI during the 2016 Super Bowl. Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.

This was a real advertisement – I was *not* kidding

Advertising And Elephant Pants

On my way home I stare at an advertisement on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s L train. A man with crooked eye teeth smiles and poses with hands relaxing on his hips. “Sasha” declares in the poster’s bold white block lettering that he is at peace with who he is and his HIV status. Everything about the ad is well done. I applaud the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for exemplifying Sasha C. both as a non-white HIV positive man and a passionate activist without overplayed stereotypes that may distract the oblivious straight person. Even the maroon henley shirt is buttoned at the perfectly ambiguous level between those stereotypes so often played up in the Castro where the train stops. Yet, his pants’ pockets catch me off guard.

I fixate on this baffling criticism: his pants pockets. I admit a relationship between this and his crotch’s positioning at my exact eye level. These khaki pants have flaps over the front pockets – already unusual. In Sasha’s picture, he has snapped the pockets’ flaps for open-pocket accessibility. This seems logical because why would anyone snap and close the front pocket flaps of cargo-style khaki pants in the first place? Oh sure, it might deter the novice sleight-of-hand thief, but front pockets rarely experience the joys of anything beyond pocket change or keys. But the flaps could also snap to close these front pockets giving his crotch its very own pair of dumbo ears. How appropriate for an awkward glance in an exceptionally reflective urinal when one needs to take a leak. I’m sure the unused snaps to hold the flaps open make delightful eyes! But, with the flaps snapped open the fabric pulls taut across his lap, giving him anatomy that competes with Ken dolls. Sasha is now an innovator in using khakis to demasculinize himself in one fell, two-snap swoop.

Perhaps the photographer figured lacking anatomy aided in the goal to subvert stereotypes. These missing stereotypes are the ones that when present seem to inspire the “straight” community’s assault, murder, and abuse of the LGBTQA+ community across the United States. Even in San Francisco, we must try not to play up the stereotypes attached to us if we are to be seen outside of our designated neighborhoods, such as Bernal Heights or the Castro. Within the safety of the Castro, a few men walk around in nothing but fully sequined socks of silver and gold tying it all together as a prominent display that draws the eye. This behavior emerged after San Francisco outlawed full nudity except during events such as San Francisco Pride and the Castro Street Fair. I prefer full nudity – at least then the neighborly nudists do not draw eyes away from the charismatic faces I adore so much. 

This caters to tourists, and subversive efforts are necessary since the city keeps asking the Castro to “gay the place up” in its capitalist efforts. With a confusing mix of pride and profit, our neighborhoods comply. Now, the Castro has rainbow crosswalks, flashing rainbow signs, and even a string of rainbow lights on the light rail station’s escalators, yet fewer than 55% of newcomers to the neighborhood identify as members of the LGBTQA+ community as of 2015 according to Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy. Even during the 2016 Super Bowl signs in the light rail stations lure unsuspecting tourists away from Fisherman’s Wharf to the melodic, dancing tones of the Midnight Sun where Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. These signs ask why they could possibly want to stare at sea lions when they could pet real bears? But the tourists don’t see what I see. Every morning I wake up to go running, dodging the used needles littering the side streets until needle exchange volunteers pick them up and help the homeless find somewhere else to spend their days before the police arrive to do the same. Why is it that it’s on our shrinking neighborhood community to do anything to help each other with compassion while the city and landlords profit?

Now, besides having differing unsympathetic fashion taste to Sasha’s utilitarian khaki needs, the pockets of these pants distract me from the beautiful purpose of this advertisement. Instead, I spend a twenty-minute train ride mesmerized by the horrific potential of the pants for impromptu inappropriate puppeteering. These pockets of penile peek-a-boo are at eye level to an SFMTA patron seated on the train. When Sasha says “at peace with who he is”, does this mean he is at peace with his love of odd fashion statements? His love of elephants? Maybe he loves snap closure pockets. All I can do is smile at the advertisement – one of the few representing a member of my community without trying to sell a thing.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post today. If it speaks to you, please let me know by liking, commenting, or sharing this post. This helps me know which posts my readers like best.

New Short Story: The Disappearance of Lula Mae Darling

Image: Thomas Fields of Unspash https://unsplash.com/photos/CHmJOPQ77gU

Hey all! As many of you know, or if you haven’t guessed already based on my author bio, I’m from Middle of Nowhere Atlantic Coastal Region of the Southern United States. I’m married to a New Englander or ,”Yankee”. I grew up surrounded by unique stereotypes, and I love exploring the roles of stereotypes in American culture. If you like this kind of story, please let me know and I will write more like it.

Without saying anything more, I hope you enjoy my story “The Disappearance Of Lula Mae Darling” published today on Coffee House Writers!