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    As I Was Walking Down the Street One Day

    Photo By Christopher Turner

    The familiar words of the title are from the classic song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago. I couldn’t help but hum along as I thought of my past and present experiences walking down the streets of San Francisco. Walk (and hum) with me.

    My very first visit to San Francisco was in 1968. My youth choir from the Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, traveled to San Francisco on a mission trip. (You can’t make this stuff up.) We were here to sing and witness to the hippies in Golden Gate Park. We’d been convinced they were heathens and “had a Jesus-shaped hole in their hearts.” They were smoking something called Mary Jane and doing that “free love” thing, too.

    When I came out and eventually moved here 40 years later, I found that I had a lot in common with the very people I had tried to convert! And I’m still doing musical mission work!

    Every time I walked these streets as a tourist, I was incredibly sad to pack my suitcase to go home. I would literally leave a little bit of my heart in San Francisco. I dreamed of what it might be like to actually live here. (Cue: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”)

    The other “theme song” of San Francisco comes from the 1936 film San Francisco and was sung by Jeanette MacDonald (six times) during the film! Exactly 80 years later, the lyrics still speak truth:

    “San Francisco, open your golden gate.

    You’ll let no stranger wait outside your door.

    San Francisco, here is your wandering one,

    Saying I’ll wander no more.”

    I was one of those strangers at the door. And, thank goodness, that door was open. And still is! According to San Francisco Travel, the city proper has approximately 300,000 residents and welcomes over 17 million tourists each year.

    When some people walk down our streets, they complain about our obvious issues. Our streets aren’t the cleanest. We struggle with our homeless population. We have lots of reminders of the divide between haves and have nots. I just say to the visitors, “Keep your eyes above waist level, and you’ll see only the glory of our city.”

    One of the most amazing things we have to offer is the food. After living here a year, my doctor asked, “Are you eating your way through San Francisco?” I proudly said, “Well, yes, I am.” In an interview, I was asked what my favorite restaurant was and I said, “the one that says OPEN.”

    To make sure I covered the topic, I asked a group of friends to complete the sentence: “As I was walking down the street one day …” Their answers will no doubt resonate with you as well.

    … I asked myself if it was Halloween.
    Then I realized, it was just April.


    … I celebrate everyone letting his or
    her freak flags fly.


    … I realized I was no longer alone.


     … I saw two men in their 80s, dressed
    in their Sunday best, walking down
    the street holding hands—a beautiful sight.


     … I felt the hustle and bustle of NYC,
    the nightlife of Paris, business hub of
    London, fetishes of Berlin, friendliness
    of the South and the food of all of the above!


    … I turned a corner on the crest of a
    hill and saw a view that left me breathless again.


    … I heard 5 languages in a 5-minute walk.


    … I watched the fog fingers creeping
    over the hills juxtaposed against the
    golden light bathing the gorgeous city.


    … I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting
    place to wear a sock.”


     … I savored the smells … sweet flowers
    of Golden Gate Park, fresh salt air
    at the Embarcadero and urine around
    the corner from the Victoria Theater.


    … I could wear whatever I want, do
    pretty much whatever I want and no
    one would stare.


     … I chuckled at how we melt when the
    temperature gets over 80 and cry tears
    of joy when the fog returns.


     … I celebrated flying parrots of Dolores
    Park and a man scantily clad as a peacock.


    … I could hear Anna Madrigal from
    Tales of the City say, “It’s home.”


    Just for the record, many listed “home” and “diversity” as their top feelings about San Francisco.

    Finally, since our entire world is now consumed with polls and difficult (or not so difficult) choices, here is an unofficial election year ballot for your enjoyment.

    Choose your favorite:

    __ Ferries                    __Fairies

    __Bay                           __Gay

    __Sourdough             __Hot Cookie

    __Ghiradelli               __Dandelion

    __Crabs                       __…nevermind

    __Embarcadero        __Castro

    __Bay Bridge             __Golden Gate Bridge

    __Angel Island          __Alcatraz

    __Golden Gate          __Dolores

    __Cliff House            __Donna Sachet’s Sunday’s a Drag Brunch

    __SF Opera               __Beach Blanket Babylon

    __San Francisco      __San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
    Gay Men’s Chorus

    Or you can be bipartisan and love it all as I do.

    I would like to end with lyrics from one more song. This one is by Andrew Lippa from his oratorio, I Am Harvey Milk.

    “San Francisco, I have no one. So I’m hoping you’ll hold me. I’m hoping you’ll help me. I am broken, but you welcome the broken to come and to heal.”

    And thus it is with many or most of us. We have come here to have a new beginning, searching for a home, looking for healing in some way. And this city has been all of that!

    We live in the most fabulous city on the earth. As I was walking down the street one day, I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t just a dream. Nope, wide awake—and feeling incredibly lucky and grateful.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.