travelog 52

Ralf König sends his regards

"These poor people must have a lot of self-confidence", we think, while floating with the crowd. It's September 29 and once again one of the most important events of the gay-, leather-, and bdsm-scene takes place: the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco!

We're surprised that something like this is possible at all in the USA (well-known for its prude attitude against everything that has just the slightest thing in common with sex). Partly we're amused, partly we're even really shocked. Men in casual clothes walk by with an open fly and a little pink sausage peeping out; men buffed like rocks strut by, their hairy chests covered only with a couple of thin leather straps or solid chains; characters in police uniforms pass by but it's quite impossible that a real policemen would slink like that; prancing through the crowd are totally tarted transvestites painted with so much loud make-up on that it's enough to make you ill.

Sometimes we really feel taken back to a comic book by Ralf König. There are the very tough types in the leather outfit with dashing boots, pithy caps, and a robust smell. There are the pretty musclemen with the curly hairy weight-lifter chest and the tight-fitting, bulging pants. Then there are the weedy types who run after these very guys.

A large circle of spectators attracts us. Both half-naked and totally naked men are being tied up. The one in the front kneels totally naked, a rope as a gag through his mouth. He's being artfully tied up by a tremendously tall Asian guy whose skin shines and gleams from the huge amount of oil he has put on his body.

Next we pass women whose bare behinds show purple welts from whip lashes. Another one floats by in a leather outfit that barely covers her breasts. This isn't all too special in itself but the upper part of her breasts is covered with blood-red punctures from needles.

For a donation of $1 you can get spanked in public. The proceeds are for aids relief. We can certainly do without that but it's interesting nonetheless how an older gentleman lets his young boyfriend get spanked and he obviously likes it.

We eat the obligatory fair-sausage with fries. A little bit too fat, with too much garlic, and not really hot. But after all, this is part of the party-atmosphere! Apart from that, these sausages at least have size...

We're impressed by the nonchalance with which everybody presents himself. You can take pictures of everything without any embarassement.

Although our batteries for the digital camera die pretty soon, we get a few interesting shots. A part of the pictures shown here was taken by our friends Judy and Bob with whom we're at the street fair. Bob isn't shy at all. He speaks to everybody and gets as close as possible with his lens to everything that shows naked flesh. We're amused!

One observation that we're also able to make is the incredible share of obese to monstrous characters. The reflection of the American society? Certainly, if you read that obesity is Americas number 1 health problem.

But you can also meet very attractive people. Sometimes wrapped into very tasteful combinations of dresses.

Bare butts are predominant. The appropriate front view sometimes hidden only under a tight flap or a semicircular leather dome, sometimes even presented without inhibition. Half-naked men lean against street lamps rubbing their purple little stump openly before the strolling crowd. Next we pass a group of men where one guy kneels on the ground. His head disappears under his friends kilt and he obviously enjoys something that you normally don't see anybody doing in public.

Lining the streets are booths selling specialty products designed to fill the need and desires of the s&m consumers. You can buy entire furnishings for the torture-chamber. You can buy everything from whips to wooden torture crosses, from candles to soaps in the form of a penis, but everything is quite expensive (we think). Colorful dildos and butt plugs in the form of saints seem specially interesting to us: Baby Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Maria, and many more.

Again and again we're amazed how casually the policemen stand around and let the people do what they like. A space to be themselves that they obviously need. Everything goes well and a feeling of fun and joy floats through the strolling crowd. It seems a little bit strange then that you can't take your beer with you through the gate when leaving the fair. That, however, is forbidden by the American law - alcohol shown openly on the streets!

We really enjoy the visit of this scene and would love to know what people would say about America if they visited only for one day and accidentally would wander into this scene!

September 2002

Julia Etter & Martin Kristen