Well, sometimes it feels that way. I must admit my favorite Folsom Street Fair was 1998, when we had the downpour. The sightseers ran from the rain, and the rest of us got on with out business. We watched Blue Period get rained out (a heavily amped punk band in the rain is a bad idea), visited with them backstage (while there still was a backstage), got into the late, lamented My Place ahead of the lines and drank free vodka-cranberry all afternoon with the band.
So we skipped the fair again this year.
Even though we had a hotel room three blocks away.
"What could possess you to want to go into San Francisco Folsom weekend if you're not going to the fair?" you ask.
Well, The Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco decided to move their coronation to the same weekend, and set it at the Ramada Plaza Hotel. Grand Duke Mike Manicotti and Grand Duchess Sophilya Leggz have been absolute darlings when we've met them on the circuit, so we couldn't miss it. Shifting the date was a risky proposition; there are a lot of in-town events the Saturday night before the fair. It made things difficult for some of the local folks, but it did bring in a pretty good visiting crowd.
We were fortunate enough to get in a bit before 1:00pm, and found ourself pulling up behind Empress Felicia and Emperor Courtney of Reno, and Empress Carlotta Solengoodz of Las Vegas. The security guard had just let Courtney and the doorman know that three parking spaces had opened in the hotel parking lot, so we snapped up all the permits quickly.
Hospitality was in the Nob Hill room on the mezzanine level. The Ramada Plaza (a.k.a. the RamIt Inn; it's been host hotel for Drummer contests in the past) is a glorious old post-quake building with high ceilings, beautiful woodwork, and not nearly enough lighting. The Nob Hill room is this small conference room lined with dark paneling and with a few low windows looking out onto Market street; it was packed with visitors.
kproche helped Tank (our current Grand Duke of San José) put together protocol, and we waited for mishalak, who was walking from a few blocks away, to arrive. We had a drink, and then left to do a bit of shopping at the new Mr. S store.
Yep, they moved, to 8th street and that building with the giant inflatable gorilla on the roof. One day when it's not so busy, I'll ask someone who knows what prompted the move. The new store is really nice. They've got about twice as much floor space and much better displays with a lot more inventory on display. They even have a display model bed from DungeonBeds. The beds are actually really nice, and other than pure mass don't necessarily hint that they're bondage furniture.
Shopping done, we grabbed a quick lunch at the Soma Cafe. It's this fabulous little restaurant near 7th and Folsom. I've not had anything there that isn't great, but their hummus with grilled chicken is fabulous.
Went back to the hotel, M went back to his place to change, and we got ready for the ball.
Mike and Sophilya's ball theme was "A Russian Gypsy Circus Comes to San Francisco." Real mouthful, but a fun idea. Also one that was really easy to dress for. K got tapped to sing "O Canada" again; the Grand Duke of Fresno (who was scheduled to perform) couldn't make it.
In a surprise development, the show actually started on time. The room was still filling as the flags were presented, anthems were sung and the invocation was offered.
Alas, the tech crew wasn't as well organized as the rest of the event staff. There was an ugly hum in the PA system, the MC's microphones were set far too low beyond the level of the backing music, and the spotlight operator was on crack (at least that's my explanation as to why the light was popping all over the place except where it should have been). Madame Steele missed being called as a guest to the dais because she couldn't hear the announcement over the music.
It was also evident after the opening number (put on by the Ducal House of Reno) that the theme was pretty much a throwaway. They put on a nice circus/gypsy theme number, and markobellydance did a dance number in the second act, but that was about it. The sets didn't really say "circus" or "gypsy" and neither did the rest of the command performances.
The MCs still did a great job moving the show quickly, until something in the sound system blew in the middle of Taryn Thru-you's command performance. They did get it fixed, and suddenly the sound quality (and the clarity of the MC's mics) got much better. The next time things are that bad I'm going to go up and run the mixer myself; I own the same PA that they were using.
So one act down, and the sound was finally working right. Marko did his number, and while it was great, it was evidence that we weren't going to be so lucky with the spotlight getting sorted out. For some reason the operator decided that flipping the yellow gel in and out would "spice up" the performances. Nobody looks good under a yellow gel, much less a flickering yellow gel.
Madame Steele and David "Diva" LaFever were called up to run the second act and read protocol. Courts walked in Z-A order, so we actually walked second. It was nice getting that out of the way. Steele and David ran protocol very quickly and smoothly.
Mike and Sophilya did their last walks. Both had a very respectable "wall of monarchs" behind them, indicating that they had, indeed, made a good name for themselves on the circuit. Sophilya finished with Lords of Acid's Pussy. Finally a last walk number that's not fraught with meaning and symbolism, except perhaps "I am what I am."
There were no candidates this year for Grand Duke or Grand Duchess, so there was no election. The council named Collette LeGrande-Ashton as Regent Grand Duchess 33 and Rob as Regent Grand Duke 32. Both have done a lot of work (this was the 15th anniversary of Collette's first term as Grand Duchess) and will continue the work being done to revitalize the SF Ducal Council.
Afterwards, K, Marko and I went with Madame Steele and the new regents for a tour of the Ducal Court's home bars in the Tenderloin. We stopped at Aunt Charlie's Lounge to watch a bit of Gina La Divina's Hot Boxx Girls review. Gina is in her early seventies, but you would never know it; she's a seriously fierce queen and has been performing for well over 30 years.
Rob and Collette said we had to go to Mr. Lee-Ona's, so we walked up two blocks. Mr. Lee-Ona isn't with us anymore (we were there last year when, stoned out of his mind, he walked off the front of the stage at Alameda's Ducal Coronation), but his bar is still a nice, bright, clean and civilized little place in the heart of the Tenderloin.
A bit of gab and gossip later we made a final walk up to DECO Lounge and piano bar. DECO has made its home in the former Jezebel's Joint (a dominatrix bar owned by the folks who own the Power Exchange), and you would never know it. It's nice, clean, bright, and (like all the other Tenderloin bars) has eminently reasonable drink prices (by SF standards). We caught the tail end of Houston's set in the piano bar (it's been years since I've been in piano bar) and generally had a fabulous time.
After getting Steele into a cab, K and Marko and I headed over to Mel's Diner at the 5th & Mission Garage for a bite to eat (I would have been a disaster in the morning if we hadn't) and then back to the hotel.
Morning didn't come too early, but it came early. We checked out of the hotel and headed back to find parking near DECO, where victory brunch was being held. We had a drink, they put on a very good feed, and then we headed back home.