We spent Halloween in the Castro, which is one of my favorite things to do ever. We’ve been traveling a lot, so we haven’t been in a few years, and I’m always disappointed to be away on Halloween night. This year, we went with a group of friends, and had a lot of fun, but the vibe was incredibly different.
Usually, it’s just a big block party with hordes of fun gay people in outrageous costumes, and swarms of fun straight people in outrageous costumes. Everyone’s drunk and dancing and flirting with each other, and the police are mostly there to help out if some hostile weirdo starts a bar fight or if someone falls down and cuts themselves. Boy, have things changed.
First, there were police everywhere, and you had to pass through alcohol and weapons checkpoints to even get into the neighborhood. And the cops weren’t getting into the spirit by being friendly and celebratory like usual, they were kind of grim and poised for action. Which made everyone feel, you know, grim and poised for action.
This, combined with the unusual enforcement of open container laws, made for an unexpected tension. Only about thirty percent of people were even in costume, and the crowd wasn’t gay enough, friendly enough, or fun enough to have been predominantly San Franciscans. It felt like someone flew in and air-dropped a different city right on top of Halloween.
We had a great time because we arrived early, and stuck mostly to the edges, hanging out with people who were there to have fun. For the first time, though, I felt wary all night. I attributed it to the combination of complete sobriety and protectiveness over the baby, but I realize now that it was just a different crowd.
We popped into Lucky 13 to get drinks and use the bathrooms, and left about an hour later, right as ten people were injured by gunfire a block away from where we were. Gunfire on Halloween.
I hate to say it, because Halloween in the Castro is one of the things that makes San Francisco more fun than other cities, but I donâ€™t think I’ll go again. It’s not safe, and it’s not about hanging out with the neighbors anymore. Halloween has become the violent Fisherman’s Warf of holidays.
Next year, let’s have a hometown costume parade the Saturday before â€” one that starts early enough that people with guns don’t feel like getting out of bed for it. I’ll bring the Bloody Marys.