I live in San Francisco, which means I don’t have to run away to join the circus, because it’s already here. We even have the necessary educational infrastructure—the Clown School of San Francisco.
This is a town that values diversity. We will accept just about anyone as they are, except for Republicans. A certain amount of eccentricity among the citizenry has always been the norm in San Francisco, going back to the time of Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Emperor Norton was completely out of his mind, so he fit right in. He marched around the city in his emperor costume issuing decrees and even his own currency, which shopkeepers accepted. Maybe he wasn’t so crazy, after all.
Not that I am saying we are all crazy in San Francisco; I have met several perfectly sane people at the airport. But there are a lot of weird people here. I hasten to add that I use the term weird in the most loving sense.
Some of our local characters are really quite classy. Marian and Vivian Brown are identical twins who are famous for strolling around the city wearing identical outfits, including matching hats and hairdos. That’s it. Long before reality television these two figured out you could be famous for no apparent reason. The Brown sisters aren't just out walking for the fun of it—all these years they have been looking for a pair of snappily-dressed identical twin men. They’ve actually found quite a few, but all of them were gay.
Then there is Frank Chu, the 12 Galaxy Guy. Frank spends his days carrying a sign around San Francisco that always says something of grave importance to the body politic. It used to say “impeach Bill Clinton in 12 galaxies”—and this was years after Clinton left office. Once our band Los Train Wreck was playing a gig at a nightclub called “12 Galaxies,” named, as a matter of fact, for Frank and his message, and in-between sets he got up and gave a ten minute talk. He didn’t make a lick of sense, but the speech was well delivered.
My favorite San Francisco eccentric is Pink Man, aka Michael Maxfield, renowned for wearing a shocking pink unitard and riding around the Bay Area on a unicycle. Pink Man is a master of the unicycle, and I have spent years mastering the harmonica; I feel this makes us kindred spirits. Maybe I should start playing in a Day-Glo unitard.
I think San Francisco’s dottiness is caused by all the fault lines. The earth isn’t stable, and neither are we. But the occasional tremor aside, it’s a great place to live. I’ve lived in other cities, and they all have much to offer, but San Francisco is unique—in 12 galaxies. Now, where’s my unitard?