This weekend should have started off on Thursday night for me, seeing Anna Netrebko in La Traviata. However, my long term opera companion cancelled on me at the last minute so I had a dilemma- find a last minute date or ditch the tickets on Craigslist. Once I saw I could make a 250% return on the tickets, I figured I could pass on Trebs this time around. Great as she is, this cast wasn't likely to surpass the Swenson-Villazon-Hvorostovsky triumph of a few years back that still ranks as one of the finest evenings of opera I've ever witnessed. Sold at a $550 profit.

Getting caught up in Michael Jackson's death sidetracked me from getting standing room seats just to check it out, in case I was wrong, which I often am about these kinds of things, so that left Sunday's performance, but with the Gay Pride celebration happening a block away I knew the constant thump of disco in the background would obliterate any pleasure to be had so alas, I have missed Netrebko's triumphant return to the city that gave her a launching pad. No worries- she'll be back, and if not, there's always L.A. or N.Y. at some time in the future.

So since we had incredible weather this weekend, I spent most of it having drinks along the waterfront with friends and dancing when the opportunity arose, which was frequently. Sunday afternoon, for those out of town readers, featured the Gay Pride parade and celebration at the Civic Center afterwards.

I live downtown, six blocks from the Civic Center and I can always hear the parties taking place there from my apartment since I live on the 11th floor of a building that's taller than any other in the neighborhood and the sound (noise?) naturally carries. I learned quickly to just give in on weekends like this and either attend whatever is going on or just get the hell out of the neighborhood. But Pride is the largest and loudest of the many events that take place there, so it's inescapable in a sense because the whole City falls under it's sway. This year, for the first time in years, I attended both the parade and the party.

Now I know this surprises a lot of folks, but I'm actually straight. Straight, but with certain preferences, tastes and proclivities that read "gay" in mainstream culture and I have an inner circle bearing the same stamp. It can't really be any other way in this City when you've been here as long as I have. C'est la vie, read into it what you will. Let's move on, shall we?

What struck me about the parade after not attending it for a few years, is how mainstream it felt. At least mainstream for San Francisco. There was really nothing outlandish about it at all, which was a bit of disappointment, to tell the truth. Suck-up politicians, the fire department, the police and sheriff's departments, the town's largest bank, numerous other local businesses, and some friends from around the Bay all wanted to show how friendly and welcoming they are to the LGBT community. Maybe I've lived here too long, but there was no edge to it at all. In a sense, this is a terrific thing, because why should there be?
The most poignant float was the one by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Having said that, I didn't see the whole thing because it was too damn crowded, hot and I felt like I've seen this all before, so if there was something that was outre or controversial I missed it. My favorite part was watching the trannies ditch their eight inch heels after a couple of miles. Lordy, can you imagine walking for two hours in eight inch heels? Kudos to those girls and boyz, and to those who did the entire parade route on stilts!

So I made my way over to the Civic Center, where the techno was thumping and I seemed to miss the new mandate that demands way too much treble in the mix. Close up to the multiple dance floors was literally painful to my ears, so I kept to the back. From that vantage point, I did see the whole crazy-quilt community come together which makes this event unique to the world.

For example, did you know that there was a Spanish version of "Achey-Breaky Heart'? Not only that, but there is something heartwarmingly endearing about seeing gay guys, lesbians and trannies break into a line dance (in perfect form, no less) to said song and singing along in Spanish(!). Where else is that going to happen???

My favorite moment of the day was witnessed on the sly. I saw a butch girl with her cute femme friend walking by. The butch girl was sans top, displaying some ample goods. Her friend, in a pink and sparkly mini-dress, wasn't baring the same. They stopped, had a brief conversation ear to ear, and then Femme girl rolled down the top of her dress, matching Butch in, uh, breast display. Now both topless, they exchanged a terrorist fist-bump, then high-fived each other, and proceeded to make their way down the street topless and together. It was a true girrrl power moment.

Go San Francisco, and Happy Pride!