November 2016


San Francisco 1978
Article By: Cornelia Benavidez

San Francisco--if not most of California--had been in a celebratory mood all summer because the drought was over even though the summer storms were at times a bit much. Did not Mark Twain supposedly say, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco"? But today was a beautiful warm late summer day and a sight to behold in San Francisco. Shirley called, telling me she was working the switchboard all weekend and I should take advantage of the lovely day and go to the beach. Meantime, here in Project One the people against nuclear power were very busy and bustling about. While San Francisco was basking in the glow of being progressive, open minded, and mostly liberal, the rest of the world, including the United States, was still trudging through old dogma, suspicions, muddled thinking, and old grudges. Naturally, the ones behind the scenes take advantage of all of it. As a consequence, both the U.S. and France had performed nuclear tests while Allen Ginsberg completed the Plutonian Code and helped block a train loaded with fissile material that was heading for a bomb factory. There were American Nazi party rallies, one hundred thousand demonstrated in the District of Columbia for ERA, BBC Bans the Sex Pistols, Bob Dylan was booed for playing an electric guitar, and Louise, the first test tube baby, had been born. The summer then heated up all the more when Pope Paul died, with the Soviet Union performing its underground tests and the Sandinistas occupying the palace in Nicaragua. This all while the Iraqi embassy is likewise occupied. The Irish Republican Army, furthermore, explodes over fifty bombs injuring 37 people. All Kiss members do solo albums. Twenty five thousand die in a 7.7 earthquake in Iran. There is also lots of unrest in Israel. The San Francisco cafés are a buzz with music, political talk and deep philosophical debates.

Jello Biafra
Photo By: George Westcott

Jello Biafra – Photo By: George Westcott

Yet, today, here and now, my world was at peace and the day was glorious. I slip into my faithful Dr. Scholl's wooden shoes and am wearing my silky peasant style dress. The soft breeze moving the dress against my body is delicious and I am swinging a cotton bag filled with a cream cheese bagel and an apple. I skip up onto the N Judah trolley that takes me on a long but pleasant ride down to Ocean Beach and the Cliff House. I do not tarry there, however. I head to the right and climb down to the ruins of the old Sutro baths. This is what makes San Francisco so interesting. It is so full of history, tales of the daring and courageous as well as of the eccentric and the criminal--but most of all, the artists and the inventive of every kind. San Francisco had a unique kind of magic. Legend says that Native Americans only would stay there at a certain times of the year for healing of mind and body or to vacation there for a short time. As far as finding a place to live, Native Americans would not stay long in San Francisco but would move farther north or south for long term villages. Still, be that as it may, evidence has been found that Native Americans have been around the peninsula off and on since about 3000 years before Christ. Now modern man had left many marks here such as the Sutro baths that lie in ocean waves as beaten ruins, like some ancient roman site. I carefully walked Sutro's walls and explored its pools, filled with sea life instead of bathing beauties dressed in humble black suits and caps. I headed for the Cypress covered cliffs where, as Shirley had told me, there were hiking trails, hidden beach coves, and spectacular views of the ocean with the Farallon Islands to the west. Turning east around the cliffs, I'd been told, the Golden Gate bridge could be seen in all its glory. I started up some stairs, leading to a forest that hugged the cliffs with branches resembling wind-blown hair. Shirley had warned me to be careful with my footing because unexpected winds could be very high. Other than that warning, she knew how totally goat footed I was in my Dr Scholls. She also told me that there was a clothing optional family beach site and a nude beach in a little coves hidden between the cliffs. I was in an exploring mood and loved the views, each turn in the rocky paths revealing a new breathtaking site. Having chosen a smaller, narrower path I ended up at a land slide that was blocking the way. I groaned to myself, as I did not want to go back, and I looked around for alternatives. I noted a spot that a few others had taken. It headed straight up. Some of the disturbed rock looked very recent. There seemed to be fairly good handholds and places for my feet and the wider path must not be too far up. Hmmm. On one hand, the likelihood of another superhero guru man being anywhere nearby was not something on which I could count on. On the other hand going up just so adventurous. So the bag went in my teeth, pulled up my dress and tucked it in my bra and up I went.

The first part was very easy and of course as I neared what seemed like where a path might be rocks blocked my way. Grabbing various roots and jutting rocks, I stuffed my bag down my front--glad that no one could see me--and called out. "Hey! Is anyone up there?"

"Yes there is, dear. You are not climbing that cliff, are you?" came a very pleasant voice from above.

"Yes, I am. Is there any way you could give me a hand?" I asked.

"That might be a little awkward I just lay down to have a little picnic."

"Oh, so sorry to interrupt. Could you tell me which way to throw my shoes and lunch? Would not want to clobber you or your food with my wooden shoes."

"That does not sound pleasant. Throw to the left, dear." I tossed the lunch first just to be sure. "Perfect" the voice replied. The shoes followed and somehow I managed to pull and drag myself up. As I got my head, arms and breasts over the ledge I saw an unusual but handsome naked man lying on a checkered blanket with wine bottles and a cheese and cracker plate. Why was he unusual to me? Well, he had this rather amazing head of gold-red hair that curled in big horn locks around his satyr like grinning face. I as gracefully as I could possibly manage threw my legs over the ledge and noted he seemed no taller than me. I also noted his rather odd choice of covering his private parts with a very large meatloaf that went nearly to his knees. A strange choice to say the least but perhaps the only thing big enough that was (ahem) handy. I pulled myself up and untangled my dress that now fell back to my ankles as I looked about for my shoes and lunch.

Photo By: George Westcott

Dead Kennedys Photo By: George Westcott

"They are over there, dear. You know climbing up a cliff is dangerous properly dressed let alone in a dress. Quite unusual."

"No more unusual then having a naked lunch on a Cliffside and using a meatloaf for modesty." I quipped back with a gentle laugh. His very green eyes flew open and he roared and shook with laughter which made realize this was not a meatloaf and my jaw dropped. He waved his hand over himself as if he was introducing someone or like a magician about to present a rabbit. "

"Isn't it glorious?" he beamed proudly?"

Despite being unsure of what to say and certainly not sure where to look at this point, I responded, "It certainly does amaze. Do you ever find it inconvenient?"

"Not really, I prefer men most of the time but now and then I come across girls I like and I never turn down a good nibbler. He said as his eyes twinkled wickedly."

By this time my cheeks were burning red, but I pulled myself together and managed to respond, "Well, I make it a personal policy to not nibble on people I do not know. Do you know where I am and which way the family beach is?"

"He smiled at me almost lovingly "Oh you passed that a ways back dear. If you keep going that way you will hit the male gay beach so just go around me and in a few steps go right and head back down.I thanked and edged my way around him, making my way down to the beach to eat my lunch. I watched adorable naked children play in the sand and surf while I tried to unsee the last 15 minutes of my life. After musing about it a bit I decided that glorious was not the word I would use for it but it sure was a wonder.

I certainly had a story to tell at dinner over at Shirley's. The people there turned me on to the department store scene, so the next day I found myself once more in my "Dorothy dress" and started to apply to the various department stores. Everyone seemed friendly enough so I wandered all over downtown applying everywhere I could and by evening I was tired and ready to go home to Project One so I headed toward Market St. As I walked by this fancy large building its doors flew open and this man in a perfectly coiffed suit and tie carrying a briefcase close to him came rushing toward me. His eyes were steel grey blue that seemed oddly blank as he was barreling toward me, no not toward me, through me! He was at least 6'2 and he hit me like a quarterback knocking me flat on my back. He stepped over my pone body without hesitation and dashed toward a waiting cab, jumped in and sped away. I had the breath totally knocked out of me and the back of my head hurt. Street people of all kinds came rushing toward me. A wizardly looking but slightly odiferous old man took my hand. "Are you all right, my dear? Blasted dam suits! Should we call an ambulance?"

The first words out of my mouth were "I am never wearing this damn dress again"

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death


"Water! Water!" I see someone with a Pakistani accent shout shaking his fist toward the direction of the departed car. "Some water for this poor girl run down by the uncaring rich devil man in suit!

"Nah, he was not a rich man but one of their goons," stated the little wizard. "Did you not see the briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist?"

"Want me to track down the bastard?" asked a bike messenger dressed all in neon blue pulling up next to me.

"Are the dragons following me?" I thought a bit dizzily as people slowly helped me sit up and I felt the icky creepy feeling of my nylons running up and down my legs totally shredded.

"No, the creep probably shoot you. They all carry you know." Said the old man taking a glass of water and holding it to my lips.

"Who or rather what was that?" I asked him

"That was most likely some sort of security mule for one of the OPEC people. A bunch of them are in town."

Photo By: Julie Stein

Jello Biafra Photo By: Julie Stein

"I managed to get to my feet with a little help, still shaken as I tried to reassure the odd little crowd of people that I was going to be fine and thanked everyone but the old man insisted walking with me a few blocks. By the time I got to Project One it was getting dark and the whole building seemed to be vibrating. When I opened the doors I was hit with a wall of sound blasting up the stairs. Curiosity overcame the shame of my torn nylons and tangled hair. The downstairs was filled to the gills with people dancing and jumping with joyous fury. It seemed that any kind of person with spiked and or colored hair in all of San Francisco was there. I moved along the wall to get a better look at the band that were up on about a four foot high stage. The lead singer was jumping and singing and flailing his arms about but the band was tight, loud yes but pretty tight. In front of me was this very cute girl in pig tails with spiked dog collar around her neck and an old fashioned pink poodle skirt with white petticoats which was jumping about and twirling. Attached to her collar was a long leash held by a skinny tall boy with black spiky hair and a bike chain around his neck. Every once in a while he pulls the leash and the girl jerks and dances on with wild abandon. I was fascinated and a touch horrified. The music came to a sudden halt the whole room seemed to freeze. The lead singer with a sly grin says "Technical adjustment, folks" and everyone breaks up to hit bathrooms or smoke a cig. I run up to poodle girl, who was now holding her leash while her boyfriend had dashed off.

"Hey, I love your look!" I say to the girl. "I have to ask though, do you ever hurt your neck! It looks a little scary sometimes."

She bursts out laughing. "Oh, good! We rehearse just like the band. The pulls are done on certain beats. It's all worked out. I'm fine."

"Wow, I am so impressed! I just moved into this building so this is my first concert. I don't even know the name of the band." I tell her, a little sheepishly.

"Really?" She says looking me up and down. "Your look is great too. Just get a few chains and or some boots it be perfect!" she advised. "The band is called 'The Dead Kennedy's.' Jello Biafra I think is a genius. He's the lead singer. This is more of a dress rehearsal really. Love coming to the Pit here for any reason though."

The music started up again and her boyfriend was right on time happily taking up the leash. I now did my best to understand the lyrics, which seemed to have a very political flavor to them and as the music built Jello raced to the edge of the stage and took off sending himself into the crowd who caught him and threw him back on stage. This happened several times and on the beat just like the poodle girl. Yet all of a sudden Jello screams out savagely and just leaps out flying over heads and the dancing audience barely catches him. A cry goes up. "Punish him Punish him!"

Jello disappears in the crowd of people while I think, "Oh my God, they are going to kill him!" But no, his singing somehow is continuing and he reappears above the heads of the crowd, minus his clothes, and is thrown back on stage, still singing savagely.

It was all quite a show and it occurred to me in the back of my mind that I had traveled quite a bit in my young life across the country and never in any of America's cities had I ever seen let alone met so many naked or nearly naked people.

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