At the office holiday potluck last week, my boss encouraged us to look at the joys of the Christmas season through the eyes of a child. He reminded us how beautiful things like a Christmas tree are to children, and hoped that we experience that sort of happiness this year. When he said this, I didn’t think much of it, and was looking forward to the end of the “party” so I could actually get out and party (why was there no eggnog at this potluck?).
Later in the weekend I had a meeting with an enthusiastic 18-year old activist who is planning an LGBT event at his high school. He wanted some help marketing the event and I agreed to give him some tips and assistance. We decided to meet in Hillcrest over tea, since he had never really visited the “gayborhood” before – except on a quick bus ride down University.
After our meeting, he asked if I would walk with him down the street so he could see all the “sights.” It was a visual wonderland to my young friend who was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gay passersby and gay friendly establishments that line University Avenue. To me, it was just another walk down the gayest block in town.
If anything, I was trying to rush him because I was really cold and just wanted to get back to my car and get to my warm house.
So what’s the point? I connected my boss’ story with this dear boy’s evening in Hillcrest. He was seeing Hillcrest the way a child sees and remembers Christmas, except it was in the form of the drag queen we passed on our walk and a leather whip at The Crypt. This big gay playground where we spend so much of our time was something fresh, new, and exciting to him. He will fondly remember his first evening in Hillcrest forever.
Hillcrest was a magical place for him that evening, with its nightclubs, drag queens, coffee shops, marijuana dispensaries, homeless punk rockers, cool boutiques, and La Fuente (he wanted rolled tacos as we passed by).
I remember the first day I actually walked around Hillcrest- way back in 1997. When I got my driver’s license in 1996, one of the first places I drove to was Hillcrest- but it took me more than a year of University Avenue drive-bys to muster up the courage to actually park my car and venture out in the wondrous, rainbow-filled world.
I remember the excitement of walking into Obelisk Bookstore and picking up a copy of XY Magazine, and seeing all of the gay-positive articles and images. I saw a gay couple holding hands as I walked past the old Condoms Plus store (where Universal Hillcrest now sits). I saw a group of ravers sitting on the patio of the now closed Euphoria Coffee House (the vacant storefront next to Rich’s). I was just another face in the crowd, ignorant to the inner-workings of the LGBT community, but it was so exciting to be there and see these things for the first time.
So now I’m starting to think about how I’ve taken so many good things for granted. Sure, life is busy and there is a lot going on, but I really want to take some time this season to step back, take a deep breath, and appreciate the boys running across University at 2 a.m. wearing nothing but angel wings and booty shorts, or the gay couple holding hands. We have fought hard for the right to be able to have such places and it should be celebrated every day.