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If you spend any time around That’s Normal, you know that we love the love! And we hold a very special place in our hearts/lady parts for the men who love men. Amy breaks down some reasons why here, but it basically boils down to this:
Needless to say, we are delighted by all of the shows that are portraying all kinds of sexuality in a positive and super-sezzy light – especially Netflix’s Sense8 and Looking on HBO! If you have not yet watched, Sense8 follows the stories of 8 “sensates” from around the world who are psychically and physically connected. Among the sensates are Nomi, a transgender woman (played by the phenomenol Jamie Clayton!) in a committed relationship with kick-ass Amanita, and Lito, a closeted gay actor who is in love with Hernando, the best boyfriend EVAH! Looking on HBO features perpetually awkward Kevin, porn-mustachioed Dom (and his fabulous roommate, Doris), and Agustin of the lovely eyelashes as they navigate San Francisco’s gay dating scene. Go watch them now, but only if you want to see the world’s most hilarious Zumba scene:
Doris, you are my spirit animal.
Anyhoo, when tweeps Kathy and Jen came to SF we wanted to pay homage to our shared love of the MM in books, film, TV and real life, and Jen cam up with the BRILLIANT idea of touring filming locations for both shows! Although these shows take place all over SF, we decided to focus on the Castro and Mission and make a walking tour out of it. We had a great time, and the tour gave us an excuse to talk about things from the shows all day long. Things like this:
So we sought out the spots where pivotal scenes took place, and visited great restaurants and shopping along the way!
For all y’all who want to follow along.
I have not yet binged Looking (scheduled for this weekend while the husb is out of town), but I’ve seen a few episodes, and I love that even though SF has heavily partaken of the Uber koolaid, the characters take public transportation all the time. It’s how the gang gets around town, where Patrick and Richie meet and where they share their childhood stories:
So in order to lend the day authenticity (and to not have to fight abominable SF parking), we did our entire trip via SF Muni. We boarded an F-line streetcar at Powell and Market (1) and headed out to the Castro. Along Market Street you will pass City Hall and UN Plaza (2), where there is a fantastic farmer’s market on Wednesdays with food trucks and fresh produce.
These are the good kind of streetcar – take this kind if you can. There are some orange Italian streetcars on this line that are very quaintly decked out in old Italian advertisements, but they are so effing uncomfortable! I suspect the Vatican had a hand in the design, as they are essentially the hairshirts of public transportation.
We got off at Noe Street (pronounced know-ee), right in front of the Lookout bar (3). Tragically it was not yet open, so we weren’t able to grab a drink and sit out on the balcony, which is perfect for people watching.
Bonus: you can stock up on protein powder on your way out!
At Market and Castro, the real magic begins! We passed the gas station (4) where Nomi stole the car trying to escape Whispers, and the corner that Van Damn screeched around to drive Nomi to safety.
This intersection serves as the iconic view of the Castro shown in the opening credits of Sense8, and as a touchstone shot for both shows. Looking up Castro Street you can see theCastro Theater (5), where the Sense8 premiere event happened, and which shows up in the background during Patrick’s and Richie’s disastrous first date on Looking.
Patrick: Ix-nay on the ircumcision-say
Tragically, we did not have time to catch “Sacred Sperm,” [insert ribald joke here], but we were really hoping the live organist played Monty Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” before each showing!
This area is fabulous for shopping (6), especially if you are in the market for the following:
– Leather harnesses
– Ass-kicking boots
– Trunk-style underpants featuring very optimistically-sized junk pouches. (Except for you, Lito. They are perfectly sized for you! mmmmmmm)
We want to be afraid of you getting shot here, but underpants make us feel happy instead.
We stopped at Cliff’s Variety Store and Annex next to the Castro Theater, where you can find everything from house paint, to garden tools, to toys, to wigs, to raunchy kitchen magnets, to professional development tools:
We then realized (to our horror!) that we had no penis-themed items with which to celebrate our journey! We solved that problem by visiting Wild Card (7), where they carry a fine selection of penis straws, penis lollipops and penis-shaped candies, as well as cards that celebrate just about any type of relationship configuration known to man, in sentiments ranging from funny, to super-sweet to severely raunchy. (Attention friends of Jen: She basically bought the entire store, so be sure to only open cards from her in private!)
We then took a leisurely walk down 18th Street, where we saw the flower shop from Looking (8) run by Dom’s squeeze Lynn, and enjoyed the very quintessentially SF neighborhood atmosphere. We quenched the heat of the day with some delicious ice cream from the super-trendy Bi-Rite creamery (9) (there are literally ropes out on the sidewalk for crowd control), and headed over to Dolores Park for some no-fucking-around people watching!
Due to the area known as “Gay Beach, ” as well as its role as a gathering spot during Pride weekend, Dolores Park (10) plays a significant role in both Sense8 and Looking. In addition to being the location of the heart-wrenching scene where Nomi bursts into tears because Amanita is the only person who has ever defended her, it also serves as a frequent meeting place in both shows.
Right now, the back section of the park is being re-turfed, so “Gay Beach” and “Hipster Hill” have merged into a wondrous cacophony of SF’s demographics, many of them male and shirtless. We strategically chose a spot between some lovely shirtless men playing frisbee and some other lovely shirtless men sunbathing, who basically looked exactly like the cast of Looking, but with fewer shirts and more tribal tattoos.
We were also graced with a revolving cast of lovely tattooed dads chasing their toddlers around, and hipsters ironically enjoying forties of Michelob. Kathy and I were really looking forward to some hot-guy-kissing action IRL, but unfortch we missed that happening on the blanket in front of us because we were too busy discussing hot guys kissing. Oh cruel irony!
When we were finally able to drag ourselves away from all of the lovelies (who I suspect were about 30 seconds away from reporting our creepster asses to the cops), we climbed the hill to observe the great views of the downtown skyline from the upper levels, and visited the statue of Miguel Hidalgo, which inspired this interaction highlighting my Ron Burgandy-level tour guide skillz:
Kathy: Miguel Hidalgo – what did he do?
Katy: Maybe he invented something(?)
Kathy: What did he invent?
Katy: I don’t know, statues?
We then continued down 18th Street to Valencia Street, which is jam-packed with great restaurants and hipsters (beard safari alert!). Good Vibrations is right there (11), which carries just about any sex toy or contraption you have ever read about in
your voluminous collection of bookporn church pamphlets warning about the dangers of sexy-times to your immortal soul. This is the place to load up on all your stocking stuffers! (every last possible pun totally intended.) We ended our part of the tour with a late lunch at Puerto Alegre (12), which offers standard greasy Mexican fare as a clever counterbalance to offset the pitchers and pitchers of delicious margaritas you are guaranteed to consume!!
Tragically, the ladies had to stagger back to their hotels to get to the airport (JK – we only had one margarita each!), but here are some extra-credit tour options if you need more! (and you know you do!)
To get to the next exciting locations, head up to 16th Street and hop on a 22 or 55 bus to Harrison, where you can stroll down to the Atlas Cafe (13), the place where Nomi and Amanita pirated Dr. Metzger’s phone, after which Nomi has her first creepy contact with Whispers via phone.
This is a great place to get a shot with the logo and some coffee, but if you want to eat in the area I recommend Universal Cafe (14). It serves de-lish strawberry and peach bellinis, and the best french toast I have ever eaten (& I am an french toast afficionado).
The last few stops are for the Looking fans among us, as well as the day-drinking fans among us . . . so, basically all of us. From the Atlas, you can head down Harrison Street to 24th and see two Looking spots – the Punjab (15) and the St. Francis Fountain (16) – which, hilariously, are 2 restaurants my family eats at all the damn time. The Punjab is the location of Dom’s pop-up restaurant. The food is okay, standard Chinese and American fare, but the totally unselfconcious anti-hipster decor is the real draw here (plus all of the staff are really sweet!). They have $2 domestic beer at happy hour, so you can stop by, drink some made-in-the-USA beverages and soak in the 80’s vibe!
The St. Francis, where Patrick and Richie had their make-up date, is a go-to for the mix of hipster and neighborhood family clientele, beard-dudes and tattooed wait-staff. Oh yeah, they also serve a mean brunch, and the Vegan Rancheros is absolutely the best thing ever! Plus you can purchase a fine selection of 80s TV show trading cards from the candy counter – score!
Continuing on the Looking tour, it’s time to wend your way toward the El Rio bar. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the 24th Street BART stop, or if you are planning to go straight from breakfast at St. Francis to day-drunk (it opens at 1pm), take a stroll down 24th street, where you can find great shops (Mexican wrestling masks! Pinatas! Hipster things ‘with a bird on it’!), as well as famous murals down Lucky and Balmy alleys (17). If you are in need of some sustenance at this point, you must go to the Old Jerusalem (18) restaurant on Mission at 26th for some amaze-balls Mediteranean food! It’s a total hole-in-the-wall, but the food is sooooo good! Then head over to El Rio (19) for the par-tay! This is where the very awkward engagement party for Patrick’s ex took place, including this disturbing tableau:
Teddy Ruxpin: Now with Grindr compatible dongle!
But don’t worry it’s not
usually always like this. (OK, fine! It is.) But the great outdoor patio in the back and live music take the sting out of anything you might want to unsee!
For those of you staying downtown, you can drag your drunk-ass-selves back up to the 24th Street BART station (20) for a ride before midnight. After that, you can either Lyft it, or rub elbows (and other parts) with late night San Francisco on the 14 Mission bus.
This tour should take about a day . . . and a night . . . and another day . . . and perhaps a lost weekend depending on how hard you hit the cocktails! We had a great day, and I would totally give the tour two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Thanks to Jen and Kathy for being stellar travel/perving companions!
What do you like to do in San Francisco? Who are your favorite characters to watch make out? Lynn and Dom? Lito and Hernando? Patrick and Richie? Riley and Will? (hahahaha! JK!) Who is coming out in September to reenact Looking’s visit to Folsom Street Fair? This could be us:
All Looking images courtesy of HBO
All Sense8 images courtesy of Netflix
Featured Banner source: Man Crossing at the Castro by Rico Rodriguez. See here
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