This week in our recurring feature: Urbane Studies with the Tenderloin Geographic Society our friends at the Society offer up some historical perspective for the debauched month of Mardi Gras. Not that San Francisco ever needed to use an old French holiday as an excuse to get drunk.
Without fail, Ash Wednesday is when we remember that we’ve forgotten about Mardis Gras. We swoop in to wipe clean our colleague’s foreheads (“Oh you must not have cleaned your prayer rug, here, let me get that for you...”), they explain once more the reason for the season, and we feel like proper heels. It all comes rushing back to us, no thanks to our lack of religious instruction, as to why tipsy folk were stumbling and wooting their way down the street on an otherwise sleepy Tuesday evening. You’d think the masks would have tipped us off, but lately top hats and spats seem la mode de rigueur, so there you have it.
Perhaps our attitude is thus because we secretly believe San Francisco to be a sly old dog of a city, where most of us got it out of our system young and where the jaded know that the only ones who care about the nekkid Castroians (Castroati?) are the camera-toting tourists stealing the natives’ immodest souls. Surely Bay to Breakers fits a kind of Fat Tuesday cast, but at the heart of it, one sees runners running alongside the drinkers drinking. It is a race where the goal is either the finish line or blackout, whereas the whole crux of Mardis Gras is to over-indulge to a gross and embarrassing measure.
At its heart, an organized bacchanal seems exhausting in a manner reminiscent of our early 20s in this city. Nowadays we drink for the pleasure; it is merely a happy accident of chemistry that we become inebriated in the process.
In an attempt to understand Man’s eternal quest for organized naughtiness--or at least imagine what it must be to stalk it like a delicate, pre-sedated prey--we turn to our archives, rich with the memory of hedonism.