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Decades ago, men in San Francisco who wanted to hook up with other men had limited options. There were bars or places like city parks, but wherever they went to find each other, there was often a risk of police harassment and arrest.
Now, with more acceptance of gays, and the ease of hooking up via mobile apps like Grindr and websites like Adam4Adam, it may seem like visiting the outdoors for sex is a thing of the past. But it's not.
Based on interviews with several gay San Francisco men and visits to the city's parks, men of all ages are still cruising in the city's outdoor spaces. Among other reasons, they find the Internet inefficient, and they like being outside. Often, the men said, they're just looking for oral sex.
The fact that men still visit the parks to hook up is likely common knowledge to many. One man in Dolores Park told a reporter who admitted to not being intimately familiar with the scene, "You've never been up here? I find that hard to believe."
However, others, including police, are unaware of how much it still happens.
At about 4 p.m. on a recent Sunday afternoon in Golden Gate Park's western edge, a band played on the lawn of the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant. The eatery is located close to Ocean Beach and the park's iconic windmills, which have been known for years to draw men who're looking for sex.
Nearby, just outside the park's soccer fields, Jeff, 67, lingered by a tree with the top few buttons of his plaid shirt undone.
Jeff, who didn't want his last name published, said he comes to the area "a couple times a week" to "suck dick and chase after men, get some exercise and smoke some weed."
He added, "I'm an old-fashioned cocksucker and not very anal ... That's why I survived the plague," referring to the AIDS epidemic that killed thousands of men in the city beginning in the early 1980s.
As Jeff, a semi-retired chef, spoke, about six other men paced around silently within a few feet of each other, waiting for someone who interested them.
Jeff said he first cruised in the area about 25 years ago, and he sees fewer people there than he used to. He attributed the decline to the recreation and parks department clearing out greenery. A spokesman for the agency didn't provide comment for this story.
Most of the men near him appeared to be in their 50s and older, but Jeff said he sees men of all ages in the area. There was one man who didn't seem older than 35 who declined to speak with a reporter. That was the case with several men who appeared to be looking for hookups in the city's parks but either wouldn't talk or said they didn't know anything about cruising.
Another part of Golden Gate
A short walk away from Jeff, near the intersection of John F. Kennedy Drive and Bernice Rogers Way, several men who appeared to be 50 or older stood quietly or walked around slowly.
This was the area where, in July 2012, San Francisco resident David Borowy, 55, was found dead with his pants down around his ankles. His death was initially considered a possible murder, but the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office eventually determined he'd had heart disease and died of natural causes.
A few days after Borowy's body was found, several men near the site talked about how the park had been a well-known cruising spot for years. When a reporter returned on a recent Sunday afternoon, it appeared that its popularity hadn't diminished.
Bryan Anderson, 65, who's gay, was talking to another man near the clump of trees where Borowy's body had been found. Anderson said he'd come to the park out of "boredom" and to get some exercise. He was "semi"-cruising, he said, but "not expecting thrills."
Asked about going online to hook up, Anderson, who said he'd first had sex in the park in 1989, said he has roommates who are younger than him and "live on the Internet." For him, "60 percent of it is getting out of the house," he said.
There didn't appear to be police officers in either area of Golden Gate Park, and the cruisers didn't seem worried about encountering any. When the Bay Area Reporter requested an interview with Captain Sharon Ferrigno, who heads the San Francisco Police Department's Richmond Station, which oversees most of the park, a staffer referred questions to the police media-relations unit. SFPD spokespeople didn't respond to an emailed interview request.
Captain Greg Corrales, who's been with the SFPD for 44 years, heads Park Station, which oversees parts of the Haight and Castro neighborhoods. The station's territory includes Buena Vista Park, which has a reputation for being cruisy.
Corrales said he's never dealt with the issue of gay men cruising in the parks himself, but "the attitudes of the police department have certainly changed in the past 40 years."
"When I came in the department" police "went through various parks trying to catch people engaged in sexual activity,” he said. “That mentality hasn't existed in decades in this department.”
"I think the general public has become more enlightened, and cops are part of the general population," Corrales explained. "Cops have become more enlightened as the years go by."
He said nobody's been cited at Buena Vista Park this year for having sex.
"We do not get any complaints" about men hooking up in the parks, said Corrales. "I don't believe it's going on anymore."
He said if it is, it's being done "discreetly."
"If we don't get complaints, it doesn't exist, as far as we're concerned.”
Top of the hill
In recent years, Buena Vista Park has been associated with the June 2011 death of Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23, whose burned, mostly naked body was found with a partially melted recycling bin on a park hill. David Munoz Diaz, 24, has been charged with strangling Canul-Arguello to death during a sexual encounter. The two men had known each other prior to the night they met up and headed to the park. A prosecutor in the case has said the motive was robbery, but Diaz's public defender has called the death "a terrible accident."
Just before sunset on a recent Sunday night, a handful of men lingered near the top of the lush, hilly park, which is at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and offers spectacular views of San Francisco and the bay.
One man leaned against a wooden rail for several minutes. The man, who's 40 and didn't want his name published, said he preferred visiting the park to going online for hookups.
"It's unfortunate how we have become disconnected," he said. "... It's so much easier to meet somebody and smile."
On the day he spoke with a reporter, he said he was looking for "just a good old-fashioned hand job."
He doesn't have intercourse in the park, he said, partially because "I wouldn’t want to see myself face-down with the police coming around the corner."
But for Christopher Wood, 25, being found out is part of the appeal.
Wood, a receptionist, cruises in the park because "there's something really erotic about it. Obviously, the idea that you might get caught, but I don't know, it's just really hot to be outdoors," he said in a phone interview.
He said he goes to the park for sex "two or three times a month" and usually goes to Golden Gate, but sometimes he goes to Buena Vista.
"There's not usually a lot of talking," Wood said in describing how encounters begin. "It's glances. You give somebody the eye. Usually, depending on when you go, you have a pick of a few guys. If you're not interested, you just keep walking."
Wood moved to San Francisco from Seattle about a year ago and said, "I feel like there was more action" in the other city. There, he said, he saw a lot of wedding rings on men in the park, and it seems there's more of a need to be secretive about gay sex.
"There's still a lot of 'hush hush' around being gay and gay issues" in Seattle, said Wood, "whereas in San Francisco, I feel like you can talk about anything at any time. It's safe."
As with cruisers in Buena Vista, it seems men looking for hookups in Dolores and Collingwood parks don't have much reason to fear the police, either.
Officer Ted Lattig, the gay LGBT liaison for Mission Station, which oversees the parks, said police haven't received complaints about sex in the parks and haven't patrolled for it recently.
"If it's been happening, or been a problem, the people in the neighborhood aren't telling us about it," said Lattig.
He's more concerned with "people overindulging at the bars" or doing drugs and becoming more likely to be victims of crimes like robberies.
Most of the men who spoke with the B.A.R. weren't worried about becoming victims of robberies or other crimes in the park, but Lattig indicated he does worry.
"In any major city, if you're out past 2 in morning in the park, that in itself can be risky behavior, cruising or not," he said. "No one here is judging that, and I'm very aware that in the gay community, cruising can be viewed as a celebration of who you are ... It's your sexuality, and you're having a connection with a person, even though it might be very short, very quick."
Lattig, a longtime Castro district resident, recalled a period about 10 years when he would drive past Collingwood Park around 4 a.m. on his way to work.
"I would see a few guys standing out there waiting to get picked up," he said. "I haven't seen that in quite some time, but that doesn't mean it's not happening."
During a visit to Collingwood Park at about 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday in September, the sidewalks around the fenced-in park near the heart of the Castro were practically empty.
Kevin Casey, 57, who's gay, was standing on the Diamond Street side of the park with a friend. Casey said that when he moved to San Francisco more than 25 years ago, the area was "scandalous."
"I knew I was not in Ohio anymore," said Casey. Now, though, the area is "very sanitized."
On the night he spoke with a reporter, Casey said he was hoping to go into the park to smoke pot, but he couldn't find an opening. The last time he engaged in sex there was about six months ago.
"I just crept into the park to take a leak," he said, but ended up getting head. "I was shocked that such a thing would still go on."
Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, said in an email, "I haven't received any complaints about park cruising," and the practice didn't motivate his recent legislative proposal to establish consistent closing hours for the city's parks, from midnight to 5 a.m.
At about 10:30 on a Monday night in late September, a 32-year-old homeless man stood by the Muni tracks in Dolores Park, just beneath the pathway on the western edge of the park that's known for cruising.
He frequently hooks up with other men in the park. That includes men he's sure live their lives as straight, based in part on how self-loathing they seem after sex.
Despite the fact there's no lighting in much of the park, and rats were scurrying around nearby, the man said, "For me, this is one of the safest places I know. I know the dynamics. I know what people are looking for. I've had a lot of fun here."
However, he added, "If you really think you're going to have a solid relationship" with anyone you meet there, "you have to understand this is where you met them, and this is what it is."
Other parts of the Bay Area have their cruisy spots, too.
Julian Clift, 50, said he'd heard about men hooking up at Berkeley's Aquatic Park since the 1980s, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that someone from the White Horse, an Oakland gay bar that he frequented, told him where to look. Eventually, the 50-year-old medical records technician went so frequently that fellow bar patrons nicknamed him "Bush Queen." He quit going in 2007 after his husband, with whom he'd had an open relationship, passed away and "my libido died," he said.
Asked why he'd gone to the park for sex, Clift said, "Because it was there. Because I was younger. Because I was horny."
Seth Hemmelgarn is an assistant editor at the Bay Area Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: The Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla statue in San Francisco's Dolores Park stands watch near a pathway popular with men looking for sex. (Photo: Pete Thoshinsky)
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.