Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bay to Breakers

To say that the Bay to Breakers is a 12k race and leave it at that is to leave out 99% of what makes the Bay to Breakers the event that it is. A more appropriate description is this: the Bay to Breakers is a city long parade, a celebration of pride, freedom, debauchery, silliness and good natured fun filled with merriment, dancing and partying, and, oh yeah, there's a footrace involved as well. A serious one at that. Athletes come from all over the world to compete in the Bay to Breakers, an event that gets its name from its starting location (San Francisco Bay) and its finish line (Ocean Beach where breaking waves crash the shoreline). Some dude from Kenya wins every year. Several thousands run the Breakers as a serious event. And the tens of thousands more that participate? They, uh...they...well, the pictures tell the story.

As a native and resident of San Francisco for 25+ year, I'm sad to say I'd never watched let alone take part in the event before this weekend. I can't believe I've been missing out on this. The Breakers epitomizes the spirit of San Francisco which I've long held to be the greatest city in the history of history. It covers every aspect of the city: Its hills, its people, its weather, its music, its food, its culture. I walked the route with my friend Tracy and among the things we were subject to were pirates, vikings, superheroes, beer, political activism, social commentary, beer, dance troupes, local bands, local food, local beer, endless music blaring from garages along the route, kids with water guns, beer, the sun and the fog, way to many naked men and not nearly enough naked women (which is a shame given all the beer that was involved).

As I see it, the event breaks down into two segments. The first part is a giant block party which runs from the beginning of the event to Fell Street. This is the life of the party. It's sunny, it's loud, the streets are packed. It's basically Mardi Gras done San Francisco style. Part B is an aimless stroll through the park. By this point the fog has rolled in and many of the participants have given up the pretense of finishing the race and planted themselves at one of the local watering holes or house parties that line the street of Part A. Whose who are left continue through the park. It's mostly quiet with a few scattered musical interludes until you reach the shores of the Pacific. A left turn down the Great Highway and you've finished. And as you cross the finish line and see a guy who looks like Ax from Demolition, all you're left to think about is, "what was I just a part of?"

The sea of humanity at Alta Vista Park

There's no turning back.


Rrraaargh! Hulk drink beer!

I think these guys took a wrong turn at Greenland.

Flonk?! Flonk, is that you?!


Tracy and I wondered what would happen if we got these pirates to fight the vikings. In reality they'd probably both drink themselves into unconciousness.

The fog approaches.

I have nothing to add to this.

I looked at that costume on the left for 15 minutes and couldn't figure out what I was looking at. Tracy took about 15 seconds to match it up with the other three. An octopus, fish, crab and turtle.

Oh sure, the guy in the $300 banana suit! C'mon!!!

Annnnd done. And it only took us 3 hours and 21 minutes and change.

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