Normal Weekend

A fiery SRL show, Miss Eva Von Slut, a pancake juggler, and more

Inspired, I'm off to the Tenderloin where Leonidas Kassapidesis conducting his Greek shadow puppet play in Cohen Alley near Ellis and Leavenworth. As drug dealers and whores wrangle across the street, dragons and princesses lurch across a white sheet stretched between two apartment buildings. A live trio provides accompaniment under an urban slice of starry sky, and the crowd -- young couples, friends, and families with children seated in rows of folding chairs -- shout out warnings and encouragement to the characters who dance before them. Even if the voices in the play are garbled and the story is a bit protracted, the city scene is enough to make a sane person delirious: just another fall night in the Tenderloin.

Winding back through SOMA, I find myself staring in the window of the dubious late-night eatery that is King Diner, watching cosmic belly dancers, ethernet faeries, and silver-faced space aliens consume corn dogs like waylaid travelers making do in a launch pad cafeteria. More people appear, denizens of Bonnie Duque's "Sexadelic Scorpio Space Harem" who are searching for sustenance in strange quarters, under fluorescent light. They eat and talk and wander back the way they came. I follow. For years, the Bonster's annual birthday party has writhed and thrived underground, undaunted by permits or police, but this year's party is unabashed in its size and scope. The space, decorated in black light and fabric and enhanced by a kaleidoscope of more than 1,000 fetchingly adorned hedonists, is huge, and the music is comparable. The walls in the cavernous ballroom are sweating; the floor is vibrating. Even from outside, you can't miss it. A string of 11 police cars speeds past, and not one of them returns to investigate the outlandish crowd standing in the parking lot near Duque's "secret" door. A giant glowing squid wanders out for a spot of fresh air. No one blinks an eye.

In the Mission at last, unwinding after the long weekend, I curl up under the soft glow of red lamps that hang from the ceiling of Amnesia like wilted flowers and tattered fezzes. We're watching Tony Gatlif's Latcho Drom, a visual explosion of melody that follows the migration of the Rom through song and dance. The man next to me sings along. He knows the words. Others at the bar know the rhythms and they clap along. At the door, a beautiful woman with bare shoulders and a kerchief tied around her hair applies mascara mustaches to every new arrival's upper lip.

"Two dollars off with a mustache," she explains.

We sit around with our makeup mustaches, singing along to the final plaintive strains of Gatlif's song as the live gypsy jazz ensemble Gaucho sets up on stage, and I think to myself, how nice it is that things are finally getting back to normal.

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