You may remember Molly from a recent episode of the Muni Diaries podcast. She returns with a throwback story that recalls her eviction from the up-and-coming Castro neighborhood to her new home in the budding lesbian enclave of Bernal Heights.
This is part of our newest project, San Francisco Diaries, which features stories about our city at large that run the same gamut of good, bad weird, gross, great, and poignant. Here’s Molly.
We had been powerless tenants, evicted with no recourse, and then we became agents of displacement. There was no in between.
My collective household of four lesbians had found a place on Castro Street, one of those original Victorians with high ceilings and elaborate wood trim, an abandoned coal fireplace, and a parlor whose big sliding doors opened to double the size of the room. It was rumored that the apartment had come up for rent because the previous tenants had been busted for selling weed and were all in jail. We embellished the story to claim that the famous Brownie Mary had lived there. She may not have lived there, but she had certainly been there in spirit. It was the 1970s; the Castro was becoming a gay men’s mecca. During our time there, a housepainter contracted to paint our building ran a brothel, turning tricks in the building’s storage room. He painted that building for months.
We fondly remember political gabfests at shared dinners, Seders in which we sang all the way through, and inventive costumes at Halloween parties: in the year of Anita Bryant, I came as an ironic lesbian “recruiter” for her hateful cause. For a time, our costume du jour at home was simply a vest, a way to show off a billowing bush and legs as thickly furred as animal pelts (we were hairy and proud!). We danced and sang along to Stevie Wonder and Lavender Jane Loves Women. There was much laughing and also much crying. Passionate love affairs abounded. Creating a new culture calls for invention. We tried out non-monogamy and polyamory. We felt we were on the cutting edge of a cultural transformation.