Late Tuesday afternoon, I was on my way home from SFO, having spent the long holiday weekend on the East Coast. My traveling companion and I were passing the back side of San Francisco’s City Hall, when she commented on the beautiful dome.
“Pull around the block,” I said, “and if there’s a parking place, I’ll show you the inside.”
As usual, my remarkable parking karma prevailed.
City Hall is such a beautiful place, and so loaded with energy. As we climbed the steps, we passed a lesbian couple. One of the women was actually carrying a bridal bouquet of white roses. She and her new wife grinned at us.
In the rotunda, I paused for moment in tribute to Del Martin. I think her spirit is bound to hang around City Hall and bless any same sex wedding that takes place there.
But it’s also hard to be in the building without thinking of the day in 1978 when Dan White changed the city’s history, and tangentially, part of the history of women in politics. I guess, as a life-long Bay Area resident, it’s one of those days that is frozen in my memory. As we walked around the second story of the rotunda, I found myself trying to explain it to my sweetheart… Dan White’s vitriol and anger; the murders of Mayor George Moscone and SF’s first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk; the asinine “Twinkie defense;” the White Night riots, and Supervisor Dianne Feinstein‘s ascension to mayor. With late afternoon silence echoing off the ornate marble, it all seemed so improbable.
I remember how impressed I was with Feinstein’s incredible grace under pressure in the midst of the most horrifying of situations. San Francisco’s first female supervisor, she was suddenly thrust into being San Francisco’s first female mayor, a position to which she was elected two more times. She went on to become California’s first female Senator, and the first female member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She recently became the first female Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
(I’ve got to say, this is the sort of resume that makes Sarah Palin look like one mightily undercooked mooseburger.)
It’s hard to explain the effect the murders had on people. I remember, years later in a college class, my art instructor breaking down in tears as he discussed a field trip we would make to City Hall to look at the architecture.
I guess the natural American progression is that after the pain, there’s inevitably a movie… and it looks like Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, is going to be a good one. It’s set to be released on November 26, and you can see the new trailer here. It’s hard to watch it without tearing up.
This is a link to Paul VanDeCarr’s essay about Milk, the man, and Milk, the movie.