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How Locals Spend Holidays

Plans, wish lists simple say residents

By Keith Burbank

Going to a few shows, a few movies and “spending a whole lot of time together” this holiday season, answered Chuck Griffith and his partner of 40 years, Mike Lawrence, while walking along Castro Street on Black Friday. The two former Castro residents, who now live in the Excelsior neighborhood, are among many who plan to keep it simple this season.

I don’t have anything specific,” said Marge Mraz, when asked about her plans for the holidays. Mraz was sitting in Jane Warner Plaza the day after Thanksgiving waiting for a friend, Jim, whom she has known for 40 or more years. The two are planning to have dinner together, attend the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus Christmas Concert, and visit a “very disabled friend,” Mraz said.

With a touch of pessimism, Jim Ross of Diamond Heights, said “I’m not doing much of anything. I’m pretty bah humbug,” as he sat at a table at Starbucks at 18th and Castro streets. “Christmas has become too capitalistic for me.” A San Francisco resident for 36 years, Ross wanted to see family in Ohio for the holidays, but airline tickets are too expensive, he said. “So, now I am going in mid-January.”

Phil, a Potrero Hill resident sitting outside Bank of America, said he plans to walk his dog, Tasha, and see the “Sing Along Sound of Music” at the Castro Theatre. Phil didn’t want to give his last name.

Working,” said Tim Flint, co-owner of Brand X Antiques at 570 Castro St., when asked how he will be spending his holiday season. Brand X has been in the Castro for 45 years, and Flint has worked at the store for 25.

A homeless man in the plaza said he plans to “get off the street and find a job” this holiday.

Some folks do plan to get out of town, though. Christopher Brimhall, who lives between the Haight and the Castro, said he is visiting his sister in Reno this holiday. Each year the two take turns hosting each other, and each year they try to outdo last year’s gift to the other. “She took me skiing two years ago,” Brimhall said. “I might see a show this year, because I like shows.”

The Castro Community Benefit District is decorating Jane Warner Plaza with holiday lights and a large wreath was installed on Nov. 25. The CBD will be installing more lights this year.

The Merchants of Upper Market & Castro (MUMC) held a tree-lighting ceremony Nov. 26, said MUMC President Terry Asten Bennett. Giving the blessing at the ceremony were The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “a leading-edge Order of queer nuns,” according to The Sister’s website. Also attending the event were City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, District Attorney George Gascon, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Anna Damiani, district representative for State Senator Mark Leno.

Numerous groups performed at the ceremony, including the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Chorus, and the Metropolitan Church Choir.

Other local organizations are pitching in this season. Mama’s Family is collecting toys for children with or affected by AIDS or HIV, Asten Bennett said. There are several toy drives in the area that are supporting this effort.

We encourage everyone to shop, eat, drink, and stay in the Castro, and support our local economy,” Asten Bennett added. “As for me, I am going to spend the holidays washing the glitter out of my hair (Asten Bennett manages Cliff’s Variety store in the Castro, where glitter abounds during the holidays) and spend as much time as I can with my family.”