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I left my heart (and fear) in San Francisco

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Photos by Lindsey Anderson
Photos by Lindsey Anderson

I was 24 years old but had never traveled on my own. Though affluent college friends may have taken the chance to study in Europe or South America, I hadn't so much as gone to the QFC down the street by myself, let alone stayed overnight in a brand-new city.

That all changed the day I received my acceptance letter into the Mutiny Radio Comedy Festival.

As an aspiring comedy writer, I was ecstatic to participate in the iconic festival, and I couldn't wait to practice my craft in San Francisco. However, as I began to work out the logistics of my trip, I realized there would be a catch: I'd have to travel alone.

After plenty of encouragement, I curated a plan to get myself to the Gayest city in the USA one way or another, booked a flight, and found a hotel. Despite my ADHD and severe anxiety around flying, I boarded the light rail in Capitol Hill with my carry-on and rode to the airport. I found my gate, got on the right plane, and before I knew it, was stepping foot in San Francisco.

I managed my time working remotely from my hotel room, rehearsing my sets, and performing in iconic venues each night. My first show was at the delightful Mars Bar, an indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant that reminded me of locations I'd visited in Ballard and Fremont. Following that show, I performed at The Bar on Dolores, an old spunky place with a sitcom vibe. The bartender laughed as comedians served up jokes, and outside, in front of the venue, old friends caught up with each other, and new friends were made over a shared joint.

The next night, I found myself at Club OMG, a vibrant LGBTQ+ dance club that happened to double as a showroom for comedy. Despite being on my own and far from home, I fit right in. The patrons of OMG could have been my neighbors on Capitol Hill; they gave off the same friendly, Queer joy I've come to recognize at home.

On my final night, I performed at Barbary Coast, the first dispensary bar I'd ever seen. Stepping in there was the first time I realized that San Francisco is just a bigger version of Seattle. The high-end weed shop scanned IDs at the door, allowed patrons to purchase a variety of items, and had a Prohibition-era back room full of games and comfy seating, as well as plenty of ventilation for patrons to smoke in.

Performing comedy in front of a bunch of Zenned-out stoners was a nightmare. I have never bombed as hard as I did in a crowded room of people forgetting to laugh outside their heads. That being said, I still enjoyed the energy of the room and the fact that San Francisco has a space where stoners can mingle, get high, and not laugh at comedy.

On my last day in San Francisco, I explored the city as a tourist before catching my flight home. I rode the historic street cars, made friends with sea lions at the pier, and purchased too much chocolate at the iconic Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience.

Locals informed me that I happened to catch the city at its best, during one of the last sunny weeks before the rainy season. The weather didn't matter to me, however. What made San Francisco beautiful wasn't the sunshine, the sparkling bay, the iconic bridge, or even the charming sea lions. The San Fransisco I fell in love with was the underground full of raunchy comics and hidden talents just waiting to burst onto the main scene. At its best, it was a haven for Queer community, with rainbow flags in every venue I performed at. It was also the first place to recognize amazing women in comedy, like Ali Wong and Margaret Cho, welcoming them into its weird and wacky venues and cheering for them years before the world would tune in to their Netflix specials.

For me, San Francisco was a step into adulthood. The city was a risk worth taking, a scary place to venture into on my own, but once I stepped on stage, it felt just like home.