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Dore Alley

This is THE place - it says so right on this sign here...

I had never been to this event but had heard much about it.  This changed in 2001.  The Dore Alley street festival, officially called "Up Your Alley" for reasons beyond me, always takes place in late July.  Usually this on the same weekend as San Diego holds its Gay & Lesbian Pride celebration.  In the past this forced me to choose between fulfilling my commitments with Club X by helping set-up and staff and strike their booth at the Pride Festival or packing my bags and jetting off to SF for this one afternoon event.  On those stray years that I wasn't so damn busy with Club X or when Dore and SD Pride weren't on the same weekend I was usually too damn poor to afford such a weekend jaunt.  Not so this year.  My latest term on the Club X board of directors came to its close in March of 2001.  From that point forward I was no longer obligated to be there with the rest of the board to help run things.  I decided to make the most of it this time around and head north to The City for this event.

I had heard much about it.  A lot of people were telling me how much better Dore is than Folsom.  I thought this would be a tall order to fill as I really like Folsom.  The long time attendees of Dore Alley and Folsom were of a chorus that Dore is "like Folsom used to be before all the tourists and the crowds."  Well, tourists I usually ignore (or laugh at) and I like crowds because they provide more people to watch and meet.

Dore Alley is a block long side street off of Folsom in San Francisco.  Back in the heyday of South of Market, it was a place of intense sexuality.  At almost any hour of the night you could go down Dore Alley for sex in the shadows.  Or so am I told.  Those halcyon days of hedonism were all before my time.  Even when I came out in '82 they had long since passed.  Both time and the Plague made sure of this.

But the Dore Alley street festival remains.  I am still looking into the history of this - and would welcome comments from those more in the know - but I believe this event got its start in reaction to how big Folsom was getting.

To me Dore Alley was just like a Folsom only writ small not large.  This did make for somewhat more of an intimate setting but only somewhat.  I didn't get the sense that it was no tourists and no crowds only fewer tourists and a smaller crowd.  For its one block length it seemed for all the world like one of the more crowded blocks of Folsom.  This is neither bad nor good it just is.

One thing that struck me in particular was a section of it that I will call "The Wall."

The Wall

The Wall

I took the shot above late in the day and during one of those rare moments when the crowd had thinned out enough so that I could have a clear (more or less) shot of the Wall from the other side of the street.  This section is on the east side of the alley and right where it crosses Folsom.  As such it is tailor made for being a meat rack.  There is ample space along it to position yourself.  There you can both watch the crowd go by and be watched by the crowd as it goes by.  It is also one of the few places along Dore Alley that gets much sun and that means you can hang out on it, showing as much flesh as you dare, and still stay warm in a chilly San Francisco afternoon.  I got a bit closer in this second shot to see more of the big beef which hangs out on that side of the world.
Big Beef Hanging on The Wall

These fine gentlemen had parked themselves on this chunk of The Wall earlier in the day and had remained in essentially the same place for the several hours that I was there.  And why not?  With such great muscularity they deserved to be in such a high visibility position.  Their attributes certainly made for a nice backdrop to the day's fun.

An Empty Wall

Things did change by day's end.  Once the fair was officially over, the crowds left.  So too did those hanging on The Wall.  After it had been so crowded with such hot men so recently, their absence made The Wall seem empty indeed.


These guys never fail to amaze me.

Both Dore Alley and Folsom are places where you can get away with a lot of wild behavior.  While public nudity isn't legal even in San Francisco it is tolerated at these two street festivals. 

I first found this out at one of the first Folsom's I went to when I saw several men who were either wearing nothing to cover themselves up or were wearing so little it didn't make a bit of difference otherwise.

Most of these guys at Folsom will simply pick themselves a nook along the street and stay there.  They leave it to the passersby to find that they are nude or have their dicks out.  Dore Alley is different.

I guess because it is a shorter length of street and has more of a raunch history the nudists seem to feel more comfortable there.  As a result there are a number of them who simply walk around the alley buck naked.  Their casual nudity is something to see.

I can appreciate it for the self-confidence they show and for the taboo breaking element to it as well.  That's about it.  The shock value and notoriety wears off real fast.  Not so for some though.

Some guys actively pursue such displays of flesh.  I think of them as "wankers."

Take this guy for example.  I could tell, even from a distance and even before I saw what he was trying to get a photo of, that he was a wanker.

He is dressed all wrong for the event.  He is not wearing anything that would identify him as part of the leather tribe and nor is he obviously a tourist.  I would imagine he didn't drive all the way to Dore Alley and most likely took the BART or MUNI to get there.

I will also imagine that he has albums full of his favorite subject: dick shots.  Nothing but dick shots.  Or perhaps maybe butt shots too.  At the least they have to be of guys in public places who also happen to be showin' their plumbing.

This really kills me when I see it.

The guy on the right here looks a little bit more slimy than otherwise and you could easily imagine him lurking around some adult bookstore.

This isn't always the case.  Just look at this guy here:

Another wanker
This guy above here on the left was desperately trying to get a shot of the dicks hanging loose among the small group of guys to his left.  He was lurking a few feet away from them and was getting frustrated that his shots were being blocked by other folks walking in front of him.

What sets wankers apart is the way in which they try and get their shots.  Most of the guys showing it at these events would only be too happy to stand there and pose for you.  Either that or stand there in such a way as to let you get your shot of them and their dicks hanging free.  All you have to do is ask them.  That is the key and it is something which wankers never do.

Instead, they will lurk just to one side of their subjects, refuse to look them in the eye, refuse to speak to them as one human being to the other.  They will simply objectify them in the pursuit of their fetish.  It makes for a rather unseemly air about their pursuit.  It is their lack of respect for the objects of their fetish which really put me off when I see these guys.  Having a fetish is a fine thing, I have several, but these guys don't seem willing or able to link their fetish to the real world.
A wanker with a video camera
These guys do come in all shapes and sizes.  The thing they share is an almost frenzied desire to "catch" someone with their dick out.  It was rather amusing to watch these guys go at it.  In this case there is a small group of guys with their stuff hanging out in the later afternoon sun.  In seconds they had attracted a pack of these wankers.  The wankers were almost tripping over each other as they each tried to get the best angle to take their pics.  The guy on the left here was well prepared but perhaps too caught up in the moment.  Our old pal on the right here shows just how much of an old hand he is at this by the fact that he is using just one hand to take his shots.  Pretty slick.  Pretty absurd.
Our old pal, still at it.

That sound...

The Cups of Dore Alley

Late in the afternoon San Francisco showed one of the reasons why it is so unique when it comes to its weather.  Here it was a nice warm day in late July and all of a sudden the temperature drops by at least ten to fifteen degrees and a really strong cold breeze picks up as well.

Dore Alley is not just on Dore Alley.  The manage to close off the block of Folsom that it ends in to.  This greatly lessens the crowding on that end.  It also provides an interesting effect for a late afternoon wind.  By this time in the day most of the crowd had gone home.  What crowd remained was comfortably ensconced along Dore Alley itself.  But there had been a crowd along that chunk of Folsom and that crowd had made use of the beer stands to buy their brews.  They had not, however, made use of enough of the trash cans to keep their beer cups from winding up on the pavement.

I noticed this when one of the first strong breezes came through and it produced this really unique noise.  It sounded to me like the hooves of a number of horses riding along hard pavement.  But there were no horses to be seen that day.  I looked around for its sources and then I saw it.  It was the beer cups.

There were so many discarded beer cups and the breeze was so strong that it was sweeping along great numbers of them at once.  This combined to make a very distinct and notable sound.  A sound that you usually would not get at Folsom.  The set-up for Folsom wouldn't allow for this.  Oh, there are a lot more beer cups discarded on the street.  It is just that there are too many booths set-up on the street as well and those would break up any wind before it could sweep up so many of those beer cups.  So, this sound is unique to Dore Alley.  You know it is time to leave Dore Alley when you hear the roar of the cups...

So, shortly after I took the picture of the cups and once their sound truly began to roar, I too did leave.  I had fun at Dore.  Not as much fun as I did at Folsom but that is something else and again.  On the way back from Dore I made use of the rest of the film in my camera to take some interesting shots of the San Francisco cityscape.  The wind had really started to howl by this time and there were a number of thing which were fluttering furiously as the wind blew them around.
The Shroud of Market and Duboce

The Shroud

I forget where, exactly, this building is along Market Street.  I'm pretty sure it is above Church and closer to Castro than Duboce but I could be wrong.  In any event its covering made for a really interesting shot.  I tried my best here to capture the effect of the wind as it roiled through the protective screening over this building.  Its color, size, and overall placement made this seem a very somber shrouding.  The billowing made it seem almost Gothic.

Wires overhead

Another thing I like to do is look around.  There is so much in our urban environment that we simply look over and no longer see.  San Francisco is somewhat unique in that it still has a working network of electrically powered buses which make use of overhead lines for their power.  This system is very effective, very efficient, doesn't pollute either with diesel fumes nor even with as much noise pollution as the buses themselves are all but silent.  There is, however, some visual effect (pollution might be too strong a term here.)

I was struck by this as I stood at 18th and Castro waiting for one of those buses to come by and take me up hill to where I was staying for the weekend.  San Francisco has too many damn hills in my opinion and they really should do something about that. ;P  Until that happens though, I'll get my exercise walking up and down them and also making use of their excellent mass transit systems.

On this day the wind was really fluttering all the Gay Pride flags atop this building but the sky was its beautiful stark blue.  The contrast of the flags and the overhead power lines was striking.  There is one electric bus line which runs up 18th and another which runs along Castro.  Where they intersect makes for a somewhat crowded mass overhead.  Usually the power lines are not thick enough nor thickly enough placed to make much of a difference overhead.  Not so here.  Yet most San Franciscans seem pretty much oblivious to this.  It is simply part of the urban landscape much the same way as are manhole covers, utility boxes on the curbs, and fire hydrants.  Yet this can still be striking visually.

All in all I enjoyed my trip up to SF for Dore Alley.  It was fun but not world shaking for me.  I did meet a couple of new folks, I had some fun in the dark along one of those hilly sidewalks, and had a good time otherwise.  Perhaps I will come back for another such weekend in July.  It will not be as high on my list of things to do but it was fun just the same.


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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!


This page was last updated on: 27 February 2003  

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.



In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!