The world is slowly waking up from its pandemic hibernation with many people yearning to be somewhere other than within the same four walls with the same people doing the same old routine. As one of the most visited places in the world, San Francisco isn't hitting snooze in 2021 and one of its most recognized faces is helping marshal in all LGBTQ+ identities.
His name is Rahn Fudge. Yes, you read that correctly. And he is a human encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to the City by the Bay. Gaycation Magazine talked to Rahn about a post-pandemic San Francisco and what tourists can expect when they arrive. Let's just say the fog has lifted so to speak.
Rahn is originally from the deep south; Georgia to be specific. He attended college with plans of being a journalist. He ended up doing just that in Charlotte, North Carolina up until 1991. He then cashed in a modest 401K before moving almost 3,000 miles west to the Golden Gate where turned his love of journalism into a local flagship LGBT news magazine called Q-TV; the first-ever commercially focused gay television show.
"It ran highly on-air from 1995-2008 but is now a mostly online product with archival footage and show episodes," he says. "Aside from launching the new business idea and constantly rethinking ways to also reinvent my tenure with Q-TV, I moonlight as either a Customer Service rep or Information Specialist at various large-scale conventions, i.e., Oracle, Salesforce, etc., when they come to town."
This new business idea he speaks of is called Rahn Recommends. It's a concept that came about, "in part because of the pandemic but also because of personal career choices," he says. "I'm perhaps in the middle of a career reinvention. After nearly 20 years working mostly as a hotel Concierge, I've decided to try my hand at launching my very own online 'eConcierge' business concept."
It seems like a brilliant idea: What the world needs right now are veritable big city sherpas who can guide visitors through a landscape that is slowly waking up from a devastating global nap. Things are confusing and not all regulations are the same from city to city. Rahn's service can help navigate clients through a post-pandemic revival of the Golden Gate.
He gave us some recommendations for visiting San Francisco as it rekindles its longtime romance with returning travelers.
Rahn Recommends What To Do
- Japanese Tea Gardens (JTG) will help you center yourself about the past year's struggle with COVID
- Golden Gate Park, DeYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences in the same place as JTG.
- Ferris Wheel at Golden Gate Park will "lift" your spirits
- Castro District will electrify all your LGBTQ+ senses, especially your appetite ones. Outdoor dining deluxe.
- Mission/Valencia Street is worth the stroll ---and eclectic food choices from Latin to lumpia.
- Fisherman's Wharf & Golden Gate Bridge because it's just 'classic' and beautiful to experience.
- Alcatraz when it fully reopens.
- MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) because the newly-attached neon-lite catwalk is to die for.
- MOAD (Museum of African Diaspora) is close by MOMA and expands your racial horizons
- Wine Country (Napa-Sonoma) awaits you especially now that we're all, hopefully, turning the corner on COVID.
- Tenderloin if you wanna take a "walk on the wild side" of San Francisco. Discover hidden gems.
- Golden Gate Bridge is worth the mile-long walk to the Vista Point overlook. Be photo-op ready.
- Nightlife in the Castro, SOMA, North Beach, and Union Square (when it fully reopens).
- Explore and lunch at the Salesforce Park atop the tallest West Coast building, the Salesforce building
- Hit the beach! In either a swimsuit or nothing at all as nude beaches rule here. See the Pacific Ocean!
- Hop the LGBT bars! Many of them are expected to reopen indoors soon. They're always fun!
- Last but not least earn an official title as a "foodie" with the plethora of local, luxe restaurants. No regrets!
San Francisco's Signature Events, Lesbian Bars & The East Bay
Some of San Francisco's most signature events are returning this year too he says. "In September, plans will go forward to stage the city's annual Folsom Street Fair. The city's annual Pride parade is COVID interrupted but will carry virtual and some in-person events. The Up Your Alley/Dore Street Fair has been upended by COVID. However, I understand that the Lazy Bear Weekend usually held in what's known as the gay playground for gay nature lovers (Guerneville, Californa) will go ahead as planned for July 26-August 2, of this year."
Sadly San Francisco shuttered some of it's more inclusive nightlife gatherings. Rahn says the landmark lesbian bar Lexington Club closed years ago as did the African-American gay club Pendellum and the gay Asian frequented EnTouch.
"Still, I've recently learned that a new, swanky, private club called The Academy has started to heavily court and cater to lesbian social and nightlife. The Academy is located near the heart of the Castro and requires a pricey membership that's worth every penny," he says. "If you're a visitor, call the location and ask for deals or discounts, if possible. Otherwise, the lesbian community in the San Francisco Bay Area is either located mostly and traditionally, in the East Bay (i.e., Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, Richmond, San Pablo, etc.) or they host either special or private gatherings amongst themselves. Practically the same scenario for gay African-Americans locally. But, you can often find some lesbians amongst the corporate-heavy crowds at ASIA SF when it was fully operating. No word on when the well-known transgender illusionist bar and restaurant, Asia SF, will return to its full glory."
Meanwhile, for trans tourists and residents, San Francisco offers a first-of-its-kind Transgender Cultural District. This region can be found downtown, "adjacent to the---albeit notorious---Tenderloin District." Rahn says you will find signage honoring LGBTQ+ figureheads there such as Vickie Marlene. A street named Vickie Mar Lane exists for the famed local drag, trans activist, "and where the first-ever riotous uprising between drag queens and transgender advocates took place at Compton's Cafeteria which was the 'ole late-late-late night stomping ground back in the 50s, 60s, 70s for local drag and transgender impresarios of their day. "
Before there was Stonewall there was San Francisco explains Rahn. He says trans and drag activists fought back against police brutality "before anything happened inside of New York's Stonewall Inn." He adds that if you are a trans traveler and worried about what to expect you can contact the local LGBTQ+ Center for events and other scheduled activities to keep you entertained.
"Well-known local transgender activists such as Honey Mahogany, who also starred on RuPaul's Drag Race, will be a great resource for what's new, now and next as it pertains to the local transgender scene" Rahn adds. "She's very helpful and very wonderful to meet and know. In fact, Mahogany is running to become the first-ever transgender chair of the local Democratic Party Committee. Go! Honey Mahogany! As for local transgender-friendly bars, there are a few. One, in particular, is Aunt Charlie's, now the oldest-known gay bar in San Francisco and located very near the epicenter of San Francisco's Transgender Cultural District (near the corner of Taylor & Turk Sts.)."
COVID Rules & Saftey Measures for Returning to San Francisco
There are still strict Centers for Disease Control (CDC) rules in place for San Francisco regarding the pandemic. Masks are still required when you're in a public space and social distancing orders haven't changed. Although fully vaccinated people might get new directives in the future according to Rahn.
"Traveling on public transit is getting a lot more crowded than it was five months ago," Rahn warns. "So, with that in mind, if you are uncomfortable with this then consider walking to your destination or use the Uber or Lyft car service. Taxis still run too. If you decide on a scheduled bus tour of the city (or beyond), it's very likely the tour company will already have in place CDC-enforced protocols which you'll be reminded of when purchasing your tickets."
So, what can you expect from a major tourist city coming back to reclaim its millions of visitors every year? Well, like all metropolises they have their ups and downs. Perhaps this is most true of San Francisco's landscape both geographically and socially.
It's Still a Place With a Strong, Beating Heart
Rahn admits that there are steep hills, homelessness issues, a fractured economy and a few problems within the municipality as a result of COVID, but like the famous song laments, his heart is there.
"San Francisco's got a lot to fix but yet a lot to offer at the same time--- especially when you compare it with other conservative cities around the country," Rahn says, reminding us that many of the country's most powerful people call the Bay Area their home and that the city embraces its diversity to the fullest. "Black (and brown) Lives Matter here in this sanctuary city for immigrants. Equal rights for LGBTQ+ people are celebrated here. Hippies and homelessness find a way to co-exist here. Diversity takes center stage here with pride. People come to San Francisco not only to find but to discover themselves."
Whether you're making San Francisco your only destination or just passing through, there is something for everyone in this multi-faceted eclectic environment.
Says Rahn: "We'll leave the golden gates open for you anytime and, as a reminder, 'be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!'"
If you want to learn more about what Rahn's eConcierge service has to offer check out his website for Rahn Recommends HERE.