Castro. This is the gay centre of San Francisco, and possibly was the gay centre for the world before the AIDs epidemic and the embracing of wider gay rights across the world.
San Francisco was one of the early places to be open to gay rights and people being more openly gay. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office, and although his time in office was short as he was assassinated, his impact was huge. Still today his name and image is used on the Castro.
Over the years that I have visited Castro Street, I have had very different views. For a time it felt like a depressing time warp where you felt a bit like the gay community was slightly stuck in a ghetto with all shops and services for the gay community, when life had moved on and the community was more integrated and part of everyday life.
Other times, like on the visit today, helped by the bright sunshine, the what felt like brightened up more sophisticated shops and restaurants and summer atmosphere in the streets, it felt like a relaxed and vibrant centre with a confident feel.
It does, however, feel like a cast back. The age of people feels older and more of a generation of gay men and women who grew up in the 70s and 80s when they needed support and community to feel they fitted in. I think younger men and women have less need these days. I may be wrong but the Castro feels like it serves a need but without reinventing for a younger generation may slowly fade away.
I hope not as it has energy and buzz today. It has a more upbeat, positive and vibrant feel about it than I have felt before.
Though still not for everyone. I am not sure I would feel comfortable taking my mum for a stroll when some shops are advertising a new porn film with naked chap and the title 24 cocks in 24 hours.