My friend and former co-worker Ness moved back to her homeland of California to become a police officer and after seven months of grueling training (seriously, she got pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed on the same day which is insane) she graduated and I decided to go and show support because I’m proud of her and hey, free cake. So off I went to the San Francisco Police Academy Graduation.
I arrived the night before the graduation so I had plenty of time to pet Ness’ cat, Gizzy. If we’re telling truths here, I may miss Gizzy more than Ness. I wore a nightgown given to me by my neighbor that had a Gizzy-like cat on it and posed for several pictures while hoisting her in the air like a prize-winning ham. Gizzbeast was pretty okay with it (because she’s AWESOME). She clearly wasn’t too put out because she spent the rest of the evening punching me in the face with her face and purring.
Before we get into the graduation itself, let us discuss the flight to California. Fellow travelers: we are, for all intents and purposes, trapped in an airless tube for which there is no escape but death. Can you pretend to be a person for, like, five hours? Five hours, that’s all I’m asking. On my flight there was a man, a morbidly obese extremely hairy man who was wearing a muscle shirt where the sleeves were so stretched out his hirsute nips were hanging out said sleeve-holes. THIS WAS HIS IDEA OF PUBLIC ATTIRE. In addition a woman brought a hot fresh full-size pizza on the flight for her family to enjoy which made the entire plane smell like pepperoni. I know I use the wise teachings of Patton Oswalt often on this blog, but he has the insights we often look for in a prophet or guru and this is no exception. Listen to this link and feel my pain.
The next morning when I got up Ness was already gone and her aunt (also a cop) was going to come by and pick me up later and take me where the graduation was being held. We swung by a Krispie Kreme to get doughnuts (the appropriate food for a police academy event)(Ness’ aunt the cop bought them so it’s not offensive) and stood in line outside the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. Hoo boy. Do you look for Illuminati symbols in things? Well, look no further because here they all are, designed in a lovely 1960s style with mosaics.
Finally we got into the main hall and settled ourselves down in the third row which gave me a chance to be confused about the murals. From what I can gather they are important figures to the Masons, all I know is on my left was a figure labeled “Venerable Master” next to “Zarathustra.” I found this page trying to gather more information. It’s not really helping to clarify anything.
So… they build houses but they’re also secretive and community-oriented? I don’t get clubs.
While everyone was getting seated the loudspeakers was playing patriotic music, which is fine except that the only place I’ve ever heard the songs they were playing is in Assassins, a musical about all the failed and successful attempts to assassinate various American presidents. I realized I was singing out loud along with all of the tunes about how I prevented Roosevelt’s murder and creeping everyone around me out. I should not be allowed to leave the house sometimes. Listen to this chunk of song:
and this chunk:
to hear what I probably should not have been gleefully crooning so close to the San Francisco Chief of Police.
There were a ton of seats set up on the stage and off to the side was a plaque with glittery things all around it. When I got up closer I could see that it was a carpeted display with the graduates’ shields on it.
Ness’ was at the bottom, number 844.
The important people went up on the stage and it began with color guard coming in. Another reason to add to the enormous pile of why I can’t be a cop: all the pomp. It took forever for the color guardians to put their flags in the damn stand. They had to march and bark instructions and I have zero patience for that. PUT THE FLAG IN THE STAND. TODAY. I’M GETTIN’ OLD OVER HERE.
After that the graduates came in and the clergyman was invited to say a prayer. I want everyone to know how well-behaved I was at this point. He was an elderly Asian man and he spoke extemporaneously which may have not been the best choice for him. He rambled so damn bad, it was all over the place and it was long. I started getting the giggles in the middle part (about four years into his prayer). He totally reminded me of Oogway from Kung Fu Panda but with less of a cohesive thought flow.
Then various politicians and police-people gave speeches, including the city supervisor for District 8 (Harvey Milk’s original district) a 6’7″ man named Scott Weiner who I renamed The Jewish Jack Skellington:
Finally the class president got up to speak. A tall woman named Mikayla Connell got up and as soon as she opened her mouth to speak I realized that she was MtoF transgender. And then she told her story. She was 45. She tried to join the police force right after college 23 years ago and was rejected. She joined the military (wow) and then became a lawyer (damn). About ten years ago she transitioned to female and after sitting behind a desk Mikayla realized she still really wanted to be a cop so she applied again and not only did she make it in this time, she was class president, the oldest person in her class and the first MtoF transgender person the San Francisco Police has ever had. Not enough? There were five awards given that night and Mikayla won two of them. Two. Out of five. This woman is my hero. She let nothing get in the way of her dreams. Ever. I wish I had one half of the strength of spirit Mikayla has. (And her speech was terrific, I wish I could get a copy of it.)
The shields were given, closing statements were made and we were done! Ness is now a cop! I took an atrocious selfie of us but you can appreciate how happy both of us are.
There was a reception in an adjacent hall and I’m sure most people were excited to see their friends and family members but I was totally focused on the 1960s murals of trees on the wall. I was wandering around taking closeups for research purposes; I definitely asked a police academy student who was serving cake to move out of the way so I could take a better photo. In my defense, the paintings were awesome. Very “It’s A Small World After All” ish.
Her family and I went out for a celebratory dinner which included a cake specially made for Ness decorated with icing versions of a gun, handcuffs, a baton and a radio.
Luckily Ness got Saturday and Sunday off (some of the graduates had to show up for duty the next morning at 6:00 a.m. which is awful) so we could travel around San Francisco. Saturday we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around there in matching t-shirts because even though Ness lives in San Fran, if you’re going to be a tourist do it right or don’t do it at all.
She drove into the city and we were led into the city proper by a tour of people on Segways, which was adorable and dorky.
Ness took me through the Tenderloin area which is famous for being a bit rough-and-tumble and sho’ nuff as we were passing through a 20-something man was peeing into the street. Not like, behind a car or anything. No, he was doing his best impression of the Manneken Pis into the street, arc of pee glinting in the sunlight. It made the experience very authentic for me. Thank you, Peeing Man. I hope whatever drug you enjoy gives you much pleasure, as much pleasure as watching you urinate gave me.
We went to Lombard Street which in case you don’t know is the super-wiggly street. It allowed us some beautiful views of the city.
Everyone else was looking at the view but I kept getting distracted by the stunning flowers and plants. Ness could not have cared less if she tried. I think I yelled at her at one point. “YOU DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR FOLIAGE!”
We ended up down at the edge of the water where we saw the sea lions basking.
We saw that there were antique fire trucks that had been turned into tour buses and I decided that when I came back I would ride on one.
I took pictures of the phenomenal flower baskets on the street corners while Ness rolled her eyes. “YOU DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR FOLIAGE!”
And we posed in front of a big metal crab structure that had succulents planted in its body area. I love how it looks like the crab is attacking us. Also note the matching shirts.
My favorite thing that day was the aquarium. It’s a small aquarium but it’s a not-for-profit that helps maintain the health of the bay area so I was delighted to support them and see some fishies in the process. I got to pet some rays (yay!) and a sea cucumber which I had never touched (slimy! squishy! yay!):
but the coolest part was by far the shark tank. You walked through a tunnel in the middle of the tank and it had some really cool sea creatures in it. In addition to having rays (I love rays) it had a shark that looked like a leopard and a shark with barbs down its back. I called that the toothback shark. I don’t know what its real name is, but toothback shark is perfectly descriptive. The toothback shark looked like it was swimming around 400 million years ago and decided, “Yeah, I think I got this exactly how I want this. I’m done with evolving. I’m good.” And that’s how he’s been, completely unchanged since forever.
I made a little animated gif so you can appreciate the awesomeness in motion. I could have stayed in that tunnel all day.
The next day Ness took me sight-seeing to places of interest in her life. We went to the Police Academy where she trained:
And the top of the hill they would make her run where people were taking pictures of the view. I found that extremely funny due to the fact that we were surrounded by cloud and you couldn’t see anything but people were taking pictures regardless.
I guess I drank the tourist Kool-Aid because shortly after I had to take a picture myself. Damn you, FOMO! Damn you straight to hell!
We drove past her high school where I found mirth in this sign:
And we spent the afternoon at a Zucchini Festival.
It was only vaguely related to zucchinis in any way. It was predominantly the fried-bad-things-for-you festival.
If it could be fried, chances are it was there.
There was also a booth entirely comprised of inflatable aliens:
Some kind of hamster-ball-in-water thing that the kids were loving:
And a person selling spinny rainbow garden decorations. I couldn’t stop looking at them. So many colors… and spinning… I was mesmerized.
On a stage off to the side were various acts performing throughout the day and when we got there it was a pretty damn good Elvis impersonator. He was great. Many women thought so as well. I am not joking, they were lined up at the stage swooning. It was intense.
There were people selling all manner of items – jewelry and useful home appliances, all kinds of things. I bought The Moomins some local honey made with bee pollen. One of the booths was to help shelter animals so I totally donated to that. There was a dog at that booth and people were putting dollar bills in its collar like it was a stripper, which I found amusing. I put it in the jar myself. Keeping it classy here, people.
Of course I spent most of my time in the petting zoo hanging with the goats. There was an enormous paddock with dwarf goats hanging out and you could feed them. I took a photo of this couple who were just sitting with a stranger goat. It was looking at the woman’s iPhone like it was helping her pick out photos. I loved it.
There was a super-pregnant little lady goat. I made sure she got most of my food.
And in one corner of the giant park was… a small table with zucchinis on them. There are the zucchinis for the Zucchini Festival. Look at them. There they are.
Shortly after that I got on a plane and took the red-eye back to work. I will go back at some point and hang out with Ness again. (And Gizzy. Who are we kidding, almost entirely to see Gizzy.)