Archive | On Scene With Bill Wilson

On Scene with Bill Wilson


Every one loves a parade.

 On June 2 Italians celebrate a national holiday –Festa della Repubblica – to mark the day that Italy became a Republic, June 2, 1948. Nothing celebrates national pride better than a parade and the one that celebrates Italian pride takes place along the Via

Dei Fori Imperiali -the ceremonial route between Colosseum and the Victor Emmanuel Monument.


 Inspectors check the manhole nearest the Reviewing stand.

 I lucked out and was able to get a press pass that enabled me to take photos from the press box directly across from the Presidential Reviewing Stand. I knew I had gotten there early, but it provided me with a new measure of early. You are early when they start inspecting the manholes along the parade route after you arrive. It was easy to tell the arrival of Prime Minster Renzi by the media hoard that surrounded him.



The official delegation waits for President Mattarella’s arrival.  Senate President Pietro Grasso, Speaker of the House, Laura Boldrini, Prime Minster Matteo Renzi and an unidentified gentleman.

After laying a wreath at the Italian Tomb of the Unknown which is located at the Victor Emmanuel Monument, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti where escorted by Horse Mounted Guards to the Reviewing stand to mark the start of the parade. They were greeted by President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, Speaker of the House, Laura Boldrini, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi  and a fourth person I think may be a justice of the Italian Supreme Court, but I’ve been unable to verify that.


Italian President Mattarella and Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti during the playing of the Italian national anthem. 

 The President shook hands with the people nearest him in the front row before the national anthem was played. Then the horse mounted escort exited followed by the street sweepers, which really only succeeded in stirring up the dust and the amusement of the crowd.


A lucky photo of the President between lances as a military groups passes the reviewing stand.

Over the next hour the spectators were witness to marching units and bands divided into seven sections – International Organizations (UN, NATO and EU) Security Organizations, Naval Units, Air Forces units, Army units, State Auxillary Services, and Armed bodies of the State (State police and Firefighters).


Another group passes the Reviewing stand. The person wearing the tricolor sash is the Mayor of Rome.

To mark the end of the parade there was a fly over of military jets. Because they were playing the national anthem at the time, I have to admit that I missed the shot, but much to my delight and that of the other photographers who also had missed it they turned around and came back right over the press box.


A flyover featuring planes trailing tricolor smoke marked the end of the parade’


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On Scene With Bill Wilson: Rome


The Rome Civil Union certificate of William Francis Wilson and Fernando Proietti Orlandi

1. Registered as Domestic Partners San Francisco. 1991

2. Registered as Domestic Partners Washington, D.C.

3. Registered with State of California as DP – no rights.1998

4. Registered with State of California as DP with full rights. 2004

5. Married February 12, 2004 –ruled “null and void” by CA Supreme Court.

6. Married June 18, 2008 – legally recognized by US Supreme Court 6/2014.

7. Entered in Civil Union Registry of Rome, Italy May 21, 2015

This is the paper trail Fernando and I have established over the years. The joke has become, “We’ve been married as many times as Elizabeth Taylor, just to the same person!”


Fernando and Bill on the steps to a civil union in Rome.

Our latest excursion took us to Rome. With four witnesses in tow we gathered at Rome’s Campidoglio, a plaza redesigned by Michelangelo. As we ascended a long and grand staircase, we were besieged by media. Not the first time we’ve dealt with media, just the first time in Italian so Fernando got to respond to the questions.


Sala Protomoteca – the room were the ceremonies took place.

Once they started letting people entered the room where the ceremonies were to take place the room quickly filled up with media and guests of the couples. In Italy the symbol of authority is a tricolor sash. When the Mayor can’t be present the person he designates to act in his stead wears it. On May 21 the person wearing the tricolor sash was Alessandra Cattoi, Assessore alle Pari Opportunita (Assessor of Equal Opportunity for the City of Rome)


Alessandra Cattoi, Rome’s Equal Opportunity Assessor

There was every type of family represented by the couples who registered. There were straight couples, straight couples with children, lesbian couples, lesbian couples with children, gay couples, and gay couples with children. There were probably b and t couples as well, it just wasn’t noted in the press release and I had no way of asking.


Gay couple listens to the person who presides over their civil union.

It took over two hours to get through the 17 couples that were registered because the process is a little different than in the United States. Each couple had a ceremony that was presided over by the equivalent of our City Supervisors. Of course each politician had to speak to the importance of the day. I wish I could relate the eloquence of the speakers but there was no English translation for the remarks (nor should there have been. I should know Italian by now.)


Fernando (in blue pants) and Bill wait for their turn to register their Civil Union.

Once they got to us the process went rather quickly because we already had been married so are ceremony consisted of brief remarks and verification that we were the people listed in the records. Then we went over and paid for our certificate and were done.


The finished paper work.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Spring Edition

This silly little Gilbert and Sullivan ditty keeps running through my mind on this first day of spring.


The flowers that bloom in the spring,

Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing,

We welcome the hope that they bring,


Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.


And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson the The Royal Court

PhotoAAbsolute Empress XXX Donna Sachet, chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee, and State Senator Mark Leno

Some socialites refer to the week when the San Francisco Symphony and SF Opera hold opening night gala as “Hell Week” because they have to go to two events in the same week and can’t be seen in the same expensive outfit. That is nothing compared to the members of the Imperial Court who have many events per day over coronation weekend that call for outrageously glamorous outfits.

PhotoBAttendees line up on the steps of City Hall before the doors open for the 50th anniversary Gala

The culmination of this year’s Coronation Weekend was the 50th Anniversary Gala of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, which was founded by Jose Sarria in 1965. The gowns, jewels, crowns, feathers, tiaras and cornets that adorned the assembled Emperors, Empresses, Dukes, Duchesses, Countesses and those of lesser titles made the San Francisco City Hall Rotunda sparkle with delight. King Louie from Beach Blanket Babylon one of the entertainers was heard to remark, “This is the first time I’ve ever felt under dressed.”

PhotoCNicole Murray Ramirez, Queen Mother 1 of the Americas points out medals on his sash representing different events and reigns during the 50 year history of the Imperial court.

So rather than give a long detailed description of the event and all the people that made it possible I just want to give it the same coverage as other society events in San Francisco and just publish my list of the best dressed.

PhotoDAbsolute Empress XXV Marlena wins my vote for best dressed. The peacock feathers represent her reign as the Silver Peacock Empress.

PhotoEThe best legs award goes to Absolute Empress XI Flame. She wanted me to be sure to be far enough away to get her legs in the photo. She was the longest title holder on hand Sunday night. ( Notice I didn’t say oldest title holder – I was not going there!)

PhotoFAbsolute Empress XXXI Cockatielia had my vote for the best moving dress. You really need a video to see how gracefully the train of the dress follows her.

PhotoGThe finale of the 50th anniversary Gala was everyone – Council members, San Francisco monarchs and visiting monarchs, on the Rotunda steps for a group photo taken by the “official photographer” who was stationed on the Mayor’s Balcony. I was only able to get a small portion of the assembled crowd.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson — Presidents Day

As I write this it is President’s Day that quirky little holiday that combines the birthdays of our 1st and 16th President into one federal holiday.  So that gives me the excuse to once again take a trip to the archives to pull out the photos I’ve taken of Presidents over the years.

EPSON scanner imagePresident Nixon welcomes the Shah of Iran to the United States during ceremonies on the South Lawn of the White House. This was my first time as an invited guest to a White House Event.

EPSON scanner imagePresident Ford welcomes French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing to the White House during the Bicentennial of the United States. The French President was one of many heads of States that came to the United States during the Bicentennial year of 1976.

PhotoCPresident and Mrs. Carter join Canadian Prime Minister and Mrs. Trudeau in waving to the crowd on the White House lawn after Welcoming Ceremonies. The Trudeaus were the first foreign visitors to the White House during his Presidency.

PhotoDPresident Reagan made a special plea to the United States Congress for the balanced Budget Amendment with a rally on the west lawn of the Capitol. The notable thing about this picture is that it was taken without the use of a telephoto lens. I was really this close because they opened the VIP section to the public to make the crowd look bigger.

PhotoE President Clinton made 20 trips to San Francisco as President. This was taken in 2000 at a rally for Gore/Liberman where Mayor Brown presented him with a jacket.

PhotoFPresident George W. Bush never stepped foot in San Francisco while he was President. However he did land once at San Francisco International Airport. It was my first time to witness the landing of Air Force One as a media member.

PhotoGPresident Obama is nearing President Clinton’s record number of visits to San Francisco while in office. I love this photo because it is hard to get a photo of anyone looking up while descending stairs. The fact that he chose to wave at the exact moment he was level with the Presidential seal on the side of Air Force One is just icing on the cake so to speak.  It was one of those instances that are the result of luck rather than skill.

PhotoHOkay, if you are keeping track I am missing a photo of the first President Bush. I don’t have one. So to make up for it I have a future President Bush. I took this photo during the 1980 Pennsylvania primary. Jeb Bush was campaigning for his father, then the more moderate alternative to Reagan. I literally walked across the street to this event since it was held on the farm adjoining my brother’s farm in Chester Springs.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Making the Case

Photo112632Commerce Secretary Pritzker tries her hand at silk screen printing for iPad case cover design options during her tour of DODOcase

I love it when my job (writing this column) takes me to places in SF I’ve never been – to see things I’ve not thought about before. Such was the case when I got notification that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker would be touring and conducting a roundtable on exports at DODOcase at 2525 Third Street.

It’s the only time I’ve ever had to stop along the Dog Patch section of Third Street. Large numbers on the side of the building made it easy to locate 2525. Once you open the rather nondescript door you enter a small rather cozy reception area that is just part of a large warehouse space of various manufacturing activities.

Photo112646Annie A. DODOcase print shop manager confers with Commerce Secretary Pritzker over choices for printing on her iPad case cover as Craig Dalton, DODOCase CEO looks on.

What DODOcase produces are cases for your mobile device using techniques of bookbinding that also face extinction like the Dodo bird, unless new ways of adopting those ancient techniques are found to meet new needs. Secretary Pritzker came to San Francisco as a part of President Obama’s efforts to show the benefits of trade and exports to local communities. She made her case by literally making her case. What better way to show the process than involve the Secretary in watching the manufacturing of her own iPad case.

Photo112688Commerce Secretary Pritzker and Craig Dalton, DODOcase CEO, with the finished product.

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On Scene With Bill Wilson

Photo112397Attorney General Eric Holder

 I’ve been working the past several weeks on a photo book project compiling all the photos I’ve taken of President Obama and members of his administration in the Bay area. It has been an ongoing project through the years, in stark contrast to the number of times President Bush came to San Francisco. (The closest he ever got was once he did actually land at SFO.) Going through the hundreds of photos I have taken I realized that the one Cabinet member I didn’t have was Attorney General Eric Holder. So after spending several hours of going through photos trying to find where they were on my backup files, placing them in My Publisher project files etc. I decided to take a break and check my email.  There on Mayor Lee’s schedule for Thursday February 5, 2015 was “Mayor Lee to join U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with students & police officers for discussion on building community trust between law enforcement & communities they serve.”

Photo112290Mayor Lee joins Attorney General Holder at a community forum to build trust between students and police.

The event was held at the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club at Hunter’s Point. The media was allowed to cover the first few minutes of the discussion, mainly the Attorney General remarks of welcome and his reasons for coming. The media was then escorted to the gymnasium to wait for the Attorney General, who it was rumored might shoot a few hoops with the recruits and kids.  The discussion group lasted over an hour and then the Attorney General came to the gym.  There had been some spirited practice before he arrived and when he was asked if he wanted to join the game, the Attorney General took off his jacket and joined in.  He faced off with a police recruit for the tip off.  His side got the ball and when it was passed to him someone yelled, “Shoot” and he did from way outside. The ball went in without hitting the rim, as much to the amazement of the Attorney General, as it was to the cheering crowd.  He then said that was it. He didn’t touch another ball.

Photo112421Attorney General Holder poses with people during his visit to the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco at Hunter’s Point.

They had let the media people down on the floor and as the Attorney General came off the floor he was shaking hands with people. I put out my hand and said, ‘Thank you for all you’ve dome for the LGBT equality. It has made a difference in my life.” He said, “It is the major civil rights battle of our time.”  I then started to walk away because media wasn’t suppose to interact with the AG, but I realized that he was just standing there because they were trying to get a group photo set up. So I turned back to him and said, “Fernando and I have been together for 28 years.’ He said, “Have you had a chance to get it legalized?” I said, “Yes, in 2004 we were first in line and Mayor Newsom actually married us in 2008.” He replied, “Part of doing these tours is getting to hear how policies have made a difference in people’s lives.” I said, “It has and I’m grateful to you.” He said, “It is not just me.” I replied, I appreciate that, but it is also you. Your rulings have make it possible for me to get my husbands social security.”  He just smiled.

Photo112489 Doing the selfie thing with the Attorney General

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: MCC Moves


Procession of objects to be carried from 150 Eureka to the new space at 1300 Polk Street.

 This is another sign of the times story regarding the gentrification of the Castro with a twist. Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco (MCCSF) held it’s last Sunday services at 150 Eureka Street on February 1, 2015. The cost of rebuilding the structurally unsound church proved to beyond the congregation‘s ability. So a decision was made in December to put both the church building and the apartment building next door, which the church also owned, on the market.


Leaving 150 Eureka Street

As MCCSF was trying to figure out options for the future, the First Congregational Church of San Francisco (FCCSF) was looking for a church group to share their building space. It would be too corny to say it was a match made in heaven, but I believe it was more than a coincidence.

Photo111910 MCCSF procession leaving the Castro

 So for the month of January the physical move began with decisions being made about what would go the new location and what would be sold or donated to other groups. Then on Saturday January 31, about a dozen congregants helped out on what was designated as packing day.  Shelves in spaces people didn’t know existed were found and emptied.  Long lost treasures and new found objects were carefully packed or trashed at the condition warranted.

Photo111942MCC procession pauses at the freeway entrance near the LGBT Center.

Amidst hallways full of boxes, the final 11 am service was held on February 1. With tears, laughter and faith typical of MCCSF, people said farewell to a space that had been so many different things to those who needed it to be. At the close of the service objects that symbolized MCCSF were taken from the altar and blessed before being processed outside. Those objects were then carried in pilgrimage to the new space at First Congregational Church of San Francisco located at 1300 Bush Street (at Polk). Yes, it was a three mile trek through parts of San Francisco. Along the way buildings or locations with historical significance were pointed out and memories were recounted.


MCCSF procession heads up Van Ness Avenue

People that didn’t make the long walk greeted the walkers as they walked across Polk Street and into the reception area of the new space.  The sanctuary is located on the second floor and since the closing ritual recited at Eureka Street involved he closing of door. At the new space there was another litany upon the opening of the doors to the new space MCCSF will use.


The last block

Once in the sanctuary there was a brief service where the objects that had been carried from 150 Eureka were placed on the altar. A little bit of humor was evident when it was discovered that someone from FCCSF had left a pair of socks on the altar – perhaps meant as a symbol of welcome for weary feet?


Sanctuary on the second level of the First Congregational Church of San Francisco.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

Whenever Fernando and I travel to Rome we try to include a visit to his hometown of Subiaco where he still has family and friends. Subiaco has ancient roots – it was the location of a favorite villa of Nero as well as the Fortress of Subiaco the possible birthplace of Lucrezia Borgia.

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Subiaco rises up from the Aniene River protected and dominated by the Fortress of Subiaco

The most ancient part of the city is down near the Aniene River. It is thought that the first inhabitants of the area were slaves brought to work on Nero’s nearby villa, the ruins of which can be viewed on the road to the monasteries that are east of town. The river provided power that made it possible for early industry to flourish there.


A replica of the first printing press in Italy on display in Rome’s Palazzo Ferrajoli  to mark the 550th anniversary of the first Italian printing.

One of the important industries was a paper mill that produced the only white paper in what was then the pontifical state.  2015 is actually the 550th anniversary of the first printing works in Italy. They were set up in 1465 at the Monastery of Saint Scholastica by the German printers, A Pannartz and C. Sweynheym.

The city has recently spent money to improve access from the river to the main street, but if you know the right path you can find yourself walking among alleyways and houses that have existed for centuries. It is not hard to imagine what it would have been like to live in those times.  There are little shops and artisans at work that the city is promoting to attract visitors. On the Saturday we visited we were to early for most of the shops to be open, but as we turned a corner before us was a large fresco of Mary, the baby Jesus and a monk.

Photo110932 2

 “Madonna of the Ferrari” attributed to Manenti who painted in the 17th century.

When I first saw it I just stood in awe of it because it looked as if it had been there for so long.  I wondered how many people had passed by it during their daily routine. Then I realized there was a “For Sale” sign on the building just across from the fresco. I didn’t have the nerve to dial the number and ask the price., but I think it would be wonderful to wake up every morning and see this Madonna. 

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A view from north of the Fortress of Subiaco.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: A Pause for Reflection

 Martin Luther King. Jr.’s birthday holiday is past us. Black History month is approaching, perhaps it is time for a bit of reflection.

Black Lives Matter but what can I, one person, do to make that known?

What did I do today that made one person feel better about themselves?

Did I acknowledge with a smile or a word of greeting, the people who passed by me?


Jesse Jackson

Reverend Jesse Jackson pauses before the MLK Memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Tom Ammiano’s wedding

I should have suspected something when I received an invitation to a reception at the Delancey Street Foundation on the Embarcadero honoring Tom Ammiano that didn’t ask for money or have a beneficiary. While I enjoy a good mystery, I’ll never be a Sherlock Holmes I don’t pick up on the subtle cues.


Carolis Deal and Tom Ammiano with Tom’s sisters, Mary and Joanne 

 I should have known when his family – biological, found, political – all showed up that it was more than a tribute to his record of “passion, courage and integrity in the California State Assembly.”


Fellow state legislators join with Tom (in purple) and Carolis (in white suit jacket) after their marriage.

I even mentioned to a friend during the reception that I had heard at the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club dinner that Tom was going to get married in September, but that I hadn’t heard whether he had or not.


Harry Britt presides over the marriage of Tom Ammiano and Carolis Deal

So after several songs from jazz singer Paula West starting out with “Thanks for the Memories” and including “Anything Goes” and “Night and Day” both by Cole Porter, there was a video of Tom accomplishments as a political leader at the Board of Supervisors and at the State legislature. After his response to the video Tom introduced Harry Britt and announced that Harry would preside over his wedding to Carolis Deal


 The exchange of rings

After exchanging both vows and rings Tom and Carolis were pronounced “spouses for live.”


 I wasn’t the only one taking pictures at Tom’s wedding.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Joan Rivers

ImgA0279ares Joan Rivers September 9, 2006

I guess you either loved Joan Rivers or not. She was in public a fighter – no topic untouchable. She was never hired for her calm demeanor or gentle fun. She was cutting edge and never lost her grip on the outrageous. For a not so young, very closeted gay man she provided a way around the anguish of finding a place to fit in.

Bpic004430resJoan Rivers September 20, 2008

When her husband ended his life just a few years after my brother ended his, there was a bond of a shared experience. Still Talking seemed more like a declaration of independence than just a title of her memoir. It was good advice.

ImgC0347resJoan Rivers at the 15th anniversary of the Aids Grove

I don’t think there was ever an Aids related fundraiser that Joan Rivers turned down, long before it was a fashionable or pc thing to do. One of the events she attended here in San Francisco was “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” on September 9, 2006 to mark the 15th anniversary of the National Aids Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. Even though her plane was two hours late and she had a show that night, she came to the Grove and was shown around by Tom Jensen a member of the Board of Directors. She would have been justified in saying, “Sorry I can’t make it.” But she didn’t because she cared.

ImgD0275resAlice, Joan and the Caterpillar enjoy the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

The Folsom Street Fair has always been cutting edge. So when they wanted to have a formal banquet they dubbed “Leather and Feathers” who else to have as featured entertainment than Joan Rivers. She didn’t disappoint. The evening was great fun.

Epic004442resJoan provided the feathers for the “Leather and Feathers Gala September 20, 2008

I think Joan herself would have appreciated the irony of her death being caused by a procedure that was suppose to improve her vocal cords. She died on her terms – with her wit and wits intact. I’m sure that she and Robin Williams are having an improv duel in heaven that has even God laughing.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Reflections of Dore Alley

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The location- Folsom and Dore Alley.

This past Sunday was the Up Your Alley Street Fair, a.k.a. Dore Alley and fondly called Folsom’s dirty little brother, because it is a much smaller version of the Folsom Street Fair in September. Each year as I strive to justify my gawking I find that I come up with a theme that seems to run through my photos. One year it was taking photos that included the business signs that line the otherwise industrial street. Auto Service Center takes on a little different meaning when you crop out the Auto so that it reads Service Center and is framed by the St. Andrew Cross used by the floggers.

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Reflections of Dore Alley Street Fair

This year because it was an absolutely beautifully sunny day I found myself taking photos of people and the reflections in their sunglasses. It made for an interesting viewpoint. Since a photo is worth a thousand words I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


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People passing a vendor’s booth.

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Steamworks featured a twisted version of “Twister”


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The beer booth was a popular spot.

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Sister Dana Van Iquity’s  stylish specs reflect the volunteer area.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Policing the Castro


Police officer issuing a citation. Note the position of the police car.

There are times when I feel ashamed to be a human, times when all rational response seems pointless, but I still want to scream, “No, not in my name!”   A friend and I were standing on the southwest corner of 18th and Castro, on the Castro Street side of Harvey’s. We were both killing time because my friend had about an hour before he had to be at a 7 pm meeting. At the 18th side of Harvey’s there was a person standing with a cardboard sign that asked for money. When I had walked by him earlier he didn’t ask me for money. He was not in any way impeding traffic. He was standing at the edge of the sidewalk so no one had to go around him. My friend and I were making more noise than he was. So I was very surprised when I looked around and saw that a police officer was giving him a ticket. I didn’t want to make it worse for the guy getting the ticket so I stayed where I was and just kept taking pictures. It was also one of the few times I didn’t have my police issued Press Pass around my neck.


The cited person signs the citation for the officer. Note that there is now a bus in the bus stop across the street so that the police car is blocking traffic.

  I would submit that the only danger to the public was not the homeless guy silently soliciting funds, but rather from the police officer who during rush hour had pulled his car across the street so that he was facing west in the eastbound lane of 18th just before the intersection of Castro. I took more photos as he left and nearly collided with the person who was making a right turn from Castro to 18th.

I don’t usually give to homeless people on the street, but I was so angry at what I had witnessed I went over and asked the guy why he had been cited. He said that the police had given him a $76.00 ticket.  I was so mad that if I had had $76.00 in cash I would have given it to him, but I only had $40.


Police officer in his car ready to leave – note that the car on right has green light for right turn onto 18th.

 He showed me the citation put didn’t want me to photograph it. The only word I could make out under reason for citation was sidewalk. The officer might as well been a doctor his signature was so unreadable.

On my way back to my car there was a person sitting in the bus shelter at the stop at 18th and Diamond. He was having a very loud conversation with someone- even though there was no one visible and he wasn’t on a cell phone. The officer had to have passed him, but that citation probably would have taken more time and training to handle.


Fortunately the person in the car on the right was paying attention even if the police officer wasn’t.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Reflections on Pride


Self – Portrait in Reflection

GLBT Pride weekend was one I will never forget. There was so much history on view. I had the opportunity to acknowledge and thank some the people who blazed the path for me to follow. Perhaps it was a combination of getting older and the advances that the GLBT community has achieved in the past several years, but I feel like I’ve been witness to a completion of a cycle. One that I never thought I would live to see.


 Lea DeLaria and Tom Ammiano on Twin Peaks.

The fun started Saturday morning at the Pink Triangle ceremony on Twin Peaks. Lea DeLaria had been asked to read the history of the Pink Triangle. She did that with solemnity that befitted the occasion and reminded us that the pink triangle was not just an icon from the past, but a reminder of where hatred and bigotry can lead. It was a very poignant moment. When Lea found out before the ceremony began that Tom Ammiano was one of the speakers she asked if she could do his introduction. I can’t begin to do justice to the ensuing tribute to Tom. Suffice to say that Lea was Lea at her best and Tom was Tom at his best and everyone had a good laugh and more.


 Felicia Elizondo (Compton Cafeteria survivor) and Miss Major Griffin-Gracey (Stonewall survivor).

Donna Sachet and Gary Virginia’s Pride Brunch to benefit the Positive Resource Center on Saturday always includes the opportunity to hear from the Community Grand Marshals and the celebrities being honored that year. This year there were two honorees that stuck out in my mind. Felica Elizonda was a participant in the Compton Cafeteria riots that preceded Stonewall by three years.  Also honored was Miss Major Griffin-Gracey. She participated in the Stonewall riots. Afterwards as I was leaving they were sitting together. I asked if I could take their picture. I told them that I was thrilled to have the opportunity to photograph them because I admired their courage in standing up and not taking it. Miss Major said something about me being younger. I interrupted and said, “I was born in 1950. I would have been 19 at Stonewall, but I was so deeply in denial that I really believed I wasn’t good enough. I accepted second class. It wasn’t until they stood their ground and said, “No we don’t have to take this.”  that I realized I was good enough.  I didn’t just have to accept second class.


Congresswoman Pelosi, James Hormel ride in the parade on Sunday as Christine Pelosi and Stuart Milk walk along with her.

For the second year in a row Leader Nancy Pelsoi rode with James Hormel in the parade Sunday morning. To me there is no better symbol of political acceptance of the GLBT community than her participation in the parade. As there was a temporary pause n the parade I said to both Stuart and Christine, “We no longer have to explain why the GLBT community deserves their rights. A majority of people are on our side, it is the other side that now has to explain why we shouldn’t have equal rights and I attribute that change to politicians like her (Nancy Pelosi).” To be clear – I do not feel the struggle for equality is over. It isn’t. Justice can’t be just us. There are so many edges we still have to push to ensure that everyone is a part of our gains. I do however think that the impact of having a President and Vice-President on our side should not be minimized.


We no longer need to mask our true selves.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Stewart Appointed Justice of 1st District Court of Appeals.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the appointment of Associate Justice James M. Humes as presiding justice, Division One and Therese M. Stewart to Division Two of the First District Court of Appeal.


Deputy City Attorney Theresa M.Stewart and City Attorney listen to press conference at Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 Stewart, 57, of San Francisco, has served as chief deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office since 2002. She was a director at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk and Rabkin PC from 1988 to 2002, where she was an associate from 1982 to 1988. She served as a law clerk for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch at the U.S. Court of Appeal, Eleventh Circuit from 1981 to 1982.


 Theresa M. Stewart (right) and her spouse, Carole Scagnetti waiting at the Supreme Court on a cool spring morning March 26, 2013

 Stewart argued on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco in the trilogy of cases advocating for marriage equality for LGBT Californians in the California Supreme Court. She also led the team of San Francisco deputy city attorneys intervening as plaintiffs in the federal case challenging Proposition 8. Stewart earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.


Theresa Stewart  addresses her colleagues in the office of City Attorney on June 26, 2013 the day of the decision of the SCOTUS.

Stewart fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James R. Lambden. This position requires confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Senior Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline. Stewart will be the first openly lesbian justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal, if confirmed. Stewart is a Democrat.



Jeff and David Janis-Kitzmiller, Judge Walker and Therese M. Stewart and Carole Scagnetti

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On Scene with Bill Wilson and Barney Frank

The fact that Barney Frank is coming to San Francisco to be part of  Frameline and Pride Celebrations provides the perfect excuse to look through my archives and find photos from the 1980’s that feature Barney Frank, the second openly gay person to serve in the US Congress.


Congressman Barney Frank speaks before a press conference in front of the Supreme Court. Urvashi Vaid and Jeff Levi of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force



Individual interviews take place after the main event. Jeff Levi (left) talks with Patsy Lynch, photographer. Barney Frank (center). The gentleman on the right is Michael Hardwick, of the Hardwick v Bowers decision of 1986 in which the Supreme Court of the United States found no right to “homosexual sodomy”. I believe these photos were taken in 1987.


Congressman Barney Frank speaks to a fundraising event at the Stewart Mott House on Capitol Hill, as Nancy Roth, Executive Director of the Gay Rights National Lobby, looks on. GRNL merged with the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1986.


Senator Alan Cranston, Congressman Henry Waxman and Barney Frank wait their turn at the microphone at the same event. I included this picture to remind us that California has always been in the forefront of the movement for full equality.

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On Scene with BIll Wilson: Happy Birthday Watergate

The Watergate burglary that happened on June 17, 1972 was the beginning of my interest in recording history that was happening around me. I had begun working in Washington, DC in April of 1972. I had a job working as clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin). Less than two months after I started working 5 men were caught inside the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office complex. The burglars and their ‘handlers’ E. Howard Hunt and G.Gordon Liddy were tried before Judge John Sirica in January of 1973.

The dogged efforts of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reporters from the Washington Post resulted in placing responsibility for covering up the ties between the burglars and the Committee to Re-Elect the President to the White House. On March 1, 1974 seven people were indicted by a federal grand jury and it was their arraignment on March 9 that was my first experience of participating in the media scrum that accompanies high profile cases.


Attorney General John Mitchell entering the US District Courthouse on March 9, 1974.

John N. Mitchell – former United States Attorney General and director of Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 election campaigns; faced a maximum of 30 years in prison and $42,000 in fines; on February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison, which was later reduced to one to four years; Mitchell actually served 19 months.

H. R. Haldeman – White House chief of staff, considered the second most powerful man in the government during Nixon’s first term; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $16,000 in fines; in 1975, he was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and received an 18-month prison sentence.

John Ehrlichman enters the District Courthouse almost unnoticed as the media followed HR Haldeman who appeared at the same time.

John Ehrlichman – former assistant to Nixon in charge of domestic affairs; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges; he served 18 months in prison.
Flanked by policeman Chuck Colson entered the Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Charles Colson – former White House counsel specializing in political affairs; pleaded nolo contendere on June 3, 1974 to one charge of obstruction of justice, having persuaded prosecution to change the charge from one of which he believed himself innocent to another of which he believed himself guilty, in order to testify freely. He was sentenced to 1 to 3 years of prison and fined $5,000; Colson served seven months.


Gordon Strachan enters the District Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Gordon C. Strachan – White House aide to Haldeman; faced a maximum of 15 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Charges against him were dropped before trial.
Robert Mardian – aide to Mitchell and counsel to the Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972; faced 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. His conviction was overturned on appeal.


Kenneth Parkinson leaves the Courthouse after being arraigned on March 9, 1974

Kenneth Parkinson – counsel for the Committee to Re-elect the President; faced 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. He was acquitted at trial.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Rome Pride

RomePride193resizedCrowds at the 20th annual Roma Pride parade June 7, 2014

The 20th annual GLBT Pride parade took place in Rome on Saturday, June 7, 2014 with thousands of people participating in the parade as it wound its way through Rome. Starting near the Termni station in Central Rome and ending near the colosseum, this year at the front of the parade was Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino.

RomePride_103resizedIgnazio Marino, Mayor of Rome (in tricolor sash) and Vladimir Luxoria (with Rainbow flag in hand ) were among those holding the banner at the front of the march.

He used the occasion to announce that a registry for civil unions would soon be a reality in Rome and Rome would become the second Italy to recognize marriages from other countries. For some people it might come as a surprise that the Mayor of the city that surrounds the Vatican would come out in favor of such a notion, however it didn’t come as a surprise to me.

RomePride147resizedRome’s Mayor at the 20th annual Roma Pride.

 Before he was a politician, Dr. Marino was an organ transplant specialist. He performed the first kidney transplant on an HIV positive person in Italy. It was very controversial and the authorities prevented him from doing anymore procedures until they had time to study the problem. When I asked Dr. Marino about the first patient he told me that he was alive and doing well. With justifiable pride he said, “He came to me as a boy and now he is a young man.” When I told him that admired the courage it took to do that first transplant he said, “You have to do what is in your heart.”  So it doesn’t surprise me at all that he follows his heart in politics also.

RomePrideFPOresizedFernando Orlandi takes a selfie at Rome Pride. He is the photographer for all the photos that accompany this article.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at BBB 40th


Willie L. Brown, Dede Wilsey, King Louie, Attorney General Kmala Harris, Jo Schuman Silver, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Clive Davis, Mayor and Mrs. Ed Lee

It started with a plaintive call from Steve Silver to Charlotte Shultz, “How do I get press and people to come the two week run of my new production? “Well, we could have a party,” replied Charlotte. And forty years later they are still partying and celebrating all that makes San Francisco – well, San Francisco.  Beach Blanket Babylon took over City Hall on the fortieth anniversary of the opening night that began the longest running musical revue in history.


Michael Tilson-Thomas, Charlotte Shultz, Dede Wilsey, George Shultz, and Clive Davis on the Rotunda steps after the City Hall Salute to Beach Blanket Babylon.

Reprising cameo appearances from its forty year history, the stage was graced by San Francisco luminaries from the political and social worlds like Willie Brown, Dede Wilsey, Charlotte and George Shultz. Backed by the San Francisco Gay men’s Chorus the incomparable Beach Blanket Babylon performers took the audience on a grand tour of the highlights of 40 years that included stops in London and Las Vegas. Snow White flying around the rotunda was an unforgettable moment only superseded by the finale with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the SFGMC, performers and audience in a rousing rendition of  “San Francisco” as the San Francisco Skyline hat was updated with 40 years in flashing lights.

Photo090315resized Gina Moscone and her son, Jonathan were among the audience for the City Hall celebration of forty years of Beach Blanket Babylon


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Laboring for Change

Photo089074US Secretary of Labor Thomas E.  Perez

San Francisco is losing its middle class, – a problem not unique to the city, but one that is being experienced across the nation. The Department of Labor’s Women Bureau is sponsoring a series of regional summits that will culminate on June 23 with the White House Summit on Working Families. In remarks before the regional forum recently held in San Francisco, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez outlined the problem,

“We’re here today to tackle head-on the very issues that keep working families up at night: What if I get sick again and have to miss work… how will we pay for day care? I’d like to take that extra shift to earn more money, but who will watch the kids? What happens if mom can’t live on her own anymore and I have to take time off to look after her? And, how am I going to take time off after childbirth if I don’t get a paycheck for three months?

These families are buckling under the strain of trying to balance their commitment to their jobs and their commitments at home. They’re waking up early, finishing that last load of laundry, packing lunches, waiting at the bus stop in bad weather, trying to stay on top of everything.

They are absolutely heroic. And it’s about time we started treating them like it. We have to create a system that allows people to be a good parent and a good worker. We have to create an economy where American families can be strong.

Photo089133resizedLabor Secretary Perez addressing the Regional Forum held in San Francisco for the Working Families White House summit.

The world has fundamentally changed. The economy has changed. The workforce has changed. Families have changedThe culture has changed. Now we need public policy to change too. I mean, Modern Family is on our televisions, but Leave it to Beaver still informs our laws.

What’s at stake here is really our commitment to the basic bargain of America — if you work hard and take responsibility for yourself and your family, then you can succeed. You can punch your ticket to the middle class. You can have a roof over your head and a nest egg for retirement. You can send your kids to college and do a little better than your parents did.

But that bargain’s under siege. Too many people are finding their highest and best dreams beyond their grasp. Too many are finding the rungs on the ladder of opportunity further apart, and not as sturdy as they had been promised.

So today, let’s commit ourselves to restoring that basic bargain. Let’s commit ourselves to an economy that truly rewards hard work and responsibility.

It might not happen quickly. And it definitely won’t happen without some tenacity on our part. But I am unrelentingly optimistic.”

Photo089132resizedLabor Secretary Perez in San Francisco.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at the Zoo


 Tenzing is name from new Red Panda at SFZoo

San Francisco Zoo is thrilled to announce the name of its newest, and perhaps cutest, resident: Tenzing, after the famed Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who scaled Mount Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary. On May 7, at a special ceremony for Guardian-level families, the panda’s name was announced by Zoo Emeritus Board member and Bay Area philanthropist Barry Lipman and his wife Marie. Lipman won the naming rights with a $31,000 bid at the Zoo’s annual fundraising gala, ZooFest, on April 25. “I wanted to help the Zoo in carrying out its goals of conservation and education,” said Lipman. “By choosing Tenzing, I hope to bring about inquiry and interest in the Himalayas, its animals, its people, and the conquest of Mt. Everest.”


Tenzing took one look at the assembled crowd waiting his entrance and decided he wasn’t going out.  After gentle persuasion by his handlers he decided to explore his new surroundings.

Also on hand for the naming and big reveal was Pete Nelson, the star of the Animal Planet show Treehouse Masters. After watching the show in early spring, Fisher Family Children’s Zoo Assistant Curator Eric Krussman invited Nelson and his crew to design and build an exhibit called the Red Panda Treehouse, which they completed and filmed at the Zoo during two days in March. ”I couldn’t believe when I got the call from the San Francisco Zoo,” said Nelson. “It’s not every day I get to build a treehouse for a panda, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for my first four-legged client.”



Tenzing posing for the cameras while climbing to his perch.

The Red Panda Treehouse features special enhancements—like natural wood climbing ladders, a shaded treehouse perch, and plenty of bamboo on which to graze throughout the day—designed to ensure the health and comfort for this species, which is native to the eastern Himalayas and western China. “I’m so happy with the way it turned out,” said Nelson. “I hope he likes it!” The Treehouse Masters show featuring the Zoo is scheduled to air on June 6 for the show’s 1.3 million viewers.


Bamboo the preferred panda snack

Born at the Sacramento Zoo, this 10-month-old male red panda is approximately the size of a raccoon. Visitors are sure to be struck by Tenzing’s extreme cuteness, which is emphasized even more by his outgoing personality, which is unusual for this normally solitary and shy species. “We are thrilled to welcome this charming animal to our Zoo family,” said Tanya Peterson, President and Executive Director of the San Francisco Zoological Society. “We hope that its presence here raises awareness about its vulnerable status as a species and helps our visitors connect with nature.”


Pete Nelson watches Tenzing go from the perch to the treehouse. The verdict? Tenzing approves of his new surroundings.

Zoo Member preview: May 10 from 9:00 – 10:00 am.

Public viewing begins: May 10 at 10:00 am.


Text- by Press Release from SF Zoo, Photos and Captions by Bill Wilson


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: On the Biden Trail

Photo ACommonwealthClub2007res600Then Senator Biden at Commonwealth Club in 2007

This column is a combination of words – spoken by the Vice President at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Los Angeles and written by me in response. Vice President Biden’s words are in italics and are taken from the White House website.

I was raised by a truly gracious and decent man.  He taught me and my sister and my two brothers that — a simple truth, that every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  And he taught us by his example, not by his lectures.

I can remember I was a junior in high school, and he was driving me into Wilmington to apply for a job as a lifeguard in the city swimming pools.  …

 I’ll never forget it, he pulled up in front of the city courthouse where we went and made the application.  And he didn’t want to park, he was dropping me off.  And we stopped at a red light.  When I looked over to my left, and there were two men kissing good-bye, and I looked, and it was the first time I’d seen that.  And my father looked at me and said, they love each other.  …

It was April of 2012.  I was campaigning for Democratic candidates around the country, and I was here in Los Angeles with leaders of the LGBT community of Southern California at the home of Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward, and a young man, who was standing against the wall in the living room as I was answering questions, that young man was Chad (Grifffin President of Human Rights Campaign)  And Chad asked me one of the most sincere and plaintive questions I’ve ever been asked in my political career, particularly on this issue.  He looked at me and just asked a simple question.  He said, Mr. Vice President, what do you think of me?  A simple, straightforward question:  What do you think — I’d never meet him before.  What he was saying was, what do you think of me, I am a homosexual.  What do you think of me?

PhotoB040400res600 Chad Griffin addresses the 2012 HRC dinner in San Francisco

No one ever asked me that question before, and it made me sad to think that anyone — any of you in this audience, any of my acquaintances, my friends, my employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender have to go through any part of your life looking at people who don’t know you and wondering, what do they think of me.  What do you think of me?  What a profound question.

And all I could think of was, if all Americans understood that there are people with different sexual orientations in every walk of life, every sector of America, every nook and cranny of this country, and that you are no different.  You are us.  We are one.  And all I could think to say to Chad — it was spontaneous was — I wish every American could have been in the kitchen. 

I walked into Michael and Sonny’s home through the kitchen.  They were standing there, and their two beautiful, young children — five and seven — were standing between their parents.  And the first thing I did, the little girl put her arms out — actually the little boy did first, so I bent down, crouched and gave them a big hug.  And we talked a little bit before I even said hi to Sonny who was standing at my right.  And after a few minutes, the little girl turned to her father and said, Daddy, is it okay if the Vice President comes out in the backyard and plays with me and you speak?

Photo CSenatorBiden_Senator John Glenn listens as Senator Biden questions a witness during a Senate hearing in the 1970s.

And all I could think of was, I mean this sincerely, folks, if every American could have just been there and seen the love these kids had for their parents, just seen how normal it all was … they wouldn’t have any doubt about what the right policy is, what the right thing to do.  And it reinforced in me the certitude that the only way to prevail is to continue to step up and speak out because we are all one.  People fear that which they do not know.  And you all continue to do that. That’s why things are changing.  Not because of Barack Obama or Joe Biden, but because of you.  It’s powerful.  It’s powerful.

So I mean what I said at the front end, thank you for not only liberating people who have been persecuted and pummeled, but thank you for getting us in the way of liberating all of America.  It’s a fight we will win.  I don’t have a single, solitary doubt in my mind.  I am absolutely confident my grandchildren’s generation has already moved and will continue to move far beyond the prejudice of the past and of today.  That’s why I’m so confident that the future is only going to get better.

I heard that you gave a great speech at the HRC dinner in LA, but it wasn’t until Stuart Milk posted a link to it at the White House website that I had a chance to read it and get the full impact. It brought tears to my eyes. I worked as a clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) from April 22, 1972 until September of 1979. At the time I was very deeply closeted and believed that if I looked anyone in the eye they would be able to tell I was gay. I can tell you the exact spot in the basement of the Russell Senate Office building where I was when I realized that I could walk the hallways with my head up. I know it sounds so pathetic, but back then there were no positive role models for being gay and certainly no Vice President or President was saying the encouraging words we hear from you and President Obama.

I was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City when Vice President Agnew came to campaign for some local Republican candidates in 1970. He spoke at an outdoor rally. I was among the group of anti-war protesters who gathered across the street that he was referring to when he said, “When I look across the beautiful Great Salt Lake the only pollution I see is the social kind.”

Photo DBiden001res Photo signed by then Senator Biden in 1977.

  My friends …worked for you when you first came to the Senate. I took photos at the reception Senator and Mrs. Hollings held in the Senate Caucus room for you and Dr. Biden. No one at that time knew I was gay because that was something I wasn’t even admitting to myself. So when you signed a photo that I took of you with the words, “You’ve been a great help to us and a fine friend.” I wondered if you knew my secret would you still have called me a friend. All these years later I learn that the answer would have been yes. I’m not sure that I can put into words what a powerful affirmation that is for me.

So part of the tears I shed while reading your speech where tears of regret that I wasted so much time and energy maintaining my closet when my fears of rejection were unfounded. There were also tears of joy for having survived long enough to see legal recognition for the love I have for my husband, Fernando. We’ve been together sine October of 1986. We were legally recognized as Domestic Partners in San Francisco since 1991 and in District of Columbia since 1992. We were married on February 12, 2004 and because the California Supreme Court declared our marriage as null and void, we were remarried on June 17, 2008.

Fernando was born and raised in Italy. He came to the United States as a graduate student in 1979 and is now a United States citizen. So I have an acute awareness of the issues that face gay communities abroad. It made me feel immense pride that the US Embassy had a contingent in the 2011 EuroPride parade held in Rome. As more countries follow the examples of Russia and Uganda and pass laws against gay people the work only becomes more necessary and urgent. It makes such a big difference that the Obama administration understands on all levels that need and urgency.

PhotoE_0012res600The US Embassy’s contingent in the EuroPride Parade in Rome, Italy 2011

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

It is about eight months before the midterm elections of 2014. The political “pundits” have already predicted the Republican takeover of the Senate. After years of relentless attacks it seems that the more motivated voters will be those who hate Obama. We’ve taken Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President to unbelievable heights. Not only can we package candidates like soap, but we can do it with “corporations are people” money and no one has to be accountable.


PhotoA082822resMoney makes the world go round.

 So what is it that makes so predictable the fact that people can be persuaded to vote against their own interests? We claim we want government to be responsive to our needs, but we reward the party that shut it down with control over the whole legislative branch.  Does it make sense to anyone that some how gridlock will be lessened by giving power to those whose biggest priority has been to make President Obama a failure?

PhotoB038551resPresident Obama on his way to the next fundraiser

 So the knot in my stomach has already begun to tighten and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. That’s the way the cliché goes, but quite frankly I’m not sure that it will be getting better within what is left of my time. (In twenty years I’ll be in my 80’s.) But there is still that part of me that wants to believe that the best will happen and Republicans will not get control of the legislative branch of the government. So I do what I can, donate what I can, and occasionally vent by writing columns.



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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Goat Edition

Buffalo jumps for joy at being on top of the hay bales.

City Grazing has got your goat. No kidding (although 28 mothers have recently given birth to 50 baby goats), the herd located at 101 Cargo Way has the solution to your backyard jungle that will become a fire hazard if left unattended – goats. You may have seen them eating poison oak near the Presidio Gates or eliminating invasive blackberry bushes in Bernal Heights. They have trimmed the weeds at the reservoir near Miraloma Park neighborhood or perhaps you have a neighbor who has used the service of hungry goats to control weeds in their yard.

Playing chicken with the real thing.

City Grazing recently held an open house at their home in the southeast sector of the city to show the newest members of their herd and raise awareness of this ecological approach to fire prevention. Whether it is a small group of 3 to 5 goats to help manage a backyard in the city or larger groups for bigger areas, City Grazing has the animals that can fulfill your needs. The recent record drought will only expand the need for their services.

Sharing with kids.

The overall impression I came away with having spent several hours at the open house was that the staff and volunteers really views these animals as almost human. They don’t treat them as goats they treat them as individuals with personality and quirks of their own. I witnessed the fact that the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t fore it to drink” does not apply to goats. Put them on a leash and they want to go any which way but forward.

It was his large ears that earned this kid the name Spock.

You can get your goat(s) at City Grazing by going to their website

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