San Francisco is known for many things: The Golden Gate Bridge, clam chowder in bowls of sourdough bread, overpriced street trollies, inexpensive crack. These are all things out-of-towners can read about in any travel guide – or quickly find out about, depending upon where their hotels are located. We locals know of a different side of San Francisco – a side we don't show visitors because it's only amusing to people who deal with these things daily. Take, for example, the Mission Street Preachers.
If you ever happen to be walking down SF's lovely Mission Street on a bright, beautiful Sunday enjoying the buzz of a mimosa or seven, you will easily spot them. They like to camp out at the entrances and exits of the BART train stations. They're obnoxious, in a cute, deluded way because you will hear them before you see them and wonder what is going on in this crazy city.
You will be greeted by a middle-aged Latin man (I have yet to see any women do this, which is either a testament to their prudence or a beneficial Christian bylaw) bellowing into a microphone attached to a single small amplifier nearby. They're almost always well-dressed, well, for Mission St, that is. They often wear white suits, cowboy boots, and are sweating profusely.
Their logic is beautifully simple: If these sinners won't come to church we'll bring the church to them! So these guys just pace a crowded street corner and try to spread the word o' God to the pagans.
Now while it's true that the Mission district is a heavily Latin neighborhood, on any fine Sunday afternoon you'll find a whole mess of white people (hipsters) out and about and spending their hard-earned cash in a desperate attempt to get as drunk as possible before six o'clock when the fog starts rolling in.
Why, Mission Street Preacher? Why noise up our street corners? It's already loud enough on 16th and Mission, what with the crazy crack-heads at the BART stop and the drunken hipsters on the prowl for prescription drugs. Why ruin everyone's buzz? What is your success rate on this corner? Has anyone ever stopped and abandoned their day to listen to your rambling speech on the merits of Jesus Christos and then gone to get baptized? Why only yell in Spanish? Do only Latin people deserve to go to heaven?
Do you do this for tips? I suggest possibly setting out a tip jar – and doing a possibly more entertaining act. WHY DO YOU YELL INTO YOUR MICROPHONE? IT IS ATTACHED TO A DEVICE CALLED AN “AMPLIFIER!” GUESS WHAT IT DOES??? IT AMPLIFIES YOUR VOICE FOR YOU! Jesus.
Furthermore, I have no idea how these guys get into this job. Do they wake up one day with the realization that they have never converted anyone to Christianity who isn't already in their family? Is there something in the Bible that tells people that this is a good method for religious conversion? Maybe at the local churches there is a sign-up list for this particular task. If you're a “real man” you jot your name down on the roster and prove to your friends and family that you like Jesus way more than they do.
Come to think of it, I don't even know if these guys are yelling religious stuff. It's in Spanish. For all I know they are talking about the newest episode of Breaking Bad or how lovely it was to bang their wives the previous night. There's really no way to be sure.
I have no exposure to these guys on a personal level because I, like most San Franciscans, just ignore them and walk on by, but something tells me that when they're done they turn off their mics, unplug their amplifiers, roll up their audio cords, and go home to sleep the most satisfied, self-righteous sleep anyone alive can have – and nothing bothers me more than that.
This vacation season, skip the Mission Street Preacher. Take your family to a Giants game or some such shit. Now I want a burrito.