Dilettante 30: Rodeo at the Cow Palace

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When it’s 1998, and it’s your literal job that day to tailgate in a truck down six-lane Geneva Avenue surrounded by horned cattle, horses, their riders, sheepdogs, and a real rodeo princess, you can get a little stoked on your life.

You might even feel cocky towards your two fictional counterparts of the day, Bridget Jones of Bridget Jones’ Diary and Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. They could never; they would never. Their beats, in London and New York respectively, seemed boring compared to mine in the Bay.

The Cow Palace Grand National Rodeo needed its cows to show up for work, and the cows couldn’t make it from the trains to the rodeo grounds without walking. That’s the best time to invite the press to come take a look and promote the show.

Here we were, right where the railroads used to transport livestock, in a truck, then on asphalt, surrounded by gigantic rock-star rodeo cattle with goring horns. We felt so post-apocalyptic, or pre-industrial, or farmpunk, or just … definitely in a heavy metal comic book fantasy at least.

This Cattle Call twenty years ago this week still qualifies as one of the all-timer press-pass highlights of my surreal journalism career with the SF Bay Guardian. What’s not to love about a modern American cattle drive?

And no I forgot to ask so I don’t know who if anyone cleaned up the poop, or if commuters on Geneva Ave just had to swerve and deal with cow-bombs all day. Been wondering that one ever since.


Click through to read “Cattle Call,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on November 3, 1998.

This is the 30th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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[geeky excited pee wee herman noises]

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