This weekend (July 14-16) was Gay Pride weekend in San Diego. If you’ve never been, it’s one of the more festive Gay Pride weekends in the country. The combination of Hillcrest, one of the country’s most vibrant gayborhoods, San Diego itself, and the warm, sunny weather makes for an ideal weekend. People travel from all over California and Arizona and points beyond to enjoy the festivities.

Between 1999 and 2004, I went every year. From the third year on, I stayed with my friends Bill and Eric, and an agenda for the weekend took shape. I’d drive over on Friday, spend a couple of hours in the afternoon at Black’s Beach (a clothing-optional beach with a large gay section), then drive to Bill and Eric’s house. We’d head into Hillcrest for happy hour at the rooftop bar at the Park Manor Hotel. It was packed! It was the place to see and be seen while drinking Cape Cods, their specialty. The rooftop offered a spectacular view of Balboa Park and downtown San Diego – when we weren’t looking at all the beautiful scenery right there on the deck. After happy hour, we would go out to dinner in a nice restaurant.

Saturday morning, we watched the parade. Bill and Eric had a favorite spot, not far from the Park Manor Hotel. They brought folding chairs, an umbrella or two, and a cooler. We watched the two-hour-long parade, with plenty of eye candy among the various walking groups, marching bands, convertibles, and floats.

Then it was on to the festival in Balboa Park, with dozens of booths, a performance stage with good entertainment, and thousands of people.

On Sunday afternoon, acquaintances of mine from work who lived in San Diego hosted a party at their home a few miles east of Hillcrest. It was a lovely home with a spectacular view across a wooded canyon. It was a nice combination of people I knew and people I didn’t, and it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon before the drive back to Phoenix on Sunday evening.

Some years, I went by myself or with friends. If I was dating someone at the time, I went with him. And in 2004, I went with my then-fiancé Jeff. At the time, I assumed we’d continue this annual tradition for years to come. But in 2005, we didn’t go because our weddings were the following month (we had two – a ceremonial wedding in the US and a legal wedding in Canada. That’s another story). Something else came up the following year, then Bill and Eric moved away from San Diego in 2010. Now, nineteen years have passed.

Those memorable weekends in San Diego inspired several chapters of my next book, If I Seem Quiet… . That book begins with a new character, the recently out Aaron Bradbury. In May 2016, he joins a gay running club in Phoenix and meets a tall, handsome, beguiling, yet enigmatic man named Ryan Robertson, the main character from the first three books.

A significant portion (22%) of the story takes place during San Diego Pride weekend in 2016, when Ryan, Aaron, and their friends Kent and Justin spend the weekend with four friends whom Ryan, Kent, and Justin met on a gay cruise three years earlier. (This cruise is the subject of my short story Cruise Virgins, which you can receive for free when you subscribe to receive updates.) Their weekend follows much the same itinerary as my San Diego weekends but with a bit more action, scandal, and drama.

Without giving too much away, this trip represents a major test for Ryan and Aaron’s developing relationship. They have quite a bit to talk about during the six-hour drive home.

While doing research for this book, I discovered that in 2013, the Park Manor Hotel was sold. The new owners turned it into a timeshare hotel called Inn at the Park, and as far as I can tell, the fabulous happy hours on the rooftop bar are no more.

I debated whether to re-write the sections of the story because in 2016, when the story takes place, they wouldn’t have had the option of going to happy hour at the rooftop bar. Ultimately, I decided to leave it in. In the book, the hotel has a fictional name, the Hillcrest Inn. Since it’s a fictional hotel, I figured it could still exist in 2016. The book is fiction, after all!

I’m really excited about this book. It’s full of action, drama, romance, sex, break-ups and make-ups, and much of it is centered around an LGBT band!

© 2023 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Large Pride flag: Nathan Rupert
White float: Nathan Rupert
Pride parade: Steve Dolan

These photos, from Flickr, are used under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

How San Diego Pride Influenced “If I Seem Quiet…”

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