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Among major world cities, few feel as much like a circus as San Francisco. The spirit goes beyond the energy, the momentum, the lights; every good city has these. But San Francisco embodies the chaos and wildness and dirtiness of a circus, and all the spectacle and carnality and body paint of a cirque.

There is, too, a sense of transience – the city is constantly changing its games and attractions, ropes and canvas going taut here or there at any given point in time. Transient too because of the people moving through it. All the excitement of a circus – it appears in a blast of train cars and activity and rises in some field and draws people to it before disappearing into the night – that’s what’s exciting about San Francisco. (Except sometimes we’re the ones who pack up and leave.) It’s a city that seems always at play. And, like the circus, this is where people run away to.

So what we’ve gathered here is some of that spirit, the people and events and places that seem to have spilled out from some secret big top hidden in the streets of the city. Those things the big colorful tarp couldn’t contain. In short, San Francisco differs from a regular circus in one significant way: Its spectacles are everywhere, its sideshows are down practically any good alley, its performers are, naturally, us.

The lights go down, the lights come up. Showtime.



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