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Feral Boys

STORY: The Feral Boys were a group of a little over a dozen young gay men in San Francisco who formed a sort of fraternity in the early 2010s. We were all recent transplants to the city, and had moved there for school, or to be a part of the tech gold rush, or to leave small-town homes and start a gay life in a gay metropolis. We came to be students, models, artists, DJs, and gogo boys. What we had in common was a love for unbridled hedonism: art, sex, music, parties, and living like we would be 22 forever.

The name “Feral” happened when a club promoter noticed that we arrived everywhere as a pack, on the hunt. The name stuck because, while we felt we had been “tame” in our prior lives, we threw ourselves passionately into the wildness that life in a big city could facilitate. Our status as students and creatives meant that we were mostly free and independent to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, untethered from responsibility or consequences, we wandered the city every night looking for adventures and trouble.

Our clubhouse was the apartment of one member, Elliott Nathan, who was (and is) an incredibly talented multimedia visual artist. He lived above a boxing studio in a gritty part of the Mission. Every wall was covered in interactive art projects; the ceiling featured projections of bubbles; a menagerie including jellyfish and chameleons watched us drink, smoke, and laugh, from the safety of their tanks.

We threw parties every other weekend, all of which were themed and required creative costumes. Space, Mythology, Animals, Fairy Tales. The parties usually served as pregames for events later in the night, which included raves in an abandoned office building, neon body paint sex parties in run-down Victorians, and leather bar discos. In the summer, we hiked down cliffs to the nude beach carrying speakers, a DJ table, and a generator so that we could throw naked dance parties on the sand.

Threaded into the fabric of that hedonistic existence was the surge of optimism that San Francisco was experiencing at that time. During the tech boom, anything was possible. Our group discussions frequently had a transhumanist edge. Our friends were all getting on PrEP. Our neighborhoods were radically transforming with huge influxes of insane wealth. New skyscrapers rose up one after the other. We felt like we were at the center of it all, ground zero for a future filled with drones, AI, self-driving cars, Google Glass, and gene therapy. The “singularity” was right around the corner.

The ephemeral magic of the Feral Boys was only possible in that crazy, pie-in-the-sky environment. As soon as we tried to pin it down, it evaporated. Within a few years, we had graduated from school, moved away for jobs, and felt the weight of adulthood pressing us into more rigid forms. But for a brief moment, we really were feral, and that wild spirit will always be my fondest memory of San Francisco.


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