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10 Places to Spot Locals in Their Natural Habitats

Here's your guide to some of the city's most curious (and beloved) characters:

  • The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence appear at almost every public event to give their blessing—though these "sisters" have Adam's apples and sometimes beards. It started in 1976 as a group of gay men performing The Sound of Music and then morphed into nuns carrying fake machine guns and cigars in local parades; now the satirical act is also a charity that is devoted to "community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment."
  • Spotting a graffiti artist at work is rare; you may have more luck finding a muralist at work in the Mission district. Contact Precita Eyes, which oversees much of the mural painting, for more information, and ask if they'll clue you in on their painting schedule.
  • You'll find a crowd of older Chinese men smoking up a storm and playing mah-jongg and cards in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. Try www.sanfranciscochinatown.com.
  • Strictly devout Christians don't always find this amusing, but every Easter brings the Hunky Jesus Contest to Dolores Park, which combines men of various degrees of hunkiness (and nakedness) and lots of religious irreverence.
  • More nudity (there's no shortage of it here if you know where to look): The World Naked Bike Ride takes place around the world twice a year (partially to bring attention to the dangers of gas emissions); the Northern Hemisphere date is in mid-March, and the Southern Hemisphere date is in mid-June. San Francisco now participates in both, naturally. Visit www.sfbikeride.org for specific dates, routes, and more.
  • Head to Golden Gate Park on a weekend to find lawn-bowlers and occasionally an impromptu drum circle.
  • Head to Ocean Beach to watch surfers in action, especially on weekends. You may hear surfer lingo similar to this comment posted on www.wannasurf.com: "48 F, cold and scary . . . but tubed every once in a while . . . ice cream headaches every duck dive . . . what an awesome break, though."
  • David Johnson, aka the Bush Man, has been popping out from behind his faux bush at Pier 39 since 1980, when he decided to give up his robot act for something more unique. Watch video of startled tourists at http://bit.ly/dArD58.
  • You'll meet some of the city's friendliest foodies at the Saturday morning Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building. Nosh on free samples while you chat up the vendors. Visit Cap'n Mike & Sally in the outdoor market area for fantastic smoked fish; you can take smoked fish with you back on a plane as a treat for yourself or as a gift for your housesitter. Visit www.holysmokedsalmon.com.
  • You'll find every stripe of ethnic group, class, and age range on the city's public transportation—on the bus, beware of Epic Beard Man, a 68-year-old white male (with yes, a scruffy gray beard) who was caught on video punching out a black man on an AC Transit bus after a racially charged argument. Naturally, in this Web-centric town, the video went viral and spawned several Internet memes. Read more at http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/epic-beard-man.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.