There are plenty of worse ways to spend a Thursday evening than in the company of an open bar, nerds, and a brisket; and that’s where we found ourselves last night, at the showroom of K&D Furniture near the baseball park. “Geek Chic” was pitched as a tech/fashion-themed party, and that’s what they got: everyone was a little bit nerd, a little bit chic, and not unlike pretty much anyone you could expect to meet in San Francisco.

The crowd did trend young, though, and generally pretty attractive. Square jaws, frizzy beards, and all-did-up hair dominated the room. They were a pleasure to photograph.

How do you know that this party was edgy? Because they said so, repeatedly, and in italics. “What’s the edgiest thing here?” We asked Shaun Sanders, who works for the event’s PR firm as “Principal Urban Culturalist.” He directed us to a table where Skin Specialist Lindsay Rich was giving complementary skin evaluations and recommending beauty products. Edgy!

Actually, the skin thing probably was in fact the edgiest thing that we saw all night. You stick your face into a little curtained box where it is surrounded by ultraviolet lights and an unflatteringly positioned mirror. The result: previouly unnoticed skin flakes glow bright white; fine hairs on the tip of your nose turn orange, and all the freckles lying invisibly beneath your skin are rendered as horrifying blotches. None of these things are really visible to the naked eye, of course; but just as with a Scientology test, when someone informs you that you have horrible undiagnosed defects, it’s natural to want to fix them. After removing his head from the booth, a visibly shaken friend gasped, “why am I even allowed to go out in public?”

The rest of the evening involved free booze, small talk, and furniture too expensive to even bear a price tag. The only exception: a sofa that had been marked down from $7,000 to $3,000. (Even with the discount, this is still greater than the total cost of all of the furniture in our entire apartment.) “This is all aspirational,” Shaun explained. The $3,000 couch and the unpriced ottomans and massive glass ashtrays are something to long for. Or not: “I’m still looking,” said one nerd when we asked if he’d found anything that he felt was worth buying.

This event was in contrast to a reception we attended the previous evening at the Harvey Milk Library. There, a selection of historic photographs of San Francisco’s GLBTs were unveiled, and some nice words offered about the library’s recent renovations. A year ago, the library had asked the community to donate photos for historical record, and at last they were ready to admire.

At Wednesday evening’s quiet library reception, it was easy to see the outlines of our city in the photos of a group of women in the nineteen-teens; or the manager of Cliff’s Variety relaxing with friends in the 1970s; or a servicemember before and after his fighting in Vietnam and, later, transition to a lady. This was a far more complex mirror than the ultraviolet sales pitch at Geek Chic, and one in which we could aspire to recognize ourselves.

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