by Kristi O
Coming back from what would be my last relapse since starting attending A.A. meetings, I discovered Koo Koo Humpday. I had only gone to meetings that were held in church basements with an older crowd that felt very paternal and reminded me how I felt too young to be an alcoholic.
I was encouraged to check out this meeting because it was a young people’s meeting and full of artists. The Koo Koo Factory was a warehouse in an alley in the Mission, where Pauli lived and held meetings. It was hard to find at first, the only way I knew a meeting was there was because of all the people talking and smoking cigarettes outside.
It was a young people’s meeting full of artists
After walking through a dark hallway, the space opened up to a bright room of Christmas lights, checkered floors, and eclectically decorated walls. Sofas lined the far wall, folding chairs were pulled from the back and set wherever you could find room. There was a stage that functioned more like a balcony, and comfy chairs at the front where the secretary and speaker would sit.
There was a kitchen in a separate room, and the cookies and sweeties were passed from person to person around the room throughout the meeting, the whole meeting, until they were all eaten or people got tired of passing them around.
In this meeting I saw people my age, people I thought were too cool to talk to, people with colored hair and tattoos, no one that looked like parents. I started to see the life that I wanted and seemed attainable to me. The shares were about being sober artists, finding creativity without substances, learning to socialize being around alcohol but consuming it, as well as all the other challenges we face while turning our lives around through the 12 Steps.
After a year attending and becoming a part of the regulars at the meeting, there was a fire that was started by the neighbors and we lost the Koo Koo Factory and Pauli lost his house. The community did what we could to support Pauli and try to keep the meetings there going. Koo Koo Humpday moved to the Baha’i Center, where the rent was high and we eventually had to find a new place. Next was the Alano Club, whose rent was cheaper, but like so many places in San Francisco at that time, was kicked out due to high rent.
Just before meetings closed due to the pandemic, we were at the CPMC Davies Campus. As meetings moved online, I was grateful to be able to host the meeting on Zoom. Since moving on line we have been lucky to hear from many of the founding members of Koo Koo Humpday.
Pauli started the meeting and other meetings at the Koo Koo Factory after his sponsor Steve “Stevie” Gleason passed away with 34 years of sobriety. Pauli describes him with reverence, “He was the deepest and most amazing guy, and was my sponsor and close friend. He used to say if you’re going to be this close you better be fucking friends.” Stevie was an artist, a Buddhist, a serious combat vet and he lived and created the warehouse for artists. Pauli first moved into the warehouse after a bad break up, then again later to provide hospice care for Stevie.
Pauli promised Stevie he would carry on the spirit of the place. So he started this meeting on Wednesdays and called it Koo Koo Hump Day. Niko, Shark, Bernie (from Austria, who always brought the snacks and looked kinda like Santa Claus), Pauli and his sponsee were the first 4 attendees. The first meetings were three or four 4 people, once Pauli pulled a newcomer off the street who stayed for the meeting but never was seen again.
Pauli promised to carry on the spirit of the place
The meeting has tried to stay true to what Stevie believed in. It was an A.A. meeting, but welcomed anybody and everybody who wanted to recover from anything : food addiction, bad break ups, work-aholism, anything. The meeting includes a five minute meditation, which was a time that would not make newcomers or tweakers jump right out of their skin. Pauli made sure to hang Stevie’s sticker, “GOD PROTECT ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS,” right above where the speaker sat with a big bull skull.
Eventually as more and more people came in, it morphed into a regular A.A. meeting. Another meeting started on Thursday, then a big book study on Monday, and Dark Secrets on Friday night. When Yoga Punx needed a place to start, the warehouse gave them three days as well. At its peak there was something going on there for the community every day of the week.
The meeting is still Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and still has a five-minute meditation, which still ends with a Mr. Burns toy saying, “Excellent.” We also found out the name Koo Koo Factory came from stuffed cats that a member made during meetings that were called Koo Koo Kats. It has been an honor to learn the history of this meeting that has meant so much to me and countless others. I hope to carry on the tradition of Koo Koo Humpday and Stevie’s and Pauli’s legacy of inclusivity.