Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A San Francisco Day


I love showing off my city. Especially on a glorious September Day. So yesterday I met up with three of the music interns from afar (Chicago, Italy, Turkey) at Dolores Park to see the last show of the season from that venerable insitution, The San Francisco Mime Troupe. This year’s show was titled “Oil and Water” and expertly walked the thin line between the brutal facts of climate change and dirty politics and signs of hope and calls to action. (“No to Keystone Pipeline! No to war in Syria! Boo Chevron!”). My friend from Turkey was astounded that such radical critiques could be publicly voiced without the actors getting arrested and it was a good reminder that despite our frustrations with political process, free speech is still alive and well and to be valued.

After the show, we sauntered over to the new playground in Dolores Park, which is quite extraordinary. A testament to building something of beauty and fun for our children, including a small section with tuned drum columns and hanging chime bars with mallets. Human imagination and intellect put in service of life and affirmation instead of death and destruction. It’s a good idea.

On we went to Mission Dolores, part of my mission to prepare my guests for the movie we were about to see—the San Francisco classic by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo.  While walking through the cemetery, I told the story of my daughter Talia’s 16th birthday party where we went around the city with a videocamera and seven girls making our own version of Vertigo. For the cemetery scene, we made a cardboard gravestone for Carlotta Valdez.

Onward through the bustling streets to the Castro Theater, that icon of cinema glory still alive and well (may it be so for decades to come!). Sadly, the organist was not playing for the 5:00 pm show, but on the screen were photos of all the former movie theaters in their days of glory— the Surf, the Ahlambra, the Avenue, the Bridge, the Coronet and more, all sadly gone in the new world of characterless multi-plexes. With some time before the movie started, I walked out to Castro Street searching for another San Francisco icon, the It’s-It ice cream (two cookies with ice-cream in-between, the whole deal covered in chocolate). Score! (Thank you, Mollie Stone). We savored our tasty treats, the lights went down, the signature music began and off we went into another world.

Of course, I’ve seen Vertigo at least 25 times, but still fun to share it with folks seeing it for the first time. As a veteran, the suspended disbelief art requires began to waver a bit and I found at least four major inconsistencies that Hitchcock could have done better. (For example, in that opening scene, how did Scotty actually get to safety while hanging from that drainpipe? How did he find the correct apartment door when he followed Judy? How could she fake non-surprise when she opened the door? Etc.)

Post movie to a Thai restaurant and so ended a quintessential San Francisco day. Later on, we’ll go on a Vertigo tour through the city. But meanwhile, the three-day weekend has passed and time to re-enter The San Francisco School. I wonder whether the miracles (and high dramas and betrayals and secrets) that have passed in that venerable institution will ever make it worthy to be on somebody’s tour?

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