I wrote my ode to Fall (“October Song”) in September and now in October, it’s time to praise a rare summer’s night in San Francisco. I mean the kind when the air has no hint of a distant fog chill, when no winds blow through one’s short sleeves shirts, when the streets are filled with folks promenading in amazement that they can take an evening stroll past the outdoor diners without shivering.
On Thursday and Friday, I gave two full days of workshops in Boise, Idaho, both indoors in an echoey gym, but there the evening was also warm and allowed for an outdoor dinner with a polka band evoking Oktoberfest. Came in late Friday night and up early Saturday morning to my colleague James Harding’s workshop in our new school Community Center, 110 fellow music ed conspirators gathered in jubilation. Some, like me, have been attending these events since the 1970’ and ‘80’s, and many since at least the 90’s. Such pleasures.
And then the customary dinner out with the local Orff Board in the growing hip neighborhood called Dogpatch. Several square blocks of chic restaurants and the young folks out on a Saturday night. But the first sign of some strangeness to come was the celebrated ice cream store, Miscellaneous, with lines around the corner at 5:30, closed by 7:30. New York and Barcelona we are not.
The post-dinner plan was to go to a boat called the Balclutha and enjoy a hearty evening of singing sea chanteys. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for it. However, the monthly sing had been cancelled because of some mean-spirited, self-serving and verging on just plain-evil shenanigans in Washington that closed down certain parts of the government. I needn’t point my finger— suffice it to say that after cleaning off my bookshelves, I took back the “I Hate Republicans Reader” from the recycling box. With no chantey sing, took off in search of a movie and without an I-Phone amongst us, looked for a newspaper on a corner to see what was playing. 10 newspapers boxes, but all of them empty except for one advertising rag. The evening’s theme had been set.
So a daring drive to the Embarcadero Theaters to just take our chances and see what’s there. Ascended the stairs and—“Closed.” For renovations. The entire Embarcadero Complex was deserted and a weird moment of getting lost in the parking lot and feeling like we were in a bad scene in a movie, walking the deserted bowels of the buildings waiting for someone to appear in a shadows. And we did a hear a blood-curdling scream in the distance. Honest.
Finally found the car and set off for the Opera Plaza near the Civic Center. Lucked into a movie worth watching and yet another sign of this strange emptiness in San Francisco— there was parking on the street. On a Saturday night! The movie— Wadjda— was about a young girl in Saudi Arabia who wanted a bicycle and the resistance in a culture with very narrow ideas about what girls can and can’t do. Aargh! Humans! Why do people seek to limit and confine and narrow the whole range of our human possibility, clipping the most beautiful parts of the flower that want nothing more than to bloom? It’s bad enough that people do it to themselves, but then they get in power and do it to others. While music teachers gather on their day off to discover their own possibility for blooming and enjoy each other’s fragrance. In my Idaho workshop, there was a transplanted Californian who told me that when he was in elementary school, they had just cut his music program. So as a 25-year old, he had his first xylophone solo in my class and it was beautiful. I invoked Tom Robbin’s quote and told him he had just proved it yet again, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”
Now it’s Sunday morning and summer is still with us. Which part of the flower will bloom today?