That’s the number of blogs I’ve written since I started almost five years ago. It’s also my address. And I have a few paragraphs to make a connection between them.
I’ll start with the address. My wife and I moved to this two-flat house in the Inner Sunset in 1982 when our daughter Kerala was 2 years old. Bought the house as tenants-in-common with Ken and Carol Reggio, two strangers who took the upper flat and quickly became friends. That Fall, we met various neighbors in a tree-planting project initiated by Wolfgang and Linda Liebelt and that December hosted our first Christmas Caroling party at our house.
So last night was our 33rd version of what became an annual tradition and both the Reggios and Liebelts (who long ago moved to other SF neighborhoods) joined us. Kerala was here with husband Ronnie, stepson Alijah and two kids Zadie and Malik, Talia with some of her hundreds of friends, some school staff, some school alums, the Interns, some new neighbors, my sister’s family (as always) and more. We usually start with refreshments and milling about in the back of the house, then gather around the piano in the front with alphabetical song-sheets and then take it to the streets. The last few years that includes swarming onto the N-Judah streetcar in a Caroling Flash-mob and singing to the bewildered passengers. Last year we rode seven blocks and continued singing in Yancey’s Saloon and Pascuale’s Pizza on Irving St.
But things were a bit different this year. One of our beloved neighbors who had come each year was terminally ill and we went out early to her house to sing. She actually came down from her room to listen and to sing with us and then brought us to tears thanking us for the visit and noting that this was the best of the spirit of the Inner Sunset that she and her husband (who passed away last year) had given so much of their lives too. She was calm and peaceful, surrounded by her loving family and friends and who wouldn’t be touched knowing that this would certainly be her last time to hear these songs and share them with us.
We came back to the party, visited a bit more, gathered around the piano and sang through the whole songbook, with Zadie and her new best friend Alma, daughter of two SF School alums, dancing to the music. But when it was time to go to the streets, the rain had still not relented. A diehard group insisted we go anyway, so off we went, me trying to play ukulele while holding an umbrella. The N-Judah was not scheduled to come for another 15 minutes, so we just walked around the block instead and found lots of folks happy to come to their windows or out to join us. And yes, we got some treats as well!!
Indeed the best of our neighborhood spirit, some of which we helped create with this party and pumpkin carving and Easter egg hunts and 4th of July picnics, the same kind of attention to community ritual and celebration that I’ve helped create at the San Francisco School brought to the place where I live. Cities offer a freedom of anonymity distinct from the small town where everyone is in your business. But the price can be isolation and lack of connection. So these little markers of community spirit and getting to know your neighbors so vital to the human experience, finding a way to create a small town freedom in the midst of urban excitement and variety.
Not much room left to connect with Blog Number 1232, but here it is: this record of my experiences and reflection on experience is nothing more than my attempt to keep repeating in a 1,000 plus different ways what I consider important—and to share it with anyone interested in similar things. The themes are constant—joyful community, quiet solitude, cultivating a sense of welcome and belonging, love for and advocacy for children, nurturing intelligence, opening hearts, speaking out against ignorance and evil, gratitude for the gift of life, attention to the wonders around us. And all of it tied together with music, music and yet more, music.
As a music teacher, my little music room at The San Francisco School is my main church/temple/ sacred space of 41 years. But it’s a traveling show— every place where people gather with love, care and good music is a sacred space. And so my work is everywhere I go—my home, my neighborhood, the Jewish Home for the Aged, the N-Judah with carolers, gymnasiums around the country and spaces around the world where I give Orff workshops, hotel rooms at Orff Conferences, jazz lounges, concert halls.
So that’s it. Blog 1232. Now to figure out rainy day activities with the grandkids. Fa-la-la-la-la.