Two Nights, Two Celebrations

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I’m feeling good about people these days. I spent the last two evenings in the streets, enjoying other people having fun. Maybe a key to happiness is not spending too much time alone. But maybe it was an “only in San Francisco” thing.

Monday was game 5 of the baseball World Series. Most people were glued to their TVs, but I decided to go to my writers’ group instead. We all read what we’ve been writing and give each other feedback. It’s helpful and it feels good, but I sort of wanted to be watching the game!

The group ended about the same time as the game. The Giants had won the Series! I came out of the meeting onto Market Street. People were driving by honking their horns; fireworks were going off; people were yelling and hugging. One gay couple was so happy they were dancing in the street.

I sat on a corner with one of my writer friends and watched people go by, listening to their excited voices. Some had been fans for 50 years, others for six weeks, but they treated each other like family.

It was a warm evening and the celebration went on until after midnight, but I left to go home around 9 PM. No matter how good I felt, I was still tired.

The next evening was Day of the Dead in the Mission District. That’s a Latin American celebration of departed ancestors. People build altars in the street, stocked with foods and flowers and things that the dead loved when they were alive. Usually people put photos and artwork on the altars. Some are quite lavish. All are beautiful and touching.

Every year, San Francisco has exhibitions of artistic altars at a couple of galleries in town. I usually go see them but I hadn’t this year, so it was good to spend some time with these. Later in the evening there is a procession with people in skeleton makeup. There is drumming and dancing as the parade winds through the Mission, and some of it gets pretty wild.

It felt good being there, although I wished I had come with someone else. Nobody was available, but there were good feelings in the air anyway. The streets and sidewalks were full of celebrants — don’t forget this was a Tuesday night, a work night, and the second party night in a row! Yet people still came out. A youth salsa band was playing in front of a restaurant, and people were dancing on the sidewalks. All the taco joints were packed.

One altar really moved me — it was a collection of small panels done by middle school students. The theme was “hardship makes us stronger,” and each youth had done a panel representing some hardship (“heartbroken because Daddy left,” “grandmother died,” “bad grades,” “domestic violence”) and how they were going to grow from it (“go to college,” “take care of myself.”) I sat in front of that and cried; it was so touching.

Again, I had to get home by 9 PM because of fatigue, but it felt good to be around so much creativity, energy, and emotion. Of course, Tuesday was also election night, so it wasn’t all good news. I was disappointed that Proposition 19 had lost — it would have legalized cannabis in California. It doesn’t affect me, because I have a medical marijuana card, but I would like everyone to have access to it.

Nights like these two don’t come along very often, but I’m definitely going to try to get out more. In fact, I have to go now. The Giants are having a victory parade downtown in a couple of hours. Should be fun.

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