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Monday, Feb. 02, 2004 | link
Sunday I went with my friend Shree, an OG friend from junior high, to Glide to see her mother sing in the chorus. As the band started up and the crowd got to its feet and started clapping and woohooing and the chorus started running out on stage -- jumping, and smiling, and pumping their fists like a football team taking the field, a football team wearing flowing batik robes -- Shree leaned over to me and said, "if you ever wonder about where you are in this world, by the end of this, you'll know for sure you're in San Francisco." Yeah, pretty much!
Right away we launched into some spirited hymn-singing ("you have to hold hands at this part," Shree whispered), and then the minister told us to turn and hug the person next to us. Even though I grew up in the Bay Area, which has meant an endless parade of formative experiences that have left me especially able to roll with these kind of punches -- Drum circle? OK, sure, just point me to my rhythm egg. You want me to do some trust exercises? Fine, just show me where to stash my clothes. -- I still felt a small jolt of "Oh Boy, here we go."
Part of it was that there wasn't nearly enough coffee in my system yet, and part of it was that I hadn't thought the whole thing through properly, hadn't prepared for anything beyond the assumed passive experience of "going to see some singing". After a moment's hesitation, just long enough for the jolt of ridiculous embarrassment to pass, I gathered the necessary emotional strength to hug the nice man with the wet wool smell standing next to me, and then the woman behind me ("good morning!" she said, "Yes!" I said, weirdly), and the nice man at the pew in front of me, the one with the huge satan tattoo on his arm.
The hugging session was followed by some amazing, eye-misting singing, some moving if puzzling sermoning, some clapping and swaying, some amen-ing and hallelujah-ing, and even one "namaste". And it was all really good. There's something ... powerful, I guess, about clapping along with hundreds of people all concentrating on one thing, even though it was clear that this "thing" held wildly different meanings for everyone there.
But what really stuck with me was the hug struggle. Thinking back, it struck me that one of the effects of getting older is that you become better and better at steering clear of situations that are going to make you feel uncomfortable. You know what signs to look for, the words "free jam" or "bowel movement piece" for instance, and you know when to decline politely. I recognize that all I'm talking about here is a little stranger-hugging, and not, say, skipping across America for peace (the general plan of The Skipper, a member of the congregation who did, in fact, skip up and down the aisles during one particularly moving song). Still, maybe it's good to put yourself out there, if even in just the smallest way, every once in awhile. Every once in a long, great while.
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Other things: Saturday Adrienne and her mother and I went to the antique book fair at Fort Mason and ogled $10,000 first editions of Peter Pan and ate hot dogs and chips and knocked over crystal candy dishes which shattered spectacularly into one million embarrassing little pieces (only I participated in that last one, actually).
Saturday night, Adrienne, Jill, and I went to the Metreon (or as I like to call it, "Starfleet Academy") to see the anemic and formulaic and talent-wasting Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, which would have been a complete waste of time if it weren't for the insane and lovable guy who came around with his little cart of popcorn and candy before the show. Have you seen this man? With the earnestness of a Ren Fairy, he thanks you for sharing your Saturday night with him then politely hawks popcorn and PoPables and the "really-quite-tasty despite the bad, 7-11 rap" Icees. When you give him your order, he says "cool beans!" and then invites you to "rock and roll" with your selection. He is the awesomest.
Friday night I BARTed to Oakland's scenic Paramount to see, finally, Casablanca, and it was crowded like I've never seen it -- we had to sit waaay back in the balcony and missed the whole mighty organ show because the line to get in was so impressive. The packed audience was rabidly enthusiastic in general, clapping explosively in response to all of the famous lines, "here's to you kid" and all that. But the couple sitting next to use took things to almost Rocky Horror levels, singing and knocking on their arm-rests along with Sam's "Knock on Wood" number. People are sure are crazy.
Thursday night, Jill, Sunny, and I went to Popscene at 330 Ritch. (I have free ins for a year because they were giving out passes at the six-year anniversary party that Liz took me to!) We danced hard to "Paint it Black" and Le Tigre and the milkshake song and etc., then went to Sparky's for fries and stuff. All in all, I didn't get home till almost three AM, and waking up the next morning was utter hell -- I had to get up early to meet Mike for breakfast so we could get coffee and a bite before we went to buy Jay a case of "thanks for all the hard work" High Life, courtesy of our boss back in Waltham. And I swear, when my alarm went off that morning, I felt like it was trying to kill me. What is it Humphry Bogart (dude, "Humphry"?) says so famously in Lethal Weapon, I'm too old for this shit?
And with that, the pattest ending of all time, I leave you to race off to class. That's right, school is IN!