Cambrian: Slice of Life

BEST OF: Upbeat and hopeful in San Francisco

A 2003 weekend escape to our favorite city, San Francisco, began with us visiting our beloved friends Linda and Jolson, and evolved into hope and optimism manifested in many ways, with so many delightful twists and turns. The Valentine’s Day break reaffirmed for us that things are rarely what you expect, and that you don’t have to act or react in predictable ways to have a good time, at home or on vacation.

We reveled in our time with the Nakamuras. But we also had the fun of momentary comradeship at the historic Curran Theater. While such discussions in theater audiences are, by their very nature, transitory, some of us learned enough about each other while chatting to determine that I was to take best wishes to a Cambria resident from his former friend in Eagle Rock, who was my seatmate in the theater.

Our seventh-floor hotel room with a view was a space of many oblique angles, all designed to give those peering through the floor-to-ceiling windows the best vantage point for overlooking the bay and the fabled Ferry Building.

There’s something magically hopeful about peering blearily out of your hotel-room window at 3 a.m. and seeing that historic tower drenched in lights, with Old Glory fluttering in the breeze at the very tip-top. How uplifting: “that our flag was still there.”

The Academy of Sciences was full of hope, in everything from its whimsical “Far Side Gallery,” with 150 classic Gary Larson cartoons, to a wistful patchlet of grass, beginning to sprout on a slanted planter box. It was a test for the “growing roof” on the academy’s new building.

One has to admire a museum that’s nervy enough to put up a display urging people to enjoy watching the grass grow.

The dozens of people patiently waiting to get into the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gave us more hope. Hey, young and old alike, they actually were willing invest time in line for something more cerebral than a Big Mac or a pornographically violent movie. We also reaffirmed that, contrary to our childhood training, it’s OK to go to a museum and leave when you’re tired, or tired of what you’re seeing. You don’t have to check out everything in every display to have “done” the museum.

Our weekend also included elements of surprise and good timing.

We found 365 days worth of hope and humor in the Chinese New Year’s parade, even though we didn’t stay to see it.

Early that day, we made an astonishing discovery — a long, elaborate parade dragon set up in a vacant shop, waiting for its humans to put it on and march about. Later that afternoon, a desire to see the dragon in motion prompted us to walk up Market Street again, in hopes of intersecting with a few of the people preparing for the Chinese parade.

Surprise, surprise. Lower Market and the streets that fan off from it at odd angles were the staging ground for many of the marchers and floats.

We talked with and wandered among the participants for blocks, including hundreds of musicians, the dragon bearers, shy Oriental men who turned whimsically flirtatious behind their Lion Dance costumes, and delightful children flushed with hope, mischief and endless energy.

Marchers and hundreds of thousands of watchers had heard the concerns about possible terrorist attacks and, undaunted, had put on their hopeful demeanors and decided to participate, anyway.

After we wandered among the parade participants for quite a while, the skies opened up and drizzle became the harbinger of what was to come. Not willing to battle rain plus thousands of people (just on our block!), we dashed for our hotel, less than a mile away. Soon we were dry, warm and smugly curled up on our bed. We turned on TV and got a splendid view of the by-now rain-deluged parade.

What a trip! We’d walked, talked, hugged and rediscovered the magic that often gets misplaced after the year-end holiday season is over.

We also acquired a big dose of enthusiasm, San Francisco style, to carry us through the new year, Oriental or otherwise. When you think about, that’s a pretty nifty, hopeful souvenir.