Tuesday, November 16, 2010

San Francisco, CA

        I've been to San Francisco two times so far, and both have been enchanting experiences. I was originally invited by Campaign for Liberty to speak at one of their weekly meetings. As one of my friends has put it, I've "become a darling of the Libertarians."
        On my first day of arrival, I gave out free hugs and spread good vibes with the Love Police in Hallidie Plaza. There I met Kevin, who explored with me all weekend. Although, he lives in Union Square, there were many parts of the city that he'd never seen either. We went to Golden Gate Park to chill on Hippie Hill, where I met some characters, including another cyber celebrity, Melody Gannon, pancreatic cancer survivor and now poster child for medical marijuana after being photographed lighting up a bowl at an annual convention for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). We sat, smoked, and talked for hours. Her story of leaving her strict Catholic background on the east coast at 19 left me astonished. Everything she told me was preparing me for my journey. It was in San Francisco where I realized when you let the universe take control, magic happens. From drag queens at Dolores Park to smiling children on roller-skates in Golden Gate, joy filled the air. What a horrible 9-hour plane ride it was to get back to boring Buffalo. (Buffalo actually isn't THAT bad, but compared to San Fran, c'mon.)
        Lucky for me, Kevin and I kept in touch, and he flew me back for a second time.
        We explored more. He was going to bring me to the zoo, but I convinced him that there would be plenty of things to do for free. So, we decided to head to the beach, but only a few blocks away, our bus's doors opened to a pet shop. Of course, it was the cosmos sending love our way again, and we hopped right off. It was independently owned with the best customer service I've ever experienced. It was like our own personal tour through a zoo. The birds were exotic, and the man who took care of them had actually grown up around birds in Haiti. We were able to play with them and learn about each different personality.
        After checking out the rest of the animals, we headed to the beach. At this point in my life, I was perfectly content, trusting in the universe, and ready for spiritual enlightenment.  What a perfect time and place to try shrooms for the first time. Let's just say I've never been so happy sitting in a bush.
        I could go on and on about all the beautiful people I met and the beautiful places I went, but I suppose those will be stories for another time.
        My inspiration for finally sitting down and writing about San Fran was my dad. Since I had been spending so much time in the Bay Area, he just sent me a 104 year old film clip he found:

        "A fascinating movie taken by a camera on the front of a street car 104 years ago. Look at the hats the ladies were wearing and the long dresses. Some of the cars had the steering wheels on the right side. Wonder when they standardized on the left? The wheels seemed to be wide track and the cars were long. There were still a lot of horse drawn vehicles in use. Mass transit looked like the way to get around. It also looks like everybody had the right of way. The building at the end of the track is the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, which is still standing and still in use in some capacity. As it says, in additional information below, this was taken 4 days before the great San Francisco earthquake. This is perhaps the oldest 'home movie' you will ever see.
        You 'are there' for a cable car ride in San Francisco. This film was reportedly 'lost' for many years. It was the first 35mm film ever made. It was taken by a camera mounted on the front of a cable car.
        The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906...absolutely amazing! The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero Wharf is still there. How many 'street cleaning' people were employed to pick up after horses? Talk about going green! It is a great historical film! 
        This film was originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn, with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, figured out exactly when it was shot. Mr. Kiehn was able to take information from New York trade papers announcing the film showing, to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, and shadows indicating time of year and actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered. (He even knows who owned them and when the plates were issued!). It was filmed only four days before the Great California Earthquake of April 18th, 1906 and shipped by train to New York for processing."

        My favorite part of this video is the boys running in front of the cable car, testing their luck. I think it's their way of learning. Unfortunately, our streets today are more dangerous due to the faster cars, but back then it was expected for children to explore, play, and learn about the world on their own. Is it possible to get back to those days of personal responsibility without the government "mommying" everyone with laws and police? Possibly. Check this out: Cities for Children
        My friend, Peter Gray, a psychologist and professor at Boston College, writes a lot about how play is associated with learning. He is currently involved with the Binghamton Neighborhood Project, and his blog can be found here: Freedom to Learn


  1. Glad you had such great experiences in San Francisco. I can relate to your observation about how great things can happen when you "let the universe take control". In taoist terms it's the feeling of being in harmony with the natural flow of the universe. I recently heard this interview with author Neil Kramer that offers a metaphysical framework for how this phenomenon might work: http://www.mediafire.com/?6yw09w2u14mudec
    Regarding your last point about the need for children to be allowed to play and explore, I think you'd be interested in this article: http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2009/05/04/free_range_kids/

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