Unsilent Night

I went out Monday afternoon and bought a cheap boom box so I could participate fully in “Unsilent Night.” My friend Bob came over from Marin, and we went out together, him trotting along beside the Segway, without which there is no way in hell I could possibly have done this.

I had combed the article in The San Francisco Chronicle for clues as to the route, but it turned out that the route differed quite a lot from that described in the newspaper, I suspect at least partly because the described route would have involved climbing major hills.

We were given our cassettes at 18th and Dolores and pressed our Play buttons more or less simultaneously at the countdown. We were led up Dolores to 19th Street, down 19th Street across Guerrero to Dearborn and then over to 16th Street. Dearborn is a tiny little alley with Victorians and newer buildings rising two and three stories directly from the sidewalk…more or less sheer walls on either side, the ideal place for a lot of reverberation.

And reverberate we did. Imagine a thousand people carrying boom boxes playing the same tape in a narrow alley. It was just glorious, and improved by the sight of windows being flung open as the inhabitants became aware that they were being engulfed by what in the sixties would have been called a “happening.”

The communal spirit was uplifting. San Francisco is, at least by eastern standards, a very open and friendly city, but we carried this friendliness to a yet higher level. Bob brought his video camera along and I am looking forward to his sending me some clips, which I will share.

In contrast to the happy scenes he reported filming (we kept separating and rejoining) was a motorist whose car was trapped by other vehicles when we were crossing Dolores and who was nearly apoplectic with rage at having his progress impeded for ten minutes by a thousand people radiating splendid music and great joy. His realization that Bob was filming him ratcheted his rage higher, and I sure do hope this part of the video is available online. (Thanks in advance, Bob.) The Grinch is alive and well, if a bit purple of face, in San Francisco.

The return was via 16th back across Dolores and then up another alley to Church, and then left back to the northwest corner of Dolores Park. From there the crowd went across the park to the center just in time for the final chords to sound.

Getting across the park, however, involved a flight of stairs at 19th Street, and after I had dismounted and was starting to drag the Segway up the stairs, a young local couple behind me and their visiting friend from Addis Ababa grabbed the bottom of the Segway and, over my protestations, practically threw me up the stairs. At the top we introduced ourselves, and I gave them a quick demo while we let the other folks travel without us the last thirty yards to the end point.

A wonderful evening. You might want to participate in this should it come to your city.

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