I had 45 minutes before meeting a friend at the Symphony. Bored in downtown San Francisco on a brilliantly sunlit late afternoon, at the Main Library right across from City Hall. Couldn’t go for coffee, because a friend and I were catching a quick dinner in between pre-concert talk and concert. Couldn’t hang out in the library (Duh!!) because I was still drinking my mint tea. Wondering how to entertain myself, I ventured outside, surveyed the scene and found:
A gaggle of police and security types surrounding a homeless lady, patiently explaining to her that she could not be hanging out on the Library steps with a rifle. “It ain’t loaded,” she was saying; “I ain’t pointing at nobody.” Some friends were vouching for her. Nevertheless, the rifle was confiscated and the lady admonished not to walk around downtown with an assault weapon.
Around the corner, two extremely agile skateboarders were having a contest, enthusiastically applauded by a small audience.
Back on the Library plaza, the now rifle-less lady sat talking things over, with only a few bags of belongings but still some supportive friends. Several of them seemed clearly in need of mental health services. (In my city’s defense, San Francisco continues to make heroic attempts to address homelessness and mental health issues but the need overwhelms the problem. Thanks a lot, Ronald Reagan.)
Also on the scene was the traditional errant seagull, surveying other settling-in homeless people, passing tourists and 6:30 traffic.
Eventually I strolled past the Library/City Hall area, a few blocks west to Symphony Hall. As my friend and I were waiting for the house lights to go down and the concert to begin, someone came down the aisle to reach his seat. His evening attire included strips of multi-colored blinking lights. The ladies on either side politely made way for him. Before the conductor came onstage he unplugged himself and all was calm.
Just another twilight in downtown San Francisco. But as darkness fell, calm prevailed — and the symphony was glorious.