This has not been a good winter for San Francisco. We have not, for example, been to the zoo to ride Eli’s beloved Puffer train since the Christmas Day tiger escape, and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel safe enough there to return. I have mixed feelings about zoos, but there’s something about the SF zoo, the sight of the giraffes’ heads bobbing along above the eucalyptus trees, the waves from Ocean Beach crashing in the background, that always appealed to me.
Meanwhile, in other local news, the governor has slashed the public school budget (how are our teachers, already stretched to the limit, going to continue under these conditions?), and our street car line recently struck another pedestrian.
My kids don’t know about any of this, of course, but it’s all been wearing on me and I badly needed a good city day. And we had one last Friday. We started at Ben’s school, where his kindergarten class, their fourth grade buddies, and assorted teachers, staff, and families gathered for a peace march in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The kids paraded across the park to a shopping district, chanting slogans (“2! 4! 6! 8! We think Dr. King is great!”) and singing Happy Birthday to the bemused smiles of shoppers and shopkeepers. We walked along beside them, Eli asking the whole way, “This the ha-pade? Where the ha-pade?”
After some time in the playground’s train structure and lunch, I collected Ben from school (Tony and Eli having driven home for a nap), and we rode the bus downtown. A few stops along our journey, an older man boarded the bus and sat down next to Ben and me. He listened to us chatting about the parade and MLK for awhile, then pulled a piece of paper out of his bag and started to fold. Ben watched intently as the bird (pictured above) took shape. When he was done, the man handed it to Ben, who was delighted with his gift. “For me? Really?” and then checking with me, “Caroline, can I keep this?” The man and I both smiled our yeses to Ben, and the man then got out two more pieces of origami paper; handing one to me, he indicated (I only realized later that he never spoke to us) that I should fold along with him and learn. Two more birds emerged from the papers, just as we got to our stop. Ben bounced off the bus, holding his bird, delighted with this interaction with a stranger.
Next stop, the Museum of Modern Art for the Olafur Eliasson show. If this comes anywhere near you, go see it! Take the kids! It’s a gorgeous, light-filled, fascinating exhibit, with many of the installations exposed so that you can see how they were created. Ben and I had a ball poking in and around the various pieces, and I think a Friday afternoon bus ride to MoMA might become a regular part of our monthly routine.
Ben then remembered the MLK memorial across the street, so off we went. It’s a Maya Lin-inspired fountain/waterfall, with lines from King’s speeches engraved on the walls next to huge photographs from various moments in the Civil Rights movement. Streams of water pour down (“let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream”), and the whole thing always makes me cry. Luckily Ben was there, threatening to topple headlong into the water, hollering at the pigeons, lightening up the mood.
And then last stop, reunited with Tony and Eli, who took the street car (without incident) downtown to meet us for dinner at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Out the Door. We filled up on lemongrass tofu and chard with carmelized shallots, picked up some chocolate gelato for dessert, and then loaded two tired boys back on to the street car for the ride home. It was a fine day in San Francisco.