Across the street from my morning bus stop there is always a large African American woman with colorfully, had made, hat and scarf who is singing soul songs from the very depth of her ample bosum. New attendees of her bus stop look hesitant and stand a distance, unsure of her effect on them, while the regulars are smiling and tapping their feet. She does not ask for money... she is just waiting for the bus with the rest of them and can't keep her beautiful music to herself.
Down the stairs into the undeground Montgomery station waits for me a tiered Mexican day worker in jeans, cowboy hat and guitar. He's strumming folk songs which echo off the ceiling and walls and reverbarate through the subway station.
When I emerge back up on the escalator at Civic Center station a flute caresses my ears. An older Japanese man is leaning against the gray subway-tiled wall and piping tunes that are remeniscent of kimonos, tea ceremonies and beautifully manicured gardens. Each note sharply pipes up in contrast to the next and once in a while two notes at once twirl around eachother until they're pierced by the next.
Every Wednesday, across the street, is the farmer's market and a man who looks like he could have been a member of the Greatful Dead is sitting on his fold-out stool with his guitar belting out love, peace and harmony songs from 1969 - the summer of love.
Every other Thrusday, my office windows vibrate with the roar of electric guitars, drums, cymbals and some young adult in angst. These are the regular concerts organized by the Academy of Arts right outside their building in United Nations plaza. An impromtu stage is suggested by three vehicles surrounding the band - usually turcks holding generators amplifiers. When I walk past to get my sandwich each beat of the drum beats on my jacket while the preformers are jumping up and down to the rhythm - like droplests of water on hot oil - and a young colorfully clad and torn group bounces along.
It's time to go home and I descend back into Civic Center station. Now the Japanese flute player has been replaced by a black homeless man who is bellowing out "Lean on Me" I don't think I've heard him do any other song but it doesn't matter. His optimisim is infectuous and his passion makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end every time.
Back up through Montgomery station a blind accordian player has taken his spot in front of the illuminated ad. He squeezes, sings and puts a spring in the step of everyone who is within earshot.
Once, while riding the 6 Parnassus from downtown through Haight street - there was a rag-tag group of teens occuping the back seats with their gangly arms, legs and backpacs. One strted singing "We are Family", the friends joined and - though no one knew eachother - most of the riders in the bus joined in the chorus while those who didn't know the words calpped along.
We are family
I've got all my sisters with me
We are family
get up everybody and sing
When it was over, everyone was giggling at what had just happened. Even.. momentarily polite, waving to strangers as they got off the bus. My eyes filled with damp joy at the beauty of the moment.
San Francisco... where the streets and public transportation are alive with music.
My return commute is almost complete as I dissapear onto my bus which lurches it's way out of "the city" and into the sub-urbs of San Mateo where the occasional car pumping out bass beats passes me as I make my way home along the empty, "tranquil" streets -- it's just not the same.