In mid-September, I attended the one volunteer potluck of the year that is held at the soup kitchen itself rather than at the house where the intentional community lives. There were about 80 people there, and I finally met a whole bunch of people from other shifts. Early in the evening, the annual group photo was taken, and we made a big circle and each said our name and then a non-denominational prayer—the soup kitchen’s roots are in the Catholic Worker Movement—followed by a big feast.
A couple of days later, David and Lisa were here from Seattle, and we had dinner at Esperpento, along with Tom and Pete T., who told us the story of his very terrible bicycle accident, from which he has emerged in remarkably good repair.
At the soup kitchen, B., who has two very distinct modes, one very withdrawn and one quite chatty, was in the latter mood. He had gotten ahold of a handsome Gore-Tex jacket and a giant pair of square sunglasses with rhinestones down the outer edges. When I admired his jacket, he said the best garment to have is actually an oversized hoodie, to keep the sun off his fair skin. He told me that when he was in junior high, he played football, and he was second-chair trumpet in the band, though he actually had a cornet instead of a trumpet and coveted the trumpet another student had. He was an Eagle Scout.
It was quite a busy day, warm and muggy. D. was also there, also not enjoying the heat, though presumably not because he is subject to hot flashes. It’s now been nearly two years of hot flashes, and I can report that, while heat is certainly a causal factor, humidity is noticeably more so. I can also report that San Francisco, which has never been humid in my 30 or so years here, lately has often been.
There was a new volunteer at the soup kitchen, who helped with the bussing, and I could see that with every passing moment, she felt more and more joyful. It has the same effect on me.
Saturday of that week was a rare day of having to work on the weekend, starting at 5:30 a.m. and going right up until 3:40 p.m., when Tom and I absolutely had to leave for his nephew Chris’s wedding at the historic Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland. My work task wasn’t quite done, but one of my co-workers kindly finished up for me.
On our way to the BART station, I saw one of the soup kitchen’s few female guests lying on the sidewalk on 16th St., evidently unconscious, looking as if she’d been punched in the mouth. She has a dog, but it wasn’t with her. I hoped it wasn’t lost. There were four strangers standing around her, apparently waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
I called the soup kitchen’s executive director, my friend, who does much more for the soup kitchen’s guests than just serve them food, which is a considerable task in itself, and requires, now that I think about it, being the kind of person that volunteers want to be around—creating an atmosphere that makes people not only willing to serve, but delighted and honored to do so. He is a very, very good person. His actions are more in alignment with his values than anyone else I’ve ever met. He values serving those in need and building community. But there was not much he’d be able to do for our guest at that moment. It could only add worry to his evening, so I didn’t leave a message, but I kept thinking of her (and him) during the evening, thinking about how for some people, there are many, many steps before they are lying on the sidewalk punched in the mouth, but for lots of others, there are no intervening steps. It’s the very next step.
However, these ruminations did not cast a blight on my evening. They were woven throughout it, but it was an absolutely fantastic wedding and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Chris and Kristin stood in a glassed-in alcove, with a wall of windows behind them, through which could be seen Lake Merritt—a lovely view—and a friend of theirs led them in the ceremony he’d written, and Chris and Kristin read tributes to each other—each hearing the other’s loving and admiring words for the first time, it appeared—and Chris’s dear friend Bino, in the wedding party, had a giant Mohawk and a distinguished eye patch to go with his elegant suit. Any wedding from now on without such a groomsman will look incomplete.
At dinner, I was sitting with Tom, Steve, Julie, Ann and Dan, and then there was dancing. At the website where you RSVP’d for the wedding and indicated your dinner choice, you could also say what song you’d like to dance to. I considered putting in Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” but I figured I probably wouldn’t be dancing, so I didn’t. But in the event, Tom and I danced and danced and danced, and someone else had requested “Happy.”