Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Preacher and the Naked Bicyclists

I was heading home from work on a fine Saturday afternoon, when I decided to pop up out of the underground before getting on BART, and go sample some perfume at Sephora.

As I emerge from the Powell Street BART Station, I realize that there is a street preacher, perched up on the molding of Forever 21, yakking through some kind of amplifier. He has a big sign about the blood of Jesus with him, and some friends handing out little tracts, and he's ranting on about Gay Pride, specifically the rainbow flags that go up on Market a month before the parade. We're misusing the rainbow, which is a sign from God. Do we even know what 'queer' really means? Etc. I walk by with a stone-set face, and storm into Sephora, thinking about how Jesus never took time out of his busy schedule to yell about a gay pride parade, when people were sick and hungry in the community around him.

Some time later, I come fragrantly out from Sephora, and head back to the BART station. Preacher still up on the moldings, still shouting. But as I approach, something new enters the scene--about thirty people on bicycles, naked except for their bike helmets, pedalling toward Market Street through the Powell Street cable car turnaround.

The preacher spots them, and turns his sermon to them. "You should be ashamed!" he yells. "Going around naked in public! Go home and put your clothes on! Be ashamed of yourselves!"

The bikers, of course, are loving the attention, and pedalling like mad. The crowd is cheering for them as they merge onto Market and streak off happily toward the Mission.

Apparently they were part of the World Naked Bike Ride.

I did wonder if the preacher had a religious leg to stand on in regards to them. Now, he didn't say that what they were doing was irreligious, he simply told them to be ashamed, but it occurs to me that nowhere in Exodus or Numbers does it say "Thou shalt not bike around town naked as a jaybird."." Nudity, in scripture, is mostly seen an expression of humility, or vulnerability, which would fit nicely in with this group's concern about environmental damage.

I love San Francisco...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Israel in the Gardens 2009

A lovely day was had by all. Well, by me. My parents decided to stay home, and my husband would rather have a root canal than listen to Israeli pop and watch me do activisty things, so I headed out on my own.

There was food: I ate spinach burekas, and a felafel arrangement the size of my head, and watched as the health inspection people had their annual fight with one of the felafel booths about whether everything was sufficiently refrigerated. Fought my way through the mob at Flying Felafel, where the whole experience is authentically Israeli.

There were vendors: I looked at children's games, and jewelry stands, and interesting tallitot, and stacks of Shalom Sesame DVDs.

There was music: I watched a troupe of teenagers in folk-dance costumes bounce around to Israeli songs, including a Bollywood-inspired number. There was singing. There was a gay Israeli pop star.

There were approximately a bazillion small children running around screaming in English, Russian, Hebrew and Chinese.

I checked in with some organizations. JIMENA was out, so was Hadassah, and BlueStar. BlueStar was very excited because they had a plane coming to fly around overhead with a banner saying WE STAND WITH ISRAEL. This was very nice and cheerful. In past years, the planes have said unpleasant things. (Those planes, obviously, were not chartered by BlueStar.)

And, there were protesters, although not nearly as many as we were fearing. Across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens, on the steps and the sidewalk in front of St. Patrick's Church, were a scattered line of representatives of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and QUIT. Frankly, I was expecting something grander. After all, they sent out this:

Kind of looks impressive, no? It wasn't.

Best sign over there was a banner that read "Lesbians Support The Palestinian Uprising". This is one of those things that just makes you blink a lot, but there they were. Apparently, the IJAZN people were specifically irritated that Ivri Lider, the singer who was the star of the IitG entertainment, is gay, and per IJAZN, "Queer people reject this exploitation in the service of a racist state." Well, queer people except for Ivri Lider, and all the gay San Franciscan Jews and their loved ones, lounging on the grass listening to him sing. They were, I daresay, having a better time than the IJAZNers. Plus, they got burekas and felafel.

I joined the banner line on our side, grabbed an Israeli flag, and waved for a while. The opposition gave up around two-thirty, and wandered away. In the meantime, I got to meet a number of people previously only known through e-mail and blogs, and generally enjoyed myself.

After a felafel break, I decided to head across the plaza and check out the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which I had not previously seen. Very nice place, saw a display on Chagall and the artists of the Russian Yiddish/Hebrew theater, enjoyed myself a great deal. New piece of knowledge: I had been aware that Sholem Asch wrote a play called "God of Vengeance", but I had not been aware that it had a lesbian theme. In 1922. Quite cool. Banned in New York. Gawd I love the Jewish arts.

Headed home, very relaxed. A nice, nice day.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Curley's Wife's Name

This is the second year I've taught John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men, and for two years now I've put a wacky little question into my final--what is Curley's wife's name? Why?

Curley's wife is known only as that. I ask students to give her a name, both to give her some dignity, and also to express their ideas about this woman--the only woman on the ranch, known by the men to 'have the eye' two weeks after her wedding, married to a bully, isolated, capable of flashes of warmth, flirtatiousness and downright meanness.

Some students see her as the floozy Steinbeck said she wasn't--one boy last year named her 'Holy Water Girl', "because everyone touches her". Some see her as an ordinary girl and call her by simple, wholesome names. Some give her the names of movie stars, to reflect her girlhood dream.

One of my students says she should be called Hester, after Hester Prynne, because they're both accused of adultery, and unfairly vilified.

And one of my students just blew me away. Her name, Rivka G. writes, should be Soledad, because it means 'solitude' in Spanish, and is symbolic of her aloneness. And of course, although Rivka didn't mention it, Soledad is not only a girl's name, but the nearest town to the ranch in Of Mice and Men.

Wow, this kid is good!