We were taking that wonderful stroll down Mission Street, filled with ramen. Temperature was perfect. The sky was clear. The moon was full….the moon was full, that should have been my first clue. At 24th and Mission there was a gathering of people. But there’s always a bunch of people. Next to the southwest entrance to BART there was a podium and a red carpet. “Nice,” I thought.
Next to the toilet a guy was discussing brochures spread before him. Nothing remarkable there…except they were all about water policy. “Well there is a drought,” I said to myself. The gathering was somehow different. The woman in front of me had a noticeable German accent. The guy with whom she had struck up a conversation had an indeterminate accent. His camera strap was from Bic Camera, one of Japan’s largest electronic retailers, but he wasn’t Japanese. They both agreed that they were never going back but still miss home. I was thinking, “Wow, the Mission really has changed.” Evangelicals had been replaced by a red carpet and the dignitaries who were waiting in semi-formal attire. One woman was even wearing a fur.
The guy with all the brochures, right at sunset, I mean right at sunset, began a call to prayer. I thought to myself, “This is nice, a man living his religious obligations right here at 24th and Mission.” He was even facing NNE, which is the direction of Mecca in San Francisco. I like it. Two men enter with 30-inch strides. The dignitaries greet them with air kisses. That’s right, air kisses.
He began his speech on water with a dreadfully flat joke. It wasn’t insulting — just really bad. His speech was somehow worse and droned a monotone of riparian rights and legal water regulations. I said to my wife, “I think there is going to be a test on this, we’d better get out of here.”
Then a guy on a bicycle and another carrying a 55-gallon drum moved in front of the speaker. I turned to leave but paused near the guy with the brochures and sincerely thanked him for giving a call to prayer. He smiled in amazement and said, “This is all part of this.” Then catching himself, was right back into character gesturing to the brochures. We walked down past McDonald’s and it hit me. It was theater and I had swallowed the bait all the way to the sinker. Smiling embarrassed, and absolutely delighted, I giggled all the way home knowing that the way I felt is why I love the Mission.