This is a classic time in San Francisco -- like the Bay-To-Breakers, the Exotic-Erotic Ball, Halloween in the Castro, and periodic attempts by property owners to repeal Rent Control.
It's 'Fleet Week', which begins when ships of the U.S. Navy flow under the Golden Gate Bridge, escorted by scores of sailboats and power launches from the major Yacht Clubs to tie up at piers around the Bay. And the climax occurs in the skies over the Bay on the following weekend -- an hours-log air show, headlined by the Navy's premiere precision flying team, The Blue Angels.
The Angels, and a lot of other aircraft, perform aerobatics over the Bay. In the process, the planes and jets streak and turn over Nob Hill, Russian Hill, North Beach and the Financial District.
In a nearby market this evening, one my neighbors said to another,
"Yeah; it's only on days like this that I really feel patriotic, you
know? Fourth of July, and Fleet Week. These jets just really get to me."
Both yesterday and today the Angels flew over my neighborhood just a couple of hundred feet above the rooftops and in their wake left the sound of the sky being ripped apart -- technology and military power and the thunder of the gods. It goes on, periodically, for hours.
They get to me, too. When I lived in North Beach, almost twenty years ago, I stood on the roof of my building when the Angels passed over so low that I could feel a wake of heat from their engines. I've been in places, back in another time father than most people can remember, when the sound of the sky being torn like that -- or the distant rumble of an Arc Light -- was something hoped for, or just another part of the landscape. In more current times it was Bosnia in the late 1990's, or the Shock and Awe of "Lil' Boots" Bush and President Cheney which CNN broadcast to the world in 2003.
The woman who's cut my hair for a decade is ethnic Chinese, but grew up in Hanoi. She has a different feeling about the sounds of Fleet Week, just as an old German I once met and who had lived in Hamburg as a teenager during WW2 told me he spent every July Fourth, unable to listen to the concussive explosions of fireworks over the Bay, wearing stereo headphones and listening to Mozart's Requiem.
I was priming a canvas for painting, talking to a musician friend about their beginning a new love affair, trying not to succumb to coming down with a cold, as the shadow of F-16's passed across my front windows an instant before the sky exploded.
I could only imagine, as I have almost every year, what it has been like for many people around the globe we've 'gotten to', who have been on the receiving end of our nation's ordinance. Because -- I forget why, now. No one I know seems to know any more, really.
As the sky continued to be torn, I put Mozart's Requiem on the stereo and kept painting -- because it seemed to be the only acceptable response.