California Visit I, July 2004
Fear of Freezing
If there is one thing that California Republicans and Democrats agree on it is that you must take a jacket or sweatshirt when you go out at night in the Bay Area in summertime. When my Republican mother heard I was attending a mid-July, Saturday night outdoor performance of "Annie" at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park high in the Oakland hills, she made me take a sweatshirt along, despite the fact that it was in the mid-80s at her Menlo Park home that day. And, the first question my progressive Democratic friends asked me when I arrived at their Oakland condo to prepare for our pre-play picnic was whether I brought a jacket. Hugs and other customary greeting rituals were laid aside so that we could deal with this acute question.
So we packed the car with all kinds of healthy salads and drinks, schlepped up to the park, and found our reserved picnic table in the Amphitheater. The only solemn moment in our free-spirited banter before entry into the theater was whether we should take the jackets (one person also had brought a blanket) along or traipse back to the car after the picnic to get them. A quick, sober vote was taken and we left the jackets in the car for now.
As is customary, the picnic was as much fun as the show. The genial atmosphere, free-flowing wine and dramatic and stunning vistas were welcome tonics to busy lives. Even the clumsy attempt of one of the friends to explain who Joaquin Miller was and how the WPA actually constructed the amphitheater was met with genial acceptance. But after dinner was over, sobriety returned, and we deputed a corps of three to return to the car for the jackets. They came back within minutes and we took our seats in two locations of the theater. They actually forgot my sweatshirt, but the organizer of the picnic profusely apologized and ran back to get it.
It was still warm when the play began at 8, and so we all became engrossed in the charming little musical with our jackets spread on our laps so that we could quickly defend ourselves against the unexpected yet certain arrival of a sudden chill. I was getting a bit disconcerted, however, and quietly nudged a friend to ask when it was going to get cold. He assured me that after intermission I would be freezing.
But, it didn't happen. Intermission came and went. One of our party won the big ticket raffle, entitling him to a sumptuous dinner for two at a classy San Francisco restaurant. Since he was a sociologist from Indiana, however, he couldn't really use the prize. We considered it a complete coincidence that the person organizing the raffle was the wife of the friend who got us all together.
The second half of the play was performed in the pleasant breezeless night, again with no need for jackets. By this time, we had stuffed the sweatshirts and jackets down the sides of our chairs, or lost them under the chairs. They became a major inconvenience which we then had to find them at the conclusion of the play in their wrinkled and rumpled state. Only one person remarked that the didn't need the jackets, but no one seemed to want to question the basic doctrine. It would have been easier to get the College of Cardinals to vote down papal infallibility than to get the friends to abandon their belief that summer nights are cold in Northern California.
I arrived back at my mother's place late in Menlo Park that night and the house was dark. The next morning bright and early she awakened and asked me about my evening. Rather than asking about my friends, my evening or the play, my mother's first question was, "Did you get cold?" Am I missing something here?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long