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heart of the city

I was getting ready for bed around ten tonight when I heard a ruckus outside. I live at Third and Mission, in the heart of San Francisco, along the corridor between the ball park and union square, with views of the Bay Bridge, the financial district, and Market Street from my living room. When something starts to happen, I know it before KRON-4 has a chance to get reporters on the scene. First there was a roaring crowd; waves of cheering and shouting that roused me from my cozy bed to peer out the windows searching for the source. Mission Street jammed up, and New Montgomery got gridlocked. Third Street was taken over by pedestrians; cars couldn't get through the crowds. Sirens and police cars converged a few blocks south of here. What was going on?
I tried the tv, thinking maybe local news would know what's up. Nope, just the same annoying sports guy talking about boxing. Was it the Giants? Did Barry Bonds just do something actually worthy of celebration? Nope, the Giants are in Miami tonight. Okay, can the local papers help me? Nope, their news feeds have no mention of
"right now." How can you google for "why are people yelling outside my window?" I heard chanting -- what were they saying? It wasn't "peace now!" and it wasn't "impeach bush!" or "out of iraq now!"
Mystified and curious, I pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and went downstairs. On the way down, other building residents asked each other what was going on, but no one had answers. Not even the concierge knew, and he could see the traffic piling up just beyond the rotating doors.
Finally on the sidewalk, I entered the stream of people, and start demographing them: mostly 20 somethings, not hipster, not sporty, more middle-American than we usually see in these parts, gaggles of straight kids with a distinct smell of beer. The first guy I approach has fresh stitches in his eyebrow and a bruised face. He ignores my questions and walks on; it's kind of a "28 days later" moment. Next I approach a girl who probably can vote but can't drink, with sweaty curly blond hair. "What's going on? Where's everybody coming from?" I ask. "Concert," she replies. "Who?" "Rage," she answers, and I know she means Rage Against the Machine. The light changes and the pedestrian stream is interrupted for a minute while a few cars progress through the Third and Mission intersection. I ask the next group of people, again, "What's going on?" Again the reply is "Concert." "Who?" "Rage." Why is everyone speaking in single-world sentences? Come on, I have a faux-hawk and I'm wearing a hoody and surfer shoes, you can talk to me! At least they assume that I know who "Rage" is.
I do, in fact, know who Rage is, and I'm a little worried. Rage is nothing if not political. If they drove a stadium full of drunk Californians to cheering that rivals Critical Mass, well, I bet some Starbucks windows will get smashed tonight. Lord knows there are plenty of candidates in this neighborhood.
Half an hour later, there are more sirens, less shouting. Law and order is reasserting itself. More honking; the cars are taking over the streets again. I want to be here for the revolution. I don't think the smell of the crowds or the sound of gridlock will be televised.
UPDATE: The concert was Rock The Bells an all-day hip-hop/funk/punk festival at McCovey Cove Parking Lot, and included Rage, indeed, but also Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Nas, Cypress Hill, and other bands I'm too old to know about.

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