Thursday, October 06, 2005
Guerra, guerra! Sangue, sangue!
The weekly noon peace vigil in front of the brutal Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue was marked by the noise of F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets screaming low in the sky overhead.
It was the start of a two-day marathon practice session for the Blue Angels, a Naval air show contingent, who put on a show over San Francisco Bay for "Fleet Week" every year.
Last year, they didn't show up and took their act to Hawaii instead. Though a number of fans were furious and blamed the "San Francisco liberals" for the snub, their absence couldn't have made me any happier.
They have always made me feel like an old Vietnamese woman living in the Tenderloin who remembers the sound of American jets as a prelude to bombs or napalm being dropped. Actually, they make me feel like a skittish cat, completely unamused by rattling windows, not to mention all the premonitions from the page 15 stories I've read in newspapers over the years about crashes at air shows around the world.
Quite a few people LOVE the Blue Angels and their acrobatics and I've always tried to respect that, but frankly right now their "demonstration" is nothing less than obscene. It's an obscene use of our taxpayer dollars, an obscene waste of oil-based energy, and it's ridiculously dangerous to be practicing at low altitudes over a city.
I wonder how many Americans would be quite so enthusiastic about this demonstration of military might and drill-team displays if murderous foreigners regularly flew over their cities and bombed the hell out of them, as we currently do with our FA18 Hornets in Iraq. Their "weapon load" is pictured above.
One of the most literally beautiful examples of Swords turned into Plowshares is the Army Presidio, dating from the 19th Century, which has recently been decomissioned and become an interesting mixture of national park, housing, George Lucas' new digital empire headquarters, plus offices for what feels like half the non-profits in San Francisco.
The cast of the San Francisco Opera's production of "Norma" had been exiled for two weeks to a large, empty old building that served as a rehearsal hall.
The days had become so beautiful and the view of the bay so exquisite, that it was hard to concentrate on a "gritty, warlike" version of "Norma" inside.
Catherine Naglestad, the diva singing "Norma" was hanging out on the front lawn with a scattered group of choristers.
Hallie, the stage manager who looks too pretty to be a stage manager, dragged us in finally for the three-hour rehearsal.
The bottom of the food chain, the "production assistants," were excitedly getting ready...
...and so was my downstairs neighbor who is singing Clotilde, Norma's maid, which is actually a large, small part.
Filling in for the older bass/baritone who wasn't showing up until the final rehearsals was Joshua Bloom, a young Australian singer who is in the opera's apprentice program. We all wished they'd just keep him in the role because his voice has sounded so incredibly beautiful.
There were lots of people keeping musical time during the rehearsal, including Ian Robertson the chorus director on the left, Oleg Caetani the Italian conductor in the middle, and the seated Sarah Jobin who is going to be replacing him midway through the run.
At one point, Norma declares "Guerra" (war) on the Romans and proceeds to slit her hand with a sword.
Half a dozen Celtic Warrior supernumeraries, including myself, have been directed to go up to the diva and smear our hand against hers, parade the bloody mess around the stage, and then smear it all over our faces.
It sounds way too much fun, which is an odd thing to say after a visit with a peace vigil and a diatribe about the Blue Angels.
However, we need to figure out how to sublimate that blood-lust that is in all of us, use it creatively, and how to play games with it.
What we have to do above all is stop murdering people with bombs in the name of the state. And it needs to stop now.