This summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of the “Summer of Love.” Over the past five decades, San Francisco has definitely undergone some changes but still, in the wake of all the advancements and setbacks, there are a few things that have remained the same.
You’ll still find picturesque houses with ornamentation along the rooftops and large bay windows. You’ll still find clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl down at the wharf. And you’ll still find that defining hippie spirit.
In fact, just across the street from my apartment, a group of ‘eccentrics’ (ranging from ten-year-olds to 70-year-olds) gather on Sundays to enjoy the sunshine and to roller skate to their favorite hits. With nods to the ‘70s in the clothes they wear, the songs they jam from a giant boom box and the choreographed dances they perform on their four-wheeled footwear, they are a weekly reminder that we still appreciate the idea of LOVE being the greatest power we have here.
So it’s not surprising that this city has pulled out all the stops to commemorate the official “Summer of Love” that took place fifty years ago. An exhibit at the De Young museum has been complemented by multiple events, including a free concert and light show at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park last Wednesday. The event was a donation to the city and its residents, as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation for that oh, so defining decade by a private entity. What that means in plain English? None of our tax dollars were required to make this event happen.
If that’s not a show of love, I don’t know what is.
2017 seems like the perfect year to be commemorating and encouraging positivity. It’s no secret that the world has seen a lot of the opposite recently and that we need all the love we can get. It is also the year that I chose to turn my own personal perspective around (I know, it’s all about me, right?). Narcissism aside, ever since I can remember, I’ve been a pessimist. I am a Capricorn, after all. But this year, I decided that I didn’t want to live like that anymore and that I could choose to see the positive side to things.
I thought about all of my own faults; regrettable actions I’d made because of the circumstances I was in rather than my lack of concern for the people around me. This introspection really made me think. Why was I so quick to blame, judge, and condemn those around me, when I had no idea what their own circumstances were?
So, in the New Year, I made an effort to be more forgiving of the people around me and to try to catch myself whenever I felt my passive-aggressive, moody tendencies take hold. Overall, I feel like it’s been going well. I’m even called “The Positive One” at work and my coworkers don’t believe I have a cynical bone in my body. How’s that for a resolution realized?
So, when I suddenly found myself back to my old curmudgeon-y ways at Wednesday’s Summer of Love events, I had to think to myself… had I not changed at all? Had all of this optimistic, benefit-of-the-doubting been an act? Had I fooled myself into thinking that I could create my own positivity?
The negativity started as soon as I saw the crowd of people gathered in the conservatory of flowers. The sheer number of bodies immediately stirred an angry reaction within me. I did not want them there.
But, taking a moment to reflect on my reaction, I asked myself, why wouldn’t I be happy that all of these people were here to celebrate the idea of love? Why wouldn’t I want to share that same positivity with not only everyone who had shown up there that evening, but everyone in the entire city, in the entire world!
Phew! Crisis averted.
Scoping things out, my friend and I secured a spot on the small hill right down from the Conservatory of Flowers, walking distance from Bunny Meadows. I breathed out a sigh of relief. Okay, I could relax now. We had a spot. There was absolutely nothing to be stressed about. I could sit back and enjoy the free music that radiated from the stage in front of me—was that Norman Greenbaum I heard? I’d once heard on that MTV show “I Love the ‘70s” that Norman was a Jewish man who’d written about having a friend in Jesus. Something about that made me smile.
There were a few other people who were coming to join us. A while back, I’d set up one of my friends with another one of my friends. Okay, so I hadn’t set them up so much as gotten bombed at a Karaoke bar and announced to the pair (as well as everyone else within a ten-foot radius) that I thought they should hook up.
I was mortified hearing this the next day, but that shame went away when the two of them went on a couple of dates and officially began “seeing each other” soon after. Knowing that they were both coming we made sure there was enough room on the blanket and the surrounding area to accommodate the two of them, another couple that was planning to come, and one other friend who was currently debating if it was worth it come, but who wanted to see the lights!
Courteous as always, we decided to give the couple a call and let them know where we had secured our spot.
“Great!” My friend said, “we’ll all be there soon.”
“Who’s ‘we all’?”
“Oh, there’s six of us…”
Just like that, she was there again. The ‘me’ that I had thought I’d gotten rid of this year. SIX. SIX other people?? How the hell were we going to fit everyone? Why was it on us to find a place that would accommodate that many people? Who was going to explain to the people around us that we’d soon be encroaching on their space from all sides? Anxiety took its hold. Who were these six other people, anyway?
Even when they showed up and I realized that the six others were actually my friends, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of annoyance that had developed inside of me.
Come on now, I thought to myself, you never get to see these guys. It’s fun that you get to celebrate with them on this night.
Standing up, I gave everyone a quick hug, asked how they were, and sat back down. That’s when one of them spotted another of his pals and waved him over.
The panic washed over me. Was he really inviting another person to come and sit in this spot? There was officially going to be no more room for any of the other people that were on their way. Panic. Complete and utter panic. This was not how I’d imagined this evening going. I’d imagined a small group of friends, quite small, all fitting on a single blanket and chatting away during the music until the light show began.
It didn’t help that the two friends of mine who I’d set up were so sickeningly happy that they could only give attention to each other and were cuddling together while my friend and I (who’d brought the blanket and scouted the spot) were scooched off to the side.
Again, as I moved slightly back away from lovebirds, I had to think to myself. Isn’t this exactly what I’d wanted? I’d realized how compatible and happy these two friends of mine were, brought the two friend groups together, and had suggested that it happen. And now that it had, was I really going to upset about the fact that they wanted to cuddle at an outdoor concert? What type of person does that??
A little later an issue with another close friend (who was supposedly on her way) was brought up and I felt myself closing down. I’d basically forgotten about it, but just a couple of sentences about a plan that I hadn’t been privy to, and I was on edge. It probably didn’t help that the message came from my smiling friend who’d turned for a second from leaning against her newfound beau to update me on the newest developments.
Shit. Was I really going to let myself get worked up over something so trivial when the world around me was celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and a summer all about looking past the trivial and emphasizing love?
Yes. Yes, I was.
As the lights flashed across the white dome of the Conservatory of Flowers, I had to wonder. Was this light show shedding light on my true colors? Am I naturally a negative person and will no amount of introspection and concentration change that?
I’d like to think that this isn’t the case. That the past year has shown me that I can choose to be positive and to see the good in everyone and everything. And, in the end, I had been so glad to see that group of friends after a bit of a hiatus. But, as a tie-dye display took over the Conservatory and I felt the need to move away from my friends of over ten years, I really had to wonder….