On a scorching hot day in San Francisco I took my kids to the free Power to the Peaceful Concert in Golden Gate Park. My boys love Michael Franti’s music and my older son is good friends with his son. Last year we got back-stage passes. This year it was a blast, but hard work keeping the boys hydrated and tough trying to explain why so many people concerned with the health of our country and planet were smoking so much. We enjoyed the music and entire scene. We danced, sang, ate a picnic and took in the scene and message of the day. It was a huge crowd, primarily bikini-clad young women and shirtless young bucks. My boys wanted to take their shirts off. I let them for one song, but was so worried about heatstroke, I made them put them back on and keep their hats on. Although alcohol was not sold, I feared for many folks, who I’m sure would suffer from the heat that night.
OK, so I felt a bit middle aged, but I got into it and certainly loved the energy and hope one feels when able to express one’s political feelings. It got me thinking about demonstrations I’ve been a part of in the past, marches in Washington, London, Paris and in San Francisco. On a recent trip to Paris I happened across two demonstrations. One to Free Tibet, on the eve of the opening of the Beijing Olympics and one in remembrance of a Sri Lankan tragedy. I remember when I studied abroad years ago and we had a big lecture about avoiding demonstrations when traveling. This information is also on the State Deptartment travel destination site noted under the header safety and security. In general this is sage advice, a tourist does not want to get caught up in a violent protest, but I also think peaceful events can be a great opportunity to see and experience some of the more elusive parts of a culture. It was fascinating witnessing the Sri Lankan Parisians peacefully making their voice heard.
As I sat drenched in sweat watching some Go-Go girls and boys gyrate on the Port–o-potties I thought “I wonder what a tourist might think of this scene.”