After the San Francisco Zen Center ordained three new priests last month, Zen Center blogger Greg Fain pointed out that a University of Chicago survey found that clergy had a very high job satisfaction rate, even better than firefighters. “We beat firefighters! Whoo-hoo!!!” he exulted.
Tonight Writers with Drinks features Pam Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness), Stacie Boschma (Happy Rainbow Poems from the Unicorn Petting Zoo), Laurie R. King (Touchstone, The Art Of Detection), Sean Stewart (Cathy’s Key, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous), Regina Lynn (SexRev 2.0, Sexier Sex), and Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages To Five Continents). As usual, it’s at the Makeout Room, 3225 22nd. St. near Mission in San Francisco, starts at 7:30 pm, and benefits the Center for Sex and Culture. I’d go just to hear Pam Houston read — she’s always terrific.
If you’d rather see something artsier, experimental music maven Pamela Z (pictured at left) is presenting the second in her ROOM series of performances, tonight at 8:00 pm at the Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa St. at Harrison.
And if you’re up for something mystical, dark and theatrical, attend one of the many Easter Vigil services held at Christian churches tonight. Classically, a congregation would meet in the “undercroft” of the church, the sub-basement where the skeletons are buried, to remind them of the tomb from which Jesus rises. Nowadays you’re more likely to find yourself in a candle-lit church basement, but the service is still great theater, with scripture readings that move from the creation to the exodus from Egypt to the passion and resurrection. Good bets are Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in North Beach, 8:00 pm; St. Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, 8:00 pm; Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, 8:00 pm; or St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro, 7:00 pm.
Earlier today I posted about this event in advance; here’s a picture from the actual religious procession through the Mission District. They stopped at several places, including BART stations, the Women’s Building, non-profit organizations and the sites of drive-by shootings, and this closed-down gas station at 23rd and Valencia.
It’s a few days late, but if you were around 24th and Mission on Wednesday evening, you might have wondered just what was going on. I snagged this write-up from a church listserv and got the permission of the author, journalist Deb Tullmann, to repost it.
“Hey, did you know today is Ash Wednesday?” a hipster spoke into his phone as 15 black cassocks passed him on 24th Street a block from the Bart station. We joined three Brazilian drummers, censed a makeshift altar, and read and prayed. People poured out of the station. Some stopped to take pictures and videos from their phones, some tried to redirect the crowd’s attention, and then gradually (who did it first?) the moment of realization, or curiosity or something… Then people began to come forward. How many? It’s hard to say. People stopped, stood on the fringes of the service, a circle formed. The kids couldn’t keep their eyes off the thuribles’ arc.
Sara Miles came over. “Want to come with me to Mission Pie and Dianda’s?” We walked through litter and chaos and people knew what we were up to. Words seemed unnecessary in this moment of intense presence, when the fingers touch the temple and time stops over and over and over. A man ran up to Sara and said something in Spanish as she smiled and gave him his ashes. He bolted back to his car (temporarily abandoned in the right lane, horns around him blaring), hopped back in and drove away. Dianda’s bakery wanted ashes too; I half laughed and half cried as Sara reached around the huge cake in one woman’s arms as she stretched her head closer and closer. Babies, thugs, teenagers, businessmen, it went on and on. I’ve been thinking. About what it felt like to swing a thurible in front of trash cans and storefronts. About secular and sacred practices of Lent and how the two bleed into each other. About something Sara said on our way back to the station: “I think people might want a lot more church than we give them.”
Alan Lew, former rabbi of a San Francisco congregation and well known in Bay Area Zen Buddhist circles, died Monday on a trip to the East Coast.
He was a spiritual seeker in California during the late 1960s and early 70s, when he was exposed to Zen meditation for the first time. He went on to practice for several years at the Berkeley and San Francisco Zen Centers, but while preparing for lay ordination as a Buddhist, he had a crisis that led him instead to become a rabbi. I really liked his book as a document of what it was like to live in the Bay Area during those unsteady years.