Northwest by North, Day 4: A Hundred Years of Spirit

I drove into San Francisco this morning, so as to prepare for the first of this trip’s centerpiece activities.  A hundred years ago, this October 3, Abdu’l-Baha began a visit to the Bay Area.  Yesterday, many of us walked around Oakland’s Lake Merritt, to commemorate His visit there.  Today, two thousand people gathered at the San Francisco Opera House, now properly called War Memorial Performing Arts Center, in honour of the fallen in World War I.  My friends and I went in early, to ensure ourselves parking slots in the garage on Grove Street.  Below, is the Opera House:

After ascertaining the correct spot for our 1 PM entrance, we went photo- seeking around City Hall and the surrounding area, where we also were to find great San Francisco coffee and superb street food, in the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market.

This is a statue of Simon Bolivar, facing San Francisco City Hall.

We happened upon Celtic Coffee Company, about three blocks east of City Hall.  Great   coffee is one of three musts for me, in the Bay Area.  The others are good Asian cuisine, which I had last night and a fine Italian meal, still to come.  Celtic puts out some fine coffee.

Great cities always have open air markets, and SF is no exception.  Heart of the City is a place where I could happily hang out for days- Fresh fruits, vegetables, organic meat and fish are all there for people with coolers or insulated storage bags.  Trail mix and nuts are plentiful.

It’s the street food, though, that makes it happen.  I enjoyed a curried lentil wrap, with mango sauce and cilantro chutney, at this vendor’s booth:

Other possibilities were pupusas, which my friends enjoyed and sushi.  I also picked up some fresh trail mix and pizza bread, to replenish my road trip stock.

This foodie trek having worked out well, we headed over to our event venue, and were seated fairly quickly.  It’s a good thing, because the crowds of our fellows in Faith were quite awesome.

All aspects of Abdu’l-Baha’s time in the Bay Area were covered this afternoon, from His visits with Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, a Baha’i who was the mother of William Randolph Hearst, to his comforting of the poor in San Francisco and Oakland.  He was a strong advocate of establishing storehouses in each community, to fend off hunger and illness, in times of dire public need.  Three main speakers addressed aspects of Abdu’l-Baha’s work for world peace.  Actors portrayed Mrs. Hearst, her butler Robert Turner, who was the first African-American to become a Baha’i, Mrs. Helen Goodall (a friend of Mrs. Hearst and Abdu’l -Baha’s hostess in Oakland, Mrs. Ella Cooper ( Mrs. Goodall’s daughter), Thornton Chase ( the first American to become a Baha’i) and John Bosch, a vintner who was a business associate of Mr. Chase.  Lively music punctuated the presentation and we were all on our feet for the gospel-tinged final song.

The theme going out of this afternoon’s event was “Increase the Peace”- brought to us by young Baha’is between the ages of 9-14.

Later, at the elegant San Francisco Baha’i Center, about 300 people viewed segments of a documentary, entitled  “Luminous Journey:  Abdu’l-Baha in America, 1912”, which is being completed by Tim and Anne Perry, of the Dallas area.  This film will be ready sometime later this Fall,  and looks like a polished and fast-paced account of those momentous months.

Here is Anne Perry, moderating the presentation of segments from “Luminous Journey”.

This day will long live in my heart, as one of the more stellar events carried out by my fellow Baha’is.  The company of my friends brought back all the warmth I felt when Penny was with me at such gatherings.  Then again, I felt her there today, too.

“Increase the Peace!”

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