Posted on July 19, 2003
San Francisco

Note to parents from group leader Billy Planer:

On Friday we made the magnificent ride up the coast. We stopped at the Hearst Castle to see how the rich and famous lived. We had a wonderful Shabbat service/discussion in Big Sur and rolled into San Francisco rather late on Friday night.

Today (Saturday) we roamed all over the city. We started in Berkeley where we met with a young man who just graduated college. He has started an organization to promote activism in young people and is planning a million youth march next summer. His youth and story really appealed to the teens and he is an inspiration. After an unexpected subway ride into Oakland instead of San Francisco, we went on a bay cruise boat ride around the city, Alcatraz and GoldenĀ  Gate Bridge. We did miss our tour of Alcatraz because of we took the wrong subway earlier but everyone was happy that the boat company allowed us to go on the bay cruise instead of just losing our money.

Then we walked and walked and walked and walked some more. We joined all the tourists in Fisherman’s Wharf where we had some sourdough bread and then to Ghirardelli Square for some chocolate. We then walked to the North Beach and to the first paperback bookstore in America and home of the Beatniks, City Lights Books. We met with a brave and inspirational man named Leon Veal. Leon is 52 and learned to read at the age of 45. He had been socially promoted throughout school and finally someone taught him to read. He pleaded with the teens to get involved and make a difference. That each life they changed or helped would benefit humanity. We also discussed the impact of illiteracy and how a country of so much could have such a big problem. We then hiked to Lombard Street to see the most crooked street in America. A great Italian dinner was had in North Beach.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we are headed to the Castro District to discuss the war on AIDS with the members of ACTUP. After that we are discussing the world economy and trade issues with members of the Free Trade Association. These are the people who protest the World Bank meetings every year. We will then walk around Haight Ashbury and then head to the airport where we will begin our journey back to the East by flying to Chicago.