Posted on July 19, 2005
San Francisco

From Ari Schiftan:

On Thursday, we hopped on the bus and headed up the coast from the smog of Los Angeles to the fog of San Francisco. The views of the mountains, valleys and ocean made great scenery for our ride.
The day was spent mostly driving though we made a lunch stop in the city of Solvang. Further up the coast we took a break at a beach near San Louis Obisbo.

Billy spoke to us about the theme of San Francisco which was power to the people. He ended by playing us a song called “People Have The Power” by Patti Smith.

We also watched a movie about the Weather Underground, a group of young people who tried to bring on a revolution by bombing buildings in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their anger was sparked by the war in Vietnam and the treatment of minorities in America. I agreed with some of the views of the Weather Underground but I think their means of accomplishing their goals are a little too radical for me. I also loved stepping into the Pacific Ocean and being in the State in which I was born.
On our first night in San Francisco we went to a cool, modern shopping center for dinner and then walked to the North Beach area to visit City Lights Bookstore. This was the first paperback bookstore and home of Jack Kerouac and the Beatniks.

Friday was a very stimulating day. First we visited ACTUP San Francisco and spoke with Michael about his views on HIV/AIDS, medical marijuana and being Jewish and Gay. Personally, I did not agree with his views on HIV/AIDS.

His thoughts on how cases were reported and that HIV/AIDS is not transmittable were too radical for me. He also thought that the drugs available for HIV/AIDS do not really help and actually may harm. Michael also questioned the validity of HIV/AIDS tests and thinks he may not actually have it because of all the different reasons that the tests could come back as false positives.

After ACTUP San Francisco, we went to the Haight Ashbury section of town to relive the 1960s counterculture.

After that we met with a group called Global Exchange. We played a game in which we learned how countries can spread resources. We also learned about Fair Trade, NAFTA and the WTO. We discussed how consumers have the power to create change.

We then went to have lunch in the Castro district. We ate at Pasta Pomodoro, a delicious Italian restaurant that basically closed down so we could have the entire restaurant for ourselves.

We then went to Makor Or which is basically a Jewish Zen Synagogue. We joined in their Friday night Shabbat meditation service. It was difficult to sit still for an hour but it was a nice change of pace to do so in the midst of our hectic days. Many members of our groups mentioned that they liked the fact that Judaism is so strong that it can allow for services like these as well as traditional Orthodox services and it is all Judaism.

Saturday was a very fun and comforting day. It is the last day for the kids who are only on the 22 day trip. We began by going to Berkeley where we met with David Smith. David runs a group called Mobilize America’s Youth, which empowers young people to get involved in the political process. He showed me that anyone can make a difference; all you have to do is “show up”. We then had some free time to explore Telegraph Avenue and get lunch. Billy showed us Peoples Park, one of the centers of the people’s power and free speech spots.

After Berkeley we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and went on a boat ride around the San Francisco Bay.

We saw Alcatraz and went around the Golden Gate Bridge. We then walked through Fisherman’s Wharf, got some sourdough bread and then went to Ghiradelli Square for some chocolate.
We then came back to the hotel and met with Leon Veal at a small park. Leon learned how to read when he was 44 years old. His story about how one person took 2 hours a week to change his life really made me realize the power of one person to make change in the world.

The person who helped him read changed his life and, as a result, changed our lives. We ended the night by having a fantastic dinner in Chinatown at House of Nanking. The owner of the restaurant told us to trust him and he made us dinner and it was great!.