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Keepin’ Hope Alive in SF

So I’m passing through San Francisco this week, for a speaking engagement on Saturday at an American Constitution Society event, and figured I’d go check out the old scene at 16th & Mission that I helped launch with Miguel, James and Patrick nine years ago, in July 2003.

My companions at a nearby dinner party beforehand marveled at the thunder and lightning, which are apparently relatively uncommon here in SF. It was definitely raining, though not torrentially, and being exhausted after several days with only three hours of sleep, figured I might call it an early night.

Then my friend Ananda Sen called. He’d come down to the neighborhood from Noe Valley, where he just moved from LA, so of course I rolled over to 16th to meet him and his new friend Siraj. Another friend, Yusuf, joined us, though the entire scene was deserted on account of the rain. We chilled out for a while and shared a cigarette before I started badgering Ananda to sing for us, preferably something from Whitney Houston.

I finally coerced him to promise that he’d sing if I sang first, which is opportune since he’s a tough act to follow. I sang a few bars of “Wind Beneath my Wings” before dropping my new ballad, “Justice,” and he followed up with “Superstition.” His renditions are always phenomenal, and this time he attracted several passersby, including several guys who seemed to be homeless.

Cliff and Andre ended up singing the lights out. Cliff, after having…(a lot of) trouble recalling the precise song he wanted to sing, exhorted us to never use drugs. Then he rolled out “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” which I’d ironically considered singing just a few minutes before. Once he got going, he seemed inclined to keep going, so we let the cipher roll for about half an hour. Ananda & I beatboxed and alternated background vocals, making for some lovely a capella improvisation.

Nothing like coming back home….

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