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No one is lost

Started: 2022-06-24 23:41:18

Submitted: 2022-06-25 00:51:49

Visibility: World-readable

Seeing the AIDS quilt, back in San Francisco; and live music for the first time in two years

In June I went to see live music for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Along the way I had a couple of spare hours in San Francisco before the concert, so I took MUNI out to Golden Gate Park to visit the AIDS memorial quilt in Robin Williams Meadow.

AIDS quilt with Sutro Tower
AIDS quilt with Sutro Tower

The AIDS quilt honors people lost to AIDS, mostly from the height of the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, but new panels are still being added. Most panels bore the name of the person memorialized and the years of their life; many of them were in their thirties when they died, making them younger than I am now.

AIDS quilt panel
AIDS quilt panel

Some panels were quilted together from individual squares, some of them from family and friends around the country. Many of the panels included clothing the person wore, carefully ironed down to flatten the item into the quilt. Every panel was different, representing the person lost and the relationships around them.

Looking through the AIDS quilt
Looking through the AIDS quilt

As I walked through the quilt the names of people lost to AIDS were read over a loudspeaker, from a microphone on a small stage overlooking the quilt. There was a drum circle on the side of the quilt, at the base of Hippie Hill, providing a counterpoint to the string of names.

Looking at the AIDS quilt
Looking at the AIDS quilt

There was one panel that was unlabeled but was composed of 2x2 inch squares of pastel polo shirts, all different colors, some with the embroidered crocodile or polo rider. This was simple but affecting: I felt like I understood an important part of the person. They must have had a closet full of pastel polo shirts and worn different colors every day. In the middle of the panel, at the intersections of the polo squares, were name labels sticking up like the tufts on a quilt (which looked like the clothing name labels my mother added to my clothing when I was a kid in the 1980s).

AIDS quilt in Golden Gate Park
AIDS quilt in Golden Gate Park

It was an amazing experience to see the AIDS quilt, back in San Francisco after twenty years away, memorializing the people lost to the epidemic. What I saw was only 6% of the whole quilt; 25 years ago the quilt covered the National Mall, bigger than any single open space in San Francisco.

Then I went to the concert: the band Stars playing at August Hall in Union Square, which was a totally different experience.

Stars at August Hall
Stars at August Hall

Stars is a Canadian pop-rock band; they're one of my favorite bands, though I've only had the chance to see them live once before. (I bought tickets to a show in Denver about a decade ago but the show was canceled when they got stuck behind snow on Vail Pass. The next time they came to Denver was two days after Julian was born; I decided I could skip the show because I had other things to do. I finally saw Stars in San Francisco in 2018.) Stars has been part of the soundtrack to my life or the last twelve years, accompanying the highs and lows with their music.

I found a spot to stand at the back of the crowd, and the crowd filled in around me. Some people wore masks but many were unmasked; I kept my mask on. (This was, probably by a large margin, my largest single potential COVID exposure since the start of the pandemic. My phone never alerted me to a hypothetical contact, so I assume no one is using Bluetooth-based "close"-contact notification any more. I remained negative for the two weeks after the concert.)

Stars played more songs than I could count (not all of which I recognized) but the one that stood out to me was "No One Is Lost", the final track to their 2014 album of the same name, which includes the chorus "Put your hands up if you ever feel afraid". The crowd obliged.

Put your hands up if you ever feel afraid with Stars at August Hall
Put your hands up if you ever feel afraid with Stars at August Hall

And then their set was over, and after the encore the crowd spilled out into the street in front of the venue. I got a hotel around the corner in Union Square so I didn't have to worry about getting back to Santa Cruz starting after 23:00. The concert was amazing and I'm glad I went.

Then I'll get another piano, and we'll be even.
- Heidi Enderson, 08 September 2001, in response to Neelix's
computer-acquisition schemes