The Incongruities & Little Pleasures of Market Street.


Good Evening:

1. Sometimes, even something so commonplace as a butterfly can look different.

Such as the one fluttering about Market & 8th Streets after my Sunday trip to the Civic Center farmers market. I don’t think this was a lone Monarch butterfly that had gone waaaaay off-course on its northern migration; I suspect this was a butterfly that looks like Monarchs because supposedly the Monarch tastes too unappetizing to certain predators.

But for whatever reason, this particular butterfly chose to orbit my head like a drunken moon for a few seconds, then fluttered off to the strangest and possibly deadliest location for such a critter. The yellow dividing stripes in the middle of Market Street, where it could have gotten killed by a passing automobile even without getting struck. Fortunately, thanks to the arrangement of red lights on Market, the block was empty of cars. I walked into the middle of the street and chased the butterfly from its resting place. It orbited my head like a drunken moon for a few more seconds, then fluttered up into the sky toward the nearest tree.

The other San Franciscans looked at me as if I was nuts and I didn’t care.

2. The aria near noon.

I frequently walk to the City’s Department of Human Resources on business, which takes me along the block of Market Street between 10th and 11th streets. Last week, during one such trip near lunchtime, as I turned onto Market, I spotted a group of four people–all strangers to each other, each stood apart from the rest–with their jaws hanging down as they craned their neck to look upwards at a four story building that houses among other things a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residential hotel.

I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, so I also looked up.

At which point, the singing began again. Opera. We could not see the woman, but anyone within a hundred yards could her practicing an aria, singing for maybe 15-20 seconds, pausing, singing the same passage again, then singing that passage and continuing with the rest of her song. My guess: a guest artist in town to perform with the SF Opera, but not a big star, so the Opera put her in a nearby residential hotel.

But she was really really good. I just have a feeling that for her next visit they will place her in more luxurious quarters. Which will be too bad for the strangers gathered on the sidewalk that morning to hear something as incongruous as beautiful singing on one of Market Street’s dingier blocks.

Vonn Scott Bair


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