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November09

Flowers For Gavin

Last Thursday I bought flowers for Gavin. He’s a hero of mine, and a key player in the ongoing love affair of my life: with San Francisco. I grew up there–I lived in North Beach, went to school in Chinatown, my dad worked with the Cable Cars, and all this happened in the glorious heyday that was the ’70s. I moved out of the Bay Area in the ’80s, and have missed my City ever since. All other places are compared to the standard that San Francisco presents–that shining city of compassion, creativity, and courage on the bay.
 
I currently live in San Diego, which in many ways is the opposite of my City: it gets more sun, for one thing. It also has a much more conservative climate, for another. Like a plant following the sun, I tend to lean towards news from San Francisco for nourishing my spirit. And that’s where Gavin comes in.
 
Gavin Newson is the mayor of San Francisco, and the man who continually makes me proud of my City. He’s the one who dares to defy law and convention for the sake of what’s right: leading the way for all San Franciscans having access to quality health care; leading the way for same-sex marriage rights; other such small, simple things. He is an imperfect action hero of mine–moving beyond planning and politics (which could paralyze any of his projects), to just doing them. And more than that, the projects he undertakes are HUGE, with national implications. He’s literally reshaping the face of America through his leadership in San Francisco, and I absolutely have to admire someone who has the vision, feels the fear, and takes the leap to make things happen anyway. Big-a@s balls, and the ability to use them.
 
So on this business trip to my City, I had to bring him flowers. Chris (my more-than boss) came with me, and we picked out some peachy/orange tulips at a flower stand at Union Square. Armed with this small bouquet, we strode forth towards the heart of the city’s government. No appointment, no idea of what would happen… just my goal of giving Gavin an unexpected bouquet of flowers to say thank you for everything he’s done to keep me proud of my City.
 
We walked the city blocks to South Van Ness, then crossed down to McAllister where City Hall stands in all its gloriously gilt and ornate glory. I had never actually visited city hall before, neither had Chris. We didn’t know what to expect. Entering the building was like entering a museum–the entry opened to a tremendous space. Just inside the entrance, we encountered two friendly security guards with metal detectors. No quesitons asked, just pass them the flowers, walk through the metal detector, and they wished us a good day. Phase one of our adventure was accomplished: we had made it inside city hall without getting the boot.
 
The interior of City Hall is a thing of beauty… calming, exciting, and full of light. Small pockets of people were scattered about here and there–having meetings, meeting friends. We entered into the main floor and decided to ascend a grand staircase to the second floor. Nobody was around. Looking about the space, I could see an American flag next to a door at the far side of the floor. We decided to investigate, and the door bore a small plaque: “Office of the Mayor.” How unexpected that we could just walk about and find the Mayor’s office! We opened the door and went in. Phase two was accomplished: we had made it in to Gavin’s office, again without getting the boot.
 
The office was a small but sumptuous space with rich woods and carpeting, and french doors opening to a view of the city library across the square. Lovely. A large cluster of men in suits stood off to the right, talking, and four desks filled the rest of the space. Doors flanked the left and right sides of the office… we had made our way to reception. Straightening my spine and grasping my bouquet, I strode forth the closest desk.
 
A welcoming older woman with glasses was at the desk, happy to talk with me. I squatted down in front of the desk so that I could be at her height and explained my mission: I grew up in this city, I was back on business, I was so proud of what Gavin had been doing over the years, and I wanted to give him these flowers as a thank you. The woman seemed delighted with the idea, but sad that I couldn’t see him hright then and there. She expalined that the mayor was stuck in meetings all day, but offered to bring my flowers in to him. I asked if there was any chance I could be able to give him the flowers myself, and she said not at the moment… but here’s how you make an appointment with the mayor. Chris asked, “so if he weren’t in meetings she could have just given him the flowers?” “Of course!” she replied. “Honey, do you want to write a card for your flowers so he knows who they’re from?” Having entertained visions of presenting Gavin his flowers myself, I hadn’t even written a card. So I whipped out a business card and wrote him a quick note of thanks and appreciation. I placed it in the flowers, gave them to our gatekeeper, thanked her, and Chris and I left the office.
 
As we exited the mayor’s office, we stepped into a group of people taking a tour of city hall. I looked to Chris and said “well, I think that meeting went really well!” as we walked past… just to give those tourists something to talk about. But how amazing that we could walk into city hall and straight into the mayor’s office! We were excited by our accomplishment and overwhelmed with the majesty of the space, so we spent the next half hour exploriong all the spaces we could access within city hall.
 
After a while, we had to return to our work world. After all, this was first and foremost a business trip. We sat down on a small retaining wall surrounding city hall, and began to discuss plans for our meeting with a contractor later in the day. Suddenly, we heard cries of “hello!” and looked up to see our friendly gatekeeper walking in our direction. She waved as she walked by, and said that she had brought in our flowers to the mayor. I asked if he had liked them and she said that she didn’t know because he was so tied up in meetings when she did it. But he had them! She kept on going, and disappeared into the crowd of pedestrians on McAllister.
 
So this was a grandly imperfect action for me… and I did it! Armed with nothing but a desire to give flowers to Gavin, I found an allay, broke into city hall, broke into the mayor’s office, made friends in the mayor’s office, and got my flowers where the needed to go: into Gavin’s hands. Did it go the way I had imagined? Not exactly–I didn’t get to hand them to Gavin personally. But it did go in the way I had imagined in that there was absolutely no fear, just a confidence that I was going to make this happen.
 
We can plan and picture how we want something to go to our heart’s content, but it will continue to just be plans and pictures until we go ahead and take that first step.
 

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