February 16, 2007


Lunchtime, on the steep slopes of Jackson between Grant and Kearny, in front of Pearl City, the Green Street Mortuary Band slowly wends its way downhill towards us, black uniforms, white shirts, hats, the low sad measured steady swing of well-played brass and drums in the sun in front of the sidewalk crowds, foot traffic stopped dead in the narrow streets, three black cars and a hearse behind the band, a dozen or more cars in the procession behind that. The band and the hearse stop in the bustle outside the Pearl, the funeral directors open the hearse's back door so we can pay respects, so the dead can see the neighbourhood again, the mourners gather around and throw yellow money up into the sunshine above the streets and the giant joss sticks and onto us. American tradition: a subdued New Orleans, a Chinatown funeral.

Minutes later, a couple of blocks away at Columbus and Broadway in front of the touristy gelato place, we watch the police escort an exuberant ten-minute-long line of vintage cars and roadsters heading along Columbus for North Beach. People cheer and wave.

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