Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bay 2 Breakers

This weekend was my first encounter with the annual Bay to Breakers race through San Francisco. The seven-mile stretch across the city is hailed as being a wild showcase of San Francisco's most bold and bizarre inhabitants slinking through the city streets with excesses of alcohol, music and decorative garb. While I had my camera nearly glued to my eye through the entire day, snapping photos as the next incredible costume (or lack there of!) passed me by, what I was most in awe of was that Bay to Breakers made a pulsating city completely pause for the entire day. People who weren't parading through the streets were watching or barbecuing along the sides. Businesses flanking Howard and Hayes street shut their doors and turned off their lights. Even homeless were not exempt from the festivities and trolled along with the masses, collecting discarded beer cans and dancing to the blaring tunes.

While the one-day moratorium of daily life is impressive (albeit a Sunday), my six-month tenure in Spain included two week long celebrations: feria de abril and Semana Santa. The Spanish lifestyle certainly is more privy to putting aside work to relax and enjoy, but the economy survives and trucks on even with these two spring celebrations.

Left: Semana Santa, Right: La Feria

Often in Spain I struggled with the lack of obligations to keep me busy. The Spanish universities don't assign reading, homework or clog your datebook with quizes and exams, so days were completely mine when outside of the classroom. As Americans (or at least those like me), we tend to focus so heavily on constantly producing, scheduling and working. From the time I reached 11, my sports and school obligations dictated my daily activities. The prospect of shutting down and actually taking time off, not just working remotely or answering phone calls, but really shutting down, seems like a death sentence. Even as a young professional just one year in the field, the joy of vacation is tainted with anxiety for the stack of work that will greet me upon returning.

Yet somehow, in Spain, even with the weeks away from work where production comes to a hault and no handshakes or signatures consummate deals, the sun still rises and falls and businesses survive. Sunday, San Francisco shut down, and on Monday the city resumed it's typical Monday ruitine- the streets already washed of the Sunday crowds and business suits cluttered the sidewalks where men in diapers and vikings had tred just one day earlier.

I don't propose that we continue to parade through the streets dressed as Avatars, knomes (or in nothing at all!), but to see an entire city stop to inhale and enjoy together was something I found refreshing and a positive reminder that even in these tough economic times, people can still celebrate together.

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