Archive for June 7th, 2011

If I Had A…………

Jun. 7th 2011

I bet you thought the next word is………… HAMMER.


I truly enjoy singing the song If I Had a Hammer co-composed by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of the Weavers. I find Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of this song moving and a call to action. Peter  Seeger sings his iconic song with gusto and buoyancy. We sing a rousing rendition of  If I Had a Hammer at GLIDE Memorial Church, San Francisco, California during Sunday worship service.

 I digress.

Dateline. San Francisco, CA, USA. Location. Noe Valley. I am driving to the Noe Valley Bakery located on 24th Street. I’m up early on a weekday morning.

I come to an intersection. I’m  forced to STOP.


A school crossing guard,  wearing a fluorescent safety vest, gestures me to STOP. He is holding a portable, hand-held STOP sign.  A thought dances across my mind. I want a STOP and GO portable crossing sign.

 I like the fact this sign has two sides. STOP on one side. GO on the other.  Interchangeability is a good thing. So too is flexibility. This sign has two messages–not one— like traditional STOP signs one finds at major intersections.

If I had a STOP and GO sign, I’d use it in the morning. I use it in the evening. All over San Francisco.

If I see someone being rude, cutting a movie or concert line, dropping the F-bomb, or yelling at their children in the supermarket, I’d pull out my sign and expose the STOP side.

When I see the doorman at my residence helping my senior citizen neighbor down the stairs to the street, I flip my sign to GO………as in “you GO Mrs. (name withheld for privacy)! Fresh air laced with a hit of Bay Area fog. Movement keeps you young. Enjoy you walk, up and down Nob Hill. Proceed with delight. Pat dogs along the way. Waive to riders on the California Street cable car line. I do it all the time. A nice habit.  Enjoy observing people doing Asiatic exercises  in park  across from where we reside. Read the San Francisco Examiner. The sun is your reading light.

When I see someone not waiting their proper turn at one of San Francisco’s famous 4-way stop intersections  at the apex of a steep hill,  I’ll roll down my car window and thrust arm out the window holding my sign. Which side is exposed? You know. Work with me people.

What about the community garden on the back side of Twin Peaks? I spot a volunteer working on a hillside garden. I hold up my sign. The GO side gleams in the sun. GO for encouragement. GO after weeds. Make the hillside come alive with wild California orange poppies, tall exotic blue blooms, and off-white calla lilies. Make our city landscape beautiful due to your volunteerism and kindness to the earth.

As an urban metropolis, San Francisco grapples with the systemic problem of hunger. In the land of plenty, many go to bed hungry. This disturbs me. I’ll hold up my sign to remind people to STOP when grocery shopping at Safeway, Whole Foods, or Cala Market  and donate food to one’s neighborhood food pantry.

Green means GO. So I waive my sign to the executive bicycling to the Financial District located at the base of California Street and the curvature of Market Street. GO green. One less car on the road. You get 2 waives from the GO side of my sign. It reminds me that I need to ride my bike more often. I vow to distance myself  and break away from the California car culture. I admit it. Riding a bike takes effort. I will STOP instead and get an Presidio Passion sundae at Ghirardelli’s, next to the Fairmont Residences. 


I’ve changed my mind. I want to order the new Gold Rush sundae. Visualize peanut butter, hot fudge, vanilla ice cream in a glass dish. Topping this treat is a  mound of whipped cream the height  of Mt. McKinley. Eventually I must GO to  Weight Watchers. That’s another story.

What do I see? A  dog pooping in  Alamo Park? An irresponsible dog owner with no plastic bag to clean up the you-know-what? I dislike dog doo stuck to the the bottom of my shoes. I flash the STOP side of my sign to the dog walker who neglected to scoop-the-poop. Nothing like a little STOP-sign-guilt to break a bad habit.

STOP and admire the pathways and zen artistry at the Japanese Tea Garden  in Golden Gate Park. Did you know, the gardener who help create this amazing pocket of tranquility was locked away in a Japanese-American internment  camp during World War II? True. STOP racial profiling and war hysteria.

GO to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Stand under the walkway and marvel at museum-goers 5 stories above as they pass above you.

STOP racism. STOP sexism. STOP homophobia. STOP ageism.

GO to the polls. Vote. Democracy is not a passive sport to be watch from complacent sidelines. Throw the bums out if they are not representing you.

STOP domestic violence. Arms are for hugging–not hitting. Words are to be melodic–not acerbic.

GO to art openings and support artists.

STOP school bullys. I once had rocks thrown at me while walking home from Junior High School. The pain of the experience lingers.

GO forward into the day and proceed with delight and wonder. Count clouds. Look for migratory birds and welcome their return.

Open more drug rehabilitation clinics and alcohol detox centers. Help people STOP the cycle of addiction and receive medical care without  judgement.

STOP and GO. STOP and GO.

If I had a STOP and GO sign, I’d use it in the morning. I use it in the evening…….all over San Francisco.

Why not take my new sign on the road and use it all over this land? Why I’ll  even take it to Iceland in February.

Just a thought as I patientlysit  waiting for children to safely cross the street near the Noe Valley Bakery on 24th Street. 

Children–learn, think, and act responsibly. Write. Read. Stare out the window. It is good for you. Sit with a  student who eats alone in the lunch room. Come home excited, telling your family…………”Guess what I learned at school today!”


Back to reality. Back to 24th Street. Zone in.

The crossing guard sign turns his sign  from STOP to GO. He gestures me out of my mind-wandering state. I GO, proceeding with a new sense of possibility. If I had a …………………..

Brendan Ben Feeney

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