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(Here’s the third installment in our ongoing city tours of the reimagined San Francisco of the future.)
Alright, let’s stroll along here to the Central Plaza. Up this broad avenue, you’ll note the Library here at center. The Library is the heart of our city, in many ways. Here we preserve old books as well as other media. You’ll notice all the children, running in and out. We encourage all our learners to use the library, and while there are many branches all over the city, here is the core. It’s also a beautiful building, built when the old society was still strong and affluent, and we use it for many celebrations and public gatherings.
Across the way is one of our museums—used to be the Asian Art Museum, and still contains much of that priceless collection. But we believe art is to be experienced, not embalmed, so most of our art, you’ll note, is interactive and out on the street. The museum preserves some delicate treasures and also is a place for education and research—again, you’ll note that it’s generally crawling with children.
Please be careful and don’t trip on the bikes—why they can’t learn to be more careful about leaving them out of the walkway, I don’t know. The white bikes you see are common bikes—anyone can pick them up, ride them to where you need to go, and leave them in one of the parking areas. Of course, many people prefer their own bikes that fit them and can be customized to their needs. No—they’re not locked because we just don’t have a problem with theft. It’s kind of unthinkable. For one thing, if a kid turned up with a new bike that wasn’t hers, everyone would want to know where she got it and if it were stolen, the news would be out on the net. You can’t exactly hide a bike if you want to ride it and use it, and everyone who wants a bike can easily get their own, as the Bicycle Guild supplies them to anyone who wants one. You’ll notice the older bikes are metal-framed and some of them are cobbled together from many others. The newer ones, post-Uprising, we build from bamboo—and they are surprisingly flexible and strong.
The statue here is old—from before the Uprising—and it represents Califia, California personified as a Goddess. Isn’t that a happy coincidence? Just ignore those rather racist figures at the base of white settlers trampling over the indigenous peoples. We’re not book burners here or statue smashers—if something represents an old, outmoded way of thinking, we believe in letting it stand and discussing it with our children, not trying to destroy it.
You can feel free to graze among the food stalls here. This is one of our oldest farmers’ markets, and it’s a great place to enjoy the produce of the city, and also the many crafts. Jewelers, toymakers, weavers, knitters, woodworkers, artists—people enjoy bringing their work down here to display, to discuss, and to trade. When we’re done here at the Plaza, you’ll have some free time to browse.
Now, running in front of the library is our lake. It’s filled from rain catchment off the roofs of these buildings, and while we lose some to evaporation throughout the summer, you’ll notice how the kids love splashing in the shallow water. Over there, a Learning Group is racing their model sailboats—if they come up with a great design, they’ll do a class project and build one full scale. The city is full of fish ponds and aquaponics systems where the fish and the vegetables are integrated. Fish are a big source of protein for us. But this pond is for pleasure and beauty. Note the golden carp and the turtles sunning themselves on that little island. Aren’t the water lilies beautiful this time of year!
Ahead of you, you’ll see our historic City Hall with its golden dome. Now, it’s an educational center and gathering place, although some of our administrative work is still done here. Our councils, however, are held in the new dome on Twin Peaks—we’ll go there later. City Hall is a popular place for weddings—has been ever since Gavin Newsom, our mayor, opened it up for gay marriages back in the ‘oughts.
In front, you’ll see our gathering grounds—the heart of the plaza itself. We went for some hardscaping here in the center, but it’s all porous paving. Surrounding it are low-growing, native grasses. While we’re not big fans of lawns, they make a great place for people to gather. There’s generally a good Frisbee game going on here most days, and you’ll note the playground on the edge, the food stands, the cafes, the poets declaiming their work. That big, beautiful oak there—we call it the Poet Tree—there’s a whole community of poets who hang out there, reading their works, and often they leave them tied to the tree in scrolls, so anyone who wants can take a poem as a gift.
Up there, on the platform, we have performances and speeches. Most every night in the summer, we’ll have bands and open-air dancing. In the winter, they’ll flood a corner and create a little skating rink.
Now there, in that corner, note the monument to Food Not Bombs. They were an activist group back in the last century who fed the homeless and also provided food for lots of demonstrations and protests. They got their start here, and their founders used to get beaten badly by the police for the ‘crime’ of feeding hungry people. You see, we used to have camps of the homeless who lived right here in front of City Hall—shocking, isn’t it, to think of people who had nowhere to live! And even more shocking that people would get beaten and arrested for feeding them. With all the disasters, diseases and breakdowns of the last decades, at least today we provide a home for everyone in this city. There’s plenty of food, plenty of good, meaningful work, plenty of art, beauty and pleasure. Seems so simple—I don’t know why it took decades and an Uprising to achieve!
Now, look up! First, note the living roofs on the buildings here—I encourage you to go up, stroll around and enjoy the beautiful gardens and the views. Then, note how the buildings themselves are clothed in niches and tiles that grow native plants and food plants for humming birds and butterflies. It’s quite the sight, isn’t it—all those colorful wings!
And notice the windspinners of every shape and configuration. Part art gallery, part research corridor—this area has been a showcase for renewable power for almost forty years now. Notice all the different designs for generating energy from the wind—some of them spin, some tremble like leaves, some wave like rushes, some undulate or oscillate. Energy, as I’ve noted, is abundant—and all it took to get here was devoting our creativity and our will to developing these clean, simple, renewable options.
Okay, this is where I say goodbye to you for now. We’re going to give you some time to wander here, to explore the market and the rooftops. At noon, there’s a concert here of new music, and at the end your new guide will meet you right here in this shady circle. If something strikes your eye in the market, just ask about it. Most food sellers will be happy to gift you—we just don’t get that many visitors. If it’s a craft or an art work, feel free to bargain. Each of you has been given a hundred credits in our system, and you won’t need them for much, so enjoy.
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