I visited San Francisco today to celebrate the life of street musician Larry Hunt, also known as the “Bucket Man.” I met Larry in the mid-90s when I was a student at Cal. In those days he frequented Sproul Plaza — with a real drum kit if the weather was good, and with a set of buckets when the weather was bad. I was in a pretty awful headspace on the regular back then, but sitting and listening to Larry play and sing always put a smile on my face, and upbeat music in my head. (I was especially fond of his wacky mashup of “Wipeout” and the Batman theme song.) That Larry had amazing talent was obvious to anyone who passed by, but if you got to know the man — and I am glad that I did — you discovered that he had limitless heart. That was what drove him, really: His heart’s chief desire was to make music to lift people’s spirits.
I was overjoyed to join Larry’s friends in sending him off properly this afternoon with a New Orleans-style “second line” street parade. We got there a few minutes late and fell in behind the band as it made its way down Eddy Street to the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market, where Larry often played. The music was raucous, then almost somber, then raucous again. A microphone was passed around so people could remember Larry aloud. Just when I was beginning to think the City would never be the same, Frank Chu arrived, carrying his sign, making it a perfect San Francisco moment. The Bucket Man has left us, but San Francisco will always be San Francisco, and I reckon that Larry’s spirit is a part of it now, and for evermore.