The Free List

Background and History

In January of 1996, my mother passed away. The next day, my father fell in the parking lot of the funeral home and broke his hip. His health had not been all that great to begin with, and when he got out of the hospital, not only was he less mobile, but the person that he had spent the last 40-odd years of his life with was no longer around.

So my sister and I moved in to help out with day-to-day stuff, and to assist him when he wanted to do stuff. Unfortunately, neither of us is independantly wealthy (yet!), so we still had to work. That meant that Dad was on his own during the day, and was mostly left to watch telly (thank goodness for American Movie Classics, Bravo, and A & E!) or read books or the newspaper.

Acceptable, but not ideal. He is an outgoing person, who likes to get out and about. He especially loves opera and other types of classical music. Unfortunately, the Opera and the Symphony aren't cheap. (And the government believes in providing enough to keep you alive, but not so much that you'd want to stay that way.)

So we looked for less expensive alternatives. And, perhaps surprisingly, we found them. San Francisco State and the Conservatory of Music regularly offer free concerts. The Public Library and various colleges offer lectures. Bookstores have readings and author signings. There are lots of clubs where meetings are free, and of interest to all.

So we were happy. We didn't get out as often as we would all like, but at least we had things to do when we could get out.

Then one day, I was going through Brian Zisk's wonderful weekly SanFranZiskGo list and I spotted one of my all-time, favorite groups - - Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They were coming to the Great American Music Hall next Thursday. Unfortunately, at $22.50/person, it was a little more than I could afford. (And when I called to buy tickets, they were sold out anyway.)

That got me thinking (a rare event, certainly). I thought about the SanFranZiskGo list, and how it often listed events I'd love to attend, but couldn't, either because of cost or because they weren't the sort of thing my Dad would enjoy. Then I thought about my friends, many of whom are in their 70's or beyond, and many of whom are of modest means. I thought that perhaps others might be interested in what's going on in the City for Free. And then it hit me. I thought of a list of Free Events, sent out weekly via e-mail, to anyone who wanted it.

The Free List.

By the time the LBM concert rolled around, (I'll bet it was great!) I had most of the templates for the e-mail listing and web calendars set. I had a home page set up, and an e-mail address. I sent a couple of test messages to a few select friends, for comments and suggestions.

By the end of the following weekend, I had all the web pages in place, had April's calendars set to go, had announcements for usenet newsgroups and selected mailing lists. It was pretty much ready.

And so it has been going since April, 1998.

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