It happened quicker than I thought 🙁 I didn’t take any pictures today, despite carrying my heavy camera with me all day long. I guess I just didn’t feel inspired. But I wanted to post something for the day, so I chose a photo taken a few days before, on July 1st, while I was taking off from San Francisco. In the photo you can see part of downtown, the portion of Bay Bridge up to the Yerba Buena Island and of course the famous San Francisco Bay.
San Francisco’s Union Square
Thursday June 30th I was out and about downtown San Francisco on a last minute shopping spree before flying back to Romania. The weather was gorgeous, even more so considering that this was one of the few sunny days that the month of June shared with San Francisco. The weather this past month was as the saying goes “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”, one of the funniest (and true) words that Mark Twain never said. But Thusday was sunny and warm and it felt so good that it inspired me to take a break from shopping and enjoy a lemonade in Union Square, a small plaza in downtown San Francisco. The heart sculpture is part of an annual public art installation started in 2004 by the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation for the purpose of fundraising. It was inspired by the CowParade and by Tony Bennett’s Song “I left my heart in San Francisco”.
We’re back in California since last Tuesday. This time the trip seemed shorter than usual as I spent most of my time on the plane sleeping. We found San Francisco very sunny for this time of year. It usually rains a lot in January but it’s been sunny ever since we arrived. As we entered the apartment I realized what I missed the most about it while we were gone: the view from our living room window.
We moved into our current apartment about 4 years ago. We came to see the apartment late at night, after long and tiring hours of work. We were aware of the fact that the apartment had a view but frankly it was entirely lost on us. Those were the times when the economy was in bad shape and all we heard on the radio on the way to work was how another IT company is laying off 10000 people. What we cared about was that we would be saving $400/month in rent and that the building was rent controlled. We decided to move in. When the day of moving came we entered the apartment and got struck by the view. We wondered how tired we were from overworking not to notice it the first time? It’s the very first thing that catches the eye as one enters the room. And at night when the lights from downtown are on it’s equally beautiful. I’m in love with this view. When I’m feeling down I look out the window on the San Francisco downtown and it never fails to cheer me up. And every time I look I find some new detail that I didn’t notice before. I’ll surely miss it when we’ll return to Romania.
Following a link from an architecture forum I found this article on Forbes about the world’s ugliest buildings. The article talks about how the list was conceived and what criterion was taken into consideration when choosing “the winners”, merely the price that it cost to end up with an ugly building. Still, I was surprised to see that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art made the list. Most of the buildings on their list are indeed ugly but to my untrained eye the SFMOMA presence as a nominee is undeserved. Their argument is that “The building itself isn’t necessarily ugly. But for a museum, the architecture is inappropriate; it calls too much attention to its design and takes away from the art inside. It is a classic example of a signature building, and who wants to see art in a building like that?”, an argument which to me seems a bit shaky. I personally don’t mind seeing art in an signature building. Plus, except for the central skylight which was used by the architect Mario Botta to give the atrium a theatrical feel you don’t really feel the building while you are inside. The exhibition rooms are still rectangular spaces like in any other museum so the building doesn’t take anything away from the art inside. Not to talk about the fact that this argument can be used for many other famous buildings, for example the Guggenheim museums in NY and Bilbao or the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.
We had a friend visiting from Chicago, a good friend that we meet a few times a year in the most unlikely places. We met him all over the world, in Madrid and in Venice, in Bucharest and in Germany, in Strasbourg and in Los Angeles. Currently he’s a visiting professor in Chicago and came to visit us in San Francisco for the weekend. He’s a fan of San Francisco and he visited us a few times before. And yesterday after having lunch at the Romanian Cultural Center in Hayward, Florin said he wants to go to Chinatown.
We started in North Beach with a cappuccino at Caffe Greco, one of the best places for coffee in the city. From there we walked to City Lights Bookstore and browsed the shelves a bit while waiting for friends from Santa Cruz to join us. City Lights is an enjoyable little bookstore, a “San Francisco literary landmark”, famous for being the hangout place for the beat poets in the 50s’. From there we took Grant Avenue, the main tourist avenue through Chinatown. Grant is a mixture of cheap souvenir shops – selling everything from slippers and “Escape from Alcatraz” t-shirts to pottery and oversized sculptures of Mao – restaurants, banks, the occasional tea parlor, Chinese markets, clothes stores and any other kind of business you can think of. It’s a crowded street full of color and sounds and smells, burned incense and fish odor at the same time. We entered a small bakery to buy some rice cakes and our friend started chatting up the cute girl at the counter. On the walls they had some pictures of Clinton visiting the place. “Did you kiss president Clinton when he was here?”. The girl started to giggle. “No kiss. Only Monica kiss”. “Who’s Monica? Is she Monica?” and he pointed to a 60 year old lady also behind the counter. The girl started giggling harder and we had to drag our friend out, otherwise he would go on forever. We also stopped at a tea place and bought milk tea with tapioca, a tasty drink that is the latest rage in the Bay Area as I heard on NPR. We walked the eight blocks to the entrance and stopped for a drink at Cafe de la Presse on the corner of Grant and Bush. To our surprise the waiter started to chat with us in Romanian. He was French but he had lived in Bucharest for three years. He had an accent but in general his Romanian was outstanding, way better than my French. We had some wine and chatted about the state of the world and about our future plans and eventually we left and started to look for a place with live music. After entering a few places we ended up at Jazz at Pearl’s in North Beach. I’ve never been there before, I remember we tried once but it was full and they turned us away. This time it wasn’t crowded, after all it was Sunday evening and people had to work the next day. The Johnny Nocturne Band was playing and they sounded very good. There was a lady next to us who was cheering louder than everyone else and later we found out that she was a jazz singer too. The band invited her to play a song with them. During the break we told her we like old jazz and later she sang Honeysuckle Rose, an old song that Cris and I knew. We thought that was very nice of her. We returned home around midnight.
Yesterday I went to see a Monet exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum. I drove there and I hunted for a parking place for about half an hour. I’ve never seen so many people headed for an exhibition. San Franciscans must really love art. There were simply no parking spaces and meanwhile there were 30 cars, mine included, circling the parking lots. After half an hour I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when I finally managed to find a space to park. And then I noticed that I forgot my wallet home 🙁 No money to pay the entrance fee. Looks like I’m taking up after Cris. One in three times we go out he can’t find his wallet. I returned home very upset. Then I decided to wake up early today and be there at the opening time. Art demands sacrifices. I got there around 9.35 AM and surprise… There were no places to park. Some people must have camped there overnight. I left my car out in the woods and headed for the museum. Twenty minutes walk, $15 entrance fee, $6 audio guide and here I am, ready to enjoy “Monet in Normandy”.
The halls were already packet with people. Really packed. It was difficult to move about the room. But I liked the exhibition. Monet seemed to have painted Normandy all his life and there were paintings from 1865 going to the famous water lilies of late 1800 and early 1900s.
He moved with his family to Le Havre in Normandy in 1845 when he was only five and after going to Paris he returned to the shores many times until finally settling in Giverny, on the other side of Normandy. Some of the early paintings were in realist style – I would not have guessed they were Monet’s. I liked one painting in particular, the Rouen cathedral at sunrise. Many pictures were in series, Monet liked painting the same subject at different hours and in different seasons. The exhibition is closing on the 17th and since we’re leaving for Yellowstone tomorrow morning and coming back on the 16th, there wasn’t too much time left to see it. I’m glad I got the chance.