Posts Tagged ‘ Creativity ’

140 Maiden Lane

On Saturday afternoon, Scott and I wandered into 140 Maiden LaneFrank Lloyd Wright‘s sole contribution to San Francisco architecture.  We were unaware of the building’s cultural significance when we entered it.  We were merely curious if the building’s interior matched its plain yet elegant exterior.  We were surprised to find an architectural marvel inside.

Visiting 140 Maiden Lane was a serendipitous detour.  I had been leading the way to Britex, my favourite fabric store, when beautiful voices beckoned.  We walked along Grant Avenue and turned left onto Maiden Lane, where a tenor and a soprano were performing for passersby.  They stood in the middle of the street.  As they sang, their operatic voices reverberated off the surrounding buildings.  We listened to several arias, and then Scott tipped the buskers as we walked past them towards Britex’s back door.  A century ago, if voices beckoned visitors onto Maiden Lane (which used to be called Morton Street), the voices likely would have belonged to prostitutes, and the visitors likely would have been johns.  The 1906 earthquake destroyed the Morton Street red-light district.  But I digress.

Across the street from Britex, a large “goop MRKT” banner fluttered in the wind above 140 Maiden Lane.  “goop MRKT” is a pop-up curation of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s lifestyle brand.  Scott told me that he had noticed 140 Maiden Lane before but it had always been closed or vacant.  The building’s tall exterior wall of tan brick is relieved by a metal gate hung below a brick arch.

As the gate was open, we walked through the arch into a lovely atrium merchandised with tasteful art, books, and clothing.  The space itself seemed to be the main attraction for many of the visitors I observed.  A large white circular ramp spirals up from the atrium to a mezzanine like a giant nautilus shell.  A drop ceiling features 120 white acrylic domes which conceal the building’s pitched glass roof.  A hanging planter floats over the atrium like a verdant flying saucer.  A small plaque near the door reads “This structure [is] designated by the American Institute of Architects as one of 17 American buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be retained as an example of his architectural contribution to American Culture – 1960.”  Scott and I peeked behind wooden doors to find hidden offices and a decommissioned dumbwaiter.  We opened drawers full of fancy soaps for sale.  Eventually, we left and went to Britex.

The next day, I returned to 140 Maiden Lane with a prospective client.  We had hit it off while exploring the newly-renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art so I was happy to share this discovery with him.  He seemed taken with the black walnut built-in furniture and fixtures, so we sat in silent appreciation of our surroundings.  Before we left, I asked a clerk to tell us about the building’s history.  She told us that gift shop owner V.C. Morris commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to renovate 140 Maiden Lane in the late 1940’s, and that the circular ramp in the atrium served as a physical proof of concept for the architect’s interior design of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.  She advised us that “goop MRKT” is open at 140 Maiden Lane only until May 22, so there are a few days left to enjoy the space before it closes.

 

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Stift Melk

We recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary by cycling along the Donauradweg (Danube Cycle Path) between Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria.  At the end of our fourth day on the road, we arrived in Melk after getting a late start in Grein where we had replaced the hard narrow saddles on our rental bikes with wide cushy saddles from a small bike shop located on the Kreuznerstrasse.  The new saddles enabled us to cycle comfortably for long stretches of time and helped cushion the blow of us losing our way in the dark while we were en route to Melk.  We realized that we had taken a wrong turn when the well-maintained bike path gave way to gravel and grass.  Our unintentional detour added a couple of kilometers (about a mile) to our journey.   Thanks to my new bike seat, I cycled this extra distance without complaint – it was worth every penny to me and Scott!  Most cyclists hit the Donauradweg at dawn so that they may arrive at their destinations by mid-afternoon.  Thus, getting lost while pedaling along the Danube River during the day is nearly impossible as the route is well-marked.  Getting lost in the dark is still rather difficult, but we managed to do so.

We were standing on a bridge when I took this photo of the Stift Melk (Melk Abbey).  It was raining, and I was tired after a long day of cycling.  Nearby, a campground full of teenagers partied on despite the rain.  As Scott consulted Google Maps to confirm the route that we would take to our hotel, I did my best to keep my camera dry as I took photos of the abbey.  The Stift Melk was founded in 1089, when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria donated a castle (which was later destroyed by fire) to Benedictine monks.  The abbey’s architecture “went for Baroque” between 1701 and 1736.

We toured the abbey before we cycled from Melk to Traismauer the next day.  The abbey’s Marble Hall, Library, and Church are wonderfully ornate.

Unsafe Safety Pin

Corridor Pin, Blue” is an enormous sculpture of a safety pin by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. There are several of these sculptures on display in America: one is in New Orleans; the artists’ proof is in Dallas; and the one I saw stands in the Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden at the de Young Museum in San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Park. The sculpture is 21 feet (6.4 meters) tall and it is made of stainless steel and painted aluminum. The pointy end of the pin looks sharp enough to poke out a dinosaur’s eye. Good thing there are no dinosaurs roaming around Golden Gate Park. Or are there? The Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on display at the California Academy of Sciences next door wasn’t always a skeleton. Perhaps T-Rex had impaled himself on a safety pin sculpture and that’s why his skeleton is now on permanent display!

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen were not only artistic collaborators but also husband and wife. They must have had so much fun deciding together what to make: “Let’s make a huge clothespin!”…”No, let’s make a big shuttlecock!”…”Why don’t we make a giant trowel today?”…”I feel the urge to make a flashlight for King Kong.”…”You know what the world needs? A massive pair of binoculars!” Their “Binoculars” sculpture anchors the Chiat/Day Building in Los Angeles designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Coosje van Bruggen met Frank Gehry when they both served as adjudicators at Documenta, a contemporary art show in Kassel, Germany. Arne, my first friend in L.A., is from Kassel. In May, Arne gave me and Scott a grand tour of Kassel after we rendezvoused in Helsa. Yes, I share my name with a suburb of Kassel!

I took this photo of “Corridor Pin, Blue” last Sunday, just after a kind stranger had taken a group shot of me, Scott, Mama Chow, my Uncle Jeff, and my Auntie Lynne. We were in S.F. for a short but sweet family reunion: Jeff and Lynne live in Australia; Mama Chow lives in Canada; Scott now lives near Berkeley; and I live in L.A. Earlier that day, I had run 10 miles along the trails of Golden Gate Park while my family had wandered through the park’s Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers. It was a perfect day, really.

Angels Flight

On the final night of Mama Chow’s Christmas visit, we walked to dinner at L.A. Prime atop The Westin Bonaventure where we admired the Los Angeles skyline, had a nice meal, and then fought over the bill as good Asian families do (Mama Chow won).  On our way to the restaurant I took this photo of the Angels Flight railway, which we rode up Bunker Hill from Hill Street to California Plaza.  

This photo was a happy accident.  I had set the shutter speed at 15 seconds as it was dark outside, but then I forgot to turn off the camera’s flash.  The camera captured the train in motion.  The illuminated tower that hovers over the train is Los Angeles City Hall.  City Hall, which was completed in 1928, wasn’t even around when Angels Flight was built.  A plaque mounted onto a boulder next to the train station reads: 

Built in 1901 by Colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer, and friend of President Abraham Lincoln, Angels Flight is said to be the world’s shortest incorporated railway.  The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 315 feet [96 meters].  It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile [1.6 km] than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years.  This incline railway is a public utility operating under a franchise granted by the City of Los Angeles.

Between 1901 and 1969, the railway ran along tracks which connected Hill Street and Olive Street at Third Street.  The railway was dismantled in 1969 to make way for redevelopment and was finally re-constructed in 1996 to operate at its current location until 2001, when its gear train failed.  The railcar at the top of the hill, Sinai, hurtled down the hill and crashed into the other railcar, Olivet.  One man died and seven people were injured in this accident.  Angels Flight re-opened in March 2010 and a one-way ticket to ride now costs 25 cents.   

In the film “500 Days of Summer” (2009), the main character Tom takes his girlfriend Summer to Angels Knoll Park.  The park is his favorite spot in Los Angeles as he can look out over a number of buildings he likes, although the view is spoiled by parking lots.  Seven dots of white light shine from these parking lots in my photo.  The Angels Flight railway runs through Angels Knoll Park.

Harry Perry

Earlier this summer, we trolled the Venice Beach Boardwalk looking for a famous busker named Harry Perry as our Canadian musician friends Jason and Kelly were keen to meet him.  Harry Perry’s electric guitar, in-line skates, and Sikh turban make him pretty easy to spot in a crowd.  He was performing near the north end of Ocean Front Walk when we found him.  We listened to Harry sing several trippy songs about science fiction and Jason, who’s a jazz guitarist, admired Harry’s chops.      

Last month, Scott and I re-traced our steps along the boardwalk with my cheeky Australian aunt and uncle.  They were hunting for tacky souvenirs so we wandered through head shops and T-shirt stalls searching for counter-culture artifacts that would scandalize their children.  Halfway up the promenade, we ran into Harry Perry.  He was in the middle of a song, so I took a photo of him as I waited for a chance to talk with him.  Once he finished his song, he posed for a couple of photos with his fans, sold some T-shirts and CDs, and offered positive affirmations to passersby.

We made eye contact so I asked him how his running was going; I had read that he runs 20 miles each day.  He told me that he had completed a marathon recently and is planning to do a couple more races this year.  He’s 59-years-old and he’s in incredible shape!

Allied Arts Guild: The Artisan Shop

Allied Arts Guild is an artists guild in Menlo Park where Ansel Adams once maintained a studio.  Prints of my photos are sold at the Guild in the Artisan Shop and The Barn Woodshop.  Since 1929, the Guild has provided an inspiring environment for working artists, beautiful gardens and shops for visitors, and support for critically-ill children at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.    

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I booked a string of “blind dates” with people who had graduated from the same schools I did in Canada.  I met Grace, a fellow alumna of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, over coffee in March 2009.  We had such a nice time that we arranged to meet again at one of her favourite haunts:  Allied Arts Guild.  We had lunch at the Guild and stayed all afternoon to smell the roses.  

In January 2010, I decided to start selling prints of my photos.  Although we live along Gallery Row in L.A., I considered the Guild a better place to try my luck.  I called the Artisan Shop and introduced myself to the manager to see if she would help me make good on my new years resolution.  We arranged to meet the following weekend.  She looked over my work with her assistant and chose several framed prints to display in the Shop.  I sold my first print that week:  a picture of the Berkeley Campanile which I had taken after meeting another Rotman alumna over lunch at UC Berkeley.  In March, our friends Maricki and Castaña visited us in L.A.; I enlisted their help to deliver more of my prints to the Shop.  Now, I deliver prints to the Guild whenever I’m in town.

Clouds

A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with my mom on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay ferry when we sailed past these clouds. I stopped eating and ran onto the deck with my camera. In L.A., the sun melts clouds away so I was very happy to see these “ice cream castles in the air / And feather canyons everywhere”. Joni Mitchell, I could drink a case of you!

We were on our way to visit old friends in Victoria, former Winnipeggers who now live on the Island. I was excited to see Terry and Bob, who were newlyweds when they first moved into the house across the street from my childhood home in Waverley Heights. My parents would occasionally send me across the street to visit Terry and Bob, who knew how to entertain me: the crawl space in their basement was filled with toys and books so that young visitors always felt welcome. As I enjoyed doing menial tasks, they would give me piles of receipts to sort before tax season. I amused their accountant by drawing cars on the envelope which held their car expenses. Each Christmas, we would dip cherries, nuts, and caramel in melted chocolate before placing them on cookie sheets to harden outside on the snow-covered deck in their backyard. Terry and Bob liked having a kid around enough to have Spencer, who is now fourteen. He is such a nice kid. Terry likes to tell the story of why she calls Spencer “the kid”: my dad used to refer to me as “the kid” whenever they talked, so once Spencer came along it seemed natural for her to call him “the kid” too.

I had renewed my friendship with Terry and Bob when I was first engaged to be married, but my mom had not seen them since my dad passed away ten years ago. Being kindred spirits, we picked up where we had left off and reminisced about my dad’s endearing eccentricities. He used to scour garage sales for tools he already owned so that he could lend tools to neighbours without worrying about them ever being returned. For fun, he cut a sunroof into a car once. He and Bob would disappear into our basement and listen to Mahler or Bruckner symphonies with the volume cranked so high that heavy furniture on the main floor would shake. My dad was an audiophile who built his own speakers: we owned the first CD player on our block in the mid 1980’s. It was a Philips.

Terry had given me and Scott “The Artist’s Way” and “The Joy of Cooking” as wedding presents. “The Artist’s Way” had influenced her career as an artist so I understood why she wanted me to have my own copy. Scott and I had assumed that she chose “The Joy of Cooking” as a handy reference guide for us newlyweds. It wasn’t until she showed me her hardcover edition of the cookbook in Victoria that I understood its significance: on the first page my dad had signed his name in Chinese and in English, and stamped his old address at St. John’s College. Terry had bought my parents’ copy of “The Joy of Cooking” at our garage sale years ago. As we sat in Terry’s kitchen, my mom confided that she had received the book as a wedding present, but had decided to sell it before we moved out of Waverley Heights when I was fourteen. Whenever we had guests for dinner, my dad would cook so my mom didn’t feel the need to hang onto the book. It looks well-used and I’m glad it has such a good home.

We had a lovely visit.

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