Posts Tagged ‘ San Francisco ’

To Catch a Thief

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On Thursday, our Canadian friends Alison and Jeremy drove from Yosemite to San Francisco for dinner with us at the Ferry Building’s MarketBar.  They are repatriating to Canada after living in Santiago, Chile for seven years.  To ease the transition, they are currently taking a 12 week road trip through the Americas with their sons William (almost 11), Jackson (newly nine), and Lucas (four).

Dinner was messy and fun.  We bonded over our respective experiences as ex-pats and squeezed nine years of stories into the time it took to share cocktails, oysters, pizza, and Pork Pork Pork.  During the meal, Jackson drew the animal kingdom on a dry-erase board and the paper tablecloth.  I really liked his dry-erase doodle of a blue dinosaur.  The boys made countless trips to the washroom.  They had appointed me to be their pee buddy, so I raced with them to and from the toilets.  The boys were full of energy and seemed eager to test the plumbing and hand dryers.  As they had started their day at a campsite, their fascination with creature comforts was understandable.

After dinner, we decided to go outside for the golden hour.  As we left our table, I reminded Scott to pick up his bag, which he did.  Once outside, we walked toward the water.  I set up my tripod and we posed for this group shot in front of the Bay Bridge.  Robertson Davies wrote that “a portrait is among other things, a statement of opinion by the artist, as well as a likeness”.  I love how this photo captures essential qualities I see in William, Jackson, and Lucas.  William is good-natured and has Alison’s confidence.  Jackson has Jeremy’s calm and happy-go-lucky spirit.  Lucas is a lover and a fighter in a charming pint-sized package.  As we took the photo, several people milled about nearby – including a shabby-looking man on a bicycle.  Scott, an avid cyclist, noticed that the man’s black Surly bicycle had a “Read a Fucking Book” sticker on it.  Rather than linger among shady characters, we wandered across the pavement to the Ferry Building in search of ice cream.  Along the way, Scott and the boys climbed all over Mohandas K. Gandhi, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi that greets people as they walk from the pier to the Ferry Building.

As we entered the Ferry Building, Scott realized that he no longer had his bag with him.  He ran back to the pier and returned empty handed.  Fortunately, Scott had his personal phone in his pocket.  He used the “Find My iPhone” app to track the location of his work phone, which had been inside his bag.  His work phone was already half a mile away.  The thief was likely the man on the bicycle!  Scott was afraid that the thief would soon disable location tracking on his work phone.  He decided to run after the thief.  Jeremy, who runs marathons for fun, was up for the chase.  They sprinted away before Alison or I could reason with them.  William wondered if Scott would get in trouble for losing his work phone.  Alison assured him that Scott would likely be given another work phone without too much fuss.  William asked me if I thought the thief would hand over the bag to Scott.  I told him I didn’t know.  As Scott and Jeremy unleashed their inner vigilantes, Alison and I took the boys to Humphry Slocombe for ice cream.  To the boys’ delight, we had candid discussions about the effects of lactose intolerance and food poisoning.  As I ate my flower power sorbet, I had visions of Scott and Jeremy getting shanked in the Tenderloin.  I hoped our evening would end without a trip to the ER.  I kept my morbid thoughts to myself.  To her credit, Alison did not betray any anxiety until we finished our desserts – when I couldn’t reach Scott on his personal phone.  I quickly dialed his missing work phone.  Alison and I were both amazed and relieved when Scott answered right away.

Scott and Jeremy had caught up to the thief at an intersection.  Scott recognized the bike and noticed his bag sitting on the bike’s handlebars, so he asked the thief for his bag.  Jeremy wedged his foot behind the bike’s rear tire to prevent the thief from escaping as Scott reclaimed his bag.  It was empty.  Scott then asked the thief for each item that was in the bag before it was stolen:  work phone; wallet; $100 cash; credit cards; government lab ID; earbuds; phone charger; FedEx receipt; gum…  For each item, the thief rummaged through his pockets anew.  Scott asked the thief repeatedly why he had stolen the bag.  The thief denied stealing the bag.  He claimed that he had found the bag with its contents strewn about a curb, and that he was planning on putting the bag in a mailbox.  Scott considered calling the police and decided against it.  He thanked the thief (!) and then walked away with Jeremy.

When Scott and Jeremy returned to the Ferry Building, they were all smiles and fist bumps.  To catch the thief, they had sprinted 10 city blocks – stopping only to call the police (who claimed they couldn’t help without a suspect to identify) and to summon (then cancel) an Uber.  To their dismay, the missing phone’s location disappeared and then reappeared on the app map as they ran.  I asked Jeremy if he felt “young and alive” after the chase.  He grinned, likened the caper to a sightseeing tour, and proposed that he and Scott run a marathon together.  William exclaimed that he knew the man on the bicycle was trouble – he had noticed him while we were taking our group shot.  I laughed when Alison voluntold Jeremy to pick up Lucas from the floor since Jeremy was feeling so young and alive; Lucas was having a meltdown between Alison’s ankles.  Jeremy called an Uber.  Within minutes, it was time for everyone to hug good-bye.  Scott and I took BART home.  I washed Scott’s bag in hot soapy water.  He resolved to stop carrying a bag.

 

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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.

 

Golden Gate Bridge

In the past two months, Scott and I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge from afar and up close during our weekend staycations.

I took this photo of the bridge’s north tower when Scott and I went flying in December with Scott’s former colleague Jim, who is an amateur pilot.  Instead of exchanging Christmas presents, Scott and I pooled our fun money and asked Jim to take us flying.  Jim is a member of the Alameda Aero Club, so we took off from the Oakland Airport‘s North Field in a Cessna Skyhawk which we had rented from the club.  It was a calm and sunny day.  We had a clear view of San Francisco, and of landmarks such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory above UC Berkeley, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Point Reyes National Seashore.  At one point, Jim let Scott take control of the plane – I held my breath and focused on taking photos of the scenery below!  We landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport where there were several small planes parked on the airport apron, including a shiny old Royal Canadian Air Force Beechcraft Model 18.  We ate lunch at the Two-Niner Diner.  The diner’s name refers to runway 29, which is nearby.  Despite our ideal flying conditions, I felt a wee bit nauseated so I was happy to settle my stomach with a delicious lunch of salad, chicken-fried steak, and blueberry coffee cake.  After lunch, we flew back to the East Bay.

In January, Scott and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on a Saturday afternoon.  First, we took BART into San Francisco and had fancy dim sum at Hakkasan to carbo-load before our seven-mile (11 km) hike.  I’m not sure how many carbs are in Hakkasan’s famous crispy duck salad; I needed exercise after eating it!  After lunch, we took UBER to the Presidio, a park and former military base that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.   We walked through a beautiful eucalyptus grove called Lovers’ Lane, snacked on macarons and Bavarian cream at the Walt Disney Family Museum, watched the sunlight and shadows of trees dance across the tombstones at the San Francisco National Cemetery, and took some selfies when we arrived at the bridge before sunset.  Heavy traffic made the walk across the bridge noisy and somewhat chaotic, but crossing the bridge on foot enabled us to touch the International Orange paint that protects the bridge from corrosion.  The bridge’s architect Irving Morrow chose the paint color to complement the landscape and enhance the bridge’s visibility in fog.  The Sisyphean task of maintaining the bridge’s paint job is the work of 38 painters.  Once we crossed the bridge, we put on our headlamps and power-walked in the dark to Sausalito so that we wouldn’t miss the ferry back to San Francisco.  At the Ferry Building, we had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner at The Slanted Door before we went home on BART.

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.

Jared Harris, Amoeba Music, and “The Rachel Papers”

Last week, “Mad Men” was filming an episode a couple blocks from our loft in downtown L.A.   As I waited to meet Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper on the series), I took this photo of his co-star Jared Harris (who plays Lane Pryce, Don Draper’s former British overlord / new business partner).  The crew member I was speaking with as I snapped this shot was surprised that the British actor has fans in America.    

One of my favourite retail haunts in L.A. is Amoeba Music.  Amoeba Music is the world’s largest independent record store:  new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, posters, T-shirts…  it’s all there.  Our French friends Aude and Adrien brought us to the Haight-Ashbury store in San Francisco last summer and when we moved to L.A. last fall, I was eager to explore the Hollywood store on Sunset Blvd.  The original store is still open on Telegraph St. in Berkeley.

Recently, I bought a used DVD of “The Rachel Papers” (1989) at Amoeba Music.  I was excited to find it as I had seen the film once on late-night TV in the early 1990s.  I had liked the film enough to read the novel, which is by Martin Amis.  Scott watched the film with me and we’re sorry to report it hasn’t aged well despite its interesting cast:  Ione Skye, Jonathan Pryce, James Spader, and you guessed it, Jared Harris.  Although Jared Harris once lamented on NPR that being a chameleon-like actor is “good for the craft; crap for the career” and that “in this country, a good actor is confused with a famous actor”, we recognized him right away and are happy that he’s still a good actor and now a famous one, too.

Allied Arts Guild: The Barn Woodshop

Tom, who owns The Barn Woodshop in Menlo Park, noticed me lurking in the bushes with my camera during my first visit to the Allied Arts Guild in March 2009.  He invited me to look around the Barn once I was finished shooting flowers in the garden.

The Barn is 125 years old, and has housed a Woodshop for the past 81 years.  In the Barn, Tom gave me a pin to mark my hometown on a world map he uses to track visitors.  Tom traveled around the world before returning to his family’s business of building and restoring heirloom-quality furniture.  He likes not knowing who will come through the door of his Woodshop each day.  Once, he repaired some furniture for Shirley Temple; she still lives nearby in Woodside.  These days, Tom works on a steady stream of commissions from Stanford faculty and Silicon Valley honchos who trust him to restore their treasures with sensitivity and integrity.  When I told Tom about my hobby of re-finishing discarded tables and chairs, he offered to teach me how to cane chairs.  I didn’t accept his offer right away, even though Scott encouraged me to give it a try.  Now I’m really glad I did as Tom taught me how to weave cane and replace torn sheet cane.  These skills may come in handy the next time I find a broken chair on the sidewalk!  Before we moved to L.A. last fall, Tom fixed a pair of rosewood chairs that I had inherited from my grandfather.  Now, I visit Tom every time I’m in town.

Last weekend, we visited friends in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and San Francisco.  At the Guild, I renewed my contract with the Artisan Shop to consign prints of my photos and accepted Tom’s offer of display space for my photos in the Barn’s new showroom.

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