Part 2: San Francisco

After a delightful wedding with dear friends, we spent our Sunday adventuring in San Francisco. We started the day with breakfast at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown. We all had congee, a sort of rice oatmeal, with various meats and vegetables. But the best thing was a wonderful dish of pork skin with fish balls. So delicious. We also stopped off in a Chinese bakery to get some wonderful bean paste buns (my favorite). So much tasty food!

Our next stop was Japantown. We got off in the downtown area and had a nice walk to the area. It was only when we arrived that I realized that the tea shop that I wanted to hit up was actually where we got off the train… Also, the sushi restaurant that I had hoped to go to was not open yet. Alas! We had a nice time anyway. It was actually kimono day in Japantown so we say several people wandering around in beautiful kimonos. Really neat.

Then it was time for the big adventure. We were going to walk the length of the Golden Gate Bridge and meet friends in Sausalito. We took a cab there since it’s quite a hike. But as we approached, something was missing. No bridge. We had to take it on faith ( ;-) ) that there was a bridge. The fog was so dense that it was about 10-20 feet visibility. In addition to the fog, there was constant traffic. We could look down and see the waves or the old Civil War fort at times but San Francisco was lost in the clouds. Even the supports of the bridge disappeared in the fog. Along the way, I saw signs imploring people to seek counseling (with ready phones). What a stark reminder of the unfortunate souls who’ve ended their lives there.

Golden Gate in the fogSan Francisco

When we got to the other site, we were rewarded with the sight of a deer far below us, grazing on a gravel path. It was also incredible to see that part of the world had cleared up. San Francisco was lost in the clouds but there was blue sky and other points of land. (I claimed that Cthulhu had eaten it) We rested briefly staring back at the mostly invisible bridge. Very strange.

View from the other side of the bridgeAnother view of Golden Gate

Then began “the forced march to Sausalito.” We were going to meet a dear friend and his family in Sausalito. I only call it the forced march because of the actual walk there. As we continued our hike from the bridge, we found the road that would take us to the city. However, it was more of a bike path on a road. Actually, it was a line painted on the side of the road, not a real walking path. It felt like we were walking on the side of a highway. A state trooper passed us in his car so I figured if it was really unsafe, he’d have stopped us. I hope. It was a bit nerve-wracking since we didn’t pass anyone else on foot. Eventually, we found ourselves on the outskirts of town, and I felt much better. It wasn’t so bad but it was awkward. Hence my name for the walk.

Sausalito seemed like a lovely place. I loved the part of the road that is next to the water. There are rocks along side the road with tiny crabs all over them. I watched them scurry away every time we got close. Smart crabs. I was eager to grab one and dispense with it. Yeah, I like my seafood fresh. :) The town is filled with art galleries, curio shops, and much more. It seemed relaxed and good-natured. There were views of the water and other hills in the distance. We had a splendid time there.


And then it was back home via a red-eye. We left around 11pm and landed about 5 in the morning. What a 48 hours!

That’s all for now!

Part 1: San Francisco

Several weeks ago, we went out to California for the wedding of dear friends. We got there almost midnight (their time) on Friday. We had a whirlwind trip of 48 hours, which I will record below.

On Saturday, we had several hours before the wedding to explore Oakland, where we were staying, and check out San Francisco nearby. A giant group of us decided to take the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a really nice trip. I had no idea how much shipping came in and out of Oakland. It was impressive to see the containers stacked up fairly high near giant cranes. The wind was perfect; just strong enough to whip through our hair. I loved approaching San Francisco from the water and going under the Bay Bridge. We even glided by the sea lions lounging on the dock.

Bay Bridge

When we got off the ship, we made a beeline for the Musee Mecanique on Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s this wonderful arcade filled with games from 1800s to the present day. We changed money into quarters and played with the old arcades. They had a lot of machines that depicted public hangings…very odd. There was the large laughing lady who laughs and laughs. Another one had couples at a dance, spinning around to mechanical music. Another one showed a small town where cars ran on a track, circus animals circled, people danced and ran. And there was a band of Monkeys from the 1960s. It was all so lovely.

Mechanical Hanging?Mechanical Circus!Mechanical Monkeys

Then we made our way out of Fisherman’s Wharf and ended up traveling up the famous hill. Allegedly, we went up the hill that is featured in all the movies about San Francisco. We ended up with a great view of the city. We wandered by a green patch, overgrown with plants and trees. My friend and I noticed a lot of lubricant packages around the area…

View of the City

We made our way to Chinatown for some dim sum. We ended up at a bit of a dive restaurant where we ordered our dim sum at a counter. The selections were put in silver trays and we ate at a nearby table. But most of the dim sum was really tasty. I loved the sesame paste balls. So good!

Afterwards, we ended up at City Lights, which was close by. While I don’t love the Beats, I can appreciate this lovely bookstore. It’s got a great selection of books. Then it was time to find our way back to Oakland to get ready for the wedding later that evening.

That’s all for now!

The Chicago History Museum and the Zoo

This weekend, we went to the Chicago History Museum to check out their Secret Lives of Objects exhibition. The exhibition is absolutely fantastic! I was blown away by it.

The exhibition is basically amazing and sometimes sad objects that the Chicago History Museum has in its collection. Each object tells its own story and how it relates to Chicago or sometime US history. For instance, they have the light that started Iroquois Fire. They have the glasses of Nathan F. Leopold, which were found at the scene of the crime and used to convict him and his partner of murder. Holy cow! They also have one of Charlie Chaplin’s canes, back when he filmed a movie at Essanay Studios in Uptown.

They also have Hinky Dink’s amazing star badge, which is just shiny. Many years ago I made a replica with foam, plastic jewels and a glue gun for the 2nd First Ward Ball. Those were the days. In terms of US history, the museum has the Wilmer Mclean’s table where the South signed their surrender. Yep, that’s there. The collection also includes the piano where the first gospel song was written. So tragic and beautiful. Quite an impressive collection of objects.

Hinky Dink's Badge

In addition to the exhibition, my favorite theater group in Chicago, Manual Cinema, created a series of short vignettes about various objects in the exhibition. Manual Cinema uses a combination of shadow puppetry and people to create evocative stories. What a splendid choice for the exhibition. They had about 10+ minutes of stories based around the piano, the printing press, the Iroquois Theater light, and so much more. Each story was delightful, poignant, and well worth checking out.

Here’s the website for more info:

After the exhibition, we checked out Access for All: Tom Olin’s Photographs of the Disability Rights Movement. The exhibition coincides with the 25th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act. Yes, that was in our lifetime, which is insane.  The photographs are very powerful. There’s one where people in wheelchairs are climbing up stairs to a government building. There’s another one where someone is being handcuffed and carried off by police. I’d seen them before at the Access Living building where I vote early. I’m glad to see these in the Chicago HIstory Museum because it’s important to commemorate this history and the men and women who fought to expand our rights. Also, it’s always a good thing to remind people that no rights are given.

After that, we went to check out the Vivian Maier exhibition, which I didn’t love. They have these rolls of film on the wall and then large photos of people in the center. It felt too overwhelming for me. I think they were trying to show as much as possible of her work given the space but it didn’t work for me. I think I would have prefered a more traditional presentation of a tiny selection of her work. But her photos are great so it’s worth checking out anyway.

After that, we decided to head to the zoo, one of my favorite places in Chicago. ON this trip, we discovered that not only does the zoo now have alpacas, they have kangaroos as well. When did that happen? We also got to see some of the gorillas outside for the first time. I’ve never had that happen before. Two of the gorillas were being mischievous; one even pounded his chest. We also got to see the tiniest gorrilla. So cute! We also saw the sea lions (I think) just laying out in the sun. Sea puppies!

Sea lion sunning!

Anyway, that’s all for now!

Chicago Botanical Gardens

Pfui. Blasted! I’m bummed out. Why, you might ask? I was hoping to see Spike bloom.

For those of you who haven’t heard, for the past few weeks, Chicago has been waiting to see when a Titan Arum or Corpse Flower was set to bloom for 24-48 hours. And it was set to stink somewhere between Limburger cheese and a corpse. The Chicago Botanical Gardens were going to stay open until 2am the day it bloomed. Sadly, the Chicago Botanical Garden reported Saturday night that Spike’s not going to bloom. Not enough energy. Boo to this fall weather. Yeah, you fall weather.

I hadn’t set out to be obsessed with Spike. I had read reports of it with some interest but that was it. However, it so happened that we decided to go to the Chicago Botanical Gardens since I had never been. I’ve been to the parking lot because of Ravinia but that’s it.

I loved it. I can’t believe I waited as long as I did. It’s a treasure and I can’t wait to go back. I’m even contemplating going out there for some awesome shots  in our wedding outfits after the wedding.

It all began by walking through the beautiful bridge onto a vista with a giant pond and weeping willows. Everything was humming with late summer joy. The lily pads were in full bloom with magenta and purple flowers. Monet surely would have painted these flowers.

Water Lillies

There was even a bonsai tree show. One exhibit was a tiny forest! Inside there was an exhibition of Japanese flower arrangements. Some arrangements had poems and sayings next to them. Here’s an illicit photo of one of my favorites. (Illicit since I missed the sign about not taking photos until after the fact).

Bonsai ForestFlower Arrangement

Then we found Spike in the greenhouse. When we visited him, he was already taller than me. He was also fairly wide too. He looked like something out of The Little Shop of Horrors. He was magnificent. And thus began the obsession. While I didn’t get to see Spike in his (her?) stinky glory, I’m pretty happy to have seen Spike. He really rocked my world for a little bit.


Then we decided to go off to check the outdoor gardens. The rose garden was our first stop. We just missed the peak of the summer; the roses were on their way out. But there were many still in full bloom. One rose was the closest I’ve ever seen to a Tudor rose; well, it’s yellow and red. We also stopped by the English walled garden with its manicured hedges and little ponds.

Almost Tudor Rose

The best was the Japanese gardens. There are three gardens, two for people and one restricted to the Immortals (and staff). To get to the gardens, you have to cross a picturesque bridge. There was even a little Shinto house that you can look into. We couldn’t have chosen a better day to wander the gardens.

Island of the Immortals

And there’s a wonderful waterfall on a hill. You can wander up and down the hill with vistas of the Japanese gardens. Amazing.

I can’t wait to go back. I feel that I need to go several times of the year to see how it all changes. And see the next Titan Arum bloom.

That’s all for now!

Review: Moby Dick

This past weekend, we saw Lookingglass Theater’s production of Moby Dick. I’ve seen three productions there including Alice in Wonderland and this production was my favorite of the three. Moby Dick has gotten great reviews and has sold out all the remaining shows. It ends this week.

Moby Dick  is one of these books I never thought I’d read or even be interested in. But after conducting an interview with cartoonist and designer, Marnie Galloway, earlier this summer, I’ve been quite curious. She told me about how funny the book is. Then my coworker told me about a podcast of the Big Read that goes chapter by chapter with a different actor. The first chapter is read by Tilda Swinton. Stephen Fry and even Benedict Cumberbatch read chapters. So since then I’ve listening to it chapter by chapter. I’m only at chapter 46 but I’ve been enjoying it. The characters are fun, the descriptions are gorgeous. It’s an interesting tale and yeah, there’s humor. It’s dry but I like dry humor. I’m sorry that I didn’t finish it before the play but that’s okay. When it came to the play, I had read ⅓ of it.

I love lines like this: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

I dig it.

Lookingglass’ Moby Dick was great. It was engaging. While it was a longer play, 2.5 hours, I didn’t feel the time passing. I was always surprised when it was time for another intermission (there are two). They managed to combine circus and narrative in an excellent way. My fiance and I have talked about this problem. Most circus shows either try to be variety shows or have loose plots with circus intervals. That was my big issue with the two other shows at Lookingglass. I loved the Alice in Wonderland but it did feel a little disjointed. Here’s plot and now hula hoops! It was more pronounced with The Little Prince, which is one of my favorite books. It got rather tiresome at times, which is odd considering the theater’s desire to be whimsical and imaginative.

But Moby Dick managed the tension well. Characters frequently climbed up poles, hung from the rafters, etc. It worked well since the action mostly took place on a ship so naturally people climb on things. There was only one prolonged piece but it worked in the plot. I don’t want to reveal some of the inspired moments. You just have to experience them. Overall, I think they got a lot of the mood and setting right. They even managed to get in some of the asides that Ishmael takes the reader, which made me very happy. The acting was spot on; everyone was well cast. With this new mixture, I’m excited to see what Lookingglass has in mind for Treasure Island. Then again, it’s Mary Zimmerman’s production so it should be amazing.

So while Moby Dick is sold out, check out the free podcast. It’s pretty awesome.

Review: Kurios

This past weekend, we checked out Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios at the United Center. I was super excited to see the show since I have enjoyed most of what I’ve seen from Cirque. I enjoyed Zarkana  in Vegas last year. With one major exception, namely the ill conceived Slapstick, their shows are always worth watching. The costumes are super fun, the sets are neat and they really do come up with some amazing visuals.

Kurios did not disappoint. It was a Steampunk theme to it. The subtitle was Cabinet of Curios so it had lots of strange creatures and jars filled with specimens. It did have a lovely bit where actors walked an invisible man on stage, with hat, shoes, and briefcase, which was simply lovely. There was a strange accordion man, a robotic woman, and a submarine man.

Mischief before the Show

The circus was the best part of the show, of course. I don’t want to give too much away but the best and most imaginative piece involved chair stacking. To give a hint, it was something out of Alice in Wonderland. It simply took our breathe away.

There was a really wondrous contortion act with three performers dancing on top of a giant brass colored hand (with a ring). I’m not a huge fan of contortion as a rule; I feel that most contortion acts are three poses and a lot of attitude. But this was beautiful and challenging. The three performers did amazing things with their bodies, sitting on themselves, basing their fellow performers on them in crazy poses. Very impressive.

We really enjoyed a wonderful trampoline act on a net with aquatic creatures. The net looked like the same netting that would be used for flying trapeze. Circus performers would bounce and spin in the air, or catch hanging clouds (yep, you read that right). They made it look so smooth and easy, which means that it is the result of 100 hours of practice (or more). One performer did an impressive job of acting like a fish out of water, wiggling in the air. So neat.

There was also a lovely strap act that started with Siamese twins. The twin part didn’t do a whole lot for me but the act itself was simply marvelous. There’s nothing quite like having someone soar in the air right above you! It gave the audience the feeling of flight!

The final act was also magnificent. It was a group acrobatics bit where the acrobats were flipping people up in the air and having them land on their arms. Or flip someone forward into someone else’s arms. There was so much that I had never seen before. My favorite bit was when they had a partial three high (there was a second base at the bottom – my fiance says it wasn’t a real three high), where they flipped a fourth person on top. So impressive!

There was also a puppet show, a improvised bicycle aerial act, and much more! That’s just a taste of Kurios. I would like to have had more circus and less atmospheric bits but it is worth checking out. I couldn’t help compare it with Cirque Mechanics from the Circus Festival. I think Cirque Mechanics was much more about circus while

That’s all for now!