Well, I’m back! It’s been a little bit of a longer break than I would have liked but not having internet does make posting a bit tough. I just came back from a short trip in San Francisco, so I’ll be spending the next few days talking about my trip. Let’s go!
We went to San Francisco for two days and it was lovely. It had been at least fifteen years since I had last been there. So it was a lot of rediscovery. I remembered bits and pieces of it: the trolleys, City Lights Bookstore, and the seals. So I was eager to return to those places but I also wanted to visit new places.
The day started in North Beach, walking around an old Italian neighborhood. I’m not sure if it has a name. I call it Italytown. There were lots of little proud cafes and an incredible Italian ceramics shop. We had a cup of tea/coffee in this one shop that had the largest collection of tiny liquor bottles I’ve ever seen. Strewn on the walls were all sorts of different products, including what looked like old Italian consumer products from the 1950s. It was a bit neat.
Then we wandered into the amazing City Lights bookstore nearby. This is one of the great bookstores of the United States in my humble opinion. Until this visit, I had no idea that it was cofounded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m only familiar with his work; he’s the only poet that I know of who has written about a tight wire walker. J So that was pretty cool. City Lights is the mecca of the Beats. I’m not so found of the Beats themselves to be honest. But this is a damn fine bookstore.
Then we meandered into Chinatown, which was a lot of fun. There were wonderful lanterns strewn across the street. It was fun going into the little shops and checking out the kitsch. We had a nice meal at Empress of China, which was notable for his décor and location. It was on the top floor of the building so it had a nice view of Telegraph Hill. There were magnificent, intricate chandeliers, and giant peacock fans hanging from the pillars. It also had a lovely foyer with a beautiful tree in the center, bathed in just the right amount of sunlight. Wonderful. The food was okay so don’t expect it to be fantastic if you go.
After our fun in Chinatown, I decided it was time for some museum time. I decided to check out the Asian Art Museum since it claims to have one of the largest collections of Asian art in the world. I’m glad I went. It’s got an impressive collection, ranging from Indian art to Japanese art. Overall, it had some pieces that rivaled work in other museums. However, the Shanghai Museum is still the best museum of Chinese art while the Guimet Museum in Paris still wows me with its Cambodian sculptures.
I was really impressed by the Balinese art, which included incredible golden crowns, collars, and other ornaments. There was this amazing gold Buddha altarpiece that was simply divine (pun intended!). I was also struck by an incredible sculpture of a four faced Shiva linga in the Indian art section. There were only three heads but it was still impressive. The heads faced out in cardinal directions and were sculptured differently to represent the different aspects of Shiva. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. I was reminded of the Roman god of doorways, Janus. In the Chinese art section, there were the wonderful Tang dynasty ceramics that I fell in love with. And there was a metal money tree that would go on someone’s tomb. I had never seen one before.
Before going to San Francisco, I was disappointed to learn that the SFMOMA was closed for its reconstruction and expansion. However, it did have some satellite exhibitions. So I was pleased to stumble upon one of them at the Asian Art Museum called “Gorgeous.” The exhibition paired pieces from the Asian Art Museum and SFMOMA to explore what is meant by the term. They also had an interview part of the program where they asked people on the street what they think of as gorgeous. I really liked it. I love seeing things in juxtaposition; it helps you to see pieces in new ways. Maybe it’s the surrealist in me. For instance, there was the wonderful pairing of a bird woman with a Miro in the background. Another striking shot was a terrible g-d (one who liked to wear human skin) with a sparkling gold beaded background. There was even a bodhisattva with a Rothko in the background. I’m not a Rothko fan but I appreciate the juxtaposition.