Friday, March 16, 2018

San Francisco - Part VIII

Distinctive Dining

The Del Popolo restaurant had a definite “You’re not in Kansas anymore” aura about it.

It was right next door to our hotel—30 feet away—and I had read some good reviews about it. I should have read the bad reviews. The austere gray concrete interior (lord, will I be glad when the gray phase in decorating is over) hadn’t deterred others; the place was full. We ordered a pizza and received a cow-flop of raw dough that was burnt on top. There may have been a flavor in the sauce, but I’m not exactly sure about that. We should have sent it back (as did another couple who was staying in our hotel) but soldiered through. I thought that maybe it was a California thing—a hipness beyond the ken of us hopeless rubes from flyover land. The main non-gray decor was a wall of hideous portraits, I asked out server about them and she said the owner had bought them on eBay:

A couple of people had suggested that we try the legendary Tonga Room, in the basement of The Fairmont Hotel:

With a lagoon, simulated thunderstorms (with rain!) palms, thatch and tiki motifs, the Tonga Room’s decor did not disappoint:

And the food was good as well; a wide choice of “Asian-but-not-too-weird” selections:

The one thing that really brought the experience down was the crappy modern pop music on the sound system. This may be just a geezer rant on my part, but there are hundreds of great Lounge or Exotica albums available, a random playlist of these would have made for a super night out. I suspect that the hotel is locked into a music service that is subservient to the big record conglomerates that think the diners are all 20-somethings.

For a real “walk on the mild side” for our last night we tried our luck at the “Level III”, another restaurant in a hotel, this time it was the JW Marriot, a block from Union Square. It was our last night and after the previous attempts at memorable dining we didn’t feel like going out on a limb. Note: the picture below is not the entry, a doorman had to direct us to an unmarked entrance that led to an elevator:

Evidently the restaurant was being remodeled so we were offered dinner in a re-purposed conference room! With office chairs! And AV hook-ups at each table! There was a video projector overhead and a drop-down screen, I was expecting to see a Powerpoint demonstration of the menu:

But the food was very good, perhaps the best we ate on our trip:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

San Francisco - Part VII

Sea Cruise

I’m not real keen on being stuck on a boat in the open sea, but a half-hour ferry ride in the San Francisco Bay was actually pretty good. It was nice weather for late February; we left the ferry building around 10 and joined the other tourists on the Golden Gate Ferry:

Our destination was Sausalito, kind of a sleepy town in the off-season, lots of boats in the marina, with not many on the water:

A stroll through town (and a stop for lunch) was pleasant, if not exactly memorable, there were hints of what it used to be like before it became a wealthy suburb:

But we did catch a glimpse of the old bohemia in this busker and his singing dog:

On the trip back we got a close-up look at Alcatraz. We didn't opt for a tour, my appetite for historical misery is even less than for boat rides:

Shipping out:

By Professor Batty

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Talk to Me!

Market Street, San Francisco, February 26, 2018

If you truly have to make a call in public, use the occasion to make a statement!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wanda Gág Day!

Wanda’s Lovers

The artist/author/translator Wanda Gág’s first love was art. In addition to this passion she also cultivated numerous intimate relationships with several lovers. Her first non-platonic lover was Adolph Dehn, a talented artist who she met at art school:

This relationship was for the most part unsatisfactory, although they would remain life-long friends. Wanda’s next paramour was Earle Humphrey, a writer and labor organizer. Earle (left) met Wanda through Adolph (right):

In the mid 1920s Wanda had a fling with Lewis Gannett, a writer and critic. She would visit him and his family at his home in Connecticut:

Wanda had a long-term low-key affair with her gallery manager, Carl Zigrosser. He too, would remain her friend after the affair had cooled:

Wanda’s most passionate affair was with Dr. Hugh Darby. Wanda was also close to his wife, Kappy. Hugh’s efforts in obtaining the then experimental Sulfa drug saved the life of Wanda’s sister Stella when she had contracted blood poisoning:

During World War II, Wanda married Earle Humphrey to prevent a scandal that would threaten his work, Earle remained with Wanda through her final illness:

But Wanda’s other great love was not even human:

“Noopy”—the cat who inspired and was the model for Millions of Cats.  He arguably did more for Wanda’s career than any of her other lovers!

By Professor Batty

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Friday, March 09, 2018

Art Appreciation

Sharon Spotbottom is just my cup of tea…                                                                       Illustration: Karen Heathwood     

There are many people who helped make our San Francisco vacation a special one. If I were writing this thirty years ago I would have consulted with a travel agent, queried relatives and friends who had made a similar trip, and bought a guidebook. Now, with the magic of the internet (although I suppose anyone who grew up with it wouldn’t consider the internet ‘magic’), I received several suggestions from people who I wouldn’t have known back in those dark ages. I’ve mentioned DJ Cousin Mary’s help previously and, of course, “NorCal” Shoshanah who grew up in the area. Interestingly enough, most of the commercial travel sites on the ’net weren’t very helpful—either outdated with dead links or just fronts for numerous tour offerings. We did use the Muni and Bart sites a lot however; public transportation in San Francisco is superb and having a Clipper Card made getting around a breeze.  Most parts of the city are within a short walking distance from routes and the various buses, streetcars, and cable cars run often.

One very special blog-pal who contributed to our trip planning was Karen Heathwood: artist, illustrator and inventor. Her travel suggestions were all spot-on. Karen is also the creator of my favorite demented stick figure Sharon Spotbottom (who has been featured on FITK many times.) The Weaver and I arranged to meet her and her partner Elaine at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Many amusing and informative stories were exchanged between the four of us, including artistic assessments of the exhibits. We had tea and coffee in the museum café, and posed for pictures afterward:

Sharon, Batty, Karen at the de Young Museum, February 25, 2018

To top it off, Karen gifted me this original Sharon Spotbottom panel:

Without getting too gushy, I have to say that Karen is a person who has really enriched my life. Her little single panel comics have amused, enlightened and even touched me on many occasions. More subtle than commercial comic strips, Sharon Spotbottom’s adventures were often reflections on the human condition and the situations we all face as we go through life. Of course some were just whimsy, and some went to some very strange outposts of the human psyche. Karen even encouraged me to try my hand in creating glimpses of Sharon’s world. The kid is alright.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make our trip a success.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

San Francisco - Part VI

Crossroads of the World

Across the street from our hotel was what appeared to be an old and abandoned dive bar. After I studied its decrepit sign for a few moments I could suss out that the now-broken neon had once spelled “KEY KLUB” sandwiching the grandiose legend “CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD” encircled with an oval of yellow lights. I took a few pics of the storefront and then went on my way, vowing to return later for a closer look. It was definitely old, most of the buildings in the lower Nob Hill area were built between the earthquake of 1906 and the start of World War I. The elegant brickwork and tasteful terracotta accents were complimented by the bank of Luxfer prism tiles over the blank storefront windows below. Looking closer, I noticed that one of the ventilating windows in the tile bank was open, perhaps a sign of life?

Later that night, when The Weaver and I were going out to find a place to eat, I noticed that the sign had a few lights that were still in operation. A faint glow came from the windows.  It looked like a set for a Twilight Zone episode :

We crossed the street and approached the storefront that, except for a few flicking lamps on the sign, still looked dead:

We crossed our fingers and went inside the (very dimly-lit) establishment where we discovered a very much alive Pub, serving thirty types of craft beer on tap:

The place was named Hopwater Distribution (there seem to be an abundance of “clever” names of businesses in SF, perhaps it is a west-coast thing? A group of regulars were enjoying the ambiance:

The menu had a variety of tasty comestibles; our food was delicious. To top it all off, the women’s curling final (Japan vs. Korea) from the Winter Olympics was on the big screen TV—crossroads of the world, indeed!

It just doesn’t get any better than that:

Friday: An appreciation…

By Professor Batty

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

San Francisco - Part V

Chinese Lunar New Year

As chance would have it, the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations landed in the middle of our stay with a two-day street fair and the famous parade that snaked around Union Square:

In case you weren’t aware of it, we are now in the Year of the Dog:

Various organizations were represented with colorful pageantry:

And what would a San Francisco parade be without princesses on cable cars?

Or fantastic floats?

And feats of derring-do?

TOMORROW: Crossroads of the world…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4