Friday, March 30, 2018

San Francisco - Recap

In the month since we’ve been back there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t spent thinking about San Francisco and our trip. I’ve even read a rash of San Francisco-based mysteries, in hopes of extending the “high”, all of them featured numerous places we saw. They were OK, perhaps more memorable as sinister travelogues than as literature. I even read a couple of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books, more like outlines than novels, but still trashy fun. Of course I had to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo again, a more sublime type of fun. I’ve even printed up some of the images featured here on FITK and put them on display in Flippist World Headquarters so I would be reminded of SF on a daily basis. The were photos that I didn’t take when I was in SF, however. The numerous homeless people, some in extreme circumstances, were a constant presence in the downtown area. The jarring juxtaposition of wealth and poverty was constant.

Other scenes were more pleasant. There are numerous small playgrounds for children (adults must be accompanied by children!) that were absolutely inspired:

The museums were very good as well, The de Young was exceptional. The SFMOMA had several “major works” but somehow seemed less focused. A highlight of SFMOMA was the few minutes I shared on a bench with a five-year-old girl as we gazed at a magnificent Rothko. She was just as magnificent as the painting, in her own way. The Asian Art Museum had the best layout, even with many groups of school children on field trips it never seemed crowded.

Petite Auberge, San Francisco

I was relaxing on the bed in our hotel after the last day of traipsing around San Francisco. The Weaver asked me what it was I that was thinking about.

I had been thinking of a variety of things; being in a new city kind of forces a new perspective on a person. Over the weekend I had met two of my long term blog-pals (as well as their partners), and I was still “processing” those experiences. The idea that one could establish relationships, albeit casual, with people outside of your physical existence and develop them, however imperfectly, via a computer still seems unreal. To do it such a stimulating place as San Francisco made it almost magical. Those feelings might say more about the insular nature of my existence than it does about the nature of reality, but I’ll take it. The reluctant searcher, finding more than I imagined.

“I am blessed,” was my answer.

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

10 Years Ago - Dinner With Bill

Back to Spoonriver Restaurant for another “Salon”, this time with the noted poet, essayist, and bon vivant Bill Holm. This was a most informal occasion, the six of us were clustered around Bill—eating, drinking, listening to Bill's stories, with an occasional poem thrown into the mix. Bill even passed the lamb stew (which he was enjoying immensely) around the table, so that we could all savor it.

The arc of the conversation spanned a wide range of subjects: Peer Gynt at the Guthrie, Robert Bly, Iceland (of course), but also Norway and Denmark, with a few side trips to Minneota, Minnesota, where Bill grew up and currently lives when not in Hofsós. As the dinner wound down, the talk turned to Halldór Laxness; some of the people there had never read any of his work, but I saw more than one person writing down his name and the titles which had been mentioned.

One reader at a time, one reader at a time.

Note: Bill died February 25, 2009. Posted on FITK March 26th, 2008

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Home Invasion

“In these relentlessly dark and riven times, I find myself beset by a near ravenous hunger for beauty.”~ Claire Messud, The Paris Review

I am under attack.

Over the last seven or eight years, slowly but surely, my fortress of solitude has been breached by a stealthy, relentless, ruthless and irresistible force. It has overcome all my defenses and has now surrounded me; it adorns my walls in myriad manifestations where it watches my every move.

Looking back on it, I realize that it all started small, just a few innocuous comments on this blog. I followed up those remarks with visits to the commenter’s blog, leaving a little banter now and then. It took me a while to succumb to its siren song, I even tried to quit by deleting the link, but I always came back. Then the stories started. Strange tales of youthful misdeeds and hi-jinks, punctuated with dollops of humor. We met—an idyllic interlude—on the last day of summer. A gifted painting (how was I to know it would be the start of something bigger?) An invitation to a book event. Clever graphics and illustrations. Refrigerator magnets. Works in acrylics.  More books. A mutual obsession with Wanda Gág. And then… a MAJOR ACQUISITION.

And then… another:

I was hooked. I signed on as a patron, and the floodgates opened. Every month brought new cards, books, and now, even a sculpture:

Flippist World Headquarters has become a shrine to the invading force. I was even forced to rewire some lighting in order to  properly display these objects of veneration.

My resistance had been overcome and the invader has triumphed.

But, instead of despair, I live happily in my subjugation. If I were a master poet (or even a better writer) I don’t think I could ever match the final words of Claire Messaud’s essay:
There is glory in each day, for each of us. It is waiting to be illuminated and observed. Auden wrote that poetry makes nothing happen, but in our hearts and in our lives, we know that is not true. Art has the power to alter our interior selves, and in so doing to inspire, exhilarate, provoke, connect, and rouse us. As we are changed, our souls are awakened to possibility—immeasurable, yes, and potentially infinite. If ever there was a time for art, it’s now.

Happy Birthday, Shoshanah.

Thanks for brightening my days as well as making the world a better place.

    P. Batty

Illustrations by Shoshanah Lee Marohn, except where indicated otherwise.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nisei Stories of Wartime Japan

A documentary by Mary McDonald and Thomas McDonald Mazawa.

In recent years many stories and documentaries about the interment of American of Japanese descent by the order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II have been produced. A parallel, but much less well-known history is that of Nisei (children born to Japanese immigrants) who had been sent to Japan before the war started to receive Japanese schooling and were subsequently stranded there. The subject came up when the Weaver and I were in San Francisco, having lunch with Mary McDonald (DJ Cousin Mary) and her husband, Ken Mazawa. Mary mentioned that she and her son had made a documentary about the subject. After our trip Mary graciously sent me a copy of it. It was fascinating and sobering to watch these survivors (some of whom are now deceased) describe their experiences; how the war tore families apart and affected them, each in their own way. One of the subjects, Iwao Peter Sano, had been conscripted into military service and while he was in training in Manchuria the war ended. He was then taken prisoner by the Soviets, sent to Siberia and forced into slave labor for several years. He published a book about his experiences, 1,000 Days in Siberia. Another one of the interviewees, Mary Kimoto Tomita, has published Dear Miye: Letters Home from Japan, a book of letters sent to and from her during the war. The best on-line article about the subject I found was on the Discover Nikkei website, which has an interview with Mary and gives an excellent summary of the documentary.

I also came across an on-line interview with with another survivor, Albert Takeshi Yamamoto, who lives not more than a dozen miles from my house! His story, while unique, shares many  aspects of those who were featured in the documentary. It ends with these thoughts:
Many of his memories of the war are painful. But he believes he got through it with what the Japanese call “gaman,” the ability to accept and bear the seemingly unbearable.

“That’s a Japanese trait,” Yamamoto said.

“Even the bad memories are memories I cherish now,” he said. “It’s done and over with, and I’m richer for the experience.”

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, March 23, 2018

San Francisco - Part XIII

Baker’s Dozen

Thirteen random images from my 2018 San Francisco trip:

Alcatraz from Pier 43

Ocean Beach


Sutro Hights

S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien

Bar Bocce, Sausalito

Japanese shop

New Year’s parade

City Lights bookstore

R&B band Chinatown

Telegraph Hill

Museé Mechcanique

The Wok Shop, Chinatown

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

San Francisco - Part XII

Painted Ladies

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 19, 2018

San Francisco - Part XI






Museum of Asian Art

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 16, 2018

San Francisco - Part X

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 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 other patrons; 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 only non-gray decor was a wall of hideous portraits. When I asked out server about them 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 water-filled lagoon, simulated thunderstorms (with rain!) palms, thatch and tiki motifs, the Tonga Room’s decor did not disappoint:

And the food was good, with a wide choice of “Asian-but-not-too-weird” selections:

The only thing that really diminished the experience 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 contractually locked into a music service that is subservient to the big record conglomerates aiming at the 20-somethings demographic.

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:

The host explained that the actual 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 half-expecting to see a Powerpoint demonstration of the menu:

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

San Francisco has almost unlimited dining options (one place near our hotel offered a prix frie dinner for two for $650!) but we only had seven nights. We ate at Hopwater Distribution a couple of times, and the pleasant, if not distinguished, Roxanne Cafe, once. Sear’s Fine Dining was also pleasant.

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

San Francisco - Part IX

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:

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0