: views from the Hill

Friday, December 02, 2005

Life in the Big City

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Sunrise this morning.

A wicked storm just blew through, leaving the air clean and crisp.

For a time yesterday, the CHP wasn't letting empty trucks over the Richmond-San Rafael bridge because winds were gusting to 65 mph. I watched out the windows as sheets of rain pelted and billowed, chased by winds out of the south.

The workers next door, who are scraping and gouging and prepping and painting, continued working through the storm. The rotty wood gouging turned out to be pretty extensive. Next thing we knew, the worker guys were hauling in new lumber and rebuilding the rotty balconies. Whack. Whack. Hammer. Bzzz saw. Bzzz sander.

Our downstairs neighbors just got through a multi-month inside remodel that gave us days on end of saws whining, worker guys thumping and all sorts of interesting smells. Sure, I love you guys and want your places to look nice, but can't we all get our rehab work done and enjoy some quiet time?

But enough of the whining.

On Wednesday afternoon, when the storm was just beginning to show its face, we took Muni over to the new de Young to check out the action. The rebuilt museum reopened in mid-October and our friend LucyK was there for the opening festivities. Child of The City though she be, she raved about the new digs. There's been some [ahem] controversy about the new building from people who loved the old and thought the new rendition looked too much like a Mayan palace plopped in the middle of the park. But Lucy loved it. OK. We needed to go and not just because we'd missed the museum while it was closed. Being as I get twitchy in large crowds, we decided to wait a bit and let the crowds thin before we visited.

Always before, we'd taken the bus or trolley down to Market to catch the Muni. Always before, we'd had transfers. Wednesday we'd decided to walk downtown and get some extra exercise. Turns out (who knew?) if you go into a Muni subway station downtown with $3 in bills to pay for two fares, there's no way to do so. You must have coins, a monthly pass, a transfer or whatever, we were told. No bills. So, we hiked back up to the surface streets and caught a trolley, paying with $3 in bills. We rode the trolley over to U.N. Plaza, where we got off, went back down into the subway and caught Muni using our transfers.

Muni dropped us at 9th and Irving, just a block or so from the entrance to Golden Gate Park. The de Young is just a few blocks in from the 9th Avenue entrance. Easy peasy. Well, easier than finding a place to park ...

On our way in, we ate at Park Chow on 9th Ave., because a friend from the quaint village nestled in the verdant foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains told me the last time I saw her that Park Chow was her absolute favorite San Francisco restaurant these days.

It was two in the afternoon. We were hungry. We sat at the bar and ate. I liked the vibe of the place. The bartender was friendly and the staff seemed to genuinely like each other. My short ribs were delish. Nice place, good people, but favorite?

favorite in the neighborhood even?

I wouldn't go that far. Just across the street is Ebisu, after all.

When I was growing up in east San Jose, we very occasionally made fieldtrips to San Francisco to see the wonders of the Big City. I went to see Daughter of the Regiment with my sixth grade class. I vaguely recall a visit to Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf in junior high, probably soon after Ghirardelli Square reopened as a tourist trap.

I recall a trip to Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences somewhere in there too. I remember the old de Young, especially its Asian Art section, built as a wing off the de Young to create a space for Avery Brundage's collection. I could wander for hours, and did. The Asian Art collection eventually came out from under the de Young umbrella and spun off into the entirely separate Asian Art Museum.

The thing I most clearly remember of the park from when I was a pup, besides the Academy and the museums, were the Statues and Busts of Famous People tucked here and there in nooks and crannies. I loved those outdoor artworks -- like this one of Verdi, which we passed on our way in to the de Young on Wednesday.

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Past the bust of Verdi, we caught a glimpse of the rebuilding of the California Academy of Sciences.

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Looks like they're keeping two walls extant.

Memories, loads of memories of that building, not only from the school years but also from the parenting years. When the young guys were young, we made many trips to the Academy, took in the shows at the Morrison Planetarium, wandered through the exhibits of dinosaurs and Indian basketry, checked out the gators and crocs and fish at the Steinhart Aquarium, oogled the cassowary, watched the Foucault Pendulum knock the pegs over and prove that the world turns, and sat through (over and over) the 1906 earthquake re-creation. Ah, Memories, Memories of the Park as a sprout filtered and muddled by memories of the park with our sprouts.

Just steps beyond the Academy's mud we found the Music Concourse Revitalization mud. What a mess. Here's hoping what results is something at least similar to what was there before.

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And finally, the new de Young.

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As members of the Asian Art museum, we have reciprocal membership at the de Young, so we had free admission. The Hatshepsut special exhibit would cost us $5 extra, but we decided to forego that and visit it later, before it left at the beginning of February.

We spent as long as we could inside, checking out the Oceanic Art and Art of the Americas, American Painting, American Sculpture and Decorative Art, Contemporary Craft, ... We didn't have time to climb the Tower. Didn't have time to see all there was to see before we were booted out. Worth a visit. Worth more than one visit. Plan some time. We skipped the Hatshepsut exhibit, as I mentioned, but did see the Jasper Johns prints exhibit and the American photography exhibit.

The new museum is great. Loads more room, hence loads more exhibits. They'll be rotating the collection through in addition to having the special exhibitions. Come back again. Often. So much to see. Another time.

We headed home again on Muni, which will take your $3 for two seats if you board above ground and deal with the operator. We got off at Montgomery, intending to walk straight home, but got sidetracked by the smells of dinner cooking at Sam's. Sam's. Ymmm. Sweetbreads. his nibs had the sweetbreads sautéed with mushrooms while I had the sweetbreads sautéed with lemon and capers. Ymmm. I took some of mine home with the potatoes served with them and had them for breakfast yesterday.

Life in the Big City.

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