Cocktails in a hotel bar some 40 stories high…that’s how I spent my 40th birthday. Checking out the MOMA and a few other galleries…that’s how I spent my 40th birthday. Having the best Reuben sandwich at Wise Sons during the day and later an evening meal at Café de la Presse in the Union Square…all good ways to celebrate a 40th birthday.
We’d first found Café de la Presse, by stumbling across it, four years ago when we were discovering San Francisco anew. We’d walked by the other day and thought it might be fun to revisit. A couple of nights later we find ourselves there. It’s a nice place. Good food. The service wasn’t great – but it was almost endearing, first night nerves, or end of a tough first week, that sort of thing. She was trying pretty hard, but failing more often than not. Drinks arrived after the meal, meals were delivered to tables that ordered after us. None of this really mattered. It was just interesting to watch. The boss was unimpressed. That much was clear. When we were wrapping up for the night and the waitress finally nailed her line, “how was everything?” – I told her we’d been there previously. She had correctly spotted we weren’t “from around” and I explained that we’d found the place four years ago and it had stuck. “How was everything back then?” she struggled. Big Clue: It must have been quite good, since we’d returned. She let me off the hook, “I’m only asking because I wasn’t here back then…”
Earlier in the day we’d seen paintings by Picasso (He A Genius! – if you didn’t know) and Georgia O’Keeffe and Matisse and Jackson Pollock and Rothko and so many others and some of them I’d even recognised before reading the little confirmation-cards on the walls.
Then it was on to the Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. This was quite amazing to walk through – as I’m sure anyone might expect.
From the early photography work (LOOK magazine) in the 1940s the exhibition takes you through the early films of the 50s and then on to the 1960s and then the far less prolific (1971-1999) era – costumes, stills from the baffling and breath-taking movies, production notes, replica models and of course video footage of some of the many iconic moments. Scenes that have you frozen, perplexed. Movies that you feel you must instantly rewatch after learning some of the tricks of Kubrick’s trade, after seeing the research that went into abandoned projects (The Aryan Papers, Napoleon) and hearing the great use of music, seeing the preoccupations masquerading as themes: the close-ups of faces, mirrored scenes, the brutality of battle…
We’ve covered a bit of ground here. We walked many miles – between buses – when we visited the zoo. Pretty poor walk/animal ratio but a nice stroll at any rate. A zoo needs big cats to really set it off and they were all somewhere else that day, perhaps a matinee of their brand-nailing musical…but certainly not mugging for soul-stealing photo-ops. A zoo also needs hippos or rhinos pissing, shitting or farting. Seeing animals fuck, or at least give it a nudge, isn’t a bad substitute I guess – and this one giraffe’s spirit was willing even if his flesh was a bit weak. But the hippo was only wallowing in a little bath. Alas, no bubbles. And the rhino wasn’t going to perform as the one at the Auckland zoo had.
Great to see anteaters and capybaras and a few things we don’t normally see on a trip to the zoo – the monkeys and apes attracted good crowds as always, but the real joy was, again, in having the time to stroll and take it all in. Oscar loved it when we finally found the playground. His pink Doc McStuffins t-shirt has been cut specifically for girls. He is rocking it though. Good boy. We sat in on a bit of an animal talk, saw a king snake and a few native American species’.
We’ve walked through galleries and in through Chinatown, we’ve walked up to get bagels and pretzels and burritos and frozen yoghurt, to sneak in to the movie theatre to use the loo, but we’ve also had a car to cover a bit more ground.
Yesterday it was over to Sausalito for some fantastic fish’n’chips and a beer in a mason jar. Over that wonderful bridge and cranking the new Jonathan Richman album which really is terrific – good car tunes too. And then to Oakland where we reconnected with Lionel Richie (also wonderful driving music).
Oakland will get more time in a week or so – and already I can’t wait. I dig that place. I can tell.
We had a bit of a rest over there, parked up in the brother-in-law’s apartment and admired some views, caught up on net-nonsense (the great existential question at the moment seems to be whether it’s possible to not enjoy the new Ghostbusters simply because you didn’t think much of the film. I haven’t seen it by the way. But I remember when thinking a film was a bit shit wasn’t a sexist stance nor feminist issue).
Oakland feels a refreshing change of pace. And it’s so far connected – since I don’t know heaps about it – to the iconography I’m aware of. I imagined our car recreating the shot from the cover of Tower of Power’s Back To Oakland. Seeing a copy of that record in the apartment [in Oakland] took me back to when I visited a half-dozen homes in Stinson Beach back in 2012 and every one of them had a half-dozen Grateful Dead albums, minimum. It’s like finding a Dobbyn or Finn or Flying Nun album in a Kiwi flat I guess…
There’s a story that the cranes in the Oakland Port were George Lucas’ inspiration for Empire’s AT-AT Walkers – seems plausible. Good to spot those cranes and imagine it’s true at any rate. George is a Bay Area lad after all.
I’m reading David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo and Chuck Klosterman and though there’s not as much time for podcasts I’m squeezing in episodes of Maron’s WTF still, watching Documentary Now – which is pretty special (enjoying American Netflix) and when I do break from all the media that always permeates we have been enjoying the local brews.
Some nearly 10% beer – made as a tribute to Thelonious Monk – was yesterday’s great find. There’s Bulleit Bourbon and Monkey Shoulder lined up for a snort or two too, but the Eye of the Hawk has eluded us thus far. I hope to find that bird if it’s still in production. Best damn beer I ever had.
To read Tour Diary # 1 – The Streets of San Francisco click here