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Long day yesterday! Shannon and I headed in to the City to do a bit of sightseeing at Golden Gate Park, and it was lovely but exhausting, so I ended up knocked flat all day on Sunday.

So, once we'd BARTed to the City, our Saturday started with a bit of public transit difficulty (due to MUNI's poor decision-making and a resultant need for us to take a different bus than planned), but we eventually found our way to the park and began our minor trek to where we had originally planned to disembark, where we were planning to buy our picnic lunches.

While on this unexpected part of our GG Park adventure, we happened upon a bunch of artists displaying paintings on easels around one of the dry fountains in the Music Concourse, which Shannon and I loved. I was particularly fond of the work of one artist who did primarily SF views (I'm sure they're primarily marketing to tourists in this location.) done in a mixed media collage/paint combination. The buildings were all these small snippets of newspapers, but outlined untidily (in a way I thought looked terrific) in oil paint. I would totally have bought one if I had tons of money. I must admit that I didn't even look at the prices, but I probably should have. I've saved up money for a new iPod Touch, and I probably shouldn't go blowing that money on art, but this art made me very happy.

We did eventually get to the Andronico's near GG Park & bought our luxury sandwiches, our luxury desserts, and our beverages (not particularly luxury, since their selection is remarkably limited), then consulted my handy-dandy official GG Park map for a nice place to have lunch. In the past, we've lunched in the Music Concourse, but we wanted to try somewhere new.

We ended up having lunch in the shady Fern Grotto, sitting on a bench facing a stream full of smooth rocks, surrounded by tall ferns and other greenery. It was really incredibly beautiful, and very few people were traveling along the paths on either side of the creek, so it was also very quiet and private. It's one of my new favorite places in the park, and I definitely plan to visit it again. Ironically, we hadn't even planned to stop there; it was just along our path to the Conservatory of Flowers.

We later found out that this whole area is part of The National AIDS Memorial Grove. We didn't know that at this time, though. More about that later, when I describe our walk back through this area on our way back toward the De Young Museum.

After we'd finished our lunch, we continued on our way toward the Conservatory of Flowers (which was our primary reason for the trip, since neither of us had ever been there). Along the way, just past the Fern Grotto, we happened upon a long, verdant meadow, where several people were picnicking, sunning themselves, and playing with their dogs. It was very peaceful, and yet also joyous and social. We didn't know it then, but this too is part of the AIDS Memorial Grove.

A guy in the meadow was playing with a small, white dog. The guy would throw a stick, and the dog would chase it and bring it back, then the guy would sorta try to take it from the dog. When the dog didn't release the stick (which happened every time), the guy would lift the stick up in the air and wave it around, with the dog still attached! It was hilarious! The dog obviously loved it, and so they did it again and again. I pointed them out to Shannon, and we watched them while we were walking. They seemed to be with a small party of other guys who were sitting on a blanket on the grass, but I didn't really pay much attention to them -- since they weren't running around or flying while biting sticks -- until one of the guys waved to us, smiling. He was dressed very outlandishly in some kind of red silk clothes (I think a dress); thick geisha-style make-up; and a long, bright-red-feathered, stereo-typically Native American kind of long, trailing feather headdress. It wasn't until this morning, many hours later, that I realized that he might have thought we'd been pointing and staring at him, rather than the hilarious dog. I suppose if we were tourists from Oklahoma, a guy dressed up elaborately in the middle of the park might have been more startling than a stick-flying dog. At the time, I kind of wondered why he was waving to us, particularly, when other people were also around, but I figured maybe he just likes people who appreciate crazy dogs.

Not long afterward along our walk, we arrived at the tunnel to the Conservatory of Flowers, and I looked around for Thoth, the violin-playing, strange-outfit-wearing performance artist who was in that tunnel the other 2 times I was there. I was surprised not to see him, but when I got home, I looked him up online, and apparently he moved to New York in 2000, and mostly performs in Central Park now. Disappointing, because I was interested to see what I thought of his act some 15 years after I'd first seen it. I thought he was pretty weird back then.

The Conservatory of Flowers, itself, (see a fairly representative photo of about 2/3 of it here, and a photo of more of it -- but from further away -- here) was somewhere I'd been wanting to visit for almost 20 years. When I first tried to go, it was closed, due to damage from a storm (since the entire building is built of windows), and it took almost a decade for them to get the money and approval to fix the whole place up and reopen it for visitors. The outside of the building is stunningly beautiful. Just breathtakingly gorgeous. Inside, you're bathed in natural light through the thousands and thousands of windows, which are thinly coated with some kind of white paint, I assume so that the plants won't be burned by our often bright (even in SF) California sun. The rooms (5 fairly large rooms, if I remember correctly) are full of palms, ferns, orchids, and other tropical plants. One room (the hottest and most humid of them all, and they were all a bit hot and humid) was filled with a large pool with aquatic plants, including some gigantic Amazon water lily pads. Everything was fascinating, and I -- as usual with things that are unfamiliar -- embarked on a simile quest. "That one has flowers that look like a little toucan!" ... "That one looks like an eel with its mouth open, ready to bite!" ... "That one's leaves look like Arts-and-Crafts painted pottery!" ... "That one looks like it's giving us the finger!" ... etc. It was a really wonderful experience, and I definitely plan to go again.

Once we'd explored the Conservatory of Flowers to our satisfaction, we ventured back to the De Young, which we'd passed earlier on our way to Andronico's from the bus stop. We passed once again through the AIDS Memorial Grove, and this time we stopped to walk through the incredibly moving sheltered area, surrounded by overhanging trees, in which several medium-sized boulders are ranged around a dry stream bed of smooth, white rocks. On the boulders, people have balanced piles of smaller rocks, which I found reminiscent of the Jewish tradition of putting rocks on graves. Some people have also brought rocks engraved with their lost loved ones' names or with messages. You can see some photos here and here. We walked through slowly, and quietly talked a bit about the needless epidemic and political irresponsibility in the 80's, and stood quietly, and the tribute moved us both to tears.

After that, walking through the trees, we ended up back in the sunlit meadow where we'd seen the flying dog with the stick earlier. It felt like a movement from grief into hope and joy, which I liked very much, like a recognition and remembrance of our dead, but a continuance of life for those who remain.

We walked back along the meadow, then back through the Fern Grotto -- though on the path on the other side of the stream this time -- and ended up back at the familiar De Young Museum, which we've visited several times in the past.

We're members of the De Young, so we don't feel a need to see the whole place every time we go, and this time we were just going to see their Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. Okay. I'll lead off with saying that haute couture is not really my favorite kind of clothing (not only to wear but also to just enjoy aesthetically), but some of the outfits were actually really interesting, and they even had a couple that I would happily wear myself (Note: Those weren't any of the ones with giant cone boobs or the ones with no top or the ones with dozens of straps.). There were many corsets, a great many of them with cone boobs, as Gaultier was apparently the one who designed for Madonna when she wore such ridiculousness. (I always liked the corsets with men's pant legs from that period though, and Gaultier designed those, as well. He likes to play with stereotypical gender expectations in his clothes, which was the thing I liked best about his designs.) There was also a "Baby Bump Corset." Um ... okay.

He also liked to put protruding buttons, dyed circles, metal hearts, mollusks, animal ears (I'm not kidding. See this photo.), etc., on his dresses right where a woman's nipples would be. Another trend in his work: clothes that covered the man or woman fully in the front, sometimes to the floor, but left their asses (in decorative underwear) hanging out in the back. Pretty wacky stuff.

Oh, also, they were doing some kind of weird thing at the exhibit where they projected film of moving, talking faces onto the mannequins that were displaying the clothes. So there were these creepy, moving faces that didn't look quite 3-dimensional, but not quite 2-dimensional, either, since the mannequin faces were vaguely human-shaped, with noses and such. They talked and sang and sometimes just sat with their eyes closed, only to suddenly open them and start freaking me out again. You can see some random person's video here, which gives a vague idea of what it was like (though this video only shows the room with the most conservative, non-butt-baring, non-nipple-accentuating, uncorsety designs):



My favorite, though, was the Ukraine/Russia collection from 2005, including this dress, which I would totally wear. If it didn't cost a million dollars, of course. (I guess in Russia and the Ukraine, it's too cold to go topless or let your butt hang out. Jean Paul Gaultier is so thoughtful.)

The other neat thing was a mermaid wedding dress designed with elaborate, beautiful, coral-decorated crutches as accessories. How cool would that be for someone who walked with crutches, to have them be an integral, decorative part of their outfit on the big day? Neat!

Unfortunately, I was worn out about 3/4 way through the exhibit (after our park adventures and such) & ended up finding somewhere to sit down while Shannon looked at the rest. I was very happy to be off my feet after hours of walking and standing, with only a brief rest to have lunch. We walked back to the bus stop, and I fell asleep on the bus. Then we transferred to a BART train, and I fell asleep on the BART train. Then we transferred trains at 19th Street, and I fell asleep on the second train. We got home around 6, had dinner at 6:30, and I was asleep on the couch by 8. I slept until Shannon woke me at 1 a.m. to come to bed, at which time I fell asleep again and didn't wake until 11 a.m. Holy cow! I slept almost continuously for 15 hours! Who knew that plants and funny clothes were so exhausting? It was a great day with Shannon, and we did lots of stuff that I loved, but apparently it really wore me out.



In other news, I've been checking out two artists online: Douglas Hollis and Michael Bartalos. Douglas Hollis does these amazing environmentally-interactive sculptures -- often involving water -- such as the 97-foot-high waterfall sculpture at the Rincon building in San Francisco, which is one of my favorite SF landmarks & is the main reason I like to go to Yank Sing, a restaurant with a patio right next to the waterfall. I've perused his website before, but it never fails to amaze and thrill me. Michael Bartalos, on the other hand does these smaller, quirkier sculptures with a really interesting sense of humor and occasional social commentary. He's currently living and working in San Francisco, so I'd love to be able to see his work in person someday.

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