In SF, we hopped on MUNI (the bus/trolley/cable car/etc. system in the city) and headed west toward Golden Gate Park. I was pleased that the bus was not crowded at all, since MUNI buses are often packed.
We got to Funston, south of the park, and bought ourselves some sandwiches, then walked into the park and sat on a bench in the Music Concourse between the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. There was plenty of grass and plenty of trees, but no squirrels or birds. Odd. Maybe it was too cold for them, because the weather was really rather remarkably overcast and chilly. This has been a frigid summer thus far.
Anyway, so we ate our sandwiches and shared a bag of salt-n-vinegar potato chips, then ventured over to the De Young for the first time since we bought our membership. It was pretty cool to be able to just show our membership cards and get in without paying! Neato keen.
At the door, a security guard was insisting that everyone open their bags so he could look inside, and there was a big, threatening sign insisting that no food or drink was permitted inside the museum. I was a bit concerned about that, because I -- of course -- had a bottle full of water, and I always carry emergency snack food (dried fruit, granola bars, pretzels, etc.) in my backpack. Plus, I had half of my excellent sandwich left over from lunch. So I opened my backpack with some trepidation, and the security guard looked inside and apathetically waved us through. I don't know why he bothers to look in people's bags if he doesn't care about such obvious contraband ... looking for bombs?
It was nice going to the De Young on a weekday, because the museum as a whole was not very crowded. The temporary "Birth of Impressionism" exhibit (works on loan from the Musée d'Orsay) was another matter. Much jostling of strangers, peering over the shoulders of various folks, getting stepped on over and over again by the same woman who walks backward without looking, etc. But the Impressionist works were stunning. There was a Gare St.-Lazare (Parisian train station) painting by Monet that just amazed me, all plumes of white and purple, smoke and steam, sunshine streaming down through the skylight. I'd seen the painting before in Paris, but it was lovely to see it again. We also saw the snowy landscape with a magpie on a gate (you can see it here) which Shannon has seen every day for the past 10 years, as I have a huge poster of it that I bought in Paris some 20 years ago. He said it was neat to see the original after becoming so familiar with the image. It's one of my favorite paintings, so it was nice to see it again.
Shannon also really liked Renoir's "The Swing" (you can see it here), but I'm not a big Renoir fan. I don't like how he paints faces; they look kind of bubble-shaped, kind of cartoonish, kind of vague and flat. But the light and color in this painting were really impressive, much more than in the images I've seen online or in books. The blues and whites -- the dappled sun reflecting off the woman's dress -- were striking. I still didn't like her face, but the colors were beautiful.
There was a Monet painting of turkeys (you can see it here) which I've never particularly liked (turkeys? who cares about turkeys? when there are so many beautiful things in the world, why would you paint turkeys?), but Shannon and I noticed that one of the turkeys has a dramatically backlit arch of tail feathers above its head, and Shannon said it was a Jesus turkey, to which I replied that it must then be a zombie turkey. The painting was much more interesting from that perspective.
There were no waterlilies, which was a slight disappointment, but I have seen many many many of Monet's waterlilies in the past: at the Orangerie (which houses *huge*, wall-sized paintings that overwhelmed and awed me) and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, as well as at the Palace of the Legion of Honor here in San Francisco, both in their permanent collection and in their incredibly wonderful Monet exhibit a couple years ago. So that wasn't too great a disappointment. Actually, I recognized many of the works we saw today from my repeated visits to the Musée d'Orsay in the past, as it is probably my favorite museum in the world, both for the architecture and for the contents.
Shannon was unimpressed by Degas' work, even a ballet studio piece, but I rather like him. I like the texture in his paintings, especially the tulle skirts of the ballerinas and the sense of grace and balance, the moment before movement. Degas has never been one of my favorites -- I like his "Little Dancer" sculpture better than his paintings -- but I can appreciate some of what makes him interesting.
After we finished the Impressionism exhibit (which took us about an hour), we wandered around the rest of the museum, but we'd seen it all relatively recently when we went there with his family for Mother's Day a couple years ago. We did happen upon another temporary exhibition, though, which was a collection of dyed textiles from around the world (you can read about it here). We found these surprisingly interesting and found all manner of bizarre creatures in the patterns of the cloth. There was a man in bell bottom pants who was holding maracas while leaping over a flaming skull, there was a collection of unicorns who had Rubik's Cubes on top of their heads instead of horns, etc. We were totally cracking up at our own interpretations, enough that the security guard casually strolled over toward us, looking suspicious. "What's going on here? You're not supposed to have so much *fun* at the museum!" He didn't actually talk to us, but he definitely looked disapproving.
We were both tired from standing on our feet and walking around for such a solid block of time, so we decided to head home. We caught MUNI and headed back downtown toward BART (the underground train back to the East Bay). There was a very smelly man on the bus (Shannon says he stank of alcohol and cigarettes, whereas I only noticed the body odor) who was wearing Tiva sandals that displayed the dirtiest toes I have ever seen in my entire life. The nails were *caked* with black. Disgusting. He was wearing a tie-died shirt with a camouflage jacket over it -- an interesting juxtaposition -- and a top hat with brightly-colored fresh flowers crowding the brim. An interesting guy. Very Bay Area. In fact, perhaps a bit more Berkeley than San Francisco.
We got home with no further incident, whereupon I promptly fell soundly asleep on the couch for a couple hours, until it was time to head downtown (downtown Berkeley, this time) to Gather, a kinda snazzy restaurant where we had 7:30 p.m. reservations. It's a sorta funky place: all rustic wooden tables and chairs, simple shelves on the walls holding various jars of preserved vegetables, lighting fixtures hanging down from the ceiling on long cords (some of these lighting figures had "shades" that looked as if they were made from wire crab nets/traps), etc. The building that houses the restaurant has a dramatic curve where one would expect a corner, which gives the whole restaurant a neat, unusual feel.
We had heard that the signature menu choice of the restaurant was the "Artisanal Plate" of "vegan 'charcuterie,'" so we ordered that. It consisted of:
- Tartar of tomato and corn, roasted tomato polenta
- Eggplant “brandade,” braised Jimmy Nardello peppers, saffron braised olives
- Bruschetta, crispy tofu skin, avocado, tomato, smoked garlic “aioli”
- Carpaccio of watermelon radish and turnip, horseradish salsa verde, grapes, grated almond
- Summer mushroom pate, grilled nebrodini mushrooms
I particularly loved the tartar (I'm a big fan of corn), though I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the eggplant "brandade." I'm not usually a fan of eggplant, but that is because of the texture. This was pureed, so all I got was the taste, which I liked. For our entrees, we both ordered pizzas, but we could barely eat a couple slices, because the appetizer had been so substantial. So we have lots of leftovers. My pizza included the freshest, most flavorful basil leaves I've ever tasted. Incredible!
We came home, played some Dominion, watched some tv, and then went our separate ways until bedtime. Our bathroom light is not working (too complicated to explain), so we have a bit of a darkness issue. I have discovered that it is unexpectedly disconcerting to brush my teeth in the dark.
Soon is bed. I plan to sleep deeply. I hope you all are well and healthy. Much love.