After my brunch with Lisa, Shannon and I headed out for our San Francisco adventure. Shannon's been rather desperately needing to buy a new pair of tennies, because his are worn through on the bottom, and our day was going to involve a lot of walking, so we scheduled our first stop to be a shoe store in the Mission District, since we had plans in that area anyway. Shannon easily found an appropriate pair of shoes, and we headed off to Precita Eyes, a non-profit that supports and encourages the extensive collection of murals and muralists in the Mission. As long as I've been living in the Bay Area (20 years) Precita Eyes has been selling these maps of the area's murals, with a map covered in circled numbers on one side, and a numbered list of title, description, and muralist on the other side. It's a great resource, and well worth the $3!
In a square mile or so, there are about 90 formal murals, plus a lot of informal graffiti and spontaneous artwork. Sometimes you walk just a single block down one alley, and you see a dozen or so murals on the sides of houses, on garage doors, etc. (You can check out some examples on this website.) In addition to the usual painted murals, there are collage murals, and mosaic murals, and mixed media murals, and just all kinds of wacky and wonderful stuff. There are also a great many Catholic-themed murals (as it is a traditionally Hispanic neighborhood, and so Catholicism is common), as well as Aztec-themed murals, as well as Mexican culture/history-themed murals, some of which tell a story, some of which depict influential historical figures, some of which depict mythological heroes. Virgin Mary is friggin' everywhere. Except she's not friggin' ... since she's the Virgin Mary. And she's two-dimensional. And not alive.
In the less traditional murals, you've got stuff like Max from Where the Wild Things Are, commentary on Hurricane Katrina, commentary on local gentrification, images of classic Hispanic Hollywood personalities (including some woman -- I think her name was Dolores Del Rio -- holding a piglet, which puzzled me: check out the piggy mural in question here), depictions of peaceful multiculturalism, and even some cartoon and/or video game characters!
Apparently, when I suggested to Shannon that we go on this rambling Mission mural walk, I didn't accurately communicate the scope. He was expecting a dozen murals or something, so the reality was pretty surprising. We walked and walked up and down streets and alleys for maybe 2 hours in the absolutely blazing sun, and we still only saw maybe 1/3 of the murals in the area. Probably less than that.
One of our favorite groups of murals was in a small park on 24th Street and York. It is walled all 'round, because it is surrounded by buildings, but all the walls are covered in colorful murals, and the park itself contains a large mosaic snake sculpture and sinks and rises below/above the ground. Shannon commented that next time we should go on the mosaic tour, because we both liked the mosaics best of all. Unfortunately, I don't think Precita Eyes has a map to point you toward the mosaics.
You can see some pictures of the 24th Street and York "mini-park" here:
I noticed that the Mission had a very different feel than the last time I was there, which was probably 17 or 18 years ago. There's definitely been a lot of gentrification -- houses all fixed up and painted snazzy, trendy coffee places full of young hipster professionals sipping fancy drinks full of foam and cinnamon and whatnot, but on the streets there was still a pervasive scent of fresh tortillas, and there were tiny taquerias with hand-written menus in the windows on pretty much every block, and more than half of the people I saw looked Hispanic. Also, a number of the people we encountered either spoke little English or spoke with very thick accents. And there were several stores prominently displaying dozens and dozens of colorful Mexican wrestling masks (though I'm not sure if people buy these for everyday use or if they're intended for Halloween). And it was sometimes difficult to walk around/through the sprawling collections of junk (seriously, garage sale kind of stuff) that people had spread out on the sidewalks to try to sell. So the neighborhood hasn't been completely taken over, but I wonder what it will look like in another 17 or 18 years.
Also in the MIssion, we saw quite a few people who looked similar to the panhandlers in Berkeley, but no one asked us for spare change. It was quite foreign. Well, one woman did ask us for spare change, but that was only when I still had my camera in my hand upon exiting the snaky mini-park, so I probably looked like I was a tourist from Oklahoma or Iowa or something, and she figured I'd be an easy mark.
Once we'd had our fill of murals (well, mostly, it was because I'd gotten tired and was done with roasting in the sunshine), we hopped on BART to head up to the Civic Center area to visit the Main Branch of the SF Public Library. It's an incredible building, centering around this gorgeous five-story atrium (check out a picture here). (I'm sure I've written about this library and this atrium in this journal before, because this is one of my favorite places in the entire City, but I have no idea where the entry is.) We were going there primarily to get library cards, largely because I had noticed online that the SFPL (unlike the public libraries in the East Bay) has tons of e-books, and you can check them out online and just download them to your e-reader without having to venture across the Bay. This sounded particularly nice right now, as we are heading into our rainiest part of the year. I've been to the library several times before, but Shannon hadn't, so I sat down to just take a breather while he explored.
While we were at the library, the entire place was echoing with shrill screams that went on and on and on. I was talking to a librarian during part of this time, and she explained to me that some woman had locked herself in one of the bathrooms and refused to come out, and so "they" (library security? locksmiths? the police? the men in white coats?) were trying to get her out, and that's why she was screaming. It was far more excitement than I've ever seen at any library before!
When Shannon had seen as much of the library as interested him for the moment, we wandered over to have dinner at Carl's Jr., because my mom had sent us a coupon book that's filled with pretty darn impressive coupons (some of them give you a free burger or chicken sandwich, even if you don't purchase anything else!), and there's no Carl's Jr. near where we live. It seemed like an excellent opportunity. So we had some tasty fast food and tried to ignore the extremely annoying 20-something punk/goth girls who were just hanging out in one of the booths, talking very loudly and being complete bitches to everyone. Sheesh! I think it bothered me more than it bothered Shannon, because I have more sensitivity to mean/rude/insensitive people. Also, he was facing away from them, and I was facing toward them. But we enjoyed our dinner, and then hopped on BART to take us home to our beloved Berkeley, where we walked home and collapsed, adventure complete.
I highly recommend checking out Shannon's journal entry describing the same day, as he has a lot more pictures and a rather different perspective on the day's events and sights.
Today, I've been working on my Halloween costume; Shannon and I biked to Safeway to buy groceries; we got lunch from Taco Bell/KFC; I've been toying with some iPhone games I downloaded; I've checked out my first e-book from the SFPL; and ... uh ... probably some other stuff. Writing this journal entry, for example, which has taken forever. And now I believe I will take a post-adventure nap before dinner. Zzzzzz.