Archive for August, 2010

California Here I Came!

August 23, 2010

Well besides landing at the airport with the mad rush between flights on the way to the winter games this writer had never been to the city by the bay.  So here I was California here I came with a stopover Continental frequent flier special and finding my way to the BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit) this traveler made his way downtown to meet up with friends who were also visiting the city.  It was pouring and at first checking kimpton hotels this blogger could not find a room for there was a convention in town.  Growing restless he decided for if in the event he was unable to find anything he might as well see the contemporary art museum before leaving town. So traveling bag in hand  he made it to the  Mario Botta structure

The San Francisco Museum of modern Art by Mario Botta

which looks as if a camera component inside a core after first enjoying a hot soup at the Cafe Boudin (like the French painter) and talking to his elusive friend on the phone.

The museum turned out to have a treasure trove of work to see as up was its seventy fifth anniversary exhibition

Seventy Fifth Anniversary show

surveying its entire collection among the artists shown were Matthew Barney,

Matthew Barney in Frozen Petroleum Jelly

Ellsworth Kelly Kelly ShapesRichard Misrach

Misrach Palms Ablaze

, and Jeff Koons

Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons

Later on when I got out of the museum it was still raining and this traveler still needed to find a hotel and it seemed that he had tried every boutique hotel in town when he stumbled upon the High Elizabethan themed Sir Francis Drake and found accomodations available at about one hundred forty dollars a night including tax. Then just about to settle into the palace replete with door sentry Beefeaters he thought to try one more place the Lahkspur and they had a room with breakfast and internet in the dining area for around ninety dollars a night  available for several and this writer decided he would return to the grand hotel named for the naval admiral for drinks only.

Beefeater Stands Sentry Outside The Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco

So later after many calls and booking in to the Larkspur I met Neil and his Friend Steven for drinks at the Sir Francis.  We all decided to take Neil’s direction and have dinner at a healthy Vietnemese restaurant near the Castro.  Among other dishes we had the spring roll and later on a roll we walked through several neighberhoods in the rain almost two distraction.  Soon it was time to go back to the  hotel and the next day scheduled was a trip to the Napa Valley to which I was lucky enough to have been spontaneously invited.

The next day we three met and made it to a zip car in a rather random indoor parking lot at an office tower off a side-street at the bottom of a corporate tower with an adjoining hotel.  From there we made it to over the Bay Bridge

In the Zipcar over the Bay Bridge

through the suburbs and in what seemed like nowhere we were into the lush Napa Valley to the town of Yountsville.  Here in what seemed to be one of the culinary headquarters after Steven waxed on about Thomas Kelller’s French Laundry, Neil and I walking away soon ran into Bouchon

Bouchon in Yountsville

and Bouchon bakery

Bouchon Bakery Entree

owned by the same man (I did not know Keller owned the laundry at the time).  Here at the patisserie etceteras next to the high end eatery where black birds sit stealing crumbs from wood table-tops Blackbird Sits this writer had a lime confection and admired the twin establishment’s facades.

Next it seemed as if we were going to do a winery tour before a jaunt to Calistoga for mud baths and we settled on Mondavi.  Meanwhile, this is as good place as any for this blogger to interject that the fertility and luxuriance of the valley had him taken very by suprise and the springs forthcomingness in this late February- early March resounded awakening senses doubly voodooing the  double decker world of mystique versus mistake with dreams of  a Loire Valley sojourn past.

Soon we were at Mondavi just down the road and it was Californian mission style as if out of a daydream.. The day had grown a bit rainy and the forces at hand decided that a wine tour would be too time consuming so walking the alcoves of the homestyle welcoming corporate manse with an exhibit of the works of the sculptor, Benny (Beniamino Benvenuto) Bufano (whose work I had been introduced to at the San Fransisco Moma retrospective of itself a day earlier) in all their shapes buxom and sleek not as if either as much as Botero or Brancusi sufficed and we were off the the culinary institute of America’s Greystone Cellars for lunch.

Greystone is a very large place and after walking around we wandered into the restarunt run by the students for lunch.  I cannot this far away from the meal this time remember what I ate except for the  bread  and some wine (though I expect it to come back to me at some point).  Though I remember it was excellent and everybody was very happy with what they had and satisified with the overly indulgent service.   next it was  onto Calistoga where somebody had to have their mud bath.

So arriving in Calistoga at first everybody was going to get a mudbath though two people had to buy bathing suits.  Meanwhile while walking down the street a lady of great charisma pulled us into what seemed to be a n art gallery but turned out to be a heretofore missed wine tasting oppurtunity.

The place turned out to be the tasting showroom for the Vermeil wines partially owned by Dick Vermeil the onetime head football coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the the Superbowl winning coach of  the  the 1999 St. Louis Rams who originally hails from the Napa Valley and keeps up a strong presence there.

After we were finished and had received the reconnaissance on which mudbaths to go to from there and we proceeded.  Once there there was a two for one special which the other two went for and I declined.  Instead I made use of the pool for after dipping and walkwed back and forth to the nearby hippyish cafe with art and books and weirdos  for green tea.

Soon the others mud bath appointment would be over and I wound up joining all fr a swim in the pool and a relax in the jacuzzi.  Soon it wastime to travel back andget the zipcar to the place it was to left for the next anonym to pick t up and pass the torch of vehicular convienence.  Firs there was a drive up into the hillsthrough Calistoga with I in the pasenger seat and Neil at the wheel. I was frightened and he enjoyed it (but this was nothing compared to the white knuckle descent down into Sedona, Arizona which would be had by I later in the year which this blogger was lucky enough to suffer through himself for his fear was palpable and it would have been embarassing for anyone else to have seen and pehaps a bit dangerous if not in the end therapautic).

The next day it was agreed on that we wouldvist Berkeley as I had arranged to see the studio of Salma Arastu for whom this blogger had written a forward for her new monograph.  Neil was excited to see an artists’ studio in the area as if to move to the area and Stephen to eat at another Foodista must stop.

Meanwhile overnight this writer began a series of daily typeathons on the computer in the back lobby o fthe larkspur writing my blog and doing the wiki thing.

The next morning it would to be to take the BART trainto Berkeley from downtown SF.  Stephen would depart for a gourmet lunch and Neil and I would be ciked up by Salma I cannot remember where to be off to her studio to see her work and Stephen would perhaps meet us there later.

Salma was in great spirits and explained how wonderful if not expensive it was to live in the area of the city by the bay. Salma hada studio in a large old building and had flourished since trading the Lehigh Valley for the left coast.  We saw her work and her line of Islamic greeting cards and then lo and behold she took us to a local Indian restaurant for lunch then a return to the stuido then a drop off at the bayfront marina with a restaurant in Berkeley. Meanwhile again she picked us up and we returned to the studio and  Stephen with his keen eye and diplomatic flair added an Arastu to his collection.

Neil and Salma Arastu at Salma's Berkeley studio: A Suite in Green and Blue

Sometime after writing this last section I realized my timing was off that after the day we went to the Napa Valley there was a day kicking around SF where the first thing I can remember now is going up the hill finally on a street car what a rice-a-roni treat.  People were very excited as the bottom of the hill as they waited on line at Mission avwenue

Here Comes the Rice-a-Roni Treat

Cable Car Turnaround Works

to go towards fisherman’s wharf to get a good set which I was waiting for after I bought the pass

The Cable Car

.  The conductors were as brusque as if they were in New York

The Cable Car Conductor

and getting down and off now it was a few blocks walk over to San Francisco Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

.  Here indeed I was able to see the harbor seals sunning themselves on the piers and a bevy of them to boot

Harbor Seals Hardly Seen for afar


At this point this blogger feels in it is better for the first time to go non linear and sort of stream of conciousness as he waited too long to write this entry and cannot for the first  time remember everything in the proper order it happened probably because there were other people involved.

So I know then that we all had in Chinese food in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown sometime later.   Chinatown was right up the hill from union square where I was staying which then down the hill led back to the bay and fisherman’s wharf not to mention an i talian section and Nob Hill (which we will hear from later).  Neil and i at some point did a Yoga class in some nieghberhood which had lots of thrifts shops and yoga for the people.  meanwhile on the bus we were threatened by a man in a wheel chair who threw a punch and we left the bus and walked.  Somehow we wound up at the Fairmont after another cable car ride at a Tiki bar for which  one presses T for Tonga in the Fairmont elevator and found ourselves in the mother of all Tiki bars the tonga room for which I later started the wiki page.  This is the hotel from hotel and the mini series and stands still as a grand dame atop this hill across from the mark which has the top of the Mark which I didn’t visit later while considering it on the way back form Japan.

Thoguh the final day comes back to me  succinctly that first we went down to a gourmet market by water’s edge and it was raining for the first time during the visit.  Here they wanted to show me all the gourmwet options and while stopping for a coffee we met a highly eductated old man who was roo-too-tooting his Princeton credentials while wearing a hat from his alma mater.

Cafe Goer in Princeton Regalia

Soon afterwards we three went across the street and Steven went to see a “A  Single Man” for a second time the lush Tom Ford Movie starring Colin Firth in adaptation of a story by the German novelist Christopher Isherwood who later resided in California.  Meanwhile Neil and I made it to the Museum of Asian art a vast treasure house which could inspire a trip to the east in the immediate.

This was all agfter a reconnossaince mission to a gallery to retrieve Neil some art which after much michigas he had all returned and that is now the past. Meanwhile it turned out the painter Vonn Sumner who we both knew from art intrigues opast was having an exhibit at the PaulTheibaud gallery for which Neil could stay but I could not (but I did see the exhibit as you will see on the wya back from Japan) for the opening to see new work by an artist who we discovered in Newe American Paintings in the Barnes and Noble on west 82nd street in NYC all those years ago.  Meanwhile we saw some modern apintings at another gallery and then that evening Stephen had a dinner planned at a gourmet restaurant named Canteen which was off of the lobby of an art school which one had to venture into to use the bathroom.  Their menu was mostly culled form local suppliers and growers and there is not much I remeber except squash soup butternut I believe and an art nouveau kitsch lamp of a harlequin.

Harlequin Lamp at Canteen

Later Stephen had arranged to go to a comedy show which turned out to be a hosted by a large woman who looke dlike an eggplant from Liberia and Stephen and Neil one in orange pants like a cantalope and one in green pants like a honey dew in trio with the mc who was also a playwright looked like a mini produce section of California fruits and vegetables.

These comics were out for fun and they were also out for blood and as it was a small audience they focused in on us.  Neil quickly left and I was left to bear the brunt. It was merciless.  This almost brought the whole thing for the next morning Stephen and i went on seperate flights form the airport and Neil stayed behind.   Next after a bought rip through the first class lounge and business class I was back to New York for a little over a week and then onto my next destination Japan.


The Performer's Ship Which sets Sail in the Tonga Room Pool