The de Young is pretty reasonable in terms of admission prices ($10 general admission/$7 students with valid ID, $21 including special exhibitions, $17 students). I searched for and found a discount code for 20% off, so I suggest doing 30 seconds of internet research. Retailmenot.com is an excellent resource for this, but if that fails you, Google is good, too. This, of course, applies to everything in life, not just the de Young or travelling.
There is also an observation tower that you can get to for free and has a pretty cool view of San Francisco
|That tiny thing in the back about two thirds from the left is the Golden Gate Bridge.|
|The Academy of Sciences across the way. That is a really cool place, and I highly recommend it. (I've been there on previous trips to SF.)|
I didn't realize until very far into our visit that there were no signs indicating photography was not allowed (which is what I usually assume in a museum), so I don't have too many photos of the art itself, but I can describe my feelings, which I'm sure are as deep and profound as the art that evoked them. Said feelings are that I don't understand art. As far as I can tell, the modern art that was featured in the Modernism exhibition was a series of rectangles on each other. One of them looked like a minimalist ninja turtle. Others were Rothkos, which are literally rectangles on top of other rectangles. There were also a lot of pieces by Barnett Newman, who also painted rectangles on rectangles. Then there appeared to be a sort of "miscellaneous" section, with a piece by Roy Lichtenstein, and some 3D stuff, "Saigon, Minnesota," which depicts something between child sex abuse and materialism (?), and this weird painting with wax arm models on the canvas that strongly reminded me of Phoebe's "Gladys" and "Glynnis" from Friends (the TV show), in which said works are obviously hideous to the audience (and Rachel and Monica) but are Phoebe's proud works.
I will say that I do prefer abstract expressionism to other kinds of modern art that I've seen. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a fan of rectangles on rectangles, and when an artist paints a dark grey rectangle on a dark blood colored canvas, I don't think it is some great accomplishment that he has made me feel a vague sense of dread or doom. Using dreadful colors will do that. However, I do prefer it to the modernist paintings with people who are just there to be "unsettling" or wax arms in them, and I have no idea what the fuck is happening. At least I like the look of lines and shapes. I do not like wax arms.
What I actually enjoy at art museums are things from other cultures. Particularly things that also have a real function, whether in daily life or as part of a ritual. This is way more interesting to me. I have discovered that I really like Eskimo and Inuit art. Mostly because it incorporates animals and is often adorable. So many seals and polar bears!
Here is some random art, most of which I found really funny:
|This is actually a coffin, so it shouldn't be funny, but it looks like an enormous carrot. (It is actually meant to be a cocoa bean or something.)|
|This is the goofiest Angel of Death.|
|Washington, Washington (link, especially audio, NSFW)|
After the museum, Ken became delirious with hunger, so we ate dinner at 4:30. (We had a big breakfast but skipped lunch.) We went to Sakesan Bistro, where it was happy hour, so we went a little crazy. We got a dozen oysters that the waitress couldn't name but were from Canada ($12), two spicy tuna tartare tacos ($2 each), two spicy albacore tartare tacos ($2 each), a spicy salmon roll ($5), a 20-piece sashimi combo ($35), and two beers ($3 each). We ate it all alarmingly quickly.
|The regular tuna tartare was much more flavorful than the albacore, but the texture on both was really nice. As you can see, it's not really a taco, but it's served on a fried chip type thing.|
The restaurant has an interesting setup. There are about four small two-tops that are regular seating, but there are two other sections with completely different seating. One is three or four larger tables that could seat six or maybe eight, and you leave your shoes outside and sit on a floor-level bench. There are also grooves where your legs can go, so it is not that different from a regular table, but I guess it is slightly more Japanese? These tables are divided by floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, so you almost have a little room to yourself. Then in the back, there are actual individual rooms that can seat a lot of people and are equipped with karaoke machines and microphones. That's awesome. There is a karaoke screen playing the restaurant's own playlist out in the main area as well, but I'm not sure if diners in that area can opt to sing or not.
This whole time, we were sitting next to someone who appeared to be insane. She was wearing a black wig, and seemed either drunk or high. She placed her order for food, then left. Her food was brought to her table, and there was no sign of her anywhere. We thought she left. Nope. She comes back, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes later, and eats her food. She then leaves again, but leaves all her stuff behind. Then she comes back and says her friend is coming. Her friend arrives, and they are speaking in a mix of English and French, but they don't seem to be native speakers in either of those languages. Ken hears her say to her friend that European teenagers are smarter than adult, educated Americans. Her friend expresses some resistance to that idea, so she steps it up: Any European boy is smarter than any 100-year-old American college professor.
Ok, let's be real. I get that Americans don't have the best reputation abroad. I really do. Our foreign policy is atrocious. Don't even get me started. But teenagers? Really? You can choose not to put your faith in Americans, but where is this random confidence in European teenagers (or any teenagers) coming from? Teenagers think they know everything, yes, but adults shouldn't think teenagers actually do know everything. That's just wrong. I'm not going to take too seriously random hyperbolic statements from someone who is probably crazy, but this was pretty ridiculous even for a crazy person.
We wandered around the neighborhood after that, gleaning some great life advice from a bookstore:
|One of the levels of commitment was "keeping his head warm." Also, moving through all these levels of commitment would provide this man with about six scarves.|
Then we got some dessert at the Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, which is decorated perfectly for a kid nerd.
The Mayan hot chocolate was not very chocolatey. I do not recommend it. The hot cider and the red velvet cheesecake were good, though. Ken and I discussed our extremely limited common literary knowledge. I complained about Catcher in the Rye and the Scarlet Letter, which are probably my least favorite books ever. I know that most people find Catcher in the Rye to be this amazing classic, but I have read that book twice, once in high school, and once in college, and both times, all I could think was that Holden Caulfield is a dick. I don't get the sense that he's struggling with growing up or his burgeoning sexuality. All I get is that he does stupid shit and is an incredibly annoying human being. We began discussing books because Ken used the word "ignominious," and then I asked him never to use that word because I hated the Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne uses that word at least as many times as Stephenie Meyer (of Twilight fame) describes someone's face as "expressionless" or "unreadable" or the like. I GET IT HAWTHORNE. SHE SUFFERED A LOT. (That, by the way, is the whole book, or at least the middle 80%. You're welcome.) I think someone once told me that the Scarlet Letter was supposed to be a much, much shorter story, but then Hawthorne's editor told him to make it a book. If there is any truth to that, I hope that editor died violently BECAUSE IT SEEMS EXACTLY LIKE SOMEONE FORCIBLY DRAGGED OUT A SHORT STORY FOR AN ENTIRE BOOK AND IT IS TERRIBLE.
Our last stop of the night was Cathy's place for some Pandemic. I hadn't played it before, but I'm hooked. It's a collaborative board game in which all players work together to cure four diseases that are spreading across the globe. The only way to win the game is to cure all four diseases; there are several ways to lose (which I can't explain concisely without explaining the entire game). Each person draws a role card that gives them certain powers that help in this process. For example, some roles increase mobility, some decrease cure requirements, some prevent spread of the disease, etc. The key to the game is in managing the synergies between the various roles, and since there are more role cards than there are maximum players, each game is different. The cities that start out infected are also different, and depending on how close they are geographically, this can also heavily impact game play. It's pretty cool, and I'm definitely going to buy it.
Today, our main priority was to help Cathy with cleaning her apartment and doing some last-minute wedding stuff. It was fun, stuff got cleaned and crafts got made, and I got an awesome gift bag with whiskey made in San Francisco and New York (among other things), which was really sweet.
But first, we had to switch rooms at our hotel, because Kevin is joining us and we need another bed. The room we switched to is enormous and awesome, and I wish we had been staying here the whole time. Strangely enough, the bathroom is teeny tiny. But all the lights are plugged in, and there's flowers in the weird tube on the wall that we couldn't figure out the purpose of in the other room, and everything in this room is better. For some reason the windows face directly into the windows of other rooms at this hotel, so that's a little too awkward for my taste, but maybe some guests are voyeuristic and/or exhibitionists. It would be in line with the Hotel Diva theme. The guest information book begins with, "Hey SEXY!!!" So yeah. This room also has small flying bugs, but these seem to be everywhere in San Francisco, including restaurants. They seem harmless, and I'm convinced natives just don't notice them anymore.
On our way to Cathy's, we got some lunch to go from Olympic Cafe, a basic diner, where the cook must have been around 90. The waitress had to repeat our order to him three times because he simply could not hear what she was saying. He then explained to us why San Francisco has the same weather all year round in a very thick accent. His fries were absolutely terrible, but he was a very likeable old man.
After wedding preparation, Ken and I met a law school friend at Shanghai Bund for dinner. He had just returned from Burning Man, which was surprising, as he is one of the last people I'd ever expect to have attended Burning Man. He showed us some photos on his phone, and it actually seems like a very interesting experience, even if you pass on the stranger sex and illicit drugs. Good for Burning Man.
I didn't take photos at dinner, but the soup dumplings/xiao long bao were pretty good, and very reasonably priced. Would go again.
After that, Ken and I went to Beach Blanket Babylon, the third word of which I could never remember, hence the title of this post. The internet described this as a gay outlook on a straight man's world. That is probably the least accurate description of a show ever. The basic premise (no spoilers) is that it follows Snow White, who is from San Francisco, on her journey around the world to find love. But the premise is wholly irrelevant. The show is characterized by topical humor, exaggerating various cultural stereotypes, and wearing ridiculous headpieces, all as a song and dance. Snow White's travels are just a device to work in these stereotypes, although the "segues" are often just the use of one word that launches into a completely unrelated song. There is no effort to create a coherent show, and there is no apology for this lack of effort.
The show's parodies include, and are most certainly not limited to: Michele Bachmann, Miley Cyrus, Prince William and Kate Middleton, James Brown, Les Miserables, Barbara Streisand, Jewish people, and someone who seemed to be neither Spanish nor Latin American. It was certainly worth $25 of entertainment (and runs about 90 minutes), and I recommend getting those tickets (the cheapest ones). The lower floor is just rows of chairs on a flat floor, while the center/rear balcony are tiered, so for short people like me, it's much better for visibility. Plus the theater is really small, so there's no concern that you won't be able to see as a result of being on the upper floor. The singing is very impressive. The writing is ok. The acting is moderately funny. I think if you've never seen a show like this, or you are drunk, you'll think it's hilarious, but otherwise, it's just a regular amount of entertainment.
The next two days are all occupied by wedding stuff, which I may or may not blog about, but at the latest, I'll update on Monday.