Sunday, August 31, 2014

Six-Year Anniversary

Six years ago, this day, Sunday, August 31st, 2008, Vicki and I embarked from Missoula on our retirement journey, having sold, donated, or stored everything but the contents of our two packs and two day-packs (and personal items). In the past six years we have visited five continents, some 36 countries, and logged a couple hundred thousand land, sea, and air miles. And we have seen our two daughters married and a grand-child born. It has been an extraordinary six years. Today finds us at daughter Rachel's house in Washington, DC, planning to drive to Chesapeake, VA to look at a Tiger Adventure Vehicle similar to the one being built for us presently in SC...and looking forward to the next six years, and more.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Diego Rivera Mural at San Francisco's Stock Exchange Tower

We'd visited the exterior of the old Pacific Stock Exchange and its Tower on a previous City Guides tour--they are among the best examples of San Francisco art deco--and had been told that the Diego Rivera mural within, in the grand stairwell between the 10th and 11th floors, was not open to the public. It's within what's now the City Club of San Francisco. But City Guides has arranged with the Club to do a monthly reservations-only tour, and we had our reservations. There was a miscommunication somewhere, however...a change in the tour time from 11AM to 3PM didn't make it to the website, and a dozen or so eager visitors, including us, were left standing in the Tower's lobby. Happily, a woman from the City Club was apprised of the situation and generously allowed us to ride up to the 10th floor to see the Rivera mural there, and much more.
The Stock Exchange, center, and its Tower, left; the names to
remember here are Timothy Pfleuger, the architect of so many
of San Francisco's great buildings; and Ralph Stackpole, who
did sculpture, design, and who engaged Rivera to do the
famous mural

Stackpole sculpture outside the Exchange

Most of the Rivera mural; it would take quite a lens to get
it all; it was done in 1930-31; Rivera was perhaps not so
well known in the US, although I'd bet Stackpole knew
exactly what he was doing, placing the work of this card-
carrying commie right in one of the bastions of capitalism

Ceiling of the mural; Rivera was no mere card-carrying
commie; he'd emigated to the Soviet Union, been expelled
from there and the Party; Trotsky lived with him and
Frida Kahlo for a time in Mexico before he was assassinated
by Stalin's agents

The mural is about the Riches of California, or, the Spirit of
California, but, as with all of Rivera's murals, it is rich in
symbolism and allusion; the over-sized woman is Calafia, or
Califia, the Amazon queen of mythic California (in the myth/
story, she's supposed to be black--when Disney did a
Calafia show at Anaheim, it featured Whoopi Goldberg; but
I digress) (did you know that California comes from the same
root as Caliph and that California literally means land of the
Caliph?); anyhow, as I said, it is rich, and warrants much
longer study than we were afforded

Another partial view, off the web; if there's a
"workers of the world, unite" theme here, it's
too subtle for me (go to Coit Tower and some
of Rivera's followers if you want to see the
workers of the world unite); perhaps Diego was
hoping for some larger state-side commissions
(which he eventually got, famously, or
infamously) and behaving himself; I became
interested in Rivera during my Mexican-phase,
early 90s, a few weeks' immersion in
Cuernavaca; also the source of my interest in
Malcolm Lowry), and visited all of the famous
and more controversial murals in Mexico City,
and the Blue House, Frida's home, and much
more; glorious stuff

If you're into Art Deco, there's far more to the City Club
than just Rivera's the main dining room

In the lobby outside the dining room


Doors--five precious metals and alloys--to
one of the five elevators

Interior decoration of the bar/lounge, a hunting
scene; anyhow, we've got to go back this fall
and see this place on the official tour...maybe
combining it with Happy Hour at the Tonga

Friday, August 29, 2014

San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, 2

Continuing our tour of the grand old Fairmont...
More view from the top of the Fairmont

In the garden

Interesting chandelier in a meeting room

The historic Circus Bar

Yes, right here, in this ballroom, is where he
left his heart

Five bucks was a lot of money then

Thus (click to enlarge)

The tour ended at the Tonga Room...

Dating from the mid-1940s, when the boys were coming
back from the South Pacific

You have not seen a Tiki Bar until you have seen this place...
that's a real ship, real mast and deck, etc.

The pool; note sheets of rain

Definitely going back for Happy Hour next visit; definitely

San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, 1

We are fans of San Francisco's City Guides and hardly ever visit The City without going on one of their tours. Hosted by the San Francisco Public Library and supported largely by donations from grateful visitors like us, the volunteer guides provide wonderful tours, enjoyable, informative, colorful, very much capturing the historic spirit of the place. Two of their dozens of tours actually require reservations--the Fairmont Hotel and the Diego Rivera mural at the Stock Exchange Tower--and on this visit to the Bay area we were fortunate enough to score both! The old Fairmont Hotel--which actually pre-dates the 1906 earthquake and fire--is so interesting and historic, I'll have to do it in two posts.
Must be in San Francisco

Entrance to the Fairmont; the flags represent the nation/
signatories of the UN Charter, much of which can be traced
to the Fairmont's meeting rooms

The ramp was built for FDR; more than a few presidents,
premiers, and prime ministers have stayed here

Lobby; well, a bit of it

Main dining room; a bit of it

Our Founder

The best thing about the Fairmont, for me anyway, is that it
is a such a self-regarding institution...there are displays and
historic plaques and such all over its halls; here is where a
young Orson Welles ran into William Randolph Hearst...
Citizen Kane had just come out...Welles invited Hearst to join
him for a drink (the guy really did have nerve), but Hearst is
said to have politely declined (murmuring "Rosebud"?)

A meeting room/ballroom

A view of the immediate environs and a very, well, somewhat
famous church whose name now eludes me; it had a maze,
like Chartres...well, not very much like Chartres...

The Rock

From the top of the Fairmont, another favorite, Coit Tower

What used to be called the TransAmerica Tower and
beyond it, some of the Bay

The Fairmont looks down on The Top of the Mark (Hopkins),
another Nob Hill landmark

In the Bay, Treasure Island and its old Pan American Clipper

Looking down onto the Fairmont's pent-house

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Peninsular Grand-Parenting

Lufthansa returned us to the hugs and kisses of three-year-old grand-daughter Penelope, and we spent the next three weeks mostly in her company, helping her mom and dad with child-care and with various other projects around the house. It was the last few weeks of summer for daughter Rebecca, and she had a long list of things to accomplish before the start of the new school year. We had a few notable excursions to San Francisco, to be recounted in subsequent posts, but most of our time was with Princess P, all up and down the Peninsula, and beyond, reading, playing in the backyard or in her room, going to the park or playground or beach, train-spotting, train-riding, hiking, picnicking, shopping, and a myriad other things to keep a very active three-year-old happy and engaged. Assertiveness, independence, etc., are well within her repertoire now, apart from being very social and verbal, but our previous tag-team approach to occupying her still worked; most of the time. Oh yes, as on previous occasions, we stayed in Maggie's cottage, next door.
At Redwood Shores Public Library, one of several libraries
we visited for story-time, craft-time, music-time, etc.

Perhaps our best day was at Oakland's
Fairyland; there's Princess P; Fairyland is
quite a story in itself...the nation's first theme
park, first park for children only, one of
Disney's inspirations for you know what; he
visited in 1950 and subsequently hired
Fairyland's director for Disneyland; yes,
Oakland is not on the peninsula, I know

It's not Guignol, but it is the oldest still running
puppet theater in the US, the Open Storybook Puppet
Theater, where Muppeteer Frank Oz, for example, got
his start; obviously P is enthralled

She was enthralled too by the Old West town and its jail

There are only three rides at Fairyland, but we made the most
of them; here's a contemplative P on the carousel

Clearly the ferris wheel was her favorite; the lines were quite
short this late summer week-day, and she rode it probably
15 times in succession

Two little pigs, with Grandpa

With her favorite princess; we noted that this
exhibit was in the official Disney style, perhaps
a gift from Walt to the park of his inspiration

At a kiddies' splash pad in San Carlos

Splash pad Tai Chi? This is California

Trainspotting, of course

And riding the train...

To another park, in San Jose

On a three mile hike at Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve,
near Redwood City

And, finally, at Moss Beach, near Half Moon Bay; we'd
been promising P a trip to the beach, forgetting that beach
fun in Middle California, even in August, requires polar tech,
a wind-breaker, wet weather gear...but P enjoyed it greatly,
as we do her