Monday, August 03, 2020

Covering the Streets with Art

The boarded up businesses of Hayes Valley continue to flower with popup murals...

...including these adjoining avian headshots at the Topiary Salon by Inkletterman...

...entitled El Sol La Pink and Midnight Mohawk respectively.

At the triangular plaza bound by Market, Larkin, and Hayes Streets, the pavement has become a large, bright mural...

...of rounded shapes radiating from a circular vent.

The paint job on the vent was rather slipshod...

...but any counter to the overall greyness of the wind tunnel plaza is welcome.

Meanwhile, on a walk downtown along Geary Boulevard, we encountered for the first time the extraordinary, multi-story Figurines by the anonymous graffiti artist BiP which went up in 2017.

Wikipedia's introduction follows: "BiP (Believe in People) is an anonymous street painter who is identified, from clues released on Twitter and by his intermediaries, to be a male Princeton graduate, former investment banker, and current artist." He's been creating huge murals around the Bay Area and around the globe for the last half decade, but according to an article at SF Weekly by Grace Z. Li, he's retiring the name and the brand after receiving serious security threats (click here for the article).

The reason for those threats, the day after an idiotic SF Chronicle reporter printed the artist's work address, was the above mural, Baby with a Handgun. Unveiled in November 2019 above a parking lot at the corner of Oak and Franklin Streets, it's simultaneously simple and complex, beautiful and disturbing. It also feels like a prescient public masterpiece months before the country exploded over the George Floyd murder.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sidney Walton's No Regrets WWII Tour

A lone SF Police Department car was blocking traffic on Polk Street in front of San Francisco City Hall yesterday afternoon, and we assumed it was for a demonstration.

However, there was no protest signage to be seen.

There were a lot of vintage cars and motorcycles though.

Many of the vehicles featured U.S. flag bunting, and homemade signage on the side of the cars announcing various chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The vehicle above was reserved for the Jose Maria Amador chapter in Pleasanton.

Also part of the contingent was a group of American Legion Riders...

...and an even larger collection of motorcycle cops.

We guessed that it might be an official procession for a VIP's funeral, but the outfits were all wrong and there were no large black vehicles involved.

The mystery was finally solved just minutes ago when I checked out the website featured on this vehicle. This is a GoFundMe site for Paul Walton who is carting around his 101-year-old father, Sidney Walton, to all 50 states to meet every governor and dignitary they can. (Check out this video on Sidney's site where SF Sheriff Paul Miyamoto does the official hosting duties for San Francisco.)

Yesterday's event was a 101 kilometer procession up Highway 101 from San Jose to Sausalito featuring approximately 101 vehicles. (For Sal Pizarro's San Jose Mercury News article about the event, click here.)

The whole affair seemed a bit excessive for what was essentially a jaunt for lunch in Sausalito, but as Zero Mostel once yelled out a window in Mel Brooks' The Producers, "That's it, baby, if you've got it, flaunt it."

Friday, July 24, 2020

Drugs, Protest, Port-a-Potty, and Art

An Oakland friend went to India for the first time a couple of years ago and had a life-changing experience. "How did you deal with the poverty?" I asked, and she replied, "I used to commute to the Civic Center BART station and walk up Grove Street to work for years. After what I saw there on a daily level, the streets of India didn't feel very shocking. And at least they don't hate their poor people like we do here."

The Civic Center neighborhood has always hosted a down-and-out population of the very poor, the mentally ill, and the drug addicted.

Some individuals are a combination of all three, and those triple threats seem to be everywhere in the neighborhood since the pandemic began, smoking or shooting crystal meth and heroin with an occasional jacket thrown over their head for discretion.

Last Saturday I was walking down Grove Street for an afternoon protest at the Federal Building on 7th and Mission Streets.

There was a small contingent objecting to the federal stormtroopers who are currently brutalizing the citizens of Portland as part of a propaganda photo-op for our demented dictator.

A former boss moved to Portland from Berkeley about four years ago and loves it. She reports on Facebook, "For friends outside of Portland, stay critical in your evaluation of the news. Trump’s story is just that, it’s a fiction. We are not in chaos, we are making change. The federal government is not helping." She also links to the Facebook page of Daniel Pickens-Jones (click here) who has superb live reporting and photos.

Around the corner a young man was sleeping against the Mission Street side of the Fed building and he looked so painterly that I took this photo.

Directly across the street was another tableaux that looked staged. A two-story wall was sporting the text, "IT WILL BE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE" above a U.S. flag sign on a fence that read, "Vigil for Democracy" above a card table and clipboard fronted by a Port-a-Potty.

Wondering if somebody was registering voters on an unlikely stretch of sidewalk, I crossed the street and asked the young man wearing a neon vest, who laughed and said no, he was just keeping track of the public Port-a-Potty. As part of a new pandemic initiative by the City of San Francisco, they are finally opening up the most rudimentary of public toilets, with attendants attached. It's long overdue. With their multi-billion dollar budget, maybe the City and County could finally spend money on public shower and bathroom facilities throughout the city, with attendants to keep things relatively clean and enforce behavior like the mean old lady attendants I remember from similar facilities in Europe.

At the triangular corner of Market, Hayes, and Larkin, there were two women working on a new mural for the sidewalk.

"Will there be colors other than yellow and white?" I asked one of the artists, and she said yes without elaborating on what they might be.

I will take some pictures of the results tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dolores Hill Bombing

For a bit of exercise, we walked from Civic Center to Dolores Park last Friday on a sunny, blustery late afternoon.

It turned out that we had stumbled across the third day of a skateboarder and bike hill bombing run next to the park, on a steep downhill stretch of Dolores from 20th Street to 18th Street.

It looked hella dangerous as dozens of skateboarders shot by at superfast speeds.

The mixture of adrenaline and teenage energy exploding after being cooped up by a pandemic was a joy to behold from socially distanced sidelines.

There were a couple of vehicles helping to tow people on bikes and boards up the steep hill in an improvised version of a ski lift that had everyone laughing.

What looked most dangerous was the mixture of BMX style bikes and skateboards both going fast in different ways on the same hill at the same time, and at one point there was a huge crash between a skateboarder and a bicyclist being ridden by recent SF State graduate Andrew Sanders, who died two days later from his injuries. (Click here for an article at SFGate.)

SF Supervisor Rafael Mandelman publicly condemned the event and had the SFMTA install speed bumps at the top of the hill, as if that was going to stop a determined skateboarder out for a thrill and bragging rights.

At least these kids were not trying to endanger anyone but themselves, unlike the unmasked joggers who insist on blithely huffing and puffing their way through crowded sidewalks during a pandemic.