Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Father Serra Wants You!

Thirty miles from San Francisco, on the self-proclaimed "World's Most Beautiful Highway" 280 near Hillsborough, we paused on the drive from Southern California to stretch our legs. This was at the Caltrans rest stop highlighted by large signage warning people not to have public sex in the men's room or they will risk arrest and designation as a "registered sex offender."

The rest stop is also notable for a 20-foot statue of Fra Junipero Serra which was created and donated by somebody named Louis DuBois in 1975. The sculpture is so hilariously awful that it almost transcends kitsch.

Over the weekend in San Francisco, meanwhile, a vandal had spraypainted the following message on a wall of the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro neighborhood, which read as follows:


The San Francisco Examiner is a virulently right-wing free daily owned by the Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, a deeply conservative Christian. However, it does feature a few good young writers regularly scooping the "San Francisco Chronicle" with local news. Tamara Barak Aparton wrote about the church vandalism on Monday morning in an informative, amusing article.

First she quoted San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens. "We are investigating this as a hate crime," he said, which is absurd. A hate crime is bashing somebody over the head because they are a homosexual, which until recently was a popular sport among the predominantly Catholic San Francisco Police Department. The recent "Milk" movie, in fact, features a police riot in the Toad Hall bar in the Castro where the San Francisco Police department put a dozen people in the hospital just because they felt like it, something for which there has never been an apology.

The best lines in the article were from Rev. Stephen Meriweather at the vandalized church who is quoted as saying, "I'm surprised it was this late in coming. It's clearly a reaction to the archbishop promoting the passage of Proposition 8. The ironic thing is they chose a parish in the Castro, where it's not hard to imagine our demographics. They picked the wrong place." He continued, "If the church gets involved in politics, you play by the rules of politics. This is political protest, and some church members have told me that it's good for the archbishop to know he's upset some feelings in the neighborhood."

Archbishop Niederauer arrived in San Francisco in 2005 after being the Archbishop of Salt Lake City for 10 years, and it was at his urging that the Mormon Church and its members became so thoroughly involved in the Yes on 8 campaign. As for the swastikas, those are never a good idea since they are such loaded imagery, but elevating the conservative, reactionary Ratzinger to Pope after he was a member of Hitler Youth probably wasn't the greatest idea in the world either.

My real question, though, is why does Father Serra seem to be scratching his ass with his left hand at the Highway 280 statue? Is it to encourage gay closet cases living in the Peninsula to congregate for public sex? If so, he's been amazingly successful over the last three decades.


Matthew Hubbard said...

I've never stopped at the Father Serra rest area, so I never saw the ass-scratching hand up close and personal. Like many football fans, I've always thought the kneeling monk look like the holder on the placekicking team.

Moses is the long snapper, Serra is the holder, Jesus lines it up, here's the snap, the kick's on its way... and it's... GOOD!

Greg said...

years ago, some pranksters, in anticipation of the annual game between cal and stanford, put a beanie on his head and made a giant football and placed it under his finger.

it was a lonnnng time ago, I just remember seeing it on the news when i was like in jr. high or something.

Nancy Ewart said...

The hateful defacers of public places are having a field day. Somebody has defaced the Holocaust Memorial at the Legion twice in the last few months.
Now, I don't think I've ever seen the Father Serra sculpture but now I can hardly wait to view it in person. Rest assured, I will not be thinking respectful artistic thoughts! LOL!

Anonymous said...

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Kit Stolz said...

That has got to be the funniest sculpture I have ever seen...

Civic Center said...

Dear Kit: I'm in total agreement. That sculpture has given me the giggles for 30 years.

Dear Matty and Greg: Of course. He looks like a football holder for the placekicker, though I believe Herb Caen used to write that it looked as if Father Serra had just thrown a pair of craps dice.

Dear Sarah: Thanks for the kind words but it's considered impolite to advertise your treadmill info website in comment areas. The accepted practice is to put a link to your site on your Blogger profile and people can continue investigating if they are so inclined. Otherwise, it starts looking like spam.

janinsanfran said...

Wonderful post and photographs. Darn you, I'd thought of stopping there to record the absurdity. Oh well -- in time ...

Civic Center said...

Dear Jan: That statue is an inexhaustible object of photographic absurdity. I'm sure your take on it would be simply fab.

rpnorton said...

I've driven by that statue since I was a kid, remarking on its ugliness but never noticing until now that he has Hamburger Helper hands.

whabbear said...

Michael, I'm LOL! I think this may be your best blog ever. Seriously. Brilliant!

Wurlitzer Heart said...

you're right, it is a pretty hideous statue. But we love him, anyway!
He was wearing a lei a few months ago.