Sunday, August 30, 2020

Touch and Smell the Plants

On the way to a beach walk with a couple of friends, we stopped for a stroll at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park.

We went through the small "Garden of Fragrance"...

...where there were plenty of pungent plants.

Because the majority of signage in the Gardens is restrictive and prohibitive, it was delightful to see an encouraging one.

Some of the colors were stunning...

...and there were even Hydrangeas in bloom.

There was a succulent sale at the bookstore entrance, and we were so amused by the phallic nature of the Mammilaria Elongata (4 inch) that we bought two of them, one as a gift for our friends.

Ocean Beach at the end of Lincoln Boulevard is a recent discovery for me, even after living for 40-plus years in San Francisco.

Having been raised on Southern California beaches, with warm weather, warm water, public showers and bathroom facilities, San Francisco's western border at the Pacific Ocean has always struck me as inhospitable, with cold weather, cold water, and no public facilities at all.

However, fleeing from the crappy air of the current wildfires surrounding the Bay Area to Pacific fog and breezes has been a lung saver over the last couple of weeks. The beach also feels like a safe place to mingle with others at a distance, with and without a mask, in the midst of a pandemic.

The wild succulents, by the way, are now sharing my work-from-home living room window where they look very happy.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Smitten Skateboarders

Most weekdays, when I need a spot of physical circulation after a long day on a computer, I walk to Patricia's Green in the Hayes Valley.

The people watching is superb...

...mostly young techie neighbors hailing from all over the world.

Patricia's Green is bordered on both sides by Octavia Boulevard as it runs into Hayes Street, and recently the final half-block was removed for use to cars.

The half-block next to the Proxy pop-up expanse quickly became a skateboard park for individuals and small groups, usually dressed in skatepunk grunge.

Last week a couple appeared looking like fashion models as the guy tried to teach a few basic skateboard tricks to the girl.

He wasn't particularly skilled himself, but she jumped into the lesson with both feet and it was a sweet pleasure to watch them together.

That pleasure was mitigated a week after these photos were taken when I saw the couple striding down Van Ness Avenue without masks around their necks, let alone covering their faces. The brazen entitlement of some people during this pandemic is continuously astonishing.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Pre-Apocalypse Bay Walk

Instead of a post about ballooning tent encampments throughout the neighborhood, or apocalyptic skies from wildfires north, east, and south, here is an account of a San Francisco Bay walk at Oyster Point a few weeks ago in South San Francisco.

The afternoon temperature was in the perfect low 70s with less wind than usual...

...and the various micro wetland environments were beautiful.

This stretch of the shoreline, from Oyster Point Marina to the SF Airport, was once industrial, with all the waste that involved, and is currently transforming into the northernmost reach of Silicon Valley, with biopharmaceutical giant Genentech as the area's real estate pioneer for tech.

Their outside grounds are open from the Bay Trail and the natural plant landscape design is impressive.

The tidy perfection, however, can be a little frightening.

Over the years, through partners and freelance work, I have visited similar New Age employee outdoor spaces, from Pixar to Electronic Arts, and they always give me a dystopian sci-fi vibe. For people concentrating on computers all day, the spaces seem to be alienating rather than enticing, and are usually spookily empty.

David Cronenberg's 1981 horror movie, Scanners, where heads blow up real good, ends with the pharmaceutical villains working out of a Canadian suburban office park that presciently looks like most of the office parks in Silicon Valley 40 years later.

The designer barrier walls at the Genentech campus are a reminder that the natural world can be restrained and molded for only so long.

A number of windswept trees on the shoreline nearby, for instance...

...have been enveloped by what appears to be armies of arachnids.

The attempt to restore natural habitats is admirable...

...but countervailing human destruction is still very much with us.

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.