Sunday, September 20, 2009


I woke up this morning and thought to myself that I needed some time in the fresh air--yesterday a good majority of my time was spent in bed. I wasn't sick yesterday, just tired, and usually when I'm tired there are forty things that have to be done that day. Yesterday nothing had to be done. So I stayed in bed for most of the day with books tucking me in as though a high wind might come in the room and blow me away. I finished a book, even. And I got a good deal of writing done, regardless of the fact that it went nowhere--just putting a pen to the page was enough of a treat.

This morning it was so tempting to do the same, but my mother had been speaking to me from the past about how nice the weather was ("get out there in the sunshine, young lady, before the heat wave hits"), so I picked up some Arizmendi brioche and a coffee and made for my Backyard, aka the Golden Gate Park, which is, by far, my favorite breakfast spot, regardless of what Kate's and Stacks can do. I sit on the parameter of the Music Concourse and watch the pale dirt floor traffic below the trees. Tourists of all nationalities walk there, some with cigarettes lit, and I have some private fun with a Facebook status that I don't post:
  • Sarah is drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes this morning for breakfast.
  • Sarah is drinking coffee and smoking other peoples' cigarettes for breakfast.
  • Sarah is drinking coffee and attempting to eat breakfast while the birds around her light up.

Pretty soon I'm in a fit of inexplicable giggles and have to think of something somber to calm down. Trick is, I can't think of something somber. All I can think about is what a smart-ass I am. That doesn't help. I am my own best entertainer, but I often don't know when to shut up. I finish off the brioche, still smiling, take some ibuprofen, and call my brother to wish him a happy birthday, coffee still in hand. I get to talk to Serena for a bit, and then I finish off the coffee and write for 30 minutes or so. I talk to myself, challenge myself, all on paper. I gaze across at the deYoung, and think to myself, "Jo, how abouts we see some paintings and such this morning?" So I pack up and head across the concourse.

Back in the spring I purchased two museum memberships--one to the deYoung (which also admits two into the Legion of Honor free of charge), and one to the SFMoMA. At the time I was sending in the checks I was feeling some guilt--shouldn't I be saving this money? But since then I have paid for both memberships just in the amount of time that I have spent at the museums alone, considering how much it is to visit each time, and especially considering the exhibits that I have had the pleasure to enjoy. The memberships also give me the chance to know the museums better. I cannot yet name the paintings or artists there, but my list of favorites grows by the day. For instance, when I started out visiting the deYoung my favorites could all be found in the Saxe gallery, where all of the glassworks were held. Now I go to the observation tower, and then the wing that lies just behind the Saxe gallery. In this wing there are galleries of African American and modern art...a giant mirrored chess set with abstract mirrored chess pieces (not the true description of it, but the true one for me), a cathedral sculpted entirely of amunition, and a sculpture of an African American woman called "Steppin Out," made entirely of a sculpted hardwood with just enough features to tell that she's fiiiine. I look at her coming in and going out of the wing--I want to be her, I want an ass like hers, legs like hers, attitude like hers, shoes like her pumps. The wood she is made from is the smoothest, warmest color--I find myself in a reverse Pinocchio: "Make me of wood like that!"

Then I go upstairs, to the galleries just behind the African artifacts, to the ages of America. There I see the Revolution, the Civil War, the Hudson School, and a portrait of George Washington done in stitched dollar bills. It's a damn fine likeness, too, for being stitched AND only made of differing folding of dollar bills. It's not easy being green, is it, George? When I walk past him and to the west side of the building, there is an entire gallery of vistas. A good measure of them are of the natural parts of the Bay Area, mostly Marin, Tamalpias, and the ocean. One large one that is the size of my bedroom wall is of San Quentin in the fog. I linger with them. Then I walk through that gallery to the overlook, where a long bench of wood from New Zealand is built along one wall and faces a glass wall, where you can look out to the west side of the Music Concourse and on the sculpture garden below. I usually camp there for at least twenty minutes. Then I make my way back through the galleries and go back downstairs to the cafe to write. (With the showing of Tut at the museum, I don't get to do much writing there these days--the cafe is usually packed when I get there and I have to write elsewhere.)

Remarkably, I leave the museum every time feeling better about myself. I'm not saying that the people that I work with are stupid when I say this--but when I am continuously surrounded by people who don't care about art and literature, I start feeling like the stupid one, like art and literature don't matter, and as though I am caring about the wrong things in life. Then I go to these places and it's like the pictures are hanging on my walls, my friends are in the gallery with me, and I'm free to love what I love, without ridicule for what I love. Last week one of my employees in Oakland asked me if I saw the speech Obama made about health care. Unfortunately, I did not (was out running that night), but the employee said, "You know, I like how he though even though he could talk smarter he doesn't try to." I had to agree with him--plain-spoken articulate speech is a gift, but I have to wonder if Obama ever feels like he can't talk about the art he saw in the gallery. I have to wonder if he ever gets lonely that way. I get the feeling Obama's smart lies somewhere between the multitudes and the geniuses, and while the geniuses bore him the world secretly breaks his heart. But it can be better, I can talk them and act them to better, he may be thinking, all the while remembering the pictures at the exhibition.

I can't name the pictures at the exhibition--I too am too busy relating to Taylor Swift--but I love where they take me.

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