Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fall in the City

Yearning for an endless summer
a fancy for a sunkissed skin
the waves break like the sound of thunder
as one witnesses a new season to begin

(The photo above was taken infront of the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco, CA)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book of poems in the city

I like that. It is the comment made by his seat mate inside the early morning train which he barely heard. He was just in the process of catching his breath while settling in inside the subway train. Earlier, he was running down the escalator so he can make the inbound train. So when he heard this comment, he paused for few seconds, smiled and graciously acknowledged the stranger.

Oh, thank you. He forced another smile because he was holding a book of poems, as if he was embarrassed to be seen reading it. Embarrass is probably not the right word. Perhaps, lack of confidence is more appropriate since he just started exploring poetry book reading.

He started not so long ago with a select poems by Robert Frost but he is still having a hard time understanding the deeper meaning of each line. He was finally going to add some more to his thank you, to say something about Emily Dickinson, on how she was not popular during her time. He was going to try to sway the conversation out of the poems but he was interrupted.

Did you know they are identified by their paint job? The stranger was referring to the lighthouse printed on his laptop bag. His laptop bag has a light house and a mini cooper on both the front and back. It was like a heavy weight was lifted off his shoulders. He was glad that he didn't have to explain what he likes, or does not like, about the poems.

No, not at all. Does this one look familiar to you? He was now at ease and the conversation was flowing smoother because, in his mind, he was not going to be judged anymore by what reads or does not read. But then again, it was all in his mind.


(The photo above was taken in on 18th St. in San Francisco during the longest day of summer)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tea ceremony in the City

The queue was long but thank God the line went fast. I didn't think the after-hours mixer at the Asian Art Museum was this popular. Could it be that the tickets to the museum was a bargain at ten bucks considering it already includes the The Lords of Samurai exhibition? Or was it because art loving singles of the city flock to these events in order to see and be seen? Maybe going to these mixers is just plain cool?

It was already 6:30p when I got in and it was packed. At first I didn't know where to go. I glanced at the programme but it made things even more overwhelming. Should I see the Samurai exhibition first or head straight to the sake tasting? What about the tea ceremony upstairs? There was even a pottery making section. What a relief I felt when I saw mijo waiting at the lobby but it turned out he did not know where to start either.

We went to a section where a lot of people were congragating. It was the pottery section where everyone in line was given a packet with wet clay and paper. I thought I could do this at home so I took mine to-go.

Next, we went to see the Samurai exhibition where I learned about the different intricate armors and how they were designed for warfare and how it eventually evolved into ceremonial pieces. I wonder how could a samurai wear such a heavy outfit and still go to battles? The swords' craftmanship is impressive it is hard to imagine how they were made without the use of modern machineries. The calligraphy and paintings are equally impressive.

My favorite, this was where we spent most of the evening, was the tea ceremony. At first we didn't know where to begin. There were three tables and a platform in the middle which was an obvious venue for the tea ceremony. I managed to choose a table where tea whisking demonstrations were being held. I especially like the sweet rice cake rolls they passed around before the actual tea whisking. I said oishi with a bad twang but it still made the Japanese lady giving the demonstration smile. I learned how to clean a bowl, check the bamboo stirrer for splinters and how to evenly whisk a matcha tea without leaving it lumpy.

Thanks to mijo, I was able to get a seat to the tea ceremony. We were told it was a shortened version, about 20 minutes from start to finish, of the real one that can last for hours. It incorporated the tea whisking skills I had learned earlier but it also included some other careful steps in preparing the tea and the rituals with the handling of the utensils included in the ceremony.

I realized there are no random actions in putting on an armor, making a sword or serving tea during those days. Everything had a purpose or meaning and was done with art in mind. No matter how slow or impractical these maybe, I sort of liked the idea.

That evening, I once again became a fan of the Japanese culture.


(The photo above was taken while on queue for a tea whisking demonstration at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ballet in the City

I don’t consider myself a fan of ballet but I thought the ballerina’s performance in Lar Lubovitch's My Funny Valentine was brilliantly executed. Clean lines, dizzying swirls, elegant rhythm. That night was supposed to be the artiste’s retirement gala, the reason why the company’s former and current principal dancers were present at the War Memorial Opera House. I now remember how I got convinced to come see the show. After the second number, in the midst of all the clapping, my mind started wandering. I was deeply moved by what I had just witnessed. Such a remarkable talent! At the same time, I thought it is sad that this is the first and the only time I am going to see her perform. Should I even be here? It is right for me to be here? It felt awkward. It was like crashing into a total stranger’s retirement party. Technically and unfortunately, this was exactly what I did.
I tried to brush off my thoughts and tried to focus on the next dances which provided me a glimpse of the ballerina's extraordinary career.
To Tina LeBlanc, best wishes to you as you embark on the next chapter of your life. It was a pleasure watching you perform.
(The photo above was taken at the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, CA).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Close to nature in the city

I told my friends from church to go ahead and that I will catch up with them later. I stopped under the bamboo trees pretending to admire the carvings on their trunks. But in reality, I just wanted to rest where it is cooler. It was a weekend that was warmer than usual, one of the few days in the year of fog-free sunshine. I also wanted to linger in the area to enjoy the serene environment. I couldn’t help but think it is amazing how you can be very close to nature and yet still be in the city.
The view from the botanical’s entrance brought back a lot of good memories. I used to come here with a special someone. This used to be his favorite spot to walk his dog, it is a good stroll from his apartment on the other side of the Golden Gate park. This spot is also close to the shops and cafes on Irving St and we would stop here for a quick bite after biking around the park. I remember it was the scene of a boisterous public display of affection. Our lips would lock whenever tourist buses would pass by. I was so young back then. I wonder how many out of towners have taken our pictures? I wonder where he is now?
I can’t believe it has been over ten years since the last time I was here, on this same spot. A lot of things have changed, including me and the things that surround me. ~rl
(The photo above was taken under the bamboo trees at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at the Strybing Arboretum).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Artsy Birds in the City

He chanced upon it while walking with out-of-town friends in the Italian neighborhood of the city. He's read about it before although he never really saw it in person. He didn't know what to make out of it. Do they resemble birds? But they look like books. They say the name of this art installation references ancient languages used to communicate with the divine. He was reminded of the men and women in the Old Testament who spoke and heard God. Click. Click. He took a couple of photos and headed to the restaurant famous for its garlic. He looked back to see for the last time. He couldn't get Moises, Noah and the others out of his mind, and how he truly envies them. ~rl
(This photo was taken in San Francisco's North Beach district. The Language of the Birds is a permanent art installation by Brian Goggin, with Dorka Keehn and can be seen on the corner of Broadway and Columbus Streets in San Francisco)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Sunny Day in the City

Is this a park that turned into a beach or the other way around? I couldn't tell by the sea of locals. Some wearing swimsuits, the others tee shirts and shorts, a few wearing almost nothing. People are out appreciating the sun as if San Francisco had just gotten over a severe winter. I wonder if they are all from around here? I heard there is a long line at the cafe on the corner of 18th St and Dolores. Inertia trumps my craving for a hot pastrami sandwich. ~rl

(This photo was taken around Dolores Park in San Francisco's Mission District.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A birthday gift in the City

He felt guilty that his honey paid for this dinner. He remembered they were at Le Petit Laurent and Zuni last weekend. They were celebrating his birthday so technically those don't count. He never felt comfortable when someone pays for him. This is even when that someone is his better half. He took a mental note that next time he must ask for the bill. That next time he ought to buy. And then he realized that he should loosen up, just enjoy the moment and accept that it is okay for a loved one, or friends, to take care of him. But he wouldn't admit this, other than to himself... (rl)
(The photo above is picture of 'I buy, You buy' dice and dice case. It is one of the gifts I recently got for my birthday.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet inspiration in the City

My hands were clasped around the warm cast-iron tea pot to keep them toasty. Earlier, I had to politely ask the barrista for an extra tea cup because he mistakenly assumed I was alone. I've been waiting for mijo, for what seemed like forever, inside the Sweet Inspiration cafe.

I was seating by the window close to the door so he could see me right away when he arrives. It is not at all this easy to get a table by the window. Not in this neighborhood, not in this cafe, not on a friday afternoon. One of the effects of recession, I thought.

I could see all the people passing by outside were all bundled-up. I remembered it haled earlier and it is snowing on higher elevations today. Suddenly, someone stood infront of the cafe, blocking my view of the outside. I noticed the cards on his hands and then he started scribbling something. He flashed them against the glass window and I obliged to read them.

Did you eat my lunch?
Was it tasty?
Rat race, choices, number.
I am tired of my job.

Effects of recession, I thought. Desperate for a Valentine's date, perhaps?


(Above is a photo of a French bistro on Diamond St. in San Francisco, CA)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Art exhibition in the City

Karen disappeared behind a group of people on a guided tour at the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the De Young Museum. Dinah and I were perusing the Asian-inspired gowns when I heard a museum guide explaining something in detail at the same time herding the group closer towards us. Under normal circumstances, I would have joined in sneakily but, I decided not.

Dinah had asked earlier where Karen is. I answered she has probably skipped to another section to avoid this crowd. Moments later, we found her staring at a gown that is supposed to be Saint Laurent's tribute to Vincent Van Gogh - gowns with tops embroidered with metals, beads, sequins, and semiprecious stones that formed sort of like Van Gogh's sunflower paintings. A classic example of wearable art, I thought!

After two hours of drowning ourselves in haute-couture, we decided to break for lunch before we embark to yet another exhibition.

I couldn't help but wonder about Saint Laurent's inspiration for each piece. How about his design process? How many iterations did he work on before arriving at the final one? He was able to make use of organza flowers, satins, velvet, sequins, beads, semiprecious stones, and engraved copper into his pieces! Was he the first one to introduce tuxedo for women?

The ones that caught my attention are: (unfortunately, taking pictures is not allowed inside the exhibition hall, so no pictures) the Belle De Jour dress made for Catherine Deneuve, the knitted white wool wedding dress wrapped with white ribbons that resembles a cocoon, and the coat made from rooster, pheasant and vulture feathers. He was truly one of the most creative designers of the world!


(The picture above was taken at the De Young Museum in San Francisco during the Maya Lin exhibition which coincided with the YSL exhibition).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sleepless in the city

I woke up way too early.
It was 3:52a when I glanced at the alarm clock. The heater was on so it must have been freezing cold inside. We've set it to automatic so that it will only go off when the thermostat registers 36F (approx 2 Celsius) and only at dawn so it would be warm and toasty when we get up.
I decided to pray all over again hoping that it will lull me to sleep. Surprisingly, I was wide awake as if I just had a couple of shots of espresso. This is not a battle that is easy to win, I thought, so I gave up and decided to make this time worthwhile. As I get older, getting over a jet lag seems even harder.
The wood floor was freezing as I walked into the living room. I leafed through last week's magazines to catch up on what's happening in the city and the country. I could sense a mixed feeling of optimism, because of the new administration, and caution because of the shaky economy.

The house was so quiet. It was so quiet I could hear a minute ringing sound, almost deafening. This is so different from where I was two weeks earlier. No more roosters crowing, no more dogs yapping, no more children laughing.
Finally, a faint dark-blue hue started to appear on the horizon. It is almost 7oclock on a saturday morning. I decided to make what would be our first home cooked meal of the year.


(The photo above was taken around the Embarcadero area of San Francisco.)