Saturday, December 29, 2012

Muni's 100th Anniversary

Yesterday morning I was half asleep when the radio announced that SF Muni  was giving free rides on their transit system all day to commemorate its 100-year anniversary. A couple of years back, when the Bay Area had a bit more money, we had free transit days courtesy of Spare the Air Day. I'd always wanted to sample as many public transit systems on those "free" days but never managed to time things right. This time, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to ride Muni least for half a day. I left home at 9:40 am and walked down the hill to catch the J Church in-bound. The wait was only five minutes so. The familiar light rail came around the corner and I jumped on. The driver delighted in informing passengers that today the ride was free. Most of the passengers thanked him, but one couple didn't seem to get it. Even though the farebox was taped shut, the man tried to pay their fare.

I'd forgotten how beautiful the route was, particularly the narrow stretch before arriving at Dolores Park. It was a chilly day and there weren't a lot of people in the park but a young family got off, determined to picnic on the grass. I had originally intended to take the Church to Powell, then switch to the cable car, but I remembered that the historic F trollies intersected this route at Market. So I got off at Market and Church. After a short wait, car #1818 picked me up. This particular streetcar is called the Peter Witt, and was manufactured in Milan. The benches and floor were beautifully restored wood, and the windows were plentiful for a look outside. It was also decked for Christmas inside and out.

We went straight along Market Street, then, turned left towards the Embarcadero. We passed all the piers, including the ferry building and the pier where America's Cup is housed. I got off near Pier 46 to check out the Musee Mechanique. Where I enjoyed about $2.00 worth of mechanical toys and fortune telling.

After playing the mechanical toys, I had a (not very good) crab cocktail, and walked a few blocks to the cable cars. A long line of people, as usual, but actually it was because one of the cable cars had a hard time turning around. After that got fixed, we moved pretty quickly. By luck of the draw, I got a cable car all decked in Christmas wreathes. I sat in one of the outside seats and got a great view of my city.
By the time I made it back to Union Square, it was 1:00 pm. I caught the 38 Geary that took me to Japantown, where Michael was waiting for me to have a late lunch. J-Town was full of people, but we managed to get into Tampopo for ramen and gyoza. Even after New Year's food shopping, I got home in time to get several hours of work done for WCA. It was such a fun day of free rides. Thanks Muni!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eating Like the Locals

My mother and I have our favorite places to eat when I visit her in Japan. Some of them are places we have visited often, others are places she has read about or passed by but never tried. Both of us lead busy lives so it is only when I visit her, that we get to these places.

At Ekimae, which translates to "across the station." This little unassuming fish place is just across from the Chuo-ichiba-Mae subway stop in Kobe. There was a line of people waiting to get in at 11:30 .

My favorite yakitori place is called Hinadori, and it is located in the lower level of Sun Plaza in Centergai.

It is a tiny countertop restaurant run by a husband and wife team. The chef is a man of few words, though kindly and polite. His ingredients are impeccable. We ordered the 8 piece selection and each skewer was special: chicken/scallion, hearts, wing stuffed with cod roe, gizzard, liver, egg yolk, ground chicken,, and white meat rolled around shiso.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alison Saar at Otis

Mixed media with glass


Managed to fit in Alison Saar's recent works on exhibition at Otis.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Works in Progress

My new job doesn't allow me to go into the studio every day. Nonetheless, when time permits, I am working on a series of small works using snake sheddings. My friend Judy donate sheddings from a snake that sheds regularly, but I find that it is not enough. There is a vivarium in Berkeley that is a good source for this and I bought several bags of shed in various sizes earlier this summer. In working with sheddings, I have found each has a characteristic odor that ranges from human skin to dog. They are brittle but become quite pliable when misted, and are easy to apply on canvas with gel medium.

My paintings are 10"x10" and the background is white or black. I decided to use monotones for this body of work, to simulate the old black and white kaijuu shows I used to watch on TV. I went to EBay to source plastic monsters, which help me get a 3-D view.

I am working in typical fashion from realistic to greater abstraction. As usual I am tight on my first few pieces and get looser as I progress.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Celebrating Rusty

We gathered at Riko's house to reminisce about Rusty Cantor. Lesley, her daughter came and it was good to hear what it was like to be her daughter. Above, a lovely shrine of flowers, drawings and photos in honor of Rusty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Working with snake sheddings and acrylics. The shed is very brittle but can become pliable when spritzed. Gives off the smell of human flesh. May try it on larger painting.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Evening in downtown Salida was a little spooky. Our restaurant faced a partly demolished theater, which may or may not be resurrected as a high-end condo. An upturned clawfoot tub was something out of a Stephen King novel. During the day, the wind-whipped streets was right out of a movie from the Old West.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Franciska Diemont

Franciska passed away on March 14 after a brief illness. We held a memorial service for her yesterday, a day before Easter. Easter had special meaning to Frannie, especially all the rituals associated with church, decorating the house, eating together with family. I wrote this remembrance based on our long friendship:

Frannie’s favorite dish at the old Yank Sing on Broadway was “gold coin buns.” Gold coin buns. First you had to pry open the seams of a small white bun without tearing it. Then you stuffed it full of fatty, bright red roasted pork bits dripping in honey. Your fingers got sticky from the glistening fat but who cared? You bit into that fat little sandwich and your tongue understood the meaning of riches. And because “gold coin buns” were indulgent, and as such, bad for your health, Yank Sing banished it in their new upscale location at Rincon Annex. Frannie and I cherished the memory of this dish, and as food optimists, always expected this dish to be resurrected at the new Yank Sing some day. Food, indulgent food, was our common bond.

Memory. Frannie was a collector of memories, not just of her own, but of her parents' and of her friends'. Celine was my large male tabby who was too bright for his own good. During a holiday party while we were occupied with chatter and gossip, Frannie observed him sneak behind our living room curtain and stick his paw out to take swipes at the large roast on the side table. She giggled and he was busted. Frannie reminded me of that episode many times over our friendship. She told me all kinds of stories, some of them funny, some of them poignant. A story of her father's determination to survive dysentery in concentration camp by eating charcoal. A story of her mother and her sisters sewing white kimonos for Japanese soldiers to wear when they committed harakiri. A story of me harrassing her when I first starting working at Dean Witter. I am so grateful for all the memories Frannie shared with me. I shall miss her stories, each and every one of them.

Identity. when I first met Frannie, she told me that she was Dutch. After a pause she added that she was half Indonesian. For much of our friendship, it was the Dutch side that mattered to her. She spoke the language, studied it in university, worked in Holland for a time, liked traveling there. She wore sturdy Dutch jewelry. She had the wooden clogs in her closet. Frannie's Indonesian side was in some ways as elusive as stories told by shadow puppets. She had her superstitions, such as putting sapulitis (brooms) by the door and she knew all the best dishes to order at Indonesian restaurants. But she never defined herself as an Indonesian in quite the same way as she did as an American and as Dutch. It was a colonial dilemma, this issue of identity, being born a "half" that straddled two very different cultures. Where does one belong? Perhaps because her family was forced to abandon their land and home, she was more adamant about being Dutch than Indonesian. She was not interested in Indonesia. She did not want to go there. Then one day Frannie began talking about Indonesia. She and her mother planned a trip, but her mother got ill. So Frannie and I decided to go. Thanks to our friend Hessy, who helped with all the arrangements, we visited Bandung, where her parents had lived. We walked around the hospital where she was born. We visited the grand post office that her grandfather worked in. We lit candles in the church where her parents attended mass. And best of all, we went to the Dago Tea House, which her grandfather had built. We had tea and cakes in an outdoor tatami-floored veranda overlooking the lush green hills. On the same land was a university that had been built after the property was confiscated by Sukarno. it was a bittersweet moment for Frannie - amazed that the teahouse was still there, sad that the land no longer belonged to her family. I like to think that this trip helped Frannie fill in the side of her that was Indonesian. She looked lovely in her batik sarong that she purchased in Yogyakarta. She cherished her friendships with Susana and Ira, and Johar and Toni and Hessy. Having also come from a colonial background, I am grateful for our many conversations about identity and about belonging.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 WCA Conference in LA

From the Breaking in Two exhibit at Arena 1 Gallery.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Kohaku Utagassen

An over-the-top emotional performance by the last singer on the Red Team pushed the votes in favor of the women's team.