Downtown San Francisco

I have known the colorful city of San Francisco for a long time. When I stepped into the train heading to the city to visit my favorite locations, I took a seat and peered out through the stained-glass window into the suburban landscape. The train swayed from side to side, grinding to halts at the different stations as it made its way downtown. The train wasn’t crowed, the few people that were along for the ride immersed in their own world of phones, family, and newspapers. Turning on my headphones, my music guided me into the city, letting me settle into my seat and relax for the minutes as we dived into and surfaced through the tunnels on our way to Powell Street.

Leaving the BART train service, I purchased a quick cup of coffee. The sight of the hundreds of different tourists speaking different languages, the locals marching on familiar ground, and various daily workers assured me that I was near the heart of the city. I stepped onto the escalators and glided up to the street level. The familiar sight of the cable cars and grand shops made it the city that I had witnessed many months ago, and one that I fondly remember as close to home. The street vendors, preachers, and hustlers worked alongside each other on the sidewalk, reaching out to the tourists in exchange for cash. The shops at the Westfield Mall were glamorous, the building boasting a vast collection of luxurious amenities.

Despite the traffic and construction work from road to road, children ran and played on The Contemporary Jewish Museum courtyard. The ground sparkled a yellowish white, a gentle mixture of splashed sun and stone. Looking across the road to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a few people lay napping below the trees, pausing for their daily siesta.

Slowing my walk to take in the sights, I was lost between the buildings, alleyways, and city blocks but reemerged outside the familiar location of the SF Museum of Modern Art. The museum, as usual, took me into its safe and familiar hands and I spent a couple of hours in the galleries before my return to the suburbs. The beauty of San Francisco, sometime harsh and sometimes sublime, with its nooks and nuances, doesn’t daunt or overwhelm and neither does it disappoint in its stature. The recognized establishments for art, the striking street graffiti, the libraries and book shops, the gourmet food, and the dive bars, and all the small and large pieces of the city hold loosely together to form the beautiful city by the Bay.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A trip to the SF Museum of Modern Art was an experience I anticipated for months. The gallery was especially crowded on this Sunday afternoon, most queuing for the special exhibition of the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. The entire museum, as usual, was a spark of vibrant modern art, with photography, installations, sculptures, and painted artworks arranged throughout the many floors of the museum. An avid museum goer for many years, I shifted between the different floors exploring and soaking in what I could within the space of a few hours.

The allure of the many temporary exhibitions was a new adventure. The top floor hosted a range of pieces about change in communities, especially within certain areas of Great Britain. It was as enlightening as it was sad to hear the different perspectives of locals who had experienced societal changes in the evolving, and often times regressing economic landscapes of England. There was a harmony and understanding despite the uprooting of the norms and constant uncertainty that made such communities not only bond in their own unique ways, but eventually stronger in their evolution from industrial towns into the unknown. The perspectives on display were skeptical and reserved, just as they were hopeful for the power of change to touch their communities.

An exhibition on the errors of photography was particularly interesting as it uncovered accidental and “erroneous” works of visual art. Opening the question of whether there are rights and wrongs in elements of good photography, the “art of mistakes” showcased many works that held onto their own enigmatic success despite being creations of unintended consequence. The blurred, lined, and distorted photos, especially when brought together and curated for exhibition at SF MoMa, created their own story formed through the many individual pieces on display.

Before bidding farewell to this beloved museum, I quickly glanced over the many permanent works playing part of the gallery on the first floor, ranging from the classic French impressionists to the much-coveted Mark Rothko and finally to one of my favorites, Edward Hopper, to satiate my appetite for exceptional artwork. An exit through the museum gift shop highlighted the many wonderful works of literature and artwork in book form, as well as souvenirs and replica paintings. Departing any museum is usually a walk of sweet sorrow, but one that always begs and expects a return.

The Bay

The days spent on vacation on the sunny West coast are always a pleasure. There is little to get in the way of the light breeze of the Bay area and the tepid weather falling upon those who step outside for a piece of California sunshine. The occasional seagull, the long roads winding between cities, the strip malls and convenience stores, are a staple of this part of the Golden state. There is little to get in between the warmth and freshness of morning breaths, and the calm of the evenings on the inner roads.

I walk through the streets, driving occasionally if necessary. There are parks sporadically placed throughout this district, and crowded plots of land just as there are neighborhoods spread with mansions and orange trees. I wonder about the presence of mountain lions as I walk through the parks only to feel a slight chill when I step into spots of shade.

Further inland, the hot weather and hills are pleasant on the eye. I walk into a small market to purchase fresh fruit and a coffee. Seated at a window inside the store, I watch the cars drive by drenched in the midday light. This is another corner of the Bay area, equally beautiful as it is on the opposite end.

The fog descends over the city in the mornings, covering the hills as I cruise through on the highways on my way around the city of San Francisco. The city of San Francisco is always crowded but exciting to explore. The events, small cafés and restaurants, and rich cultural heritage are a staple of my experiences. I venture into the city from time to time, driving over bridges and into the horizon of skyscrapers and highways, as I have over the past twelve years, and each time, I feel as if I am waiting to discover something new.

An Evening in the Mission (2016)

I am at a table, looking out from the window to the dark rainy streets. The sirens ring on occasion, the yells of the people passing up and down these streets are forever in the air. The neighborhood is a mix of sights and sounds unique to those from climates of quiet and restful night.

The neighborhood breathes life. The homeless, the young professionals and intellectuals, and the older residents all add exceptional flavor to this street laboring for a piece of the pie. I have been here many times but I am always captured by the contrasts in morning mist to the musty weekend air of parties and dinners, and of young revelry. These are the changes that occur though the days and weeks that speak volumes on the diversity of the Mission.

The markets are hosted in an eclectic fashion. They bring the tastes and atmosphere projecting a unique cultural identity. They are different in the face of the same, resistant to the changes occurring when confronting new ways of life.

The Mission is a home to those passing through, coming and going through the years. People will move on while others will move in. Through these migrations, the importance and essence of the mission must always remain true in its openness to all who come through the neighborhood.

Mission Street 2016

A street with two sides, separated by wealth of old and new, and changes that occur over time. A shift in the socioeconomic, a corner for drugs just as a corner for the up and coming, the new and fortunate. The older residents march the streets in pursuit of their lives, the fresh and young do not have a minute to spare in their busy, ceaseless world.

This is a pearl in the heart of the city. The old styled stores carrying merchandise from mixed fabrics, worn and unbranded. The joys are in the essential for America’s fringe, along for the ride in the heart of the mission district. What is a life spent on the streets of San Francisco, a city for all the poor, the young, the rich, and those who are vulnerable and marginalized to the ways of the world?

Surrounded by beauty, by concrete, by foggy street lights and sights that often miss eyes, it a pleasant place for a break indeed.

Watching scenes unfold from balcony windows, the nighttime chatter in the bustle of evenings. Restaurants serving great meals welcome guests for the evening. A small bar hosts a couple in a window booth. They engage in their drinks and the city. Life is abundant, never to sleep on Mission Street.