Wednesday, 31 August 2016


I don't think I've ever been recommended a gig by a waitress in a UK greasy spoon before. It's a different story in the diners of San Francisco. Strictly speaking it was Owen who got the heads up. Inspired by his Wipers t-shirt our Mission brunch was served with a reminder that Swans were in town soon.

As we took our first ride on the BART, SF's underground railway, I told Owen about the San Franciscan eccentric Frank Chu. He'd been brought to my attention by my mate Wayne and remarkably I'd spent four days in the city before I remembered him.

You should Google him and read his Wikipedia page for more details but essentially he's a guy who wanders round the downtown each day carrying a different placard with ever more bizarre messages. Such as the title of this blog. He's unsuccessfully campaigned for the impeachment of several US presidents as he believes they're using mind control techniques to hoodwink people into believing he's not a superstar in a, seemingly infinite, number of galaxies. One particular example was the time his part in the animated feature WALL-E was denied him due to the destruction of the entire Gorgon galaxy.

I continued speculating on Frank Chu as we wandered down Market and right there and then....who should we see? What a coincidence. I almost jumped for joy.

We headed back to the modern art museum and Owen got us in for free again for which I thank him again.

There's so much in there and it's such a pleasure to spend an afternoon with the collection. There were works by Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin, Richard Serra, Diane Arbus, Nam June Paik, John Baldessari, Joseph Beuys, Jasper Johns, David Smith, Man Ray, Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Ad Reinhardt, Eadweard Muybridge, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vito Acconci  (not the wanking one), Sam Taylor Wood, Rineke Dijkstra, Ansel Adams, Franz Kline, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Duchamp, Wilfredo Lam, and, our old favourite, many many more.

We started off where we'd finished up the day before. Abstract expressionism in the form of Sean Scully's Round & Round (above) and Ellsworth Kelly's Yellow Relief With Black (below). The Kelly section sprawled impressively across several rooms.

Sylvia Plimack Mangold was a new name to me but her dark and eerie View of Schunnemunk Mountain stopped me in my tracks. Far easier to identify a Jackson Pollock but his Black & White (Number 6) was no less impressive for that.

Fernand Leger's Deux femmes sur fond bleu is a gorgeous piece and suggested we were hitting the more figurative, and European, part of the collection.

Alexander Calder is neither of those things but he's a truly exceptional talent. The room full of his mobiles and the adjacent outdoor sculptures were possibly the two busiest in the museum.

Very much at the other end of the scale to Calder's peaceful sculptures is the iconic Eddie Adams photograph Viet-Cong Officer Executed. One of the world's most famous photos Adams is said to have regretted taking it.

I took a snap of Robert Arneson's California Arts mainly because it was so indicative of the city and the state. Edward Hopper, probably my favourite American figurative painter, seems to represent the whole country. I've seen so many Hopperesque sights in the last fortnight to finally set eyes upon his Intermission seemed apt.

Spotting a Lynette Yiadom-Boakye across the room was also like catching up with an old friend. I don't know her but I've seen, and been impressed by, her work before. Both in London and Seattle.

Ralston Crawford's Vertical Building is a masterclass in the beauty of simplicity. Its clean lines and architectural forms satisfied me greatly.

I like Dorothea Tanning too but after posting her Self-Portrait to Facebook my friend Alex had what can only be described as a very strong reaction and began imagining horrific events in the style of Stephen King. I still think Plimack Mangold's painting is creepier.

The Aerial Gyrations of Charles Sheeler had us back on safer grounds and we closed out the museum for another day and headed back down to the bay.

At Mijita in the ferry terminal we ate burritos. I went frijoles y queso and washed it down with a Mexican Coke. With a few dollops of salsa picante it was muy delicioso.

We strolled along the Embarcadero for a bit and then headed in and up, mostly up (there were a lot of steps) to Coit Tower. On the way signs warned us not to feed the neighbourhood coyote. A fed coyote, we learnt, is a dead coyote.

The Coit Tower was left to San Francisco by a wealthy benefactor of the same name in order to beautify the city she lived in and loved. Although it had closed for the day its position, loftily perched atop the hill, afforded panoramic and mighty fine views all round Frisco.

From there we headed down to North Beach. Another quick look in City Lights and a 'swift half' in Vesuvio before taking the BART back to the Mission.

There was a guy back on 17th & Valencia who'd set up an old video games console in the trunk of his car and was offering people free games of Super Mario Bros. The 'music' from it a strange counterpoint to the bustling streetlife of the district.

The Mexican we'd eaten earlier had felt more like a starter so we were wanting more. We tried one of the many local taquerias and, judging by the many certificates on the wall boasting of salsa awards, it was a good choice.

I was defeated by my chile relleno though and not because my appetite had been destroyed by accidentally opening the cubicle door to a man with his pants down taking a dump. It was just too hot for me (the burrito, not the dump). I'm not normally such a wuss but this bad boy had the beating of me.

The Casanova bar was churning out 80s hits and was convivial enough until the very drunk guy who'd moved in next to me started being annoying. Swinging from friendly to aggressive, sometimes several times in one sentence, he asked me three times in a minute where I came from, offered to buy me a drink, and told me he didn't care much for 'English chaps' but that 'English chaps' are tough. Clearly things weren't about to improve for him, or us, if we stayed for another so we popped across the road to Blondie's.

The drunk dude had done us a favour because Blondie's was great. Mostly down to Kenya B and his tight-as-you-like band. Ripping through numbers by Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and, er, Tony Toni Tone they had funk, chops, charm, and wit. The drummer was a joy to behold. Grinning and goofing around like a Hanna Barbera cartoon beaver.

Towards the end of the night they were joined by a rapper for a funktastic rendering of Rapper's Delight and a simply filthy Snoop Dogg jam.

Best of all was their take on Ice Cube's It Was A Good Day. Not just because it's a great song but because it had, indeed, been a very good day.

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