San Franciso on my mind

Michael Raffety 12-19-11

Broadway and Main Street have really stepped up their Christmas lights the past two years. Though I have to wonder what’s going on with downtown. Twice I have driven down there after leaving the office here on Broadway after dark and found few lights downtown.

I’ve walked around downtown and inspected all the building rooftops and find all but about three near Bedford Avenue have lights strung along their roofs. In spite of that only a few actually have their roof lights lit. Kudos to the Carey House. And the Christmas spirit award goes to the Placerville Newsstand for its string of colored lights and greenery strung along the edge of its shed roof. Also, I like the icicle lights at Placerville Hardware.

The lighted and wrapped street light poles along Main Street are fantastic, as are the redwood tree downtown and at the Broadway-Mosquito Road intersection. The shopping centers on Broadway managed by Judy Puthuff and Wendy Mattson are outstanding.

Thanks to all for your Christmas spirit. It helps to encourage local shopping. There is always a gift easily found around town.

  • • •

One of my favorite shows on TV, besides the national cake competition in Las Vegas, is designers building display windows in the big stores in New York City.

Not having been in New York at Christmas, for me the next best thing is San Francisco. Our family gets together there for a Thanksgiving lunch buffet that includes music by the San Francisco Youth Symphony ensemble. Early that morning we go out and walk with our daughter and her Doberman as we window shop around Union Square and down several blocks in either direction.

In the evening all the palm trees in the square are wrapped with lights and every window in Macy’s facing the square is lit up with a wreath in each window and a big Christmas tree over the entrance.

We were out shopping in the Westfield Mall that used to be the Emporium Store at Market and about Fifth Street on Friday evening when we found our way back to the hotel slowed by parents with children. I lived in San Francisco seven years, including one year driving cab. I never knew there were that many parents with children in San Francisco. Streets were closed off by police all around the square.

We finally figured out there were two events converging on Union Square. One, of course, was all the parents with slow-walking children who came to see the big Macy’s tree in the middle of Union Square lit up next to the ice skating rink. The other was the Occupy San Francisco group which came over from the park in front of City Hall to try to keep people from shopping at “corporate” stores like Macy’s, etc. How unrealistic. Ninety percent of the shoppers at Westfield Mall and 75 percent at Macy’s were Chinese-Americans who could care less about Occupy San Francisco.

We never saw the protestors. Either the police kept them bottled up or the masses of parents with slow-walking children greatly outnumbered them. I also missed the whole tree lighting. Saw it on the news and then made the connection with all the parents with slow-walking kids.

Something like half of the Occupy San Francisco tents were empty at night, we learned from the news. Those folks went home to their apartments at night.

  • • •

To get a San Francisco nostalgia fix go to the Legion of Honor Museum, where curator James A. Gantz has put together an exhibit of San Francisco paintings from the collection of the Legion and the de Young.

Some of you may have seen cards or small prints of the Sutro Baths. The original color lithograph by an unknown artist is in this show and it is quite large. One can still see the ruins of the burned down bath house near Land’s End and the Cliff House. Also included are paintings by Wayne Thibaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Dong Kingman and Chiura Obata.

The cover art for the 74-page catalog is a 1945 color stencil print of “Russian Hill” by Harold Brothers. This view is not too much different than what San Francisco looked like in the 1950s when my mother and I visited my aunt and uncle and my baby cousin, who lived in a flat near Golden Gate Park. It was an exciting city for a young boy then. The papers were ablaze over the escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. We ate in Japantown and shopped in Chinatown. My favorite purchase was a Chinese puzzle box to keep my stuff in. Chinatown is still one of my favorite subjects to paint.

Some other works that stood out for me included a 1983 color soft etching on three panels of a “Sunset Intersection” by Robert Bechtle. This work has the photorealism look that was popular in the 1980s. Its leading practitioners include Richard Estes and Ralph Goings.

The first painting you’ll see as you enter the exhibit space is a 1938 cheery window view of “The City From My Liberty and Church, San Francisco,” by John Gutman.

The catalog has plates of additional art not in the exhibit, including works by William Keith, Albert Bierstadt, photographs by Carlton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, whose motion studies changed how artists liek Frederic Remington painted horses.

Admission to this exhibit is free with your $10 admission to the Legion. It is downstairs next to the Pissarro show. Both run through Jan. 22. There is an additional charge for the Pissarro show. If you haven’t seen the “Mourners, Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy,” it only runs through Dec. 31. Admission to the Mourners show comes with your Legion admission ticket.

While your are at the Legion be sure and see the “Medusa” sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini on loan from Rome’s Musei Capitolini. It will be there through February.

And if you are not on art overload you can use your Legion ticket on the same day for admittance to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, where you can buy a ticket to the Masters of Venice Show that will knock your socks off.

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