San Francisco diary – Day 7: 7 Feb 2014


The first day after the conference was a change for me. We allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit longer, getting up about 08:30. We had an appointment today at noon, so we had the morning to fill. The weather was again cold and drizzly, so we planned to go to the Jewish Museum to keep indoors. After breakfast we walked across to the laundry on Stockton St I’d spotted the other day and dropped off a bag of laundry for cleaning. The woman weighed it and said it would cost $15.

After returning to the hotel to get my camera bag, we walked down to Mission St, where we popped into a Starbucks to get some coffee for M. I sat watching the people walking through the rain outside, and noticed there was another Starbucks right across the road! We figured the museum would open at 10:00, so we timed our arrival for that. However, when we got there and tried pushing open the doors, we noticed a sign saying it opened at 11:00, and a security guard inside shook his head at us and gestured at the sign. We nodded our understanding and stalked off again into the rain.

We passed Yerba Buena Gardens across the street, which was less of a garden and more of a simple grassed park space. We went into the Target store above the Starbucks to kill some time, but it was kind of boring so we headed down to the cinemas and food court area on the ground floor. The doors there turned out to be locked too, but opened a minute later as the clock ticked over to 10:30. We sat and watched the rain outside for half an hour, M. trying the free WiFi as we sat.

At 11:00 we went back to the Jewish Museum, where a few other people were huddled under the doorway out of the rain, waiting for it to open. When we went in, the first thing was a security check, with a bag search and metal detector. Then we dropped our umbrellas, my camera bag, and my coat at the cloakroom and paid $12 each to enter the exhibits. We figured we could come back later in the day to finish the remainder of the museum after we had to leave at 12:00. But that turned out not to be necessary, as the museum was fairly small, holding only three exhibition spaces upstairs and one open space downstairs.

The upstairs ones were all displays of work by Jewish artists. One room was devoted to an audio display, with seats and headphones scattered around. It was a study of the relationship between Jewish and black musicians. There was a big poster of Ella Fitzgerald on a wall, but little else visual to look at. The next area was very good, with a display by the artist Arnold Lobel, who illustrated many classic American children’s books, such as the Frog and Toad series. A woman was leading a group of kindergarten kids through the exhibit, sitting them down and reading them some stories that Lobel illustrated. She was doing an excellent job of engaging the kids, asking them questions and getting them to interact and think about various aspects of the story and artwork. The final area upstairs was a display of works by Jason Lazarus, a modern Jewish artist, with various paintings, sculptures, and other works. One was a display of photos donated by museum visitors, being photos that they didn’t want to look at any more because it hurt them too much. They were almost all photos of people, just lining a wall, but knowing where they had come from made an impact.

Jason Lazarus at CJM
Art by Jason Lazarus at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Downstairs was a display about the history of kibbutzim, and here was a guide taking around a tour group, so we overheard a lot of what she said about them. Then we looked around the gift shop briefly, and it was then noon and time to head to the Cartoon Art Museum.

When we got there, there was a woman at the front desk looking helpful, and another woman looking busy. I said to the helpful looking one, “We’re here to see Shaenon,” and the other one raised her head and it was her! She had been busy drawing comics – it looked like an episode of Monster of the Week she was working on, but she hurriedly packed her paper and pens away and called on the phone to her husband Andrew to come down and meet us.

The four of us went out for lunch, braving the rain. They asked what we would like and we said just something simple like sandwiches or soup. They took us to a Boudin Bakery on Market St where we each had a sourdough bowl, mine and Andrew’s with chili, M.’s with butternut pumpkin (or “squash”) soup, and Shaenon with tomato soup. It was good having a warm lunch on such a drizzly day. We chatted about various stuff, a lot to do with the different experiences in the US and Australia.

After lunch, we went back to the museum, where Andrew took leave to return to work. Shaenon showed us around the museum, giving us a comprehensive guided tour and commentary on the various displays. They had a temporary exhibit on the work of Ronald Searle when he was in America. I knew his artwork from the St Trinians and other British stuff he did, but never realised he did work in the US as well. The next section was a huge display of original art from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, by the dozens of artists who contributed to that work. Most of it was inked comic page art, but there were a few pencil only pages towards the end, after digital production had developed enough to be able to produce a page from a pencil drawing. There were also some colour paintings of covers and scenes, including one which had been loaned to the exhibit by Gaiman himself. Shaenon said it normally hung in Gaiman’s living room!

The next area contained original artwork selections from the permanent collection, which spanned the gamut from the Yellow Boy through old comics like Krazy Kat, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Blondie, to more modern ones, Peanuts, Garfield, and so on. The variety was much greater than that, and all very cool. It was though almost exclusively American, and I asked Shaenon if they had much foreign stuff. She said alas no, they really should try to get more European and Japanese comics, and she asked me about Australian and New Zealand comics.

The last section of the displays was devoted to art from Sam and Max, with art going back to the mid-80s, which is longer back than I had expected. The tour done, Shaenon have me her original art from the two Monster of the Week strips that I’d bought from her. Then she said goodbye and vanished into the back of the museum as she had another friend to call and arrange to meet that afternoon. We browsed the museum shop briefly, then ventured out into the rain again.

On the way back, we stopped in at the Levi’s store to try on some more things for me. I tried another sale shirt, which they now had in what should have been my size, but it didn’t really fit properly. Then I tried some jeans… which took ages as it was hard to find a good size and fit that I liked. I seemed to be halfway sized between 34 and 36, but they only had limited 35s. I tried a bunch of 36 in different styles, but none were pleasing enough to get. Then they found me a 35 in black, which felt the best of anything, so we bought it. They didn’t take the Levi’s discount coupon from the back of a tourist guide we found, because that was actually printed by a different company who just stocked Levi’s jeans, not the actual Levi’s store themselves. Anyway, it was still cheaper than at home.

We went back to the hotel and dropped off my camera bag, then at 17:30 went out to pick up our laundry. On the way back we stopped briefly in Kar’ikter, a shop full of books and knick knacks related mainly to Tintin comics, but also some Asterix and a few others. After getting back to the hotel we thought about dinner. M. suggested Indian food, so I searched and found several Indian places. The nearest one was also the highest rated in a restaurant review site, so we decided to go there: Amber Indian Restaurant in Yerba Buena Place.

Achari duck
Achari duck at Amber Indian Restaurant.

We headed over there and found it to be fairly fancy looking. We got a table and the interior was a lot larger than it looked from outside. The menu had some familiar dishes but also some really unusual ones. I chose the achari duck, while M. picked tofu and vegetable koftas. We also had samosas to start, some rice, and a pesto naan. The food was really good, with the duck dish being outstanding, coming with a delicious spicy sauce and a mound of spinach mixed with some grain like couscous or semolina which had a very interesting and nice texture. M.’s koftas came with a spicy nutty sauce and were also great. It was also very filling, so I didn’t even dare a look at desserts.

On the way home, we stopped in at Westfield so M. could try out some raincoats she’d seen the other day in one of the shops there. She tried a beige one which looked good, and after long deliberation decided to buy it. Just as we were about to pay, the woman at the counter came out and said, “Did you see these also come in other colours back here?” and led us to a different display we hadn’t even looked at! They also had salmon pink, dark purple, and black ones. But M. decided the beige was best and we bought that.

We returned to our room fairly early, hoping to get a slightly earlier night tonight!

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