Friday, April 4, 2008

Another Excursion to Oakland's Disneyland

In his most recent blog entry, Brian Fies says, "Honestly, I think I divide other people's work into three categories: 1.) I could do that. 2.) I wish I could do that. 3.) Wow, I have no idea how they did that." Diane and I categorize all glass art as a 3+, and are fascinated by it. (We also have a lot of it around the house, which is probably not the smartest thing in the world for people who have six cats and three dogs.) Above, Diane visits our favorite glass-art shop in Sausalito, Petri's, in 2002. Photo used with her permission. At least I think "I don't care" constitutes permission.

I wish I could remember where I first heard San Francisco referred to as "Oakland's Disneyland," but it's an apt tag in a sardonic sort of way. "The City" (as its citizens often call it*) is a little square of treasures and surprises, abutted on three sides by water and graveyards on the fourth, isolated, suave, kinky, cosmopolitan, goofy, and always charming. It is a great place for a getaway, as it was a great place to work for 17 years.

This week was spring break for me, and Diane and I motored off to Oakland's Disneyland twice. The first time was Wednesday, to visit our old friend, Lucile, and another of my co-workers from those 17 years whom I hadn't seen in more than a decade. On part of that visit, Lucile showed us a little treasure that I hadn't seen before: the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden at the foot of the Dutch Windmill at the far western edge of Golden Gate Park. After I'd muttered at myself for a while about not having brought my camera, Diane and I decided that we'd just drive back up the next day and do some more of the tourist thing. It's an easy drive, and even with gas prices the way they are now, the round trip from Ft. Harrington only costs about 30 bucks.

So we did.

Here are some snapshots from yesterday's outing:

Our first stop was a place that has been a topic here before: the Legion of Honor Art Museum near the Golden Gate. Our main aim there was to visit the Annie Liebovitz exhibit ("A Photographer's Life, 1990 - 2005"), which was well worth the drive all by itself. No pictures here from that exhibit, though: photographing the photographer's photographs was strictly forbidden, possibly because the Museum was concerned about potential effects on the spacetime continuum of inadvertent infinite recursions. But a couple of things that I could take pictures of were just remarkable.

Dale Chihuly's Sun in the Legion courtyard.

Chihuly's Sea Blue and Green Tower in an interior exhibit room.

The Legion of Honor's sister museum, the de Young in Golden Gate Park, will have an exhibit of Dale Chihuly's remarkable sculptures later this year. As part of the lead-up to that event, four of his large glass works have been installed, two in each of the Museums. In the Legion, they were Sun and Sea Blue and Green Tower, both above. They are massive works of blown glass, and Sun is also a neon light! You can see it illuminated by clicking here to go directly to a well-hidden (it seems) page in Chihuly's massive website (but please come back.)

Details in Sun. Click on any image to see a larger version.

As we were leaving the Legion of Honor to go on to our next destination, we were treated to an accidental piece of performance art.

Oakland's finest at a Frisco museum.

A group of seven Oakland motorcycle police officers pulled into the parking area and carefully backed their bikes into position for a photo to be taken of them with the stately pillars and arches of the Legion in the background. As I was taking the photo above, Diane (standing closer to them than I was) heard one of them say, "Somebody should write down all the gay stuff they make us do."

I'm pretty sure he thought that Diane was laughing with him. Silly boy. I was tempted -- but only for a split-split second -- to tell him that if he actually went into the museum, he could see lots of pichers of nekkid wimmin! Of course, he probably knows how to use the internet, so it wouldn't have been worth the effort to him, anyway.

The next destination. Somebody should write down all the gay stuff Diane makes me do.

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park actually has an astronomical tie-in. Its constituent parts were purchased by James Lick, who endowed Lick Observatory. Those parts were still in crates when he died in 1876, so the Conservatory (like the Observatory) wasn't constructed until after it would do him any good personally.

The attraction on this day at the Conservatory was the butterfly exhibit -- not insects mounted on pins in cases, but freely flapping around in the entire western end of the Conservatory. We had a great time there for an hour, giggling like little kids (of whom there were may real ones scooting around) as the colorful littler guys flitted around.

On to the final stop:

The Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, Golden Gate Park

Our final destination was the tulip garden we had seen, briefly, the previous day. The little patch was named after Queen Wilhelmina (1880 - 1962) of the Netherlands -- and so was my paternal grandmother. The tulips are at the height of their display right now, as you can see above.

The Dutch Windmill.

The tulip garden is at the foot of the "Dutch Windmill," one of two large pump drivers that were erected in the early 1900's to supply fresh water for the huge expanse of greenery atop sand dunes that is Golden Gate Park. The windmills are at the far western edge of the Park, facing the beach, and the nearly constant strong wind off the Pacific allowed, through them, the park to become what it is today: one of the greatest urban parks in the world.

Meanwhile, back at the Fort...

... it's time for the first rosebuds ...

... and for apple blossoms ...

... and for the bees to get to work. Clicking on this picture to see the little guy hard at work upside-down will be worth your trouble.


* "The City" is so ingrained a nickname for San Francisco that the Warriors NBA team had that as its only locale designation on their jerseys for many years. Now, of course, they use the milquetoast "Golden State" abomination, which makes them sound like a college team from Colorado. (Photo copied from an ad on eBay; I have no idea whom to credit.)



Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

There was a Butterfly Pavilion exhibit up in Myrtle beach, which we took the kids to, and it was just a delight - like being in a living mobile with exquisite little works of art filling in the air. It was also a commercial flop because the little critters had the audacity to need rest ("Wake up! Flap 18 hrs a day for tourists, you little %$#'s!") and to take their rest period at the peak tourist time of day. So the exhibit is gone now but we got to enjoy it.

Cats and glassware - i empathize. I figure arranging things in anticipation of cat plans is good mental exercise, though the cats usually checkmate our moves.

Brian Fies said...

We went to the Legion of Honor just a few weeks ago, must have just missed the Chihulys. They're beautiful, maybe worth a return trip. I think that's my favorite museum in the Bay Area, if only for the scenery. You might recall I picked that spot to tape an interview for German TV, just a quarter mile down the road along the golf course. The videographer really wanted the Golden Gate Bridge in the background; unfortunately, it was completely socked in two days in a row.

Gonna have to see those tulips, too. I didn't know they were there.

ronnie said...


You California people are cruel. We have a solid metre of snow in the back yard. Any butterflies we saw would be wearing long underwear, sucking on a thermos of hot Tim Horton's coffee and praying for spring.

Wonderful pictures... the close-ups were particularly impressive.