duck-shaped pain


1 April 2001
Day Three

No introductions this time, just straight to:

Day Three

(Remember to visit scenic Day One and Day Two)

Waking up all stiff and sore is not recommended. I opened my eyes and lay in bed for awhile, hoping to make it over to the shower without hobbling or looking really pathetic. I did, barely. Stood there in the warm depths of the Pee Shower and drenched my legs back into working condition.

I was not in the mood to hike somewhere for breakfast again. Luckily, there was a restaurant next door to the hostel that just radiated promising breakfasts here. Their menu featured three or four variations on eggs Benedict, just enough to make choosing difficult. What I ended up ordering was the dish that had an enormous cake of shrimp and crab (real crab -- not "krab") in place of the ham. I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but it was really good. So good that this is what I had for breakfast on all the remaining mornings of the trip. I am an incredible creature of habit for breakfast -- I'm not always up for making a decision early in the day. So having something so yummy and so close made waking up go that much smoother.

I arrived at the modern art museum right when it opened, and it was already packed. There was a big line to get in, which I thought was interesting, compared with the total non-crowd I encountered at the Asian Art Museum the day before. The museum guards, all of whom were tiny yet vicious elderly women, kept the line in check.

After I paid my admission and got my ticket, I noticed that I was incredibly thirsty. There is a café at the museum, and I thought I would duck in here for a few minutes and down a bottle of water or something before I started to look though the museum. The tiny museum guard nearest me did not think highly of this at all. One look from her (I didn't want to see what kind of body-checking she was capable of) made me abandon my plans. Since there were no drinking fountains, I ended up drinking out of my hand from the bathroom faucet. It did the job, but I felt sort of primal doing it. But, I was that thirsty.

I saw a lot of things. There were some things I was really into, other things which I thought I would be into but wasn't. Some things I was merely okay with. This is going to seem like a big cop-out, I realize, but the things that I saw that I liked, I liked so much that I'm not sure if I feel too comfortable writing about them here. But I'll try.

I was an art minor in college. You may not know that, but I was, which means I had more than the average person's share of art history classes. Denver's art museum, while strong in Native American and Spanish Colonial art, isn't really one of our nation's finest showcases for contemporary art. [1] So it was hard to augment the things I saw in class on crudely made slides with actual in-person viewings of artwork.

For example, the work of Yves Klein never came across very well in class. He did a lot of dark blue canvases, and when looking at them on a screen in a very hot, stuffy classroom, you think, "Hey, there's some…blue. And some more blue. Son of blue. Blue, again." So I never really liked his work that much (because of the slides and also because I kept running into books about him when I really wanted to be running into books about Franz Klein, who I do like very much) before. They have one of his (blue) works on display at SFMOMA, and seeing one in person was very different. Sure, it's a big rectangle of deep blue, but there's a lot of interesting texture in his work that doesn't come across at all in photos.

I've always liked the work of Stuart Davis. While the work of his they had on exhibit was not one of my favorites of his, like or this one, I was pretty interested in it, because the most noticeable part of the painting was Davis' enormous signature right on the top. For a signature, that's pretty high billing. Not like I minded terribly -- he has one of the best signatures ever.

I saw a lot of other great things. They had a Robert Smithson work that I was really into. There was also a recently-acquired Mark Rothko that I sent a lot of time examining. A roomful of great paintings by Clifford Styll, a Bay Area artist that I had never seen anything by before.

And, oh yeah…Pettibon.

I wasn't really expecting to run into a whole wall of works by Raymond Pettibon. I mean, I like his stuff a lot, but I didn't realize that he was really considered (for lack of a better term -- it's getting late) museum quality, so to speak. But they had a grouping of about ten or twelve of his drawings on display, and I spent a considerable amount of time with them, looking at the line quality and the erase marks, and just thinking, wow. In the museum store, they had a book which compiled all of his small, Xeroxed booklets of drawings published over the years. I really wanted it, but it was $50. Maybe for Christmas or if I end up paying less taxes than I think I'm going to have to or something like that. Until then, I'll just have to content myself with the covers to What Makes a Man Start Fires? and Goo.

I was thirsty when I got to the museum. I was parched when I left. I felt so dry that parts of my skin might crack and fall off. Across from SFMOMA is a big public garden where there were quite a few people sitting and eating lunch, so I figured there had to be some place to get a beverage of any sort (I wasn't too picky at that point) around there. I walked around and looked, but nothing was apparent. Finally, I spotted some people exiting a building, all with newly purchased bottles of water in hand, so I went in where they were coming out. It was the lobby of some sort of entertainment complex, and all they had in the way of beverage vending was a Starbucks, [2] but I didn't care. Bought some orange juice and a big bottle of water, went outside and laid down on the grass.

I finished imbibing my drinks and eating the Luna bar I had in my bag. I thought about things I wanted to do. There were many, but what would be the best things to do at this moment?

I had read in my guidebook that there was a Japanese-style public bath in the city. I went to more than my share of these when I was in Japan, and I've always wanted to go to another. Since I've never been to any other type of public bath, I'm not sure how Japanese ones differ from any other, but the basic idea is that you undress, wash yourself good and thoroughly, and then go in, where you have your choice of a hot, bubbling pool of water, a smaller, ice-cold pool of water and a hot steam room. You switch between the three until you are completely relaxed.

The one in SF is open different days for different genders, since you're nekkid and all while you're in there. Friday (which is what Day Three was) was a women's day, so I decided to go. I was sort of grubby and sore, so I figured a soaking would do me good.

The bath is located in Japantown, which is not as interesting as you think it might be. I went there with some Japanese people during my last trip to SF, so I was well acquainted with its unspectacularity. But the promise of a bath (and the fact that it was an easy bus ride over there) conquers all.

Once I got there, I had to find the there that was there. My book was wrong as to its location, and I looked hither and yon before I got to where it was.

I told the guy behind the counter that I was interested in a bath. He had me sign up on the waiting list, as there was a big backlog on bathing that afternoon. I sat down on a nearby couch and began to wait. I sat there for awhile, and began to think that maybe this wasn't the best thing to do. I had plenty of other things to do, and it was getting later than I thought, and, to tell the truth, I didn't feel terribly comfortable there.

Not sure why. The place seemed very nice -- lushly decorated, nice-smelling, complimentary herb tea for all. I just felt out of place. I kept debating whether to stay or not, and finally, I decided to go. I can't really give a reason -- it just didn't seem like the thing to do at the moment. My desire to bathe had left me. I scratched my name off the list and went out.

Was my trip to Japantown a bust, then? No, not at all. There's a Japanese grocery store there. I went in and looked at natto and sashimi-grade tuna and salmon and a whole aisle of Pocky. I went to the Kinokuniya bookstore and thumbed through Japanese teen fashion magazines, which I have a secret weakness for. And, I went to the cute stationery store.

I could have bought a lot of things. I restrained myself, though. There were many stickers and packages of paper to tempt me, though. They also had my pen.

There were a lot more colors of it than I'd ever seen. Had it they not been so pricey ($14 each -- mine only cost $6), I would have bought the orange one and the clear one and the sparkly green one. They, too, did not have refills.

I read many examples of bad English while in the stationery store, but only one stuck with me. "We (meaning, I think, the manufacturer) persist in the quality!" As if everyone was begging them to please, please stop it with the quality…

Plus, as promised by my guidebook, there was much better plastic food [3] to be seen at the restaurants there. It was worth the trip over.

I left and got on another bus, which was sort of unpleasant. It was right after school got out, I'm assuming, and the bus was filled with exuberant adolescents, all talking and laughing and poking each other and yelling things out the windows. Which I didn't mind, except for the one adolescent whose bag contained something very large and spherical, and which was smacking me right in the back every time she moved.

My immediate goal was to get to the Mission District. Just to poke around in for awhile. The bus arrived, and I gladly got out. I walked around for a bit, looking in used bookstores and trying to figure out where I wanted to eat.

Actually, I did have a reason for heading over to this part of the city -- I wanted to go to Aquarius Records. I was feeling terribly record store-deprived, and it's rumored to be one of the best extreme music-geek record stores in the country, so I had to go. But on the way there, I got really, really tired. My legs just ached, and I had to sit down.

I stopped for some coffee in a place that had a guy playing the piano in it. Lacking the option for an americano, I got some regular coffee with a shot of espresso in it, and went and sat at a table on the sidewalk. I wrote in the journal for awhile, and spent the rest of the time just watching people.

Hipsters, at least of the music-subculture and thrift-store-clothes variety, all tend to look the same everywhere. So that got old after awhile. What I did not expect what how many excellent dogs there were walking by. Big black drooly dogs. Little tiny yapping dogs in people's arms. Sniffy terriers on rope leashes. One woman with six or seven very excited dogs, all doing several directions at once. Any place with that many great dogs is automatically a good place to live.

I was finally rested, and headed off to look at CDs. I had underestimated the amount of walking it would take, and it was on the other side of the road, but I finally got there. It was smaller than I thought, but it was worthwhile, because everything seemed as if it had been carefully selected by hand. I could have spent an amazing amount of money there, but I was selective and ended up only leaving with a Circle CD and the new Low album. Thinking about how I was going to get any vinyl I picked up home with me prevented me from buying any, unfortunately. The thing that pleased me most is how many things in there I had never even heard of before. This took some real effort on their part. [4]

There were some other places in the area I wanted to go, but at this point, I was famished. I walked back the way I came, looking for good places to eat, and I settled on a burrito. I don't remember the place -- Taqueria Something-or-Other -- but it seemed popular and smelled good. I got an enormous carne asada burrito the hottest salsa they had (or that they were willing to give me), chips and Orangina. [5] There were little jars of tomatillo sauce on the tables. I spooned some onto my plate to dip the chips in. It was tasty, but you really can't go wrong with tomatillos. The burrito was also good, but was bigger than my head and I couldn't eat it all. Apparently, I came at the right moment -- by the time I had done all I could with my food, the line was snaking out the door.

Damm, I was tired at this point. So tired I figured that I could not pack anymore enjoyment into my day without some rest. So I got on BART and headed back for the hostel. I arrived easily, and napped for awhile.

When I got up, R. invited me to go over to the bookstore with her. I did not know that there was a bookstore handy, but there was -- a ginormous Borders right on the edge of Union Square. We walked over there and looked around for a bit. She was surprised that there was a café there and that people were allowed to get near the books with food and beverages, but that faded quickly enough. I bought some more Orangina. It took me awhile to get though the cookbook section, longer still to examine cultural studies and I didn't even get started on architecture. I ended up buying a enormous black sketchbook, and we headed back to the hostel. Which is where sleep lives, and that was the end of another day.

[1] I'm making it sound bad, but I actually like the Denver Art Museum. You get in free on Saturdays, there's some pretty interesting stuff there, and the building is neat, unlike the God-Awful Michael Graves Candyland thing next door to it (the library). I hate that building -- it's okay once you get inside, but outside, it just grates.

[2] There was one just adjacent to the hostel, too. Both R. and O., my roommates, were very excited about this and one or the other of them was always heading over there for some drink or another. I had a hard time conveying to either of them why I was not as excited about going there as they were. "Well, you know, they have one of those where I live now and…"

[3] You'd think that there would be somewhere on the Internet where you could buy plastic food. I mean, those Japanese restaurants all get it from somewhere. I looked and looked, but all I could find was this guy's account of obtaining plastic food in Tokyo. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know, because I would love to have my own private display of plastic food.

[4] Yes, I know how egotistical that sounds. But it's true.

[5] There was Orangina seemingly everywhere in SF. I was surprised that the burrito place had it (it's a French soft drink), but they did, as well as a couple of coffee places I went to, the bookstore, Rite-Aid, many places that I looked. Nobody where I live has it -- makes me weep, it does.

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