Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yolo of the Month: August

There's a mindset that I'm able to get in--particularly when traveling--of wanting to and then actually following through on doing whatever suits my fancy. I think it comes in part from knowing you have a limited amount of time and wanting to pack in as much as possible, but there's also that emotional state of just feeling very free. Maura calls this "yolo"-- "You Only Live Once." I think I discovered it for the first time when I was in New Zealand. There were so many places and experiences I ended up in because I'd just decided "Why not?" And those turned out to be some of the best, or at least some of the most memorable.

It's been a long time since I've felt like that in a place I actually live. When I came back from NZ I vowed that I'd embark on more "staycations" and do all the touristy things you always say you're going to do, but then never get around to because you're too busy doing all the things you have to do. I've gotten a little better, but last weekend truly lived up to the yolo spirit.

Almost the best part was that it started like any weekend, with Friday Night Ritual of couch time and a very lazy Saturday morning. It's like I was already back in the school year (also because I was at school until like 5pm on Friday. UGH). On Saturday, my friend Dave suggested we go to the De Young to see the Birth of Impressionism exhibit. How very cultured. I was slightly concerned about getting tickets--other people I knew who have gone bought their tickets way in advance. But this is where we stumbled upon stroke of luck #1 for the day. (Actually, this was stroke of luck #2. #1 was finding a parking spot on a Saturday in Golden Gate Park, and #1.5 was that said parking spot was right outside the lawn bowling club. Who knew?) When we got to the De Young, two women came up to us asking if we were going to the Impressionist exhibit. They had planned to see it, they explained, but couldn't find parking so decided to come another time. Did we want their tickets? Obviously, yes. This was even more exciting because it turned out that the exhibit was completely sold out. Score.

The exhibit was fantastic. Very well put together. I had to secretly thank Ms. Giles and the PHS Humanities team that I actually recognized a lot of the paintings and the history behind the birth of Impressionism. "Ah yes," I said to myself (and to no one else because I didn't want to sound pretentious), "I remember the internal struggle of Edouard Manet as he wanted so desperately to be accepted by the Academie des Beaux-Arts..." Another important sighting at the De Young was a man wearing everyone's favorite wolf shirt, unfortunately (fortunately?) in what I think was a non-ironic way.

From the De Young, we consulted Dave's former-gourmet-chef friend's list of top eats in SF and found the Arizmendi Bakery, a cousin of Berkeley's Cheeseboard. The pizza was in my opinion equivalent, and now I know I don't have to drive to the East Bay for such deliciousness.

It was late afternoon, but we were on a roll so we decided to hit up the fortune cookie factory in Chinatown, an adventure we'd been talking about for awhile. And it's an adventure indeed--a small little shop tucked away in a seedy looking back alley. We walked past the alley twice before we actually found it. Inside was a cramped little operation, definitely more factory than shop. There's a genius machine that squirts out batter into little round molds then rotates them through an oven until a woman picks the warm cookies up one at a time, sticks in a fortune and folds them in half. Very impressive.

My fortune was eerily accurate: "Take time in the upcoming week for much needed relaxation." This could not be more true as I was about to embark on my first week back at school after an extremely refreshing summer. HOW DID YOU KNOW, FORTUNE COOKIE?!?!

As Dave and I were driving back to drop him off at home, he told me to make an extra turn. "There's one more place I want to go." He'd heard about Pirate Cat Radio Cafe on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," and wanted to try their Maple Bacon Latte. Yes, it's made with bacon fat and obviously it's delicious.

The Pirate Cat Radio Cafe is exactly what the name implies--a pirate radio station. Such a weird little operation. The cafe only had enough seats for the two of us because there was a band, the Hypnotist Collectors, about to play for a radio broadcast. And they were really good. We stayed and listened to their whole set. Was this all part of the Yolo Gods' master plan? Dave's fortune cookie says yes.

As we were leaving, we thanked the band, who promptly offered us one of their CDs and invited us to the show they were playing that night. Why not? So much for going home on a Saturday to write lesson plans. The concert was in some boutique hotel that I never would have pegged as a hipster enclave. I'm sure this is not its regular clientele, but I loved the juxtaposition of upscale lounge and consciously-unshowered wannabe counterculturists.

In the morning, there was more yolo-ing to be done. I'd heard about the walking tours of San Francisco and now after three years of living here I finally got around to doing one.
The Mission murals I'd hoped for wasn't happening this weekend, so the Castro seemed like a good second option. Current and future visitors: I cannot recommend these tours enough. The tours are run by volunteer guides sponsored by the SF Library and the SF Parks Trust. And they're free. At least on my tour, our guide was extremely interesting, knowledgeable, and excited about this job. I especially appreciated the combination of history and architecture. Now I look at every building in San Francisco trying to identify which type of Victorian it is. I also now have some background on streets and sights I've seen over and over. I love knowing that the Walgreens on the corner played an important role in the AIDS crisis, or that the hardware store used to be a theater. So many little things you walk by and don't notice--you can't help but wonder what else you're missing.

A few more stops in SF before finally getting back to reality. All were just places one might stumble upon, including some Mission murals (sans tour guide) and thrift shops (scavenging for future Halloween costumes and/or my transition into the hipster aesthetic). Most exciting was the Levi's Workshop, a space on Valencia that Levi's rented out for the summer as basically an open art studio. It's all focused on printmaking and they have a couple of different old printing presses and a big screenprinting area. During the week, it's used by artists-in-residence and other more-creative-than-me kinds of people, but on Sundays they open it up for the public to use. Unfortunately it was all booked up for the day, but they did have an opening for the following Sunday. See future blog posts for the fruits of my typesetting ambitions. It was pretty amazing--just a place for people from the community to learn about these art forms and actually try out the heavy machinery.

One of the most amazing weekends I've had in a long time, and that includes my recent weekend in Quito. How is it that I don't do this more often? It's not like any of the agenda items were difficult to find or were special occasions. I guess it just takes the right mindset, and it doesn't hurt to have an activity partner who encourages your adventurous side.

I should have bought a bag of fortune cookies at the factory to see where they would take me next.


Linda said...

Sounds like a great time. I am going to look for yolo opportunities here.

Linda said...

Where did the guy get the wolf shirt? Have you had any luck finding the other shirt you mentioned in the July 4 discussion? I have kept my eyes open for them but with no luck.