Union Street Festival

The Train
On Saturday, June 2, 2007, I planned to take the eleven o'clock Caltrain to the city to attend the Union Street Festival. Waking up naturally less than half an hour before the train departs, I found myself a block away from the station and on the wrong side of the tracks when the train pulled up. I ran. (Actually, I was running already so I simply continued running.) And, luckily, I jumped on board in the nick of time.

And then I realized I hadn't had time to buy a ticket. Caltrain requires passengers to get tickets before boarding lest they face a serious fine (several hundred dollars) or, in the best case, get asked to leave the train at the next station. But Caltrain often doesn't check tickets.

Stewing nervously in my seat, I pondered what to do. Should I stay and hope I don't get caught? Should I voluntarily disembark and take the next train a full hour later? I really didn't want to arrive to the festival an hour later; I'd be famished. Instead, I decided to jump off the train at a station with ticket machines very close to the track, quickly buy a ticket, and hopefully jump back on the train before it leaves.

At Millbrae, I successfully did so and returned proudly and happily to my seat. And then I glanced at my ticket and realized I was in such a hurry to press the buttons that I bought the wrong one!

So back I was stewing in my seat. I debated doing the same thing again, but there were few additional stations with ticket machines that close to the tracks. I realized the date and time stamp on my ticket made it obvious that I'd made a mistake buying it. For instance, it was for a southbound trip and I was on a northbound train. I could legitimately claim I was in such a hurry I pressed buttons without double-checking. I decided to sit and hope.

Hoping worked. No one checked tickets. I breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the train in San Francisco. I don't feel too bad about riding semi-ticketless, as I actually did pay roughly the correct amount for my trip.

Incidentally, I spotted a pretty Astro-Greek mural by the South San Francisco Caltrain station. It's Prometheus Gives Fire to Man by Nicolai Larsen.

The Bus
Finding the bus wasn't so easy either. I knew the stop was at one of the points neighboring the intersections near the Caltrain station. (Each intersection has four possible pickup points.) After trying five possible locations, I found the correct one. The bus arrived within a minute of me finding it.

Then, after a long ride as many people embarked and disembarked as we passed through Chinatown, we arrived at the festival's location.

The Festival
After I finally got to the Union Street Festival and had a chance to explore, it gradually dawned on me that the festival was as cool as Mountain View's. Many vendors attended both. It took me a while to realize this artistic connection because the atmosphere differed greatly. The Union Street Festival is (duh) located in a urban environment, one which has many more bars than Mountain View. Further, the crowds were different -- it's clear many people at the Union Street Festival came for the opportunity to drink. Indeed, all the bars were packed, probably because most bars had specials to undercut the festival's alcohol prices and also because of the weather. Because it was on the cool side, 60s and cloudy, it's nice to drink indoors or on a patio with heat lamps. Due to the size of the crowd, despite the weather, by the time I left, not only were the bars full but all the beer gardens were packed as well.

Beside the intrinsic motivation of the kind of people at the Union Street Festival, the weather discouraged browsing. It's easy to appreciate artwork when the weather is warm and pleasant, as it was for Mountain View's festival.

Although I took a few pictures and videos, I wasn't really in the mood. Hence most of my observations about the fair will be solely verbal. Some, however, are only mentioned in picture captions.

This festival had the usual assortment of vendors of clothing, jewelry, handbags, masks, hand-painted silk, pottery, etc. as others. Furthermore, many vendors I liked enough to mention from the Mountain View festival were there, including the woman who does paintings of flowers, the guy selling hanging racks and the like in the shape of small surfboards, the man who mounts butterflies under glass, the old man selling bonsai, the sculptor who makes swirls pushed out of metal sheets, and the metal souls metal figurine shop. But there was also a number of remarkable shops that were new to me:

  • Pep Ventosa makes incredible fragmented photographs. There's an art to making a picture out of pieces that don't quite align. He's one of the most unusual, exciting, and novel artists I've seen in a long time. It's actually much easier to view pictures online (despite his web site being agonizingly slow) than for me to attempt to describe his technique.
  • Light Chaser Inc has hyper-real photographs on canvas. He creates some of these by painting dye onto negatives, then making prints from those negatives. I like his philosophies of photography, as discussed his gallery page. The hyper-real photographs don't come out well on his web site -I guess they're limited by the range of colors a monitor can display-, but I find many of his scenic and panoramic photographs quite majestic. I'm not sure if those were on display at the festival. Also, he's got an interesting obsession with doors.
  • Thomas Barbey makes awesome combination photographs, merging scenes more smoothly than I would've thought possible without resorting to digital technologies. Since his web site is so flash-heavy and painful to use, you may want to browse a gallery elsewhere. I particularly liked High Security, Tourist Trap, Paris a.k.a. City of Lights (very witty), Absolute Faith, Isaac Newtons Puzzling Dream, and Shortcut to China.
  • Patrick Herms has well done photography, mostly of San Francisco. From his web site, I see I also like his color series of Scotland and the Middle East.
  • Glass
  • Studio Rynkiewicz makes art glass in the style of Venetian masters. I particularly like some of the curvilinear glass bowls I saw, also displayed in the latter pages of the 2006 catalog (especially page ten). These pieces are colorful, a festive party in themselves.
  • I chatted with the wife in the husband and wife team that is Dreamworks Glass. They produce glass art in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. The husband does most of the design and metalwork and the wife does the sandblasting. They got into glass after they were already married.
  • Melting Visions sells necklaces made with small, complex pieces of fused glass.
  • Heather Noilani Myler Designs makes slumped glass bowls. Due to their sheen, at first I thought these looked metallic. They're actually made by painting mica and then slumping glass and gold leaf over it. It goes to show how she's versed in and open to many techniques.
  • Wood
  • CC Imports sells $30 beautiful painted boxes with funky shapes (faces, swirls, etc.) from South America.
  • Bamboo Chic sells nicely lacquered bamboo products. (Yes, that address points to a domain squatter, but it's on the business card I was given.)
  • Totally Bamboo sells not just cutting boards but also butter knives, bowls, utensils, attache cases, and more made out of bamboo. I always thought of bamboo as an exotic hard wood, forgetting it's a fast growing, easily renewable resource.
  • Other
  • Anthony Hansen makes modern art. One item, not unlike this done with metal (and obviously a different message), could be a Game clue.
  • Felicia Renanol (could be misspelled) sells hand painted light bulbs. Neat. I wonder what kind of paint she uses so it doesn't burn, melt, or block too much light.
  • Martin Owino makes K'Owino Batiks. Batiks are a fabric waxed and dyed in a particular way (resist technique). Martin, a Kenyan native, makes vibrant, colorful batiks with scenes of African dancing, African costumes, women fetching water, etc.
  • Like most fairs, a few booths sold flavored (spiced) nuts, olive oil, and other gourmet items with a high price to volume ratio. At this fair, I spotted a booth I hadn't previously seen: DeCio Pasta. They made flavored pasta, mostly linguine. I bought four types: Tomato Basil Garlic, Habanero, Wild Mushroom, Szechuan Orange Spice.
  • In the middle of the festival, I retreated into a used bookstore for some quiet and relaxation. As a result of this visit, I later had an experience that I've never had before: I tried to look up a book I spotted there on amazon, and amazon didn't list it! It's not that amazon didn't sell it directly and it was only available used from resellers; amazon didn't list it at all. I find it amazing that I've been browsing on amazon for years, reading reviews of countless out of print books I spot elsewhere, and this was the first time that's happened to me.

    Like every other day, I must eat. This festival had the usual food vendors, many beer gardens, and lots of garlic fries. For once feeling in the mood for festival food, I grabbed a half-order of deep-fried vegetables: mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and zucchini. Good stuff, especially the artichoke hearts, which were marinated and still juicy and salty. After exploring most of the festival, I decided on a lunch of jambalaya, which turned out to be thoroughly unexceptional. The chicken was bland and the spicing of the dish as a whole was less complex than it should have been.

    This part of Union Street -I think the neighborhood is called Cow Hollow- is nice. Filled with many boutiques, I can tell it's one of the most ritzy parts of San Francisco. One store I noticed was Fog City Leather. During my earlier hunt for a jacket, I contemplated buying one there. In fact, it's one of the few places that sell leather trench-coats. But, it's an expensive store, and, anyway, I decided to go for a different style.

    There was a kids zone. As this is fairly standard for festivals, maybe I should cease mentioning such zones in festival reports unless they're extraordinary.

    Four hours after I arrived, I was done with the festival. Given my brief stint in the bookstore, that's not quite as long as the Mountain View festival but it's still close, and substantially longer than most others.

    Going Home
    After the festival, I reversed my steps. Returning home was much less eventful than getting to the festival. First, I took a bus to the Caltrain station. This was unexciting except for the observation that the next muni sign occasionally was significantly in error. (Because the bus ran a special route to circumnavigate the festival, the next muni software was confused.)

    I got to the Caltrain station seven minutes after a train left. Trains run every hour on the weekend. (My poor timing was because I didn't have a copy of the Caltrain schedule. As I didn't have any evening plans, I didn't really care when I arrived home.) I crossed the street and killed time in Safeway, browsing newspapers, wandering, and planning dinner.

    No comments: