Polish Festival

On Sunday, October 12, 2008, a beautiful, clear, warm, sunny day, I drove to Golden Gate Park for the Polish Heritage Festival. Because it was so nice, I spent most of my hour and a half at the festival sitting outside reading and eating.

I took a few pictures and one video of what I ate and saw at the festival.

I spent such little time at the festival because it was small, smaller even than the two small festivals I've been to in the same building: Chilean and Arab. There were only seven stands:

  • the Polish Arts & Cultural Foundation
  • a Polish market (snacks, magazines)
  • a meat and sausage shop
  • a table for a Polish dance group
  • a stand selling Polish books
  • another selling Polish movies
  • a Polish-language school for kids
The most interesting aspect of the festival to me was that mostly everyone spoke Polish and, when talking to people at stands or ordering food, most people assumed I did too. For instance, an old woman in the line for food dropped a dollar bill, which I picked up for her. I got back a long series of uninterpretable sentences. I assume she was thanking me.

Excelsior Street Festival (San Francisco)

On Sunday, October 5, 2008, I drove to the city for a street festival in a neighborhood I'd never previously visited. As it turned out, the neighborhood was a pretty normal low-income SF neighborhood, filled mostly with Mexican and Chinese immigrants, though judging by the street names (e.g., France, Moscow, Geneva), the neighborhood must've been previously occupied by European immigrants. Sadly, the stores don't reflect this heritage.

The fair itself was tiny and dominated by political and community organizations. I saw many stands for candidates for local city government positions, a few for state positions, and some for various ballot measures. (I got practice saying I don't live or vote in the city.) There were also stands for city departments (building inspection, public works, police), for business groups (e.g., the local development association), and for local community groups (e.g., parks, schools, community center, YMCA).

As for things to see, there were ten stands selling kitsch like beads, cheap jewelry, and sunglasses. No art.

A decent jazz band played to an empty parking lot. Sad. That was the only musical stage I saw.

Next to the kids' zone (bouncy castle and all), was a mat where adults wearing big puffy suits wrestled. It looked like fun.

The one food booth sold hot dogs.

After the twenty minutes it took me to see everything, I left, grabbed food in the neighborhood, and headed home. Given the festival's size, it's no wonder the street fair people didn't bother to put together a web page for the festival this year.

International Food Festival

On Saturday, September 27, 2008, I drove to San Francisco for St. Thomas More Church's International Food Festival. It was frustratingly difficult to find. Google Maps put the address in the wrong location. Next, when I tried navigating directly by the official street address, I learned it's not actually on street specified. Rather, the church overlooks the street from a nearby hilltop. Furthermore, bad traffic exacerbated the aggravation in locating the church.

Thus, I was even more disappointed when I arrived and saw the festival was small, with only a handful of food booths (Italian, Filipino, and Greek), and four non-food booths. I guess it should get credit for having a kid's area with bouncy castles, slides, and the like. I took a few pictures and one video this day; the video really shows the size of the festival. The pictures provide details about what I ate. As there really wasn't much going on, I didn't stay long.

The de Young Museum and its Chihuly Exhibit

On Thursday, September 25, 2008, I took the day off from work to go to the city to view the de Young Museum's special Chihuly exhibit. Chihuly is a fantastic glass artist. I heard great things about the exhibit and wanted see it before it closed on Sunday. (Besides, I'd never visited the de Young museum before.) As I knew the exhibit would be packed on the weekend, I decided to go during the week. It's a good thing I did: when I checked the web page on Friday morning, I found out tickets for the exhibit were entirely sold out Friday through Sunday.

I drove up to the city in time for lunch, having selected Pizzetta 211, a little pizza joint that I'd been meaning to try for ages. The pizza I had was cooked excellently, and I got to enjoy it eating alfresco on a perfect day.

Speaking of the pizza, here are the pictures and videos I took on this day's excursion, beginning with the pretty pizza and continuing with many neat pieces in the museum. The museum itself has quite a respectable collection.

I took, however, no pictures of the Chihuly exhibit. I was told incorrectly by the front desk clerk that taking pictures was prohibited in the exhibit. I only learned the truth after I'd entered the exhibit and I saw countless other cameras come out. I couldn't leave to get my camera, as the exhibit's admission ticket allows only one entry and specifies a particular time. Nevertheless, my lack of a camera isn't so bad because the special exhibit's web site (which sadly appears to be down at the moment) has countless pictures, as does flickr. (Well, flickr I can count, and it's roughly twelve thousand. :> )

Each room literally made me gasp as I entered. Not only were the pieces excellently presented, they were impressive. I could stare at them for hours (though I actually went through the ten rooms in slightly less than an hour). The exhibit proceeded from a room with glass implementations of ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), to a forest of glass lilies, to baskets (yes, not made of glass; this was another of Chihuly's hobbies), to glass bowls. The bowls, presented in a room known as the Macchia Forest (search the web for pictures), were vibrant with a variety of colors and transitions between colors. They seemed like lava in motion, even glowing like lava, but, obviously, weren't moving. The exhibition guide aptly describes them as "simultaneously hot and flowing, cool and congealing."

Next came glass reeds, like candles as tall as a man, coming out of logs. Following that was a boat of marbles. Imagine a bowl of colorful marbles that someone may have on a coffee table. This was like that but the boat was the size of a real boat and the marbles were a meter across, colorful, and with metallic highlights. Next to one boat, baubles sprouted in a nest of flowers, vines, sunflowers, irises, and more, all glass. The room felt like candyland.

Then came chandeliers. Each a single color, these tangled constructions were an impressive tour de force of Chihuly's skills (as if the previous rooms weren't enough)

Another room had a clear glass ceiling with translucent, colored glass sculptures on it. Lit from above, they made the room glow luminously in a medley of colors. It felt like being at the bottom of a swimming pool. Some sculptures looked like seashells. The whole design reminded of a glass tunnel I saw in the Georgia Aquarium (see the movies).

The final room was a surreal 40 foot x 12 foot (my estimates) glass garden. Some pieces reminded me of the flowers and ferns I saw at Vancouver's botanical garden. (I'm using the term surreal as if everything else in the exhibit wasn't surreal enough.)

In all, a very memorable trip.

The exhibit's store sells some small, unique pieces by Chihuly for between four and eight thousand dollars. It boggles my mind how much the exhibit would cost at that rate.

For future reference, in the de Young itself, the photography and textile exhibits were closed, nor did I have time to visit the New Guinea, Africa, or Oceania exhibits.