Art in Transit – Literary Journeys

So, as per usual, I have a million half-written blog posts. But today, like a month ago, what is actually getting me to blog is transit-related-art.

Last week, I noticed an interesting ad in the Montgomery BART station, or what I thought was an ad – this illustration had wolves running through a snow-filled BART train. Upon looking closely, I noticed that the person in the foreground was reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild. And indeed, the poster was not really an ad, but an artistic interpretation of reading on a train, and imagination taking hold.

I meant to research what these were or who had done them, but forgot until I saw a second one this morning:

Pretty neat!!

Not only does this capture one of the joys of a daily transit ride, but the books are all from Bay Area authors. So, when I got to my desk today, I did a little poking, and learned a little bit more about the posters.

The full article is available on the BART blog here.  The posters are created by artist Owen Smith, and are the third in a BART public art project.

Smith took the broad mission of the poster art program – providing riders with the opportunity to enjoy original artwork while traveling through the BART system – and pitched an idea inspired by literary icons with Bay Area connections.  The series “Literary Journeys” depicts BART riders immersed in books by Dashiell Hammett, Jack London and Amy Tan, with scenes from the books coming to life in their imaginations. “I love the idea that there could be something interesting and different to look at while you are waiting for a train,” Smith says.


Smith’s art posters – like the previous two series – contain no explicit messaging, which is an important concept of the series.  “If it’s a little mysterious, that’s OK,” he says.

Gina DeLorenzo, a member of BART’s communications team who manages the poster program, said train stations provide “a unique gallery setting” for Smith’s art. The posters, 60 in all, are placed in unused advertising spaces throughout the BART system. “We want the artist to really think about the rider experience, and then bring to it their own interests and interpretation,” she said.

I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for the posters as you go about your daily commute. I haven’t seen the last in person yet, so I will be searching for it over the next few weeks. I think this is a great project – a simple way to bring some joy to the daily commute.

They Wore Their Best

I take transit every day – usually MUNI in the morning and BART in the evening.  And I love it. I love it more, having moved from New York, because I have the option of driving when I want to – especially to go grocery shopping or on other errands involving schlepping. But mostly, I love it.

I love having time to myself for 20-30 minutes twice a day. Usually that time is used to prepare for the day at work, to read (I just finished Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying which was phenomenal) or listening to audiobooks/podcasts (recently started At Home by Bill Bryson, which is great). And when I do the latter, I play a lot of Scramble with Friends and Draw Something.

But sometimes, I start random conversations that lead to new found obsessions (as I detailed in my post about Maximum Fun and Bullseye here) or end up doing my makeup (I only do this if I have two seats to myself).

But, although I love transit, rarely do I get to learn something new or see something moving or beautiful. And especially, I very rarely think about the world beyond my own day-to-day life.

San Bruno BART has changed that with “They Wore Their Best”  – twelve then-and-now photograph comparisons about the Japanese interment in California during World War II.

The photos from the 40s were taken by famed photographer Dorthea Lange and the modern photos were taken by Paul Kitagaki, Jr., who discovered that his own family’s interment had been documented by Lange. San Bruno’s Tanforan – then a race track – was converted into a detention center where many gathered before being sent to the interment camps.  All the images are moving and strong and, I think, an important reminder of the past.

120,000 individuals  of Japanese descent- two-thirds US Citizens – were sent to interment camps under presidential Executive Order 9066 two months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon discovering Lange’s photos, Kitagaki “wanted to find out the rest of the story: how the internment had changed the lives of people who’d lost their homes, businesses and sometimes their families.”

I’m afraid I don’t do either photographers’ work much justice with my camera phone, but I recommend taking a little transit trip to San Bruno to see this exhibit. You can use the time on the train for yourself, and the time in the station to connect to this important and sad part of our American and Californian history.
“The issei (first generation) are all gone and the nisei (second generation) are in their 80s and 90s,” said exhibition organizer Richard Oba, of the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee. “I felt like this was the last hurrah. These pictures were frozen in time. But now Paul has unlocked them.”

SFGate article (where the above quotes are from) about the exhibit:
Photos illustrate effects of WWII internment camps by Patricia Yollin (May 12, 2012)

On the Road!

Last weekend, Carolyn and I drove down to Chula Vista (about 10 miles south of San Diego) for her internship at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). She is going to be working with the sports medicine team for the US athletes prepping for the Olympics in BMX Biking, Field Hockey, Track & Field, and … I always forget one… Anyway, it is very exciting, and I’m proud of her.

I played the big sister role – heading down to be a second driver, to help carry heavy things, and deal with any minor crisis that arrive when moving. And, let me say, after having my major moves be across the country and via plane, moving via car is much more civilized.

Here is a little photographic story about our trip:

7:30am: Carolyn and all her stuff, and the lovely little red car that carried us down the coast.

9AM – We hit the road after filling the car with gas, and us with caffeine.

I drove first, and as we listened to the Sklar Brothers great comedy record Hendersons and Daughters, we went past a TON of CHP and one Weiner-mobile – much to Carolyn’s delight:

Erin, you don’t understand. It’s a Weiner and mo-BILE. – Carolyn, (possible inaccurately quoted, =P )

Eventually she fell asleep, and I switched over to the audiobook for Mary Roach’s Stiff. After about three hours of driving (and still being a relatively inexperienced driver, especially at long-distances), I had to get out and walk around. We stopped and the rest stop had the above interesting machinery.

Carolyn took over driving, and I slept until the must-have stop at In-N-Out. Then we drove on through the Grapevine, seeing some lovely vistas like the above. Anthony Bourdain’s excellent memoir Kitchen Confidentiall kept us entertained and slightly disgusted until we hit Anaheim and started listening to the very exciting 49er v. Saints playoff game.

The closer we got to Chula Vista the more intense the game got, and each time Carolyn got frustrated with the proceedings she would turn the radio off, which I found hysterical.

5:15pm – We were just pulling into Chula Vista as the crazy last few minutes of the game went down. So exciting!! Go Niners!

All in all, it was a very pleasant drive and we the whole drive took about 8 hours, which was great.

After we rested and got cleaned up some, we met our cousin Darcy for dinner in San Diego. (As long as there is no traffic, it seems like everything is 14 minutes away between San Diego/Chula Vista/Coronado). We went to the R Gang Eatery, and had a ton of delicious food including Brussels sprouts and the bone marrow & beef cheeks dish above. While eating, Darcy entertained us with hilarious stories of her life as an office temp and nanny as she studies for the MCAT.

Sunday, 11AM – After dinner we went back to the motel and collapsed. In the morning, we checked out and headed to San Diego for brunch. And I, apparently, dressed in every pattern I owned….

Brunch was at the Mission, as recommended by my old friend Deirdre. It was very good, and way, way too much food. I think Carolyn’s french toast could’ve fed three people.

12:30pm – We did our major site-seeing at Coronado, on the beach and at the Hotel del Coronado. A beautiful and awesome place that I would love to spend more time at.

Coronado - Carolyn let me take a million photos of her. This was one of my favorites.

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12 Weeks in Photos – Part 1

Sutro Tower at Sunset

What?? Two posts in one week.  I’m going to try quite hard to post at least once a week going forward, and I’m cheating a little today by using mostly photos.

Because my camera is most often attached to my hand, and when it is not, I have a smart phone in my pocket, I thought photos would be the best way to look at the last 12 weeks in California.

Hopefully you will like them too!

Week 1 (September 14-20):

September Strawberries

I flew back to California in mid-September and dove pretty quickly into work. That weekend, Mom came home from the Farmers Market with the most gorgeous flat of strawberries.

September was an amazing month for produce. We had strawberries and heirloom tomatoes, and Syche made amazing beets.  The weather was gorgeous and the food delicious – it was the perfect time to move home.

Week 2 (September 21-27):

In 2010, I went through a big Sherlock Holmes faze, reading three of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. This year the Fall mystery companion has been Agatha Christie; I’ve read And Then There Were None, Crooked House, and just finished today, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  The first was my favorite – I couldn’t put it down! (But after Ackroyd, I think I’m done with Christie for a while – what classic mystery writer should I try next?)

SF at Night

Friday of my second week in California had me driving to the Castro to pick up Liz, Molly & Syche from the Little Mermaid Sing-a-Long. I had missed this first portion of Liz’s bachelorette because of a board meeting for work, and while I was on my way, Syche texted saying the start had been delayed.  I used my extra half hour to take some pictures near Dolores Park – I was trying to capture Sutro Tower, but this shot ended up being my favorite.

Late Night Pizza at Liz's Bachelorette

Eventually I made it (and without killing the denizens of the Castro who kept brazenly walking in front of my car). We enjoyed show tunes and they enjoyed martinis (I have so much kharmic debt owed in terms of rides, I was happy to be the DD), followed by late night pizza on Haight Street.

‘Twas a lot of fun!
(Molly is taking the picture, but I promise she is also wearing a lot of jewelry and possibly a crown.)

Fog Fest 2011 - Sandcastle Competition

The following morning, Syche, Drew and I went and explored Fog Fest 2011 in Pacifica. One of the highlights was the sandcastle competition – the other? Funnel cake!

Week 3 (September 28-October 4):

Auction Item from the Fashion Show (sadly I did not get to keep it)

Week three was all about the Fashion Show at work. I put together a silent auction for the first time and ran around like a crazy person.

But, the event went really well, and by having a sort of trial-by-fire, the following weeks at work have been much less insane.

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Oceans, wolves and cults – life in California

So, all-in-all, the transition back to California has been great. I like my job, my family’s pretty great, and the weather!  The weather is awesome. I will always be happiest when it is between 65 and 75 degrees, wearing a light sweater, with an ocean five minutes away.

Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands (a little farther than 5 minutes, but way worth it)

One of the constants in the last (almost) three months, has been TV and movie consumption with Syche and Drew.

Though…we’ve tended to pick semi (or very) depressing or disturbing material…

This started with the addicting Game of Thrones, which we plowed through in about 2 weeks. (S&D had both seen it before, and wanted me to. I’m going to return the favor and introduce them to the amazing BBC Sherlock very soon).

I liked Game of Thrones a lot, way more than I expected, despite insane amounts of violence and unnecessary amount of breasts – I guess the adorable Dryer Wolves* made up for the latter. But the violence was what stuck with me.

On Thanksgiving we saw The Descendents with George Clooney- which I cried through 2/3 of. (But it did make me excited for my January trip to Hawaii!)

So violence and tears were the standard operating procedure when we gathered last night.

But boy, did it take the cake.  We watched the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene** directed by Sean Dirken and starring Elizabeth Olson. I liked it a lot, but will probably never watch it again.  Olson plays Martha who has recently returned to her sister Laura’s life after a two-year abscene. During that time, she joined a cult group somewhere in upstate New York, where she was renamed Marcy May.  Dirken tells the two stories simultaneously as Martha aka Marcy May tries to create a life in both worlds.

God, I started this whole blog post to talk about this movie and I don’t even know how to say what I want to say…. I liked the acting – everyone did a great, understated job of portraying their generally fucked-up characters. I thought it was beautifully shot, if a bit dark at times. I was compelled…

But… fundamentally, the movie was terrifying. That’s what I took away from watching it.

Scenes themselves were creepy, I spent the whole thing being worried of who was lurking in windows and down long corridors. (I like this type of scary much more than gross-out torture porn of recent horror flicks).  The film’s ominous feeling was amplified by the very smooth transitions from present day to flashbacks – as a viewer I never knew where I would be taken next. But even more terrifying was the emotional turmoil Martha underwent as a cult member – her insecurities were masterly manipulated, and as an audience member we went along that journey with her to a stressful degree.

I think the New Yorker review described the tone best, when talking about Patrick (John Hawks), the cult’s leader:

The source of Patrick’s power, in short, is not just violation but the rite of violation—the same pain being inflicted again and again, until it acquires the patina of the mock sacred. (Full Review)

Friend Alex, a film devotee, talks better than I can about this movie and a few other recent flicks that deal with madness here.
I would recommend seeing the movie, but as we continue to venture into Award season, my next few picks may have to be on the happier side of life. Who can recommend a good comedy?
*Actually called Direwolves, but I mistakenly called them this in the beginning and it stuck.
** In the lead up to seeing this movie, I think I substituted every M name out there – yes, Melinda Mary Michelle Matilda, was very good, wasn’t it!

27 hours in California

My “Favorite Things from Four Years in NYC” series will continue, but for now, a quick reflection on the first 27 hours back in California:

– My luggage was impressive, I should have taken a picture.

– ROOM by Emma Donohue is amazing, and was excellent plane reading.
(X-Men First Class was an ok plane movie)

– My family rocks, as per usual.

-“Sleeping in” ended up meaning 7AM, BUT I got to drive Morgan to school, so it was worth it.

– I love having TV and DVR! I know from the majority of the last 7 years, I absolutely don’t need it, but dear god I love it! (Top Model and Free Agents were my companions today)

– California is so beautiful!

– I still love lettuce wraps from PF Chang (available on both coasts) but they are better while chatting with my Mom in person.  And, Mom and I still have the best convos while driving in the car.

– I bought tickets for Lys, Joe & I to see “An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer” at the beginning of November and am way excited.

– Sigmund Stern is a brilliant dog park with lovely people.

– I don’t miss New York yet, but I think it still feels like vacation and not a permanent change.

– Sometimes walking around a mall with two of your favorite people in the world can be the best way to spend an evening.

– I really love listening to KNBR for Giants radio. Those guys are great. (And the Panda got a cycle, woo!)

– I still like cities more than the suburbs, but I think the next 4-6 months here will be restful and restorative.

– New job tomorrow… excited and terrified, but mostly excited.