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My Impressions of San Francisco
Little cable cars climbing half-way to the stars enticed the artist to imagine an exotic and foreign place that Tony Bennett introduced me to over 40 years ago. Hearing the song quite frequently paved the way for me in the early sixties to wonder about this town.
In my very impressionable youth Rod Mckuen spoke of Stanyan St. and romance was set ablaze as I cherished the images painted by McKuen. I found the poem Stanyan St. embedded a vast array of feelings that became part of my psyche. Forty years later a chance acquaintance with Chapman Solomon resulted in my visit to San Francisco, on the spur of the moment. Chap organized a whirlwind visit and I observed the city and its environs including: Stanford University (the Rodins), The Jewish Contemporary Museum, (the Chagall Show), The Legion of Honour (Van Gogh, Chihuly, Mark di Suvero), Lombard St., the Painted Ladies, Transamerica, Sentinel Building, Alcatraz, St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, Chinatown, Stanyan St., the cable cars, the Golden Gate, The Bay Bridge, Museum of Modern Art, City Hall, The Symphony, Sausalito (rock sculptures), Coit Tower, and the Heart Sculptures. In my impressionable autumn years romance continues to fire my spirit. I Looked and drove down Stanyan Street and created a theme within a theme. “You lie bent up in embryo sleep below the painting of a blue fisherman without a pillow. The checkered cover kicked and tangled on the floor. ...A car going by....a fire engine up the hill....The light from the street lamp coming through the shutters.....hysterical patterns flash on the wall sometimes when a car goes by...You’ve filled completely this first November day with Sausalito...Moving about in the bathroom taking twenty minutes of our precious time....Only the clock moving towards rejection tomorrow breaks the stillness.....Those houses on Pacific that march toward posterity restored by dilettantes from Jackson Square painted up like aging actresses with eye-shadow windows and rouge-red doors....these houses almost shiny new that crowd Nob Hill and marched down Lombard in a row,...the San Francisco wreckers and their yard long hammers. Their caterpillar treads that transform brick to dust-red powder. Those giant cranes....”
I created my own Fisherman in Blue, and surrounded it with another painting, “Stanyan Street, A Tribute to Rod McKuen”. So the, “Fisherman in Blue” is now a painting, within a painting, within a painting.
The City of San Francisco is now one of my favourite cities in the world and continues to inspire me to create artworks. I can reiterate the words of both Tony Bennett and Rod McKuen. My heart belongs to San Francisco and unbelievably to me it was more fantastic than all my dreams imagined.
Thank you, Mr. Rod McKuen, for the following beautiful poem of inspiration.
for Glenn and Ellen, Jocelyn and Tony, Flo and Eddie and...
You lie bent up in embryo sleep
below the painting of the blue fisherman
without a pillow.
The checkered cover kicked and tangled on the
the old house creaking now
a car going by
a fire engine up the hill.
I've disentangled myself from you
groping in the dark for cigarettes,
and now three cigarettes later
I sit across the room watching you -
the light from the street lamp coming through the
hysterical patterns flash on the wall sometimes
when a car goes by
otherwise there is no change.
Not in the way you lie curled up.
Not in the sounds that never come from you.
Not in the discontent I feel.
You've filled completely
this first November day
with Sausalito and sign language
canoe and coffee
ice cream and your wide eyes.
And now unable to sleep
because the day is finally going home
because your sleep has locked me out
I watch you and wonder at you.
I know your face by touch when it's dark
I know the profile of your sleeping face
the sound of you sleeping.
Sometimes I think you were all sound
kicking free of covers
and adjusting shutters
moving about in the bathroom
taking twenty minutes of our precious time.
I know the hills
and gullys of your body
I have total recall of you
and Stanyan Street
because I know it will be important later.
It's quiet now.
Only the clock,
moving toward rejection tomorrow
breaks the stillness.
I have come as far away
as means and mind will take me
trying to forget you.
I have traveled, toured
turned a hundred times in the road
hoping to see you rushing after me.
though half a world away,
I still hear you sigh in several sizes.
The breathing softer when you're satisfied.
The plip-plop body machinery back to normal.
remembering how warm you are
and how defenseless in your sleep
never fails to make me cry.
I cannot bear the thought of you
in someone else's arms
yet imagining you alone is sad.
And in the day
my mind still rides the bridge
from Sausalito home.
I do not think
me and San Francisco
will be friends again
we share too many troubles.
Stanyan Street and other sorrows.
We try so hard to make each other frown
I sometimes wonder
if we haven't been together much too long.
The words that work the wonders are so few
that they seem foolish anymore.
Is this a kind of loving too,
a chocolate bar that tastes good at the time
but kills the dinner later on ?
Could be our appetite will go
till even memory's not a feast.
But there are times
when you can smile in such a way
that I'd forget a ten year war
and lie down in your shadows' shadow
and live on sounds your stomach makes.
In these brief times
I could die against your side
and never make a warning sound
content to suffocate
within the circle of your back.
( or maybe four )
have moved beneath the San Francisco wreckers
and their yard-long hammers.
Their caterpillar treads that transform brick
to dust-red powder.
Those giant cranes
that slice a roof down
with a single swing.
Some have never known the wreckers' rattle.
Those houses on Pacific that march toward
restored by dilettantes from Jackson Square
painted up like aging actresses
with eye-shadow windows and rouge-red doors.
Some have had collections taken up
petitions passed from hand to hand.
Their widows walks scraped free of dirt
and green grass planted where the weeds once grew.
These houses almost shiny new
that crowd Nob Hill
and marched down Lombard in a row
were saved to show the glory of the past.
There was a house on Stanyan street
that took a single day to wreck
and that includes an hour spent
at tin-pail lunch on sandwiches and beer.
They carted off the timber and sold it by the
The bricks at least, ten cents a piece,
now make a Marin garden wall.
But there is little salvage to be had
in bent and broken nails
and things that might have been
if I'd had wiser eyes
or been a fisherman
-Rod McKuen from "Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows", 1966