We went to Golden Gate Park tonight, by a small lake. We were surrounded by fog, the only lights coming from distant yellow street lamps. The water rippled and clouds of cold fog blew across it. It was amazing, mystical, and creepy. I felt a mix of awe and doom.
We sat in the car, and a silhouette walked by the water, with long hair and a long coat. In its hand, an iPhone shone bright white against the night.
I first heard of the Kuchar brothers — George and Mike — in a class (taught by Denah Johnston) earlier this year where we watched portions of a documentary on them and saw clips from their films, and it was interesting. But that was it: just interesting. Weird, unconventional, unique, even inspiring in some parts (but invoking a feeling of pity in others). Certainly interesting — but nothing more. I wasn’t hooked. It didn’t have any obvious lasting effect on me.
Then I visited the Living in Studio Kuchar exhibit at the San Francisco Art Institute. Seeing all of George’s work carefully arranged, presented uniquely and interactively in a mesh of multimedia creativity, in the company of ardent fans and others like myself only just discovering his incredible legacy, changed everything. I “got” something more about his work. Arriving in an excellent mood, having a good time even before entering the main exhibit and the free wine and food certainly helped put me in the right place, but it was the awesome set up and the art itself that sealed the deal. I didn’t feel like I was seeing his art and films, I felt like I was experiencing them, discovering them.
The pictures spread askew across all the walls, framing projections of selected films. Brightly colored walls and huge, catchy quotes. Hanging screens with more video. Televisions with more video. A private viewing room with more video. Video tape players attached to the televisions so you could choose what to watch, and a record player where you could choose the record. Benches to sit on to watch the films, or just to take it all in. Paintings. Random curios. A stage with costumes, props and cameras.
San Francisco is a city of extremes. Today I saw a woman with red lipstick smeared on her face waving her arms while marching down the street, who turned into a man as she got closer. Moments later I passed a group of businessmen in suits complaining about the dust from construction. A homeless man dozes outside a fancy Starbucks where customers line up for the luxury of $4 coffee. Destitute beggars plead for “any change”, while I see headlines about entrepreneurs recieving million-dollar investments. Scarcity is flanked by plenty.
At 2:10 in the morning, I saw a street brawl break out, while — literally across the street — a model and camera crew stood around waiting to start shooting. “You fucking pussies!” shouted a gaunt man after his retreating assailants, who moments ago were pummeling him as he stumbled on the ground. Across the street, the model and her crew got back to work.
A 2011 survey ranked San Francisco as having the second highest quality of living in the United States. It’s also the city with the highest concentration of homeless in the country.
The weather can be warm and sunny, while across town perpetual fog hangs over grid-lined streets.
Tenderloin to Pacific Heights, luxury to dearth, rich to poor, inspiring to heartbreaking, everything to nothing. San Francisco seems to have it all.
And that seems to be part of the charm — or if not charm, at least appeal. There’s something for everyone. The panhandler living off disability checks and change, the college student eating microwave dinners and going clubbing on the weekends, the budding entrepreneur looking for investors, the business executive in a condo with a view. San Francisco, at the end of the day, is simply a great place to call home.