among jets and giants

Cal Aerospace Museum F86F Sabre

Last week we went to the Aerospace Museum of California in Sacramento, which I’d wanted to visit for ages but as always, never get around to it. I grew up near the RAF Museum in Hendon, living about a mile or so away, yet it wasn’t until 2019 on a brief visit back to London (there was an Urban Sketchers London sketchcrawl there) that I finally visited. The California Aerospace Museum has a pretty amazing collection of planes and helicopters, and to quote the Bard, I love all that shit. When I was a kid I was obsessed with war planes, fighter jets, army helicopters. I loved the Spitfire of course, who didn’t, but was a big fan of the Tornado, and of the classic F16. In my primary school, probably because of our proximity to the historic RAF Hendon Aerodrome (now the site of the RAF Museum, and Grahame Park Estate) divided the kids into four houses, common in British schools (magical or otherwise; round our way your wand would be broken and your broomstick half-inched), and those four houses were named after great fighter planes: Phantoms (blue), Harriers (red), Jaguars (green) and Tornadoes (yellow). I think they were the colours anyway. Come to think of it maybe Jaguars were blue. Were Phantoms black? They might have been green. I don’t care. I was in Tornadoes, we were yellow. We got house points for good deeds, doing well at stuff (most of my house points were for drawing) (I might have lost some for drawing on the table though), and sports day. I did have pictures of planes on my bedroom wall; my big sister went out with a guy called Neil for a while and he worked at British Aerospace, so he brought me some brilliant prints of fighter jets. I used to draw my own ones, overloaded with all kinds of missile and machine gun, helicopters too. One of my favourite shows was Airwolf. Anyway the nine-year-old me was in heaven seeing all these old American fighter planes. It’s mostly open air, all the planes and choppers are displayed around the outside of the main hangar building, which mostly holds exhibits and engines and things about space, as well as an enormous aircraft called ‘Makani’, a many-propellored ‘energy kite’. Even thought it was morning it was very hot and hard to spend too much time outside. I particularly liked seeing the banana shaped helicopter and the Sikorsky ‘Jolly Green Giant’, and was enthralled with the fighter jets (no F16s, sadly). I got to draw a couple of them – the F86 Sabre (above), which had the logo ‘CALIF-ANG’ on the side (I made my wife take a photo with it, since she goes by Ang (short for Angela) and is from Calif (short for California). I love the US Air Force logo, that big star, it’s so classic. I also drew the McDonnell-Douglas F-4C “Phantom II”. I had to draw a Phantom, in honour of that old school house (my friend Wayne was in Phantoms). I always thought they were a British plane but of course that fighter originated in the US, and was exported to the RAF. This one flew extensively in Vietnam and is supersonic. We were able to go inside some of the larger planes, and in one huge Korea and Vietnam era plane there was a man who had participated in combat missions in Vietnam in that very plane, not as the pilot but as one of the crew on the plan, and who had parachuted from it many times. His stories were fascinating, and when asked if he enjoyed his time serving in the Air Force he said yeah, because he was up in the sky – it was much less fun for those on the ground. I’d like to go back and draw more some time, spend a few more hours there, but maybe at a cooler, less oppressively sunny time of year. 

Cal Aerospace Museum F9C Phantom II

“how are things in your little world”

D St Davis

And it’s back to Davis. We’ll continue the Virtual Tour De France soon. The weather turned slightly cooler this week – high 80s and low 90s, feels like Spring, but the hot weather’s coming back. I was downtown a couple of times this week, and on both occasions I stopped on D Street and drew this view. I finished it on the second outing. I was downtown to get my eyes tested. They still work fine. The glasses I got last year mean that my close-up vision is not as good, like for reading and so on, they said it was “fortyitis”, which I thought was a real name for a disease, but turns out it’s just what happens in your forties. Bloody forties. How did that happen, getting to the forties? I mean I know how, but like, how? I was 29 when I moved to Davis. I remember celebrating my 30th birthday like I was some ancient celestial being. Actually we went to Chevy’s in Dixon on my 30th, where they made me wear a sombrero while the staff sang Happy Birthday to me (though not the Happy Birthday song, which Chevy’s probably didn’t have the rights to). We also went to San Francisco and ate at a fancy fish restaurant a few days before my 30th, when my wife surprised me by bringing my best mate Roshan over from England without telling me. That was a big surprise! I didn’t even notice him at the table at first (early fortyitis fifteen years early, unable to see things right in front of you). I was saying hello to the other people who were there at my surprise 30th, basically friends of my mother-in-law, and then saw him and was pretty gobsmacked, like stunned to silence. He brought me over a big bottle of Pepsi Max too, because at the time you couldn’t get that here, and I really missed my Pepsi Max. I’m a simple man really. Anyway I was downtown getting my eyes tested, what they do now is take a big 3D image of your eye, and you have to sign something saying they are allowed to do that. I’m like, hell yeah I wanna see a big 3D image of my eyes, that’s cool! It was too. It was a bit like looking at a nebula, a little world, and they showed me all the bits in the right places, and noting unusual. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but dudes, come on. They can’t take a 3D image of my soul, can they. Can they? Um, I hope not. What did I sign, did I sign that they could take an image of my soul? Dammit, if my eyesight wasn’t so bad, I’d have been able to read the fine print. Anyway, I’m getting new sunglasses, so that’s nice. So, this eyesight thing, it generally means when I am drawing I have to hold the sketchbook a little further away than I used to. Usually I hold it right up to my face like I’m holding a violin (I had no idea I did this until people starting drawing me sketching), now I have to hold it a bit further away. It’s not that big a deal but when I’m looking far away then close up a lot, it takes a bit longer for my eyes to adjust. I decided against varifocals just yet, but anyway, fortyitis. This is D Street near Fifth Street. The building in the middle has an interesting metal gate, made in the pattern of penny farthing bikes, which of course is the symbol of the City of Davis. This is a very Davis gate. This is a very Davis scene. When I first started drawing these very Davis scenes it was to show people back home in north London what the place I live in now looks like. Well, it looks like this. Another panorama for the book of Davis panoramas that’s never coming. 

everyone seems to know the score

england mosaic flag

Ok, fine. It’s not coming home, this time. England didn’t win the final; they drew the game 1-1 with Italy, but lost the penalty shootout after missing three times. England beat England on penalties. One day in about twenty-five years, Bukayo Saka will coach England to another shootout, while Raheem Sterling is in the studio as a pundit, and the cycle of life goes on. I mean, at the end of the day, these are all important life lessons aren’t they, watching your country’s team lose penalty shootouts in quarter-finals, semi-finals and now at last a final, it’s what brings us together, disagreeing on how it should have been done. Oh well, I’m done thinking or talking about football for a long time now, a long time (until at least tomorrow, since I am actually coaching a youth team right now). Well done Mancini, happy for you. But damn…we were close. Oh well. The Heat is still very much On, here in California. When we were kids we were told that the Heat would be On the Streets, and I suppose it is. Inside the house, the Air-Conditioning is On. Apart from briefly popping out to go to Target, we stayed home today and watched the match, played some PS4, watched old episodes of Lost. Didn’t do any sketching, though I would really like to just pour myself into a big complicated drawing right now, I’ve not got the energy. So I just drew the little mosaic England flag. Years ago we made a whole bunch of paper mosaic flags for the World Cup, and we put them up for the Euros too, for each country that takes part. Then when they get eliminated, the flag comes down. Never thought England would be in the last two. They did end up the tournament only letting in two goals total, even fewer than Italy. And they didn’t lose the match, they drew the game, just lost the shootout. And didn’t win the trophy, and that’s what matters. Ah well. I do want to do a big complicated sketch though. I need to rejoin my Virtual Tour de France – in fact I need to start posting what I’ve done of that already here on my sketchblog. So far I have gone from Calais to Brittany, and was about to draw Le Mans when I put the project on hiatus. Now the real Tour de France is going on, maybe I should keep going with mine. 

life in the heat dome

071021 hot day north davis

Never mind ‘It’s Coming Home’, I’m staying home. This heat is too much. Two days where it went up to 111 degrees in Davis (possibly 113 the day before). Today will be just as bad. The ‘Heat Dome’ they call it, it is blazing across the western US, hottest July anyone’s seen it will be. It’s so oppressive. We have Flex Alerts telling us to conserve electricity during certain hours, and we are already in a drought, this heat is going to make things so much worse. A long, long, long summer ahead of us. I drew again in red pen looking out of the window at the houses opposite, while it was a cool 102 degrees at lunchtime. I hate this weather. This weather can bugger right off.   

shake and bake

kitchen

There was an earthquake today. Actually there were several, but at about 3:45pm the house shook, probably about 10 seconds, followed by another which was much more of a rolling wave that made me feel a little dizzy, that lasted longer. I was resting due to a massive headache, having had an odd rumbling in my ears all day, compounded by this bloody heatwave (sorry, Heat Dome) that is ramping up again (it is expected to be 113 degrees or higher over the weekend now). So I went to lie down for a bit, get away from computer screens. Just as I was nodding off, I heard the blinds rattle all at once, and the ceiling fan cords sway, and the ground started vibrating, with my head against the bed it felt like I could hear it. I got up, we had all felt it, the family met on the landing of the stairs and sure enough, there was the swaying, like being at sea. I live in California, you might think I feel earthquakes all the time, but they are pretty uncommon in Davis, which is not that close to any fault lines. There are big fault lines in the Bay Area (you all know the San Andreas Fault, from Superman The Movie (RIP Richard Donner, BTW), but there are a few other pretty significant ones). On the other side of us in the Sierras you get some big faults, up near Truckee for example, and today’s 6.0 quake was in the region south of Lake Tahoe about 120 miles east of here. The one right after was nearby there at about 5.2. There were many aftershocks, some are still going on, we wouldn’t feel them. Last earthquake I really felt here was the Napa quake in 2014, this one felt stronger from here. No damage here, it seems like there were a few big boulders that rolled onto the highways in the Sierras. Meanwhile, the heat is getting worse and worse, and yet all I can think of is…it’s coming home

I drew this tonight, just needed to sketch. I was listening to a podcast about the Viking Great Army, which is about when the Danes rolled over the English. Didn’t happen yesterday though, eh. It’s coming home… My eyesight is going, I need to get my eyes tested again, getting older and the eyes are just being squeezed. So I could not really see all the details in the kitchen. I know what it looks like though.

summertime lose

2nd and E, Davis

It’s July now; the second half of the year. I started this on the last day of June, stood downtown under the lunchtime shade of a tree, but finished it off today in July. It’s hot again, and getting hotter, and the world is basically just going to be hot forever now. The Pacific Northwest, that should not be that hot. Davis always gets hot, but this year feels worse. Sometimes though I hate the idea of the heat more; I will choose not to go out because I know it’ll be really hot, when in fact even in the heat it can still be alright in the shade, or with the air in your face as you cycle down a long tree-lined avenue. The over-100 heat, not so much. I don’t know, I’m grateful for air-conditioning. I dread the coming of summertime now, so much. Last year with the wild fires starting so early and raging so badly, the air being so unbreathable for the best part of two months, the fires have been progressively awful each year for about four or five years. So far though, no smoky skies. I dread the summer. “Hope you are enjoying your summer!” people say, in all sincerity. Not really, the anxiety of three digit numbers lining up on my weather app is depressing. Summer is a bummer. I’m coaching soccer again; this evening out in the heat and bright sun I found it difficult to cope, let alone think clearly. The heat affects my brain I think, slows it all down. I do find myself getting dumber in the summer. Remember that terrible heat in Amsterdam in 2019, how it felt like my mind stopped working, when I even forgot my paints when going out sketching? Well no I suppose you wouldn’t remember, that happened to me. But summer does make me dumber. As it cools down I feel like my wits get sharper. But not too cold; I remember in New York in 2016 when it was so cold that even thoughts froze as they moved about your head. Me and my mate walked across Central Park in some hugely sub-zero temperatures, and by the time we reached an Subway station our minds just went completely blank, like we couldn’t quite understand the Subway map. I mean it’s hard to understand anyway but we definitely felt affected by the cold; I made a massive pan of noodles when we got in to warm us up. So the heat makes me dumb, the cold makes me dumb, maybe I am just, look I know what you’re thinking, “maybe you are just thick, Pete”. Yeah maybe. Maybe I always have been, how would I really know? Or maybe there is just an increasingly small window of temperature that I can mentally operate in. Either way, the next few days are scheduled to be 97, 102, 108, 109, 108, 102, 97 in a nice palindromic way, that’s what we want isn’t it, palindromic weather. What goes up, comes down for a couple of days then goes right up again. (By the way San Francisco, which is an hour and a half away, has temperatures of 70, 68, 68, 68, 66, 66, 66 on those same days. That’s right, it will be 42 degrees cooler in San Francisco than in Davis this weekend. Just, seriously. But I’m not going there, because if England win in the Euro 2020 semi-final that takes place in twelve hours from now, I’ll be watching that on my TV in my living room and I won’t care.  I always said that if Spurs won the Premier League or Champions League or something, I would put on all my Spurs shirts and run around Davis, singing “Ossie’s Dream” and “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur”; I own a lot of Spurs shirts, so that would be very hot. If England win it, I promise to run around Davis singing “It’s Coming Home”, “World In Motion”, and I dunno, “Cinnamon Stick”. (It won’t matter that it’s hot because I only own one England shirt.) It’s coming home; I’m staying home with the a/c on.

of all the words he tried to say

4th st Davis

Day before Independence Day, the Day of England 4-0 vs Ukraine day, I went downtown on a Saturday afternoon to do some drawing and look in a couple of shops. I stopped and drew this building on 4th Street, some Law Offices I think (I need new glasses/eyesight). It was pretty quiet, I wasn’t harassed by any mad people this time (unlike just up the block a couple of months ago), and I wore my 2010 red England shirt, the only England shirt I own. (It’s coming home by the way, I don’t know if you heard, but it totally is). There were leaf blowers behind me blowing the leaves and dust or whatever, but they didn’t last long (maybe the leaves blew back, I had my headphones on). Amazingly I had never drawn this building, to the best of my knowledge. I probably have in the background of another, or maybe I have and forgot. I’ve drawn a lot of Davis drawings and usually remember them all, but I’ve been here a good long while now. Nearly sixteen years, coming up on that. I’ve been drawing it for fifteen of them. One day I’ll do a book of them. I’ll say that again in another fifteen years. I can never seem to get it together to write it, well I suppose a book of drawings doesn’t really need much writing. Be better off without it really (what was that 1 star Amazon review of one of my books that said “by the time he finished what he was saying I had forgotten what he was talking about” or something), the sketches are the words anyway. So, another one of 4th Street, Davis. Happy 4th, America!

“an ‘oops’ moment and then some”

Euro 2020 NED-CZE

I’m not drawing every game in the Euros or nothing, I just, well I like to draw and write things down. There were some bonkers games in the Round of Sixteen. France went out, half an hour after I had told my son that the game “had ‘Kylian Mbappe misses the decisive penalty’ written all over it”, congratulations Mystic Pete. The Dutch went out, after De Ligt batted the ball away with his big paw, and headline writers and tweeters scrambled to get the best ‘De Ligt based pun, having used every possible ‘Czech’ based pun already. (I wonder if any found a way to shoehorn “Red De Ligt District” in there somewhere? I hope not.) The Czechs had Holeš exposing holes in the Dutch defense (another low-hanging fruit for sub-editors everywhere). I’m not even going there with all the ‘Schick’ ones.  And then there was Sweden-Ukraine, where the Swedish player Danielson got a red card, and my own version of the many obvious Karate Kid based jokes was “Danielson whacks on, walks off” which I thought was alright. England-Germany, Harry Kane was apparently not running much, so was being called ‘Walking Kane’ which I thought was quite funny (I still love you Harry). Portugal-Belgium, glad Belgium won that, and when Hazard’s same-height little brother scored I yelled out “That’s what I’m Thorgan about!”, but then immediately thought I should have said “Lukaku’s Thorgan” because it sounds a bit like “Look Who’s Talkin'” but it didn’t really work. This always happens when international football tournaments are on, I have fun with all of the names. In this one I tried to make Star Wars Prequels connections with the players, you had General Grealish, Count Doku, Anakin SKyleWalker, Chancellor Pal-Palhinha, Bale Organa, Darth Mæhle, Jonas Windu, Ethan Amp-idala, and, um, the Marcus side of the Forss (not to mention De Ligt side). Plus many other probably better ones.     

Euro 2020 CRO-ESP 

my wandering days aren’t over

View from San Francisco Hilton

It was my first trip down to San Francisco in almost two years, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I didn’t have a plan. Sometimes when I come to the city to sketch I know which general direction I will head in and follow my nose, but on the whole I play it safe. I might have planned this trip a little better, plotted out a route of old favourite spots plus a couple of places I’ve never been, but as it turned out I just decided wandering would be enough. Wandering and sketching, but also just wandering. When I was a teenager I would wander, I would sometimes get on a bus on a Saturday morning from Burnt Oak headed to Harrow or Hendon wherever, find a library or a bookshop to sit in all day reading, or get a travelcard and jump on a tube down into central London, and just explore an area until it got dark, no particular plan, and where I went was where I went, then come home for dinner. I would follow my nose. I wasn’t sketching as much out and about when I was a teenager, just occasionally, but not making it my main reason for going anywhere. These days I don’t get to wander quite as often, so when I do I usually feel like I have to have a collection of sketches by the end of the day to make it worth the effort of all that wandering. 

On this particular Saturday morning, when I was on a solo overnight trip to San Francisco to wander and sketch, I watched the Denmark-Finland game in my hotel room on the 23rd floor, and was pretty shocked by what happened to Christian Eriksen. He has been one of my favourite players for years, all those seasons at Tottenham, so to see him almost die on the field on live TV was very disturbing. His picture is still on my son’s wall, along with others from that great Tottenham team that nearly made it (but not quite). The game was called off before half time (though they restarted later that day), and after a while on the phone to my wife who was watching it too, I went down the end of the hallway and sketched the view across the city to gather my thoughts a bit. There is a lot of detail to cover. I’ve always wanted to just look over the San Francisco cityscape and pick out the puzzle. You really have to observe. Putting one thing slightly out of place or making a building that bit too narrow in relation to the other ones around it can mess everything else up. It’s therapeutic though. I stood and sketched this rather than sat at the desk in my room which would have been comfier, but I did have to check out of the room before I finished so I wanted to give myself more time for the details. I did colour it in later though on the train back. The blank area in the corner, that wasn’t because there was something in the way, I just never got to that part of the city, but I did draw the skyline above it, so it looks like a panhandle. This isn’t “the” Panhandle though, which is up near Haight, this is Nob Hill, as it rises out of Chinatown, which is a pretty big area of the city. That’s where I headed next, after dropping off my card key, I went across to Portsmouth Square Gardens.  

portsmouth square SF

I’d never actually walked through Portsmouth Square before, so this fulfilled the ‘something new’ check box. It’s not super exciting, but it was pretty interesting as a place for people from the neighbourhood to hang out on a sunny Saturday lunchtime. I remember one of the Worldwide Sketchcrawls being held here in Portsmouth Square many years ago, but I didn’t go on that one, so I’m not sure why I brought it up, other than it’s always made me wonder about coming sketching here. There were so many interesting people here though that I mostly just did some quick people sketching. It feels like a very long time since I have come to a public place and done quickfire people sketching. Most people were Chinese, of all ages, but mainly older people. Some were sat on benches feeding birds, or talking occasionally to each other, or gathered in groups playing a very involved card game around a bench, there were several such groups. Everyone wore masks, no exceptions. I did too. I drew some of the rooftops above us, and also a statue called the ‘Goddess of Democracy’, a replica of the one from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, placed here in 1989 during the events there that year. I listened to a passing tour guide as I drew, referencing that it’s difficult for people to reference that event online there, that they would use terms like the “35th of May”. I didn’t listen in on much else of the tour, but there were several walking tour groups parading through here. Portsmouth Square is one of the most historic spots in the city, as this was the first public square in the original Mexican settlement of Yerba Buena. The name of the plaza comes from the USS Portsmouth, the ship of Captain Montgomery who took Yerba Buena for the United States and raised the flag here in 1846. The city was renamed San Francisco a year later. A year after that the prospector Sam Brannan held up his nuggets of gold here and told everyone there was a lot of it in the American River, so off they rushed towards Sacramento. After the 1906 Earthquake, Portsmouth Square became a place of refuge for those displaced from their homes. These days it’s sometimes called the “Heart of Chinatown”.  

portsmouth square SF

I walked through Chinatown, mostly looking for the perfect spot to draw, where I wasn’t going to be in the way of anyone walking past, not in the sunlight which was pretty strong. It was colourful, and I’d intended on doing a colourful lively sketch, but in the end I stood on the corner of Sacramento and Grant and drew the sketch below, with little bits of colour popping out. Along the street some drummers were playing while some performers did some balancing acts, it looked like they were having a great old time. San Francisco’s Chinatown is generally considered the oldest outside Asia, even the largest. Certainly in the context of California, the most historic. Apparently it is “the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan” with most residents being monolingual speakers of Mandarin or Cantonese. The area dates back to the first Chinese immigrants to the city in 1850. I would love to dive deeper into this area’s history, what little I’ve read about is dripping with story.

 Chinatown

I was hungry, but I didn’t stop for Chinese food, because I headed down Grant to that French place, Cafe De La Presse, and at outside there while an voice of unknown location belted out live opera in Italian, echoing across each building. Refreshed from lunch, I made the mistake of going through the Union Square area, rather than somewhere more interesting. I popped into the Nike store and went all the way to the very top floor, to the furthest point at the back where they were hiding the soccer shirts, just to discover that they didn’t have the new Tottenham shirt. Oh they had Chelsea and Liverpool but not Spurs. Right, fine. I went down to Market Street, not entirely sure where I was headed next. I had no intention of drawing Market Street, it’s just not that interesting, and what I like about it I have drawn before. It’s an uncomfortable place at times, Market. This is the problem with wandering though, you sometimes end up somewhere and feel a bit stuck. I thought about getting on a bus to Lower Haight, or a Muni up to the Inner Sunset, but I didn’t have change and couldn’t be bothered figuring out how things are done now. I did have a BART pass though, so I just went down into the subway and jumped on the first train and headed towards the Mission.    

Roxie, mission SF

Each area of San Francisco has its historic culture. North Beach is the Italian area, Chinatown is Asian, The Castro is historically associated with the gay community, the Haight is the Hippies; and everywhere is the expensive real estate developers and gentrifiers pricing all these communities out. Historically, the Mission is a mostly Hispanic part of San Francisco, and there are lots of murals celebrating the Latin American community. Since I first came down there the area has been changing, going more upmarket and trendy, but it still has a lot of character. The large Mission Burrito was invented here. I had a massive burrito, about the size of a Greyhound bus, after I was done sketching. I wandered, coming across the colourful Clarion Alley, a narrow street of political murals between Mission and Valencia. I was going to sketch there but it was getting late. Plus, some bits smelled quite strongly of wee. I did sketch on 16th by the Roxie, whose distinctive sign was much harder to see than I remember, due to the growth of the trees around it. I remember years ago photographing this (not having had time to draw it evidently; come back another time I probably told myself)and there being no foliage around it, or very very little, but not now, those trees have grown. Still I stood beneath and got an okay view, and again despite it being quite a colourful scene I only added the red bits. It was busy in the Mission, most of the bars had full-up outside seating/standing areas, it would have been quite a nice afternoon to stand outside with a pint and people watch, but my legs were tired, really tired, and I wanted to get to Mission Dolores Park. In Covid times as in normal times, the park was packed, as you’d expect on a hot Saturday afternoon in June, with most people being young trendy types. Unlike in Chinatown, very few people were masked. Well it’s not required now, but I kept mine on anyway because I sometimes sing to myself when sketching, and I can pretend it was someone else if anyone looks. Not that that would be a problem here, several people had their music on for others to hear. I actually listened to a podcast about the X-Men (not the usual one, but a different one, this one talking in depth about Nightcrawler) and drew the skyline. It was a pretty pleasant way to spend the rest of the day before heading back to Davis. A lot has changed in this skyline since I moved here to California. It was a clear day, no fog at all, and I really enjoyed my little bit of time back in the city. I wish it were a little bit more normal (maybe a bit more space in the street and not so many outside seating huts, making things feel claustrophobic and yet remote; not so easy for a weary wanderer to just pop into a dark cool bar to refresh during a day’s heavy sketching), but the world is evolving, and I’m happy to have finally gone and had a look at some of it. 

  Mission Dolores Park, SF

You might like to see a whole Flickr album of my San Francisco sketches going back to 2006 or 2007, when I first started coming down here to wander about. It’s interesting to see how the city and my style of sketching has changed in all that time. Here it is: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157602126887832

friday night, saturday morning, san francisco

View from hotel room

So, I went down to San Francisco for the first time in nearly two years for an overnighter. It was a beautiful early evening as my Amtrak bus crossed the Bay Bridge; I had come down on the train after work on a Friday and it was still light enough when I got there to get to the hotel, and get out for some sketching before dinner. My hotel was tall – I was on the 23rd floor, so I had an amazing view over the city. I couldn’t resist drawing some of that view from my hotel room window, while I didn’t colour it in or finish all the details it was great to sit at a desk and look over this view, even with my increasingly poor eyesight. Sutro Tower poked out above the fog-free sky, and the evening light was soft. But I wanted to get outside and wander, to see what was different about the city in my two year absence. 

chinatown SF

First of all, the restaurants and bars all have outdoor seating on specially built wooden platforms that come out into the street. It makes a lot of the areas around North Beach feel quite crowded, and more claustrophobic than before. I was right by Chinatown, and many of the restaurants there had the same thing, and were fairly busy. A few places were closed; the Comstock Saloon (which I drew two years ago, while enjoying a delicious cocktail). still had boards over the windows, with signs dated March 2020 saying they were closing for a bit. With so many other places still operating (such as Mr Bing’s across the street, which was positively bursting with merry drinkers on its wooden platforms) it was a shame to see the Comstock closed. I sketched in the street in Chinatown stood in the gap between two covered outside seating areas, the Great Star Theatre, but didn’t bother adding colour. 

Vesuvio SF Everywhere in North Beach was quite crowded, so I found a less busy restaurant down the quieter end of Columbus, and had some gnocchi. I grabbed a cannoli at Mara’s for dessert, before stopping at Vesuvio’s for an Anchor steam before bed. I sat in the small outdoors platform, with the traffic of Columbus zooming by, and drew the above. There were many people sat at tables in the well-lit Jack Kerouac alley in between City Lights and Vesuvio, you had to be directed to your seat by the Vesuvio door man and service was table-only, but you could go in to sue the toilet. In fact there was limited seating indoors too but very limited, and all taken. As things open up a bit more, things will start getting back to some kind of normal, I am just glad to see that Vesuvio, and my favourite place across he street, Spec’s, is still operating in These Unusual Times. I finished up by beer and my sketch and went to bed; my hotel was only five minutes’ walk away. 

SF 061221 north beach view

So when I woke up in the morning, I popped down to the donut place on the corner of Kearny and Columbus, and did an early sketch of that very scene looking down past Vesuvio, toward the TransAmerica Pyramid. I have of course drawn this view a few times before. It was 8:30am but already warm, for the city. I drew what I could and then headed back to the hotel to watch the Denmark-Finland game, which turned out to be the one in which Christian Eriksen collapsed.  I went out after the game was abandoned (temporarily as it turned out) and sketched for the rest of the day. I’ll post those another time. It was good to finally be back in the city, I’ve missed it, but it’s not yet the same. I suppose in this city, it’s never the same.