Saturday Walkabout

After working two weeks straight for ZinZanni, CELLspace, and Yerba Buena Gardens, I spent a rare Saturday off doing as little as possible. So, like Traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock, I set off on a nice urban hike through San Francisco. My random goal was a viewing of Terry Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm at the Presidio Theatre on Chestnut St. Below are some thoughts and observations of the day:


Death isn’t just something you see on that HBO series, or in other shows, movies, and newscasts. Death happens all around us all the time. Our cells die and regenerate constantly, just like the stars die all over the universe. Putting a body in a metal box inside a larger concrete box won’t keep any of us from the same similar fate. Not thinking about our own endings and not realizing that all the operations, pills, and machines in the world won’t help us, the average American is in real denial about dying.

The current media obsession with Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son during the war, misses a major point in the current War/Occupation of Iraq. Sheehan is obviously mourning her son’s loss, taking the anger of the process and using it in a sharp political way. But just how is the United States mourning the loss of the soldiers in the Middle East? Where is their anger getting focused? Just like the grieving of 9/11, Middle America yells “Nuke the Arabs, and turn Iraq into glass!”

During this walk, I contemplated America’s relationship with death. Growing up in and above a funeral home, I still grapple with the realities of my own death. In America, where death statistics for many categories are regularly in the news, I don’t think we look at our own endings in ways that can release us from deep fears of dying. And mourning the deaths of soldiers, celebrities, politicians, etc. while literally thousands of people die daily, is a typical protective response. Still, looking in the mirror shows all the blemishes that go with the arc of life. We’re all headed that way and should spend time working through the fact that we aren’t in control of something as powerful as death.

Copland in The Marina

Wandering through the Mission, Castro, and Fillmore Districts, I didn’t notice many SFPD milling and driving about. I walked near two SFPD offices, one right near my apartment on 17th St., and the other on Fillmore St., and didn’t see any cops. On Union St., and down on Chestnut, I lost count of the cruisers that kept rolling by. I’d say that I saw a SFPD cruiser every 15 minutes I walked around down there, and up in Pacific Heights, and they disappeared once I walked into the Presidio.

Later last night, having beers with a friend, he summed up my observation by saying “more cops to protect the rich, white people.” Being a Mission Bum, dressed in patched and paint-stained clothes, I got a bit paranoid. Having a large backpack didn’t make matters any worse. Change my ethnicity, and the paranoia would be even more pronounced. Begs the question: “Do you fit the Marina terrorist MO?”

Lucasland in The Presidio

George Lucas just opened his new Lucasarts campus at the end of Chestnut St. in the Presidio. I walked in via a dangerous crosswalk across Lombard St. and felt like I entered Disneyland. Lawrence Halprin, a famous landscape designer, has given the public part of Lucasland a flowing river, a pond with a fountain, rolling hills, and amazing photo opportunities of the Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of Fine Arts.

The place was too clean, too manicured, and too perfect. I expected to see a Disney marching band wander through the scene, or maybe a barbershop quartet by the fountain. Fortunately, only one café served the place, and was only noticed via the tables out front. The park felt too suburban and didn’t fit in with the wilder parts of the Presidio.

The buildings themselves, praised for fitting in with the Presidio architecture, looked like huge military barracks. With the park designed as a hill, they looked smaller that they are. I wasn’t impressed and didn’t bother to take a close look.

Gilliam Misunderstood

Most critics have panned Gilliam’s latest movie, his first in about 8 years. I walked into the Presidio Theatre, one of the few remaining free-standing Deco theatres in the City, about 10 minutes before show time, and was the only one in there. Not good portents for the Brothers Grimm. About 6 courageous folks soon joined me and I was blessed to not have to watch commercials for 5-minutes before the film started. Just good old previews.

I expected the worst after reading at least 3 bad reviews, but couldn’t find much to complain about with the movie. Gilliam creates a total world on film, so I enjoyed the details. The Czech town he filmed in was amazing, and the digital forest, criticized in reviews, was well crafted. I enjoyed the themes of brotherhood, the way familiar fairy tale props and stories were worked into the script, and the typical Gilliam touches (the old village hag is one motif he’s used since the Holy Grail).

This movie will surely bomb, but I found it to be a nice summer spectacle escape from typical Hollywood crap. Watching it on the big screen is worth the price of admission. I doubt it’ll be around after a few weeks, and am sorry that critics misunderstood this movie. Not a classic, but something different (pardon the reference).

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