Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Doug Tour Lives On!

I love leading music classes, group singing and lectures, but I also love touring visitors around my (still) fair city. Today was especially sweet because my visitors were Fernando and Menchu, two friends from Spain who have been promising to visit—for the last 28 years! And here they were on a day that bounced back and forth between close fog, distant fog and sun and things could not have gone better. Well, except for the fog never lifting from the Golden Gate Bridge so they still haven’t seen it!

We began with a unique Hash Brown sandwich breakfast, a specialty of the Korean cooks at the unique Art’s Café in my neighborhood. Went up the tower of the De Young Museum, sang overtones and performed body percussion in the acoustically live Skyspace in the Museum Garden, dropped in at Amoeba Records to get the DVD of Vertigo that we’ll show at our course tomorrow night. Walked down Haight and then Cole Street marveling at the Victorian architecture, took the N-Judah to the Ferry Building, walked around the Farmer’s Market there and had some ice coffees looking out at the Bay Bridge. 

Walked past the Exploratorium after visiting their shop, dropped into Levi-Strauss Building to learn a bit about the history of blue jeans, ascended the 389 steps to Coit Tower and took in the murals there. On to the best-kept-secret of Jack Early Park, to the house on Lombard Street where Jimmy Stewart took Kim Novak after she jumped into the water, now partially ruined by sour owners blocking the façade with a wall. Walked by a wedding at the North Beach Church where Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio didn’t actually get married, but pretended they did (look up the story), had lunch at Mario’s Cigar Box Café and coffee at Café Trieste. A quick peek into City Lights bookstore and ready for the next chapter of the tour.

Which brought us to Chinatown, peeking into stores with herbs and food products we had never seen and almost having some puer tea at one (will save it for another time). Then to Washington Square Park, where a woman sang some Chinese songs accompanied by six musicians on Chinese instruments following a numbered notation. Then back up to Grant Street where there was a Lion Dance in front of the Wok Shop. All the drummers and cymbal players were young woman and some of the dancers as well. Yeah!! That was refreshing. Up the hill to the Fairmont Hotel, a look at the apartment building in Vertigo and then up 23 floors to the Crown Room, a room theoretically closed to the public, but the elevator took us there and we had the place to ourselves to look out at the stunning views. A quick peek into the Tonga Room, the bar with its Polynesian décor, pool of water and boat where the musicians play. On to Grace Cathedral, enjoying the sacred indoor space and then walking the labyrinth where so many visitors have walked with me. 

9 hours out in the city, probably some 10 miles of walking, good food and great company. Fernando and Menchu are two of the most cultured and educated people I know and their knowledge mixed with their curiosity brought new dimensions to everything we saw and experienced. Can we Americans finally agree to educate ourselves beyond the bare minimum of pop culture, sports figures, cool aps and movie stars? What a difference that would make. In everything. Politics, aesthetics, level of public discourse, quality of life. 

Tonight we’re off to sing Sea Chanties. Tomorrow, Dim Sum, more Vertigo sights and back down to Carmel Valley. I have loved teaching these 29 Level III students and believe I have given them the usual 150% of myself. But truth be told, this was just the kind of break I needed after almost 30 days of teaching in four courses. Time outdoors, desperately needed exercise, two friends instead of 100 people in close quarters and re-connecting with the city I still love. Just what the doctor ordered!

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