I seem to be OD'ing on two things lately: dim
sum and art. Also I am seeking warmth in a cup of coffee.
But not your usual cup. I go for the "fortified" stuff. Must
be the weather. It's getting cold.
ON THE ART FRONT I have learned something. Trumpeter Miles Davis also drew and painted. I was surprised when I stopped by Gallery 580 (580 Sutter Street) the other day and Elizabeth told me they had the works of Miles Davis coming in. Was he "bad" with a brush? Was he a real "m-----f----r"? (Miles, I'm sure you know, had a mouth.)
Well, maybe not "real bad" but not bad either.
Something I didn't know. Miles had a stroke back in 1989 and was unable, at least for awhile, to play the horn. Well, no keeping that dude down. He took up what he had apparently dabbled in since a youth: drawing and painting.
The show is small, consisting of some rather bare-bone drawings but also some colorful paintings (serigraphs).
Says Dana Yarger, director of Gallery 580, "For a couple of years he drew and drew and drew. When he started touring again, when he was in Europe he saw these wonderful, colorful abstract paintings which gave him the passion to paint as well."
The drawing work was ordered by Miles' physician as part of his therapy. The drawings are interesting, but it is really the paintings that come alive and look, if that is possible, like his music. He coulda been one bad abstract expressionist had he wanted.
Now of a totally different sort is the work of Richard Merkin at Gallery 444 on Post Street. Merkin is a New York artist who is in love with sports, especially baseball. His work is cartoonish and always seems to be telling a story. He is the opposite of an abstract expressionist. He is concrete, specific, and exudes character. Even if you don't care for the style, you are probably going to like his work. You will make the "little exception" for Merkin.
On display at the gallery is some three months of work—"from mid Summer until mid Fall," Merkin told me. (Below, Merkin right, former San Francisco Giants player Rich Murray, left.) I did not count the pieces but they filled several rooms. Says Merkin, "I hadn't worked for a long time before that. Often times what happens is you realize if you don't work for a period of time, and of course you're not going to work if you don't have any ideas, when the time comes to work, it's all built up." Hear the meandering pattern of speech? It's in the paintings too. He takes his time. Even though you're in a crowded art gallery in downtown San Francisco, you feel like you're eating hot dogs with him at a baseball game or out in the county with all the time in the world.
Looking across the room, he says, "I never start a picture without in some ways knowing what it is about. The one that's furthest away over here, the black lady with the purple hat ... I had a photograph of a woman, probably about nineteen hundred, nineteen ten ... I wasn't sure ... usually I know everything about what the picture is about ... but in this instance ... I changed the hat ... and also at that time I was testing some new crayons ..."
He says he likes to let pictures build up inside before he goes to work. He's got about six inside him right now and says he's ready to get started when he's back in New York. He says he's particularly fond of Hemingway's notion of leaving a sentence unwritten for the next day so you have a place to start.
Merkin. He's bad. He's a real "m-----f----r." You should go see him.
KNOWING WHERE YOU are going to start working the next day is usually nice. Unfortunately, for the hotel workers, knowing where you are going to start the next day is not so nice—out in front of the hotel with a picket sign. This is not funny now. It is cold and raining and the pay is nothing. Six week, I think, is enough. But management and the owners don't see it that way. They have locked out their employees and there seems to be no end in sight. Christmas is just around the corner but it won't be a merry one for some. Good work Scrooge. You are a real "m-----f----r."
But an interesting thing at least happened on Halloween, with also coincided with critical mass. The bike folks, mostly in costume, decided to show solidarity with the workers and the critical mass route ran from one lockout hotel to the other. I have never seen such a fun-loving and colorful show of solidarity before.
So far the whole thing has been peaceful and I hope it stays that way. People are looking worn, however, and that could lead to something else. The one unsettling thing about the Halloween critical mass was the sound of choppers overhead. I don't like that sound. It reminds me of another conflict far away from the city.
SO WHERE DO YOU find comfort these days. The wind is mostly gone now but the temperature has dropped. Coffee? Is that the solution? Does it warm the heart, make you feel loved? It does for me, especially the "fortified" variety available in this city. One of my favorite tricks is to stop by Caffe de La Presse, get a double espresso, and head for Chelsea Place on Bush for an addition of Remy or Amaretto. Good Shit Coffee, I call it. No one gonna say nothin' that's gonna disturb you after a cup of this stuff.
Naturally there are fancier versions of this drink available around town and with nicer names too. All are good, some better.
The smoothest espresso in San Francisco is found at Cafe Claude in Claude Alley. I don't know what it is: the machine, the coffee, or the way it is done. I think a lot of it has to do with the machine. Espresso makers, like pace makers, are not cheap. Though a bad espresso maker won't kill you, it makes an unhappy cup.
Now start with good smooth espresso, add brandy and Kahlua, some whipped cream, and you have Coffee Kyoki. Geoff, the bartender at Cafe Claude, can do this one for you. If you are a "little low" when you go in, you will be leaving a "little high."
Tom at Enrico's can mix you coffee with Benedictine that will bring you up too. Benedictine, I think, is a better combination with coffee than the traditional brandy. Add a lump of brown sugar, stir, and you will be feeling not only no pain but that life is rich, full ... and be wondering how you could have forgotten that.
if you are really down and the weather is not helping, visit Heather
at Le Central for Heather's Delight. She issues a brief warning when
you order it that it's really dessert. But I think it is more than that.
It is a mixture so strong and rich that the blues, if they really are
a color and you got 'em, turn to your favorite color. But be careful
with this drink. It is not for the everyday moodiness. It is addictive.
Here are the details: Frangelica, Bailey's, Kahlua, Jameson, and double
espresso topped with fresh whipped cream and cocoa. And it usually comes
with one other ingredient: Heather's charming smile.
STOPPED BY YONG SAN LOUNGE the other day to see Su-Kim. I had learned a little Korean and wanted to try it on her.
"Saron hey yo, ay pu da" (I love you, beautiful), I said.
She looked startled, then began to correct my pronunciation, rolling the r in "saron." Looking pleased, she had me repeat it three or four times, then scowled.
"Where you learn these words?" she asked. "Who teach you say this?"
"Seung down the street teaches me. You know Seung? He says make you very happy."
Well, this wasn't quite the truth but she looked pleased again.
"You want Negroni?" she asked me. They don't make fancy drinks at Yong San. Most of their customers drink beer from the bottle. But she has learned how to make the Negroni.
"I don't know," I said. "It is cold today." Then I asked a stupid question:
"Can you do anything with coffee?"
"Don't have coffee. Only tea. How 'bout make you hot brandy?"
I don't usually like hot brandy but I said okay.
"What you think of this Bush man getting re-elected?" she asked. I didn't know Su-Kim was into politics.
"Going to get us all killed," I said. "Killed in the name of his family business and some strange ideas he has about god and ..."
"Bush believe in god?" she asked.
"Not really," I said. "No, but when he quit drinking and taking drugs he had to believe in something. That something he calls god."
"Why he quit drinking?" she asked.
"Because he couldn't control it. It was ruining his life. No choice, I guess."
"And you? You drink. Is drink ruining your life?"
"I hope not," I said. "Wouldn't be good for your business if I quit coming in, now, would it?"
"No, you don't drink too much," she said, looking the other way. "Just right amount."
"Saron hey yo, ay pu da."
"Like this, like this, 'sarrrrron hey yo ...'"