Thursday, July 28, 2011

San Francisco :: The Largest Chinatown Outside of Asia

The day spent drawing San Francisco's Chinatown was one of my favorite days of the whole west coast trip with Dalvero Academy.  Maybe because it felt like I was not in America at all. Nobody I encountered that day spoke or wanted to speak English. 

This particular Chinatown is the largest one outside of Asia, and the oldest in North America. First Chinese immigrants started to arrive in 1848. This Chinatown became a city within city, with it's own government, it's Old St. Mary's Church (the first Asian church in America), and land/dwelling ownership.

Every Chinatown has an entrance gate, so I went looking for one. This entrance gate was topped with fish, most likely a carp, the symbol of persistence needed to overcome obstacles. For the Chinese, the gates are symbols of barriers and crises that a person must pass during a course of life.

The Gate of Chinatown.

It was both strange and sad at the same time to see most of the Chinese people around me with the walking sticks. A lot of old people, slowly conquering narrow, steep sidewalks, a cane in one hand and a little grocery bag in the other.

Lost in the tight maze of authentic, shabby but colorful streets, my friend and I dived into a place that looked like a bakery. We sat down with our tea and pastry, looked around and realized there were only men there. Mostly old men, wearing those obsolete-looking 70's style glasses and hats of all sorts, reading Chinese newspapers and conversing on subjects mysterious to us. The napkin holders had lottery tickets in them. Every man that came into the shop had to first scratch a lottery ticket. 

Inside the bakery/lottery shop. The man who would later come up to me.

The men noticed that my friend and I were drawing them and started loudly discussing us, pointing and laughing. I have no idea what they said. One of them came over to look at my drawing of him, laughed and gesticulated at me, not being able to speak English. He completely invaded my personal space and pointed his finger right into my face, but his smile and kind eyes somehow made it okay. After all, I was the one invading his normal daily routine.

After the bakery slash lottery shop, we went looking for a Fortune Cookie Factory.  The Chinese really brought the idea of "luck" with them! 

Facade of the Fortune Cookie Factory.
Woman hand-wrapping fortune cookies at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

The factory was a shocker:  in a small room, crammed amidst chachkas and boxes, there were  two women there, literally hand-wrapping the little fortunes into the hot yellow circles of dough they lifted off the conveyer belt, one by one. The man at the entrance shouted at the tourists "50 cent! 75 cent! 2 dollar! 5 dollar!" He priced every move: want to photograph? that's 75 cents! want to stand there? that's 50 cents! buy a bag of cookies? that's 5 dollars! I shoved a few dollar bills at him so that he'd let me and my friend draw there. He kicked us out after about 15 minutes. My payback was this portrait of him! That's exactly what he looked like, too.

Owner of the Fortune Cookie Factory.

At the end of the day, someone from our group offered me a fortune cookie and I got something good, something about my happiness shining through onto others. I should have saved that one. Do you save your fortunes?

The contrast of the skylines.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Francisco :: The Cable Car Turnaround

After the three magical days in Seattle, we, the Dalverians, were off to San Francisco. The first drawing day was a special one: it RAINED all day long. A San Franciscan expat friend of mine said, there's a 0.1% chance of rain in July, and we got it! Apparently, according to local TV news, the rain has ruined weekend plans for many distressed interviewees. Well, it didn't stop us.

We got on the cable car at the Powell street turnaround, and were on the way to the Hyde Street Pier. It rained, allright, but that worked to our advantage, as the waiting line for the cable car was not too long.  But then...about half-way to the pier, our car came to a screeching halt because of a fallen tree on the way... Eventually we got to the destination on a shuttle bus. The day was damp and grey, and finding cover on the pier to draw was not easy. Here's a drawing of the Hyde street cable car turnaround.

We went back to the pier for the 4th of July. The pier was barely recognizable on a hot sunny day, filled with insane crowds and street performers. But that's in another post.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seattle's Gas Works Park :: The Strangest Park in the World?

 "Gas Works Park is easily the strangest park in Seattle, 
and may rank among the strangest in the world." 
~The Seattle Times newspaper

First time in Seattle. I came with no expectations, except for, maybe, running into Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on the street. Well...that didn't happen. But...Gas Works Park happened, and it was the most bizarre and fantastic park I've ever been to.

The centerpiece of the park on Lake Union is the last surviving coal gasification plant in America. Imagine a massive rustic metal structure of pipes, cylinders and cisterns. MASSIVE. Set in the midst of green hills (for kite-flying), surrounded by water with Seattle skyline on the other side, and sprinkled with gorgeous clusters of marina. Occasionally, you'd see a seaplane zoom above, and if you follow the seaplane, you might even catch it landing on water in a distance. The combinations of such contrasting aesthetics make Gas Works Park the most unusually beautiful place, and most surreal. No wonder Richard Haag, the landscape architect who made the park what it is, won numerous awards and recognitions. 

The park opened in 1975. The Wikipedia says that "the original structures qualify as industrial archaeology and are the last remaining examples of a type of technology." The incredible structures that were once considered ugly and intrusive, seem "adapted" by the surrounding landscape of wild grass and daisies. The metal feels organic and carries a certain romanticism of the industrial era. 

Gas Works is the venue for numerous music festivals and shows. Part of it is turned into a playground, and, apparently, houses a whole community of homeless folk. 

A place like this makes me contemplate the future, and the technological advances. Will there be a park built one day around a giant computer server room?  Or better yet, will there be a virtual park built within a giant server room, making the Nature as we know it obsolete. That's possible. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seattle's Pike Place Market

Named "the Soul of Seattle", Pike Place market was born in 1907 with the philosophy of "Meet the Producer".  To this day, it's the foundation of the Market.

The Pike Place Market is important as it reflects the national wave of immigration and remains a place for hope and opportunity for new residents.

Unbelievably fragrant flower stand with peonies, poppies and irises. I've never seen such gorgeous bouquets for just $10! The girls were wrapping huge bouquets in white paper and selling them like hot potatoes.

In late 1800's, immigrants from Japan began arriving in WA state to work in mining, lumber and railroad construction. Japanese made up 80% of the farmers and produced 75% of the region's berries and vegetables, and 30% of the milk. The Pike Place Market gave them the opportunity to have small owner-operated business. During the WWII, Japanese immigrants suffered through discrimination and labor camps, as well as prohibitions to buy land and become citizens. The Market stood empty. Only a handful of farmers recovered their land and returned to the Market after the WWII.

Today, the Market is a booming, colorful place filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables, fish, flowers and hand crafts.

"Meet the Producer"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seattle's Gay Pride & The Space Needle

To continue from the previous post, here are more drawings of the Seattle's Gay Pride 2011. The parade rumbled through the city and terminated at the Space Needle, where I was drawing.

Commemorative stamp for Seattle Gay Pride 2011


And it turns out, the iconic tower of Seattle, the Space Needle, will celebrate it's 50th birthday next year. It was originally built for the World's Fair of 1962 and had over 45 million visitors since. I put together a commemorative stamp for the Needle's 50th anniversary.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Visiting the West Coast :: Seattle's Gay Pride Parade

It's been 3 days since I returned from an amazing trip to Seattle and San Francisco with Dalvero Academy's group of artists. As I slowly get back in sync with New York time zone and pace, I will start posting drawings I brought back with me.

Here's one to start with: an icon of Seattle, the Space Needle, during the 2011 Gay Pride parade. The day before I heard the news about legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, so I can only imagine the intensity of this parade in Manhattan. Seattle's pride celebration was fun! The Space Needle was topped with the rainbow flag for the day.