Thursday, August 19, 2010

Impressed by Psychedelic Impressionism

A mid-August evening in San Francisco and I’m driving to a friend’s house at 5:45 p.m. I’m wearing a Polartec jacket. I dressed for how the weather looks – fog rapidly moving in, pushed by high winds.

Still, it’s not really cold enough for Polartec. The long-sleeved cotton jacket and long-sleeved cotton shirt are plenty warm for the evening, which will be spent inside the de Young Museum at the exhibit on “The Birth of Impressionism.” Ironically, it was much cooler earlier in the day, sitting in the sun outside the Academy of Sciences.

And that’s August in San Francisco.

Today was a day filled with crisp images, kaleidoscope moments, extreme concepts – no doubt influenced by a visit to the “Extreme Mammals” exhibit at the Academy of Sciences. Did you know lactating kangaroos can deliver two kinds of milk – one extra rich for newborn joeys and one not so much for older offspring? Neither did I.

I did know that manatees’ nipples are under their flippers. I did know that whales have vestigial leg bones. I did know that one-third of the musculature of a naked mole rat is in the animal’s jaws and that it can dig a tunnel with its teeth.

But the museum impressed me mightily with a model of a batodonoides, an extinct shrew-like mammal that weighed less than a dollar bill. The batodonoides is displayed next to a model of an indricotherium -- also extinct, and a relative of the rhino – and the largest land mammal ever. This guy stood 18 feet high and was 39 feet long. Nice pairing!

One glass-enclosed kiosk contained a green snake, tail wrapped around a branch and head dangling down, little tongue darting in and out. Below, sitting calmly, was a giant toad, maybe six inches high and six times as wide as the snake. Next I watched a man take a photo of a rare lizard from Madagascar in spite of the large sign on the reptile’s enclosure that read: “No Photos.”

The same sign – with one additional claim -- was posted on the glass wall that enclosed a tiny single tree shrew. “No Photos. I’m already jumpy.” Wide-eyed and clearly nervous, the tree shrew licked its tail just like the cat does when she’s fretting about something.

Sitting outside in the sun and chilly wind, eating a $21 lunch, I watched a toddler unfasten his slacks, stand in his underpants and scream for his mother. “They fell down,” he told her when she rushed over. After a visit to the four-story rainforest and a Philippine reef inside, outside I watched a slightly older boy plan to step into a fountain, actually step in that fountain and then burst into tears and leap out.

In between my two visits to museums today, I tried to right some wrongs. For instance, the brokerage firm that manages some of my money still sends statements to my condo in Creve Coeur, though they have my San Francisco address. One publication I write for also sends me mail at the wrong address – this after two phone calls and a letter. And why is it I have not heard from three people who promised to get some information to me today?

I also pondered my shopping list: Sticky mat for yoga, sturdier step stool for when I need to get to the higher cabinet shelves, and quarters for the coin-operated washer and dryer in my apartment building. The trick is to figure out to get all the items at one place. No solution yet.

After trying to right wrongs, set up appointments and ponder shopping needs, it was time to get ready to go to the de Young Museum. A night out called for dressing up. As I pulled on my new favorite tie-dye socks, I remembered before I left St. Louis that a friend laughed and said, “Finally, you’re going to live somewhere that will appreciate your taste in tie dye.” And I do!

As I finished dressing, thinking ahead to an evening spent with Monet, Manet, Morisot, Renoir, Pissarro and Degas (and Susan and Denise), it hit me – tie dye is psychedelic impressionism.

I wondered whether I can copyright that phrase. Then I grabbed my Polartec jacket and left.


  1. Love the psychedelic impressionism phrase! And, I too love tie-tied socks. Looks like we may be in your area in September - we'd love to have lunch or something! Think we will be there only a day or two on our way back home from Seattle. Maybe we could meet you near the Oceanic building and go from there to lunch? I'll get the dates for you and see if you schedule allows.

    Enjoying your posts from the Haight!


  2. What a wonderful day. It made me think of the news lately about psychedelic drugs and mental health.

    Glad the move has gone easily with just a few glitches.