>Exotic Landscapes and Inscrutable Cultures

In Thurday’s post I quoted from a couple of essays in the book I found at City Lights, Tell Me True, especially about the complementary roles that memory and history play in the memoir. Yesterday morning I saw this partnership in action first hand in a different kind of memoir, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I was especially interested in the Chagall exhibit (he’s one of my favorites) and as I looked at his work, I realized how he achieved, through his paintings, what memoirist Cheri Register was writing about in her essay:

We all come from exotic landscapes. We all live in dramatic times. We are all raised in inscrutable cultures. For uninitiated readers to get it, we have to push beyond description to interpretation. Here is what my place in the world looks and feels like, here is what happens here, and here is how it shapes my vision and my encounter with life.

Boy did Chagall do that in his art, not only his individual drawings and paintings, but also in his set designs for the Jewish Russian theater. This is called Introduction to The Jewish Theater,1920, tempera, gouache and opaque white on canvas.

The museum itself makes a bold statement, situated steps out the back door of the San Francisco Marriott (where we’re staying) and almost touching the conservative brick church across the walkway. I tried to take a picture to capture the contrasts.

And then I got someone to take this on of me in front of the museum. One of those “I was there” moments.

And here’s one from inside one of the diamond-shaped windows of the museum, peering out at a glimpse of our hotel.

After spending some time at the museum, I took the bus over to the Union Street “shops” and found a few items you can’t find in Memphis, including a gift for my granddaughter, who will be born in July! I stopped at another sidewalk cafe for wine and crab Louie, and enjoyed the sunshine while reading for a while. The cafe was crouching down between this cute Victorian home-turned-shop and a nondescript row of store-front businesses. The photos can’t really capture this area, where I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon.

Oh, I almost forgot about yesterday at Fisherman’s Wharf… it was kind of touristy, with the seals sunning by Pier 39, but the boats and the water are always lovely. And of course I found a California wine bar with outdoor seating overlooking the bay. (Didn’t get a photo there.)

This is the final morning of the meeting of the American Society of Hypertention, and my husband is giving a talk while I sit in Starbucks blogging. We had a lovely faculty dinner last night in the garden court of the Palace Hotel, where I especially enjoyed visiting with our Greek friends from Washington DC and Chicago. In the middle of several hundred physicians and their wives, to shout across the crowd, “Christos Anesti!” (Christ is Risen!)and to hear the instant reply, “Alethos Anesti1!” (Indeed, He is Risen) and to share kisses on both cheeks, was so heartening. (It’s the greeting Orthodox Christians give during the Paschal season, which we are still in.) It reminded me of Register’s words about our exotic landscapes and the inscrutable cultures in which we are raised.

This afternoon one of my husband’s first cousins, Fred Wright, is picking us up to take us to lunch and then for a drive to his home on the Pacific coast. We enjoyed Fred’s recent visit to Memphis, and I love the way the Cushman clan values kinship and works to stay in touch. Fred’s mother and my husband’s father were brothers and sisters, and although the cousins are spread out all over the country, from California to Georgia and points in between, they truly value their ties. Hopefully I’ll have some pictures of the Pacific coast in my next post…along with the visit we have planned to the Cliff House for a late lunch tomorrow afternoon. For now I’m off on one final shopping excursion… Nordstroms and Sax are just around the corner from our hotel, and as much as I love the little shops in other neighborhoods, these are just too close to resist! Here I go….

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