Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oakland A's Game

On Wednesday night, Will and I went to the Webster Pacific company summer outing, which took place at the Oakland A’s game against the Angels.  It was my second ballgame this year—the first was a Dodgers game with Ashley, Scotty, and crew—and I think I’ve decided I like watching baseball.  This is because even more so than football or basketball, baseball is really about having time to hang out with your friends in a new and beautiful setting.

Webster Pacific is related to The Gap’s Fisher family through Tom, who was CFO of their timber company in the past.  Tom was able to get access to the Fisher family’s luxury suite, and I had been excited about seeing this all week.  I helped order food and was astounded how much it cost, but Bob at Strongbadia assured me that all baseball food was really expensive, and that paying $40 a head was actually not all that much above average.

My coworker Stephanie and I took the BART from San Francisco to McCaffe Stadium.  It was cool to hop into a vehicle on Embarcadero, my usual station, and then pop back up again so close to the game.  We walked down the pedestrian bridge that links the station to the stadium, and looked for our spots.

I walked twice around the stadium before going in because the day was so beautiful, and it felt so nice to be out of work.  Then I walked through the stands of vendors selling foam fingers, jerseys, programs, and food, and found our suite.  We were right next to the dining room, which at McCaffee (like everything in Northern California) was surprisingly beautiful and probably terribly overpriced—dark wood paneling, a dining area that overhung the seats with huge glass windows so you could watch the game as you ate your hamburger.  Will and I thought that next time one of our friends has a birthday, we could go there.

The game was close.  No one scored until towards the end, when the A’s held a one-point lead for a while, and at the bottom of the ninth we all thought the game would end early.  Then in the top of the ninth, the Angels scored a double and we were pretty sure our home team had lost.  Then in the bottom of the ninth, the A’s scored a double as well, and Will was pretty into it.

I spent most of the night talking to an 11-year-old young woman named Madeline (?), the daughter of one of the Webster Pacific partners, Susan.  She was an avid reader and quite a talker.  It was fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Simon Boccanegra" at the San Francisco Opera

Last night we watched Simon Boccanegra, an opera by Verdi, written in 1881.  The San Francisco Opera production featured Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ana Maria Martinez in the lead roles.

Apparently Verdi writes about father-daughter relationships a lot, and this one had a lot of that topic.  The play opens with a father (Fiesco) whose daughter (Maria) has become pregnant out of wedlock by Simon Boccanegra, and had a daughter herself.  Maria never enters the stage, and her father has an entire aria dedicated to how upset he is that she is no longer a virgin, and how much he wants to confront Simon.  Of course Simon walks onstage and they procede to have a combatitive duet together, where Simon is seeking the love of his psudeo-father-in-law, and of course receives only curses.  We then find out that Simon and Maria's baby daughter has disappeared, and Maria is dying.  On this same night that Maria dies, Simon is elected Doge(?!).  And all this is Act One.

Acts 2-5 happen 25 years later, and we meet the grown-up Amelia, Simon and Maria's long-lost daughter.  She has been raised by a titled wealthy family and does not know that her father is the Doge.  She is also in love with Doge Simon's enemy, Gabriele Adorno, who is leading a rebellion against him.  Chaos ensues.

So the primary themes I got out of this play were all around the relationship between the father, daughter, and daughter's lover.  The play contemplates the tension that can arise between a father and his daughter's beloved, which is something that I cannot relate to well (Will is pretty much the perfect guy, and Dad is very nice to him).  The larger theme that did resonate strongly with me was the concept of peace and love in a time of war, which Simon in his role as Doge repeated over and over.  It was great to see an opera preaching patience and harmony rather than discord, and I did wonder if San Francisco Opera chose this opera with this theme on purpose to comment on these times of war.

I enjoyed this experience immensely, mostly because I found the opera more accessible than any other I had seen.  All of my training in Shakespearean plot lines and themes were relevant to this storyline (it was structured like a classic Shakespeare and contained plot elements similar to those in Shakespeare plays: Should I murder this older man?  A newfound daughter!  My family hates my choice of mate!  ... and even an Iago).  Also my converations with Jason Williams about the five-act structure were helpful to understanding the rhythm and rise of the plot.

I had a great conversation with Will about how much artifice vs. realism is in a piece, and we decided that for all high art forms with opaque constructions (Shakespeare, opera, ballet, kabuki, etc):
  • Upon first contact, the high levels of construction/artifice surrounding the piece interfere with understanding and make the piece more opaque;
  • But as the viewer becomes more and more accustomed and knowledgeable about the piece, the artifice becomes easier to understand and enhances the message.
The only other opera that I have enjoyed was Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro; and the ballet that Will and I enjoyed together was Sylvia by the San Francisco Ballet (tragically not a Yuan Yuan Tan performance, break my heart).  SO -- this tells me that we like classical, high art forms -- but it needs to have a GREAT plotline that moves quickly throughout.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Today, Sunday, we spent at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk watching Kate finish her second triathalon.  It was sunny but not too hot, and we managed to escape after only eating some kabobs (no corndogs, or ice cream, or cotton candy, much to my dismay, but probably better for my health).

My favorite moments of the day were:

1.  Kate finishing the triathalon.  It was really something to see the look on people's faces when they finally saw the finish line (all decked out), after swimming 1.3 miles, biking 56 miles, and running 13 miles.  Kate had a sore knee, but finished.  It was enough to convince Will and I to try a half-marathon, which we might do sometime.

2.  Will kissing me on the pier.

3.  The barking, huge sealions.  They would sun themselves on the support beams and scratched themselves like dogs.  They were really cute.

4.  A golden, five-month-old cocker spaniel we met on the boardwalk.

5.  Going to Chocolate Cafe in downtown Santa Cruz and eating the best chicken soup ever.

We had a great time.


Saturday and Sunday we spent in Carmel-by-the-Sea eating incredible food and walking around.  On Friday night we ate at Casanova, a beautiful European restaurant, where we ate duck and herb-butter mushrooms and filet mignon on an outside patio.  Will picked an incredible wine called "Ad Astera" and I was toasty!

Then Saturday we woke earlier to run near Asilomar, which has a long packed sand path right alongside the ocean.  The water was an incredible shade of deep blue and the rocks were multicolored browns.  We ran to a little wooden structure alongside the path and gratefully sat in the shade; as we did so, a couple of deer came to graze right across the road, completely unafraid of the cars passing by.

Then back to Carmel, where we ate a late lunch at a restaurant called La Bicyclette -- a charming, romantic place owned by the same people as Casanova.  We were going to eat someplace different, but a kind elderly gentleman convinced Will that this was the place to go.  It had real flowers in vases, copper pots lining the ceiling, and an interior built to look like a European village.  I had sauerkraut and sausages, with a side of cream of artichoke soup with truffel oil.  It was amazing.

Then I fell asleep for ... two or so hours, and we walked around a now closed Carmel (apparently everything in Carmel closes at 6, aside from the restaurants).  Will found Sushi Heaven, a Japanese restaurant, on his iPhone, and we called it a night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Monterey Bay Aquarium

On Friday afternoon Will and I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to visit the fishes.  Will is a big fan of the ocean and I like ... well, being with him.  

We started with the jellyfish tank, which the aquarium displays alongside works of art.  The concept is that jellyfish, as works of art, look best alongside works of art.  It was a cool concept, but I preferred to look at the jellyfish rather than the pieces.

But it did make me think about designing aquariums and the artwork and thought that must go into it.

We saw the otter exhibit, which were my favorites -- playful and happy.  Then the penguins, briefly, although I was so spoiled by the penguin exhibit in Tampa aquarium (they were brought out to a meeting area in a red wagon, and walked right up to us -- I nearly got penguin doo doo on me ) that this one was less impressive.

Then we got to watch feeding time in the kelp exhibit, where a diver with a microphone spoke to a roomful of viewers and urged them to check that their seafood is sustainable.  This was probably the best part of the whole thing.  The diver looked so alien but his words were friendly, and the fish were comfortable eating seafood out of his hands.  It was cool.