I did one very smart thing yesterday morning: I left my apartment early to allow myself plenty of time for getting lost in the San Francisco area. I did, indeed, get lost the moment I got off the freeway; there were multiple freeway exits onto the same street, and I took the wrong one of them. By the time I figured out that I must have taken the wrong one, I was no longer able to find my way back onto the freeway and take the right one. However, I did see a bus with a big sign on the front indicating that it was going in the direction of exactly the same intersection that I wanted to go to, so then not only was I on the correct street that I had meant to exit onto, but I also knew for sure which direction I needed to go on that street. So I figured I had it made. Except then the street turned into a one-way street headed in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go! And by then I had lost track of the bus. But I found my way onto a nearby street that led to the correct cross street, and then - eureka! The BART station that I was supposed to meet Juliet at. It turned out I was not late at all; in fact, I was half an hour early. Getting lost was more nerve-wracking than time-consuming. But I was quite glad I had left myself the extra time, because it would have been even more nerve-wracking without that.
Juliet showed up half an hour later, and we spotted each other simultaneously. I ran to hug her, and over her shoulder I saw some grey-haired man watching us intently and apparently wondering what the story was, why we would be meeting each other at a BART station. We went to the ticket-dispensing machine, and Juliet asked me to remind her what stop we were going to get off at. It was at this point that I realized that I would probably need to take a more active role in finding our way around than I had quite expected. Luckily, however, I had come prepared for more than I had been expecting to actually need to be able to do. I had printouts of the train and bus schedules with notes about the stations and intersections to get on and off at.
But San Francisco MUNI buses do not announce the street names anywhere near as continually as Sacramento RT buses do these days, and it's easy to fail to catch sight of some of the street signs from the bus windows. So we missed a stop, and really we'd probably have missed several more if it had been left to me. But Juliet was more familiar with the area and managed to prevent us from missing more than one stop. And we did successfully find our way to the De Young Art Museum.
My first impression of the museum was that I could have made far better art than anything I saw on the walls around me. A lot of it was abstract, and believe me, I do appreciate a lot of abstract art - but I appreciate it precisely because I can see when some actual skill went into it; I can also see when no actual skill went into it. The stuff near the entrance of the De Young left me (and Juliet too!) distinctly unimpressed.
Luckily, the art got better later. It got better sort of gradually, as if the museum management had deliberately grouped their worst paintings near the entrance where as many people as possible would see them and acquire a low opinion of the museum, and hidden their best paintings in the furthest back corners upstairs, so that as few people as possible would see those. I was disappointed that there weren't many watercolor paintings; we did eventually find a few, but even then, they were not really particularly great watercolors. They weren't bad watercolors either, by any means, but I've seen very much more awe-inspiring watercolors on display at the California State Fair, and I don't feel it's appropriate for an art museum to allow itself to be outdone by a state fair.
Most of the paintings at the museum were oil, though, and the best of the museum's oil paintings were not outdone by anything at the California State Fair. The photorealistic portraits and landscapes and "trompe l'oeil" still lifes were amazing to both of us, and I said I'd like to have Rainy Season in the Tropics in my living room; the double rainbow made it seem appropriate.
A lot of the exhibits were sculptures from Native American or foreign cultures. These were often oddly similar between widely separated geographic regions. Lots of emotionally expressive faces, and always present but often strangely rudimentary sexual organs. Some of them were made with real human hair, and sometimes real human skulls as well. These exhibits were interesting, but since I'm addicted to bright colors and most of the color that might originally have been on these sculptures was long since worn off, I started suffering some color withdrawal. Therefore, what I remember best from these rooms are the few occasions when I did get to see very bright colors: a 1,000-year-old blanket sewn from dyed yellow and red and blue feathers, woven together so closely that it looked more like fur than like feathers; a toy bird from the same time period, also made of dyed feathers; and from a much more contemporary time period but an equally alien culture, a human-sized seedpod painted bright pumpkin-orange, that the sign indicated was a coffin. The bright orange made it seem more cartoon-like than coffin-like.
Eventually we were both starving for food. The cafe at the museum was a bit expensive, so we went to look for food elsewhere. We looked at a map first, but I didn't really absorb much of the map, because it seemed like Juliet knew where to go, so I decided I didn't need to try to figure it out myself. This plan worked moderately well; we got lost at first, but eventually Juliet found the correct streets, despite my complete unhelpfulness. Juliet asked me what kinds of food I like. This question always strikes me as a bad sign, because generally the kind of food I like is the kind of food that is just thought of as food, not any particular kind of food (American food?), and that no one who actually thinks of food as being available in multiple kinds ever wants anything to do with. After some struggling for words, I ventured to explain . . . not so much the kinds of foods that I do like, but rather the kinds of foods that I don't like: I don't like anything green, and I don't like anything that has a strong flavor. So we passed by an Indian restaurant and some vegetarian restaurants, all of which clearly appealed to Juliet, and none of which appealed to me. We ended up at a burger place with a vaguely unpleasant atmosphere, but at least it had food I could stand to eat and it didn't cost much. Juliet looked around skeptically and announced that she'd prefer to eat at the vegetarian place next door. This always happens to me! I've lost count of how many times people who had intended to eat with me have ended up eating at the place next door to wherever I end up eating, because we just can't stand each other's food. But upon further consideration, Juliet resigned herself to eating at the same place as me. I hope she didn't mind it too much.
By the time we were done eating, the museum was about to close. We hurried back and arrived fifteen minutes before closing time. But it turned out that they didn't actually start kicking people out until fifteen minutes after closing time, so really I think we managed to see most of what was there. When we left again, the sun had gone down, and most of the other places in Golden Gate Park that we had contemplated seeing were closed too. But Juliet decided she wanted to walk through the botanical gardens, and the gate was open there, so that's where we went. It was organized into sections with the plants from various parts of the world. We saw a "New Zealand Christmas tree" (which looked nothing like a Christmas tree) in the New Zealand section, then wandered into Australia and Chile. We had only been in there for a few minutes before it became so dark that we couldn't read the signs naming the plant species, and we could hardly even see the plants at all - or anything else either! But we kept walking anyway. Then when we wanted to leave, we couldn't find our way out! We found our way to something that looked like a gate, but it was locked! I said we should follow the paths closest to the fence, so that sooner or later we would find our way to the main entrance. This is what we did. Eventually we found our way there, and the gate there was still conveniently wide open. We were relieved. After that, finding the bus stop was easy. I asked Juliet for directions from the BART station to the freeway. Her directions turned out to be incorrect, but they were still very helpful - because she directed me to a freeway that she thought was the wrong freeway but would lead me to the right freeway, and in reality it turned out to be the right freeway, which simplified everything wonderfully. So I found my way home with no trouble at all.
But now I wish I hadn't come home at all, because now I'm stuck battling ants again. I think I've had ants in my apartment on more separate days this winter than I've had in the sum total of all the previous seven years I've lived on my own. They seem to be coming in through my ceiling vents, because most of the ants I've seen lately have been on my ceiling, and I can't think of any other reason that ants would take a special interest in my ceiling. I don't think any of this winter's ant visitations, with the possible exception of the first one, could be described as a full-fledged invasion, but . . . 25 ants on my ceiling is 25 ants that I very much do not want on my ceiling! And it's not that easy to thoroughly scrub invisible chemical ant scents off my ceiling to throw them off the trail. It's even less easy to scrub the inside of my ceiling vents and the ductwork leading up through my upstairs neighbors' apartment. I need it to be springtime so the ants will stop seeking indoor shelter. Don't the ants appreciate how lucky they are to live in Sacramento where the winters are relatively mild and we never have any snow? I think my ants need to go have a talk with some ants from North Dakota so they'll realize that the occasional rain and frost of a Sacramento winter really does not merit invading my apartment every week.