Starving Hysterical NakedPosted: Jun 20, 2005 10:38:13 PM
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked"
This weekend Siobhan and I crossed into San Francisco - not one of the largest cities in the United States, but definitely one of the most charismatic. I've wanted to see San Francisco ever since I watched the Alfred Hitchcock film 'Vertigo' (still one of my all-time favourites), and so of course the first thing we did when we got into the city was to visit a site that features heavily in a key scene, and is coincidentally one of America's most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm a film nerd, and 'Vertigo' is really a love note to the haunted San Francisco, so it was a great way to begin.
What can you say about something like this? It's huge, and it's beautiful. I remember being confused when I was a kid that it clearly wasn't golden in colour. I certainly didn't think that some day I'd be crossing that bridge, first by car, and then back again on foot, but cross we did. The awe-inspiring majesty of the two magenta towers that hold the sublime edifice up is difficult to express in words, but we managed to show our deep respect in other ways, for example by not spitting over the side at passing tour boats. Even though we really wanted to.
Like New Zealand, America has a dearth of old ruins and old museums overflowing with antiquities when compared to Europe and Asia, but there are pleasant surprises around nonetheless. This old building is known as the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and it has an impressive collection of art and artefacts. It was also another key landmark in 'Vertigo', although I forgot to bring some flowers while I looked at the paintings. I was particularly delighted to see a first edition of Edward Young's 'Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality', illustrated by William Blake no less. The first reviews were terrible and nearly ruined Blake's career, but 'Night Thoughts' gave us the phrase "procrastination is the thief of time", as well as the less famous but more graceful "be wise today, 'tis madness to defer". I have that saying on my wall at home. What can I say? I'm a book nerd too.
Speaking of which, we also made a detour to the City Lights bookstore, the famous site that first published and sold Allen Ginsberg's riotous Beat poem 'Howl'. Doing so earned its owner an obscenity trial, but he got off and still owns the shop. That's where the quote at the top of the page came from, by the way, and the rest of the poem is just as trenchantly brilliant. Quickly in, purchased a hardcover copy of the poem to go with my copy of Anne Frank's diary (purchased in Anne Frank's house), and off again. Not my fault! Book nerd!
It is a curious fact that even though Britain has some beautiful ruins, over the last few hundred years architects have been employed to create artificial ruins, specifically designed to enhance the picturesque value of an estate. There's something quintessentially silly about that, hence their name: follies. In San Francisco they do nothing so frivolous, but for an expo in 1915 they created a set of faux-Roman buildings known as the Palace of Fine Arts; they soar over an artificial lake and are truly beautiful. They were, however, made of stucco, and by the 60s were falling apart, so they tore them down and resurrected them in concrete. So not only is this a fake ruin, it's a reproduction of a fake ruin. Despite that it remains quietly, solemnly, absolutely beautiful.
And it appears in 'Vertigo'. Film nerd. Me.
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