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In Art, Food, Literature, Philosophy, Travel on
August 31, 2017

Introducing: The Bohemian Book Club

Bohemian Readers~

It’s that Chuck Berry time of year: summer is over, school days are here, and it’s time to hit the books! I cannot wait to introduce you to our Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 Bohemian Book Club lineup! Cue Chuck Berry’s song School Days

But before I walk you through our year in books, let’s briefly discuss the framework and intention of the Bohemian Book Club:
How are the titles chosen each year?
This reading list was curated with Becoming Bohemian in mind. It includes books both by and about bohemian icons; books about philosophy, art, music, food, travel and social activism. The goal of the Bohemian Book Club is to read both deeply into each title as well as widely into many genres; to expand our literary horizons and become more bohemian.
You will notice these titles are by no means the latest releases in the publishing world. This is by design. New releases are hot commodities and often difficult to procure at your local public library. Few pastimes enrich my life to the degree that reading does, and I want to ensure everyone is equipped to read along with an internet connection and library card.
How do I join the Bohemian Book Club?
There are a few ways to get connected and read along:
  1. Live Monthly Book Club Meetings: Our main monthly event and connection point is the Book Club livestream. The Book Club will be live the last Thursday of the month on Facebook Live at 7 PM PST/10 PM EST (with the exception of November and December when we’ll meet the third Thursday to avoid holiday conflicts). Join us live and discuss the books with the community and a guest expert.
  2. Facebook: Join the Becoming Bohemian community on Facebook to discuss our monthly selections and all things reading-related. From reviews to memes, we’ve got reading covered. No spoilers allowed.
  3. Email: Sign up for our newsletter to get reminders about upcoming book club news and events.
That’s all for the set-up! Without further ado, please meet the inaugural Bohemian Book Club Reading List with a brief description of how each title fits in:
SEPTEMBER
Summer is over. But, that doesn’t mean that the road trip has to end! Enter Jack Kerouac’s wild adventure on the road. It is considered a defining work of the bohemian beat movement, with its characters living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and the postwar American landscape. Heralded by Time Magazine as one of the best 100 English-language novels of our time, this book should have a spot on every boho’s bookshelf.

OCTOBER
Many know about her husband Scott and his defining novel The Great Gatsby. But, few know just how much Zelda not only influenced his work, but may arguably have been the better writer of the dynamic Fitzgerald duo. This month we’ll get to learn all about Zelda through the book that inspired the hit Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. This is the month where we will encourage club attendees to dress up in flapper gear for a swanky, speakeasy style party.

NOVEMBER
Prepare for a real feast! This month is all about food. Emile Zola describes food like no other. Here’s a bite-sized amuse-bouche of what to expect in this month’s delicious book: “All around them the cheeses were stinking. On the two shelves at the back of the stall were huge blocks of butter: Brittany butter overflowing its baskets; Normandy butter wrapped in cloth, looking like models of bellies on to which a sculptor had thrown some wet rags; other blocks, already cut into and looking like high rocks full of valleys and crevices. […] But for the most part the cheeses stood in piles on the table.”
I recommend pairing this book with a robust merlot, accompanied by sliced pears topped with fourme d’ambert blue cheese.

DECEMBER
This is a shorter book for a shorter month of reading. But, as the saying goes: good things come in small packages, and A Girl of The Limberlost illustrates that trope brilliantly. As winter begins to rear its angry and stormy head, this young adult novel is a welcome escape into the beautiful great outdoors.
JANUARY
Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day with March. This graphic novel is a vivid first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
FEBRUARY
Rodin is widely known as one of the most sensual artists to have ever breathed with such famous works as The Kiss and Eternal Springtime. This book takes a look at how aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel became Auguste Rodin’s apprentice, muse, and mistress. Their passion is etched into the smooth marble sculptures we all know and love today.
MARCH
When it comes to Alain de Botton’s works, I have serious writer’s voice envy. Sharp witted and approachable, Alain de Botton deftly explains how a study of philosophy can help us all deal with existential angst. Drawing inspiration from six of the finest minds in history – Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche – he addresses lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety and conformity.
APRIL
Ahhhh April, a time when birds start whistling their springy tunes and we will too!  This book is all about music education. A little about the author from his bio page, and why he is worth listening to: Alex Ross has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1993, and he became the magazine’s music critic in 1996. He writes about classical music, covering the field from the Metropolitan Opera to the downtown avant-garde, and has also contributed essays on pop music, literature, twentieth-century history, and gay life. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a cultural history of music since 1900, won a National Book Critics Circle award and the Guardian First Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
MAY
Another bohemian icon, Thoreau’s off-the-grid living has been the inspiration for many minimalists and non-conformists to follow. The way he describes his transcendentalist and existentialist ideology is poetic: “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. And see if I could not learn what I had to teach. And not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
JUNE
Is hacking and whistleblowing where bohemian activism is heading? Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous; by the writer the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” There is no doubt that this will be an exciting summer read!
JULY
“I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.”~Ernest Hemingway
You know that anything that comes highly recommended by Ernest Hemingway is sure to be an impeccable work. This book is an autobiography about a lesser-known bohemian, Beryl Markham. She was a triple threat: an aviator, racehorse trainer, and rare beauty. Her writing and philosophy is every bit as gorgeous as her outer appearance. Buckle up for a life-changing ride with this bohemian icon over the plains of Africa.
AUGUST
Isadora Duncan is known as the woman who broke with tradition and brought the world Modern Dance. She claimed ballet was “ugly and against nature.” She wanted her “modern” dance style to be free and natural. She believed that “nature is the source of the dance; the movement of the waves, of winds, of the earth is ever in the same lasting harmony.” However, while her carefree movements on the stage are what made her famous, her inner, personal life was certainly not free from cares and trials. This book gives us a glimpse behind the curtain at the raw and real Isadora.
Get excited my fellow bookish bohemians! This is going to be a mind-blowing year of exploration, deep thoughts, and heart talks. Please drop me a line if you have any questions or concerns about the BBC (not the British Broadcasting Corporation–although I love it dearly–but, the Bohemian Book Club).
Your fellow bohemian-in-training,
In Art, Literature, Philosophy, Travel on
August 15, 2017

There’s Something About Painted Mary

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” ~ Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Have you ever experienced the road rash that comes from a spectacular Vespa fall in the South of France? While I can’t whole heartedly recommend it, I can say that I would do it all again for the experience. Not the experience of falling, but the experience of standing in front of a master work by a master artist with blood running down my shin and the overwhelming sensation that all the paths I have walked down in life– the tumbles and the triumphs–are shapes of paper in a collage that individually seem insignificant, but collectively mean everything.

The date was June 21st, 2012. The place was The Musée Matisse in Nice. The artist was Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse. The work of art was Nu bleu IV – 1952.

Nu Bleu IV, Henri Matisse, 1952

Matisse once said “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” I think he meant there is beauty to be found everywhere: in the simplest of expressions and in the seemingly mundane; it’s all about perspective. I believe this statement to be true. I also believe that occasionally out of the seemingly banal and Albert Camus-esque absurdity of life we can be blessed with meaningful moments, if we are open to them.

However, I have also found that while roses can be found everywhere for those who are willing to stop and smell them, and meaning can be made out of triviality, some flowers are like the rare Middlemist Red, and some of life’s experiences will never be duplicated.

When you see Middlemist Red twice in 5 years you can count yourself very lucky, and I lucked out when I stumbled upon a Matisse-like master artist and her paintings last month.

The date was July 15th, 2017. The place was the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. The artist was Mary Finlayson. The work of art was French Masters, Plants and Blankets –2017.

French Masters, Plants and Blankets, Mary Finlayson, 2017

Mary Finlayson is the San Francisco based artist behind paintedmary.com. A transplant from British Columbia, Finlayson grew up surrounded by beauty. Inspired by nature, she has painted large and colorful landscapes. But, she has not limited her scope to the exterior world:

I am interested in the stories that interiors contain and how we use these spaces to tell stories. I never look at a room without thinking of the choices inherent in each object and how they are used to portray personal narratives. When I am in other people’s homes I think of myself as a voyeur, glimpsing at the intimacy of how one creates a home and uses interior spaces to reflect their personal identity. Interior spaces are deeply personal and reveal an intimacy that is rarely discussed or considered.” ~Mary Finlayson

Photo Credit: Nicola Parisi, 2017

This is, I personally believe, how Mary Finlayson truly blooms where Matisse was once planted. Like the famous 20th century colorist and fauvist, “her use of vivid color and energetic line suggest feelings of gesture and movement that help enliven emotional responses to otherwise ordinary, mundane, private settings.”

Another clear point of intersection for Mary and Matisse is the therapeutic nature of both artists’ works. Drawing on color theory and expressionism, each artist creates special moments of joy and serenity for their viewers. Mary’s mastery of “Art Therapy”, the subject of her advanced degree, is evident in each of her paintings. Her deft use of fauvism pushes boundaries as it experiments with more colors than just the normal palette eradicating stigma and stereotypes, and helping the viewer to see the value in their own different and unique perspective.

It would seem that Mary and Matisse share the same vision for their art, as Matisse once said:

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” ~Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Yellow Chair, Mary Finlayson, 2017

Mary’s artwork achieves the goal Matisse was striving for: a mental escape to a world of color, shape, and serenity; and the assurance that Vespa rides to museums in the South of France, while dangerous, are always worth it.

In Literature, Philosophy on
July 17, 2017

Thoreauly Bohemian

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

If you could crystallize your values and what you believe to be true down to a few simple phrases, what would they be? What is the philosophy that you live by? It’s hard, isn’t it? Finding quiet time to really think about what matters most in today’s hustle and bustle is a herculean task. But, (deep breath) I am going to try. So, here goes everything…

I believe in grace; but I don’t believe in human sacrifice. Basically, I believe there is goodness, and even greatness, in everyone and especially in nature.  I believe that it is my life’s mission to look for that goodness and greatness in everything around me. So, did Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau is most well known for his iconic book “Walden”. He is also known in the philosophy world as one of the more famous transcendentalists.

Transcendentalism is best understood when viewed in its historical context. It was after the revolutionary war and before the civil war. A new nation was being formed, and with it a new cultural identity. Thoreau and other intellectuals in the Massachusetts area wanted to create a body of literature and contribute to western philosophy in a uniquely American way.

Transcendentalists believe in freedom to act in accordance with personal intuition–with gut feelings. They were not staunchly religious. However, they were not purely secular either.  They valued the experiential, the passionate, and the more-than-just-rational perspective. Transcendentalists believed that God gave humankind the gift of intuition, the gift of insight, the gift of inspiration. Why waste such a gift?

The transcendentalists ideology draws upon the writings of Emmanuel Kant as well as Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. They felt that individuals do best when they are left to govern themselves. They believed in equality at a human level. To the transcendentalists, any hierarchical institution of society which fostered vast differences in the ability to be educated, to be self-directed, were institutions to be reformed. These transcendentalists were activists.

Thoreau was an abolitionist, and participated in the underground railroad. He wrote a now famous essay entitled “Civil Disobedience”. In it he argued that when a government is not governing its constituents in an honorable way, civilians are justified in rebelling against that government.

Thoreau and other transcendentalists emphasized the basic goodness of nature and human nature. to truly live and experience the ideology, Thoreau lived in a small cabin at Walden Pond for two years, where he wrote his most famous work, Walden.

Thoreau was certainly a bohemian. He was a deep and progressive thinker. He practiced an unconventional lifestyle living in the woods of Massachusetts on Walden Pond. He was nonconformist believing in abolition and refusing to pay taxes.

He will always be one of the leading and most influential bohemian philosophers and literary figures. I look forward to reading his book Walden with all of you in our book club this fall! Stay tuned for more details where that is concerned; and, in the bohemian words of Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

In Food on
July 3, 2017

Where Locals Brunch in San Francisco

You’ve heard the old adage: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, I would argue the meal to beat all meals is the very necessary weekend brunch.  The questions of where and what to brunch on in San Francisco are not questions to be taken lightly. But, fear not dear reader, I have done the research for you.  In fact, this happens to be my favorite research project to date, as I self-identify as a major brunch junkie.  The following are my top three locals-only San Francisco favorites. These are the places you don’t find in guide books or in tourist trap areas of the city; they don’t have 3 hour long lines out the door forcing you to wait for rubbery eggs and watered down mimosas; these are the brunch spots to beat all brunch spots—the breakfasts of champions.

#1 El Techo de Lolinda

El Techo de Lolinda: 2516 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 | Brunch Hours: Sat-Sun 11am-3pm

The Scorecard

Ambiance: 10/10

The magic glass elevator from the Roald Dahl children’s book classic Charlie and The Chocolate Factory has nothing on El Techo’s ride to the rooftop.  If you take BART to the 24th and Mission stop, you are just a few blocks away from this brunch adventure. As a heads up, those few blocks might have you guessing and questioning my choice and research. The area is a little Scorsese film set feeling. It’s The Mission district after all. But, stick with me kid, and you won’t regret it.

Since you were smart and made a reservation online through Open Table, you will check in with the host at the street-level door like a VIP and be told “Down the hall and up the elevator to your left.” The hall and elevator are both very no-nonsense. But when the elevator doors open on the rooftop, you will immediately understand why this place scored a 10/10 ambiance rating: 360 degree city views, hot Latin music, and dozens of locals in on this secret are clinking glasses and celebrating being young and being alive. 

Food & Drink: 9/10

Cuisine: South American

The chips and guac are pretty standard fare. But, the cornbread and Buñuelos are both starters that are a cut above the rest. Order those with either the La Paloma or the Lorito cocktail, and you will be in brunch heaven.

After those starters, I recommend ordering Carnitas to share. Or, if you are really hungry, go for the Benedictos. Generally, it’s game over for me whenever I see an eggs benedict dish on the menu. These are no exception; they take your classic eggs Benny to a whole new Latin level. Try them. You won’t be disappointed.

#2 Zero Zero

Zero Zero: 826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Brunch Hours: Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm

The Scorecard

Ambiance: 9/10

I’ve got 99 problems but Zero Zero ain’t one. Seriously, Zero Zero is a problem solver. Suffering from weekend ennui and a manic Monday ahead? Let Zero Zero handle that with a perfectly balanced cocktail and melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.

The ambiance is a little on the hipster meets Westworld side. It’s a fresh take on a steampunk saloon. It isn’t overly boisterous or noisy which is nice when you need a place to relax and have a good conversation.

Food & Drink: 10/10

Cuisine: Elevated Comfort Food

My cocktail recommendation is Violet Death in the Afternoon. It’s a killer combination of prosecco, absinthe and creme de violette and is garnished with a frozen orchid. For an appetizer, you must get the biscuits. Trust me, it’s a must. For your entrée, I recommend the Short Rib Pastrami Hash. Or, if you are feeling like something a little more sweet, The French Toast is also excellent.

#3 Local Kitchen and Wine Bar

Local Kitchen and Wine Bar: 330 1st St #1, San Francisco, CA 94105 | Brunch Sat-Sun 11:30-2:00PM

The Scorecard

Ambiance: 9/10

Simple and minimalistic modernity is Local Kitchen and Wine Bar’s style.  But, there is a warmth to it—coming from the direction of the pizza oven— and the lighting is soft and inviting. There is a communal long table in the center of the space, the pizza bar up close and personal with the chefs, and your regular run-of-the mill restaurant tables to choose from.

Food & Drink: 9/10

California Cuisine Using Fresh, Local Ingredients

The food here is simply delicious. For a light and bright bunch meal, I recommend the two eggs cooked your way, fingerling potatoes, and greens.  If your appetite is more robust and you need something with a little more heft to fend off the hangry, select one of their amazing Breakfast Pizzas. It is sure to fill you up.

When it comes to drink, they have a lovely Rose Cava and fantastic mimosas. If you would prefer something a little stronger, the Brexit is excellent as is the El Jefe.

So, there you have it, three brunch spots to try when you are next in San Francisco—the beautiful city by the bay that I call home.  If you are in town, and looking for a brunch buddy, drop me a line. I never turn down an invitation to brunch.

Bon appétit my fellow Bohemian Brunchers!

In Art, Literature, Philosophy, Travel on
June 29, 2017

The Summer of Love Experience

If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair…and go to the “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll” exhibit at the de Young museum.

50 years ago, thousands of young people flocked to the city for a season that would change the world. It was the summer of love—the summer that really put San Francisco on the map as the epicenter of modern bohemianism.

The de Young museum has done an excellent job creating not just an exhibit, but an experience for its patrons. You come away feeling like you passed through a wrinkle in time and lived the summer of 1967 in San Francisco. So whether it’s your first time in the city by the bay, you’ve visited before, or are a full-time resident, the de Young museum’s latest offering is not to be missed!

The exhibit catalog begins with an essay by Dennis McNally titled Not Past At All: The Legacy of San Francisco’s Summer of Love. In his essay he demonstrates the impact of the Summer of Love era on culture and society:

As William Faulkner so wisely put it in another context, ‘The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.’  The Summer of Love era has never really left us; our current national culture wars are rooted in the profound intellectual challenges of the 1960s, which themselves go at least as far back as the 1840s, when bohemianism—art and the spiritual arrayed against bourgeois achievement—arose in Europe, and when Henry David Thoreau confronted American notions of its own exceptionalism, the Protestant work ethic, and humankind’s relationship to nature.”

The fact that the Summer of Love played an integral part in the evolution of bohemianism is indisputable. When people hear “boho” or “bohemian-chic”, most automatically think of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Flower crowns, peace signs, drugs and rock and roll all have become the icons today’s society associates with hippie culture and bohemians. All of these bohemian emblems, this exhibit suggests, can trace their history back to this fateful summer in San Francisco.

As the Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco explained:

Though the 1960s counterculture was an international phenomenon, the “Summer of Love,” as it was proclaimed by the media, in San Francisco was unique, namely because it was as much a creative movement as it was a political one. Artists, designers, poets, writers, musicians, and performers developed their own visual language and new forms of communication, leaving a legacy of material culture that owes an aesthetic debt to the city of its origin.”

Something truly unique about this exhibit is that it begins outside of the museum. Walking up to the museum doors, visitors can see iconic street signs such as “Haight” and “Ashbury”; there are large blown up images of popular buttons from the era with slogans such as “Make love not war” and “Equal Rights” on the ground and plastered all over the windows. This was intentional and fitting as the events surrounding the historic Summer of Love took place on the grounds around the museum and in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood a stone’s throw away.

Once inside the building, and downstairs in the exhibit gallery, museum patrons will walk down a long hall wallpapered with black and white photos and philosophical quotes from the champions of the Summer of Love.

The lesson on the bohemian philosophy of the hippie movement continues inside the first gallery with a collection of books on display. These books are the genesis of the ideology that led to the Summer of Love. They are the literature of the movement—the bohemian canon.

In addition to the literature of the movement, The Trips Festival of 1966 is contextually significant. This festival became, in essence, a “preview of coming attractions” for the Summer of Love three years later.  In the Trips Festival gallery you can experience the festival through an old black and white film of the event itself projected on the walls of a small space.

The trippiness of the exhibit does not begin and end with information about the Trips Festival, you get to experience what an LCD trip would feel like in a room with a psychedelic light show projected on the walls and bean bag chairs on the floor.

Without giving too much away, because I do want you to go and experience the exhibit yourself, I have to say that in my opinion the piece de resistance for the entire exhibit is the fashion. Mannequins dressed in clothing that was popular and worn by influential people from the era are displayed throughout the galleries.

So, listen to Scott McKenzie’s hit song, and head to the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park before the exhibit closes on August 20th.

Ten things not to miss in ‘The Summer of Love Experience’:

  1. Psychedelic LCD trip simulation room
  2. The 1967 message board from the Psychedelic Shop, including a notice about hippie volunteers cleaning Haight Street Saturday mornings.
  3. Robert Rauschenber’s Revolver II, 1967.
  4. Birgitta Bjerke’s crocheted wool and glass-bead bedspread, commissioned by Frankie Azzara, girlfriend of Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir.
  5. Jerry Garcia’s red-and-white striped “CaptainTrips” top-hat.
  6. Rainbow Cobblers, “Sequoia” boots, ca. 1970. Appliqued dyed leather.
  7. “Watergate” Jeans, ca. 1973. Cotton denim with printed, hand-drawn, stamped cotton plain weave appliques.
  8. Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley’s Grateful Dead posters.
  9. Humbead’s Map of the World, 1968, Color offset lithograph poster by Earl Crabb and Rick Shubb.
  10. Larry Keenan’s gelatin silver print of Micahael McClure, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, 1965.

‘THE SUMMER OF LOVE EXPERIENCE’: 

When: April 8-Aug. 20, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Where: de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Admission: $10-$25, 415-750-3600, deyoung.famsf.org

More info.: Video and audio elements from the exhibition are at digitalstories.famsf.org/summer-of-love