Yesterday, I went to get my underarms lasered, and if you’ve ever had that done, you know how much I suffered. So painful! I swear, I need to take a wooden spoon with me to bite on. But, as they say, beauty is pain, and if you read my post about Tata the Thai Face Slapper, you know I’m not afraid of it. Anyway, the laser doctor (who looks and sounds just like Mr. Chow from the movie “The Hangover”) has his office in Union Square. So, afterwards, I grabbed a latte at Starbucks and went to sit in my Happy Spot to wait for my ravaged armpits to stop stinging.
I have several Happy Spots in and around San Francisco, and the one in Union Square is at Ruth Asawa‘s “San Francisco Fountain” on the steps outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Stockton, between Sutter and Post, right next to the Levi’s store. I could be in the foulest of moods, actively planning my foes’ murders, but if I “set a spell,” as my Granny would say, in this spot, invariably, my smile returns, and my foes get to live to vex me another day.
This fountain is whimsical, magical and thoroughly, unabashedly fun. It’s a fun-tain. Completely covered in kajillions of comical little figures that look like they’re fashioned out of Play-doh, it is actually a relief map, of sorts, of the City of San Francisco. Although I think anyone would love it, it really does take a denizen of our fair City to catch and truly appreciate some of its more obscure details.
It’s built into some brick steps, with the edge facing west at the top of the stairs representing the ocean, and the edge facing east toward the street representing the bay. Scenes and figures depicting City landmarks, history and life adorn the fountain walls and rim, in roughly geographic order.
The Golden Gate Bridge is complete with its ever-present traffic, and its glorious towers extend up the side of the fountain wall and over the top of the rim into the water.
There’s Coit Tower peeking out on top of Telegraph Hill, Ghirardelli Square, Chinatown, the old Mint, City Hall, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Filbert Steps. I can’t fit pictures of everything in this post, but, you name it, it’s there. It really is a full tour of San Francisco all in one place!
Every time I come see this fountain, I make my way around it, inspecting it closely, laughing at the little figures and scenes, and I always, without exception, find something that escaped my notice before. Like this time, I discovered this little chicken truck. Look, how cute!
This is kind of juvenile of me, I know, but, one of my favorite things about it is, if you look closely, there are naked boobies all over this thing. Everywhere. It’s fabulous! You know my old saying, “Everyone Loves Boobs.” Young/old, men/women, gay/straight, it doesn’t matter, we’re all united in our affection for boobs. Boobies are the universal singularity. You know I’m right.
The fountain was commissioned by the Grand Hyatt in 1970, and created by artist Ruth Asawa, known as the “fountain lady” for her works like this one, as well as the gorgeous mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square–another of my favorites. She molded the figures out of bread dough, and let it dry hard before it was cast in bronze. She also built a model of the steps that the fountain would be set into in her back yard, to store the bronze panels as they were completed, so she could visualize the map of San Francisco as it took shape.
Asawa enlisted the help of a bunch of school kids and other visitors to mold some of the figures, to give life to her idea to “show what many hands working together could do.” And as the plaque on the sidewalk explains, “[p]erhaps the most remarkable aspect of the fountain is that, in the end, Ruth succeeded in proving her point; it is her work, produced by many hands, and like all great folk monuments, it belongs to everyone.”
Notwithstanding that lovely “this belongs to everyone” sentiment, if I ever find the owner of this tag handle, I will sit on him and pound upholstery tacks into his gums and then squeeze lemon juice over the wounds. I mean, really. What the Hell? Don’t get me wrong, I live in the Mission District, I can appreciate graffiti as street art. But don’t be tagging works of art. Especially not one as purely joyous as this one. It’s bad, bad karma, not to mention, disrespectful and just plain rude.
As with every other time I’ve visited this spot, though, even this crude offense faded away and gave way to laughter and levity as I explored the happy little creatures that inhabit the fountain walls. Thanks, Ruth, you made my day — again!