The Big Pink Head in Golden Gate Park (and other arty adventures)

I never get tired of Golden Gate Park. It’s urban enough that it always has people and things to do, but it’s never crowded or rushed, which makes it perfect for a day that’s both relaxing and ennervating. I decided to take the children to the De Young Museum for their Viewing &Doing Art activity, but we arrived a little early and I parked up at Stow Lake, so we could feed the ducks (and other greedy creatures) some leftover stale popcorn.

Neil wanted to ride the paddleboats, something we’ve never done. It seemed like fun, and we had enough time to do it, but it turned out I only had $15 with me, and the rental cost $20, cash only. So we just waved to the people who were riding around Strawberry Island:


I led Neil to the “secret” waterfall on the island, and we had a great time following it down from its fountain to where it cuts through paving stones and flows into the lake. While we ate our lunch, Neil and Kelly put popcorn kernels into the paths between the stones to see which route the kernels would take into the lake.

All too soon, we had to head over to the museum for the class. The children were split into two groups: one for 3-1/2 year olds to 7 year olds; and another for 8 and above. I had to stay with Kelly while Neil went into the tower with the older age group. The lesson was excellently done. Both groups were led by a docent who showed them the black and white photographs in the Shi Guori exhibition. For Kelly’s group, the docent was holding several shapes and she reinforced the concepts of triangles, squares, and rectangles. Then she had the children find those shapes in a negative photograph of the San Francisco skyline. She also showed them a negative photographs that showed the outlines of tools and taught the children the word “silhouette.” And, when, on our way back, Kelly wondered what the shape name was for a wooden Moebius strip-like sculpture in the De Young’s lobby, our docent simplified it to “squiggle” a concept Kelly just loved.

Back inside the classroom (which was shared by the grumpy Artist in Residence, who had to humiliatingly wear an Artist in Residence label on her back all day), the teachers gave the children black and white shapes and had them create their own skyline silhouette. Kelly loves cutting and pasting and she was at it for the entire allotted time:


Neil’s class, meanwhile, was being taught about big pictures, since the photographs are also fairly huge. They took this picture:


and each child reproduced a section of it with pastel crayons. Neil’s portion is in the middle in the row second from the left:


After the class, we went out to look at the big pink head that had sprouted in a picnic area. We’d spotted it from Stow Lake while on our way to the De Young:


and I’d promised we’d go take a look at it.

The street was closed to car traffic, and instead it was filled with bicycle traffic. And we saw all sorts of incredible bicycles: side by side tandem bicycles (being ridden by one person only), recumbent bicycles, and lots of the quad-cycles being rented out at Stow Lake. Neil particularly admired the quad cycles and wondered if we might rent one someday. Having overheard us, two girls in a quad cycle pulled over and offered us a ride to the big pink head. We were delighted to take them up on their offer.

It turns out they were French. They barely spoke English, and my French , well, I have a rant on it. Here’s my rant on French: I took French for 2 years in high school. I used to win county awards with my finely crafted, grammatically perfect French essays. And then I forgot it all, so that I can’t even read my own French essays any more! The essays sure look good, but I can’t understand them, not even the words of praise my French teacher put on them. OK, end rant. So I used the one sentence I do remember from my very first French lesson and asked the French girls “How are you?” and they laughed and said “hello.” Then we all pedalled like mad and got to the big pink head in record time, even scaring Kelly with our speed. Afterwards they turned around and picked up two guys who almost certainly spoke better French and they all sped off in the other direction:


The big pink head was as amazing up close as it had been from a distance. Here is it with Kelly and Neil against it for scale:


It’s kind of like a subterranean color blind giant who’s trying to come out to audition for the Blue Man Group. I think they have a preferred height range, though, and the proper color would be dark blue, not pink.

The pathway to and from Stow Lake winds behind the Japanese Tea Garden. We spotted people popping out of the bamboo stand, so Neil investigated and found a small maze inside the bamboo. Naturally, we had to explore it. For some inexplicable reason, there were 2 Dilbert books in the maze: maybe it’s something to keep you entertained if you get lost.

Back at the lake, we gave the rest of our lunch to the greedy birds, and headed back to Peter’s office, so he could at least get a break from his work and have dinner with us.

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