Dawn breaks over our wonderful city on this Good Friday, and all we can think about around here is: Good, it's Friday! Which means that this afternoon we get to go home early, shut down the office, head for the local watering hole, and celebrate the fact the it's Opening Day for your San Francisco Giants.
Spring Training has concluded, we have the new kids who are going to make things interesting in the beginning days (Brandon Belt hits it long, hits it deep... it's... it's... ) and I was feeling fairly decent about missing the annual pilgrimage to Arizona until Ken Wirt gleefully informed me that the Pink Pony Restaurant in Scottsdale had reopened. Now, the Pony was always home base when my dad and I went down to watch the boys of spring, so hearing that it was open again triggered all sorts of memories.
Well, that and the fact that Tuesday was my dad's birthday. So we got the whole birth, death, rebirth in spring, Easter weekend, Opening Day, thinking of Dad thing all swimming around in my head right now. Hence the rather erratic course of today's column.
Dad would have been a young 96 this week, and you know he would have digging in for the game this afternoon, Vitamin V at the hand and Giants hat perched perfectly atop head. What is it with that generation and hats? They knew how to wear a hat, whether a baseball cap pulled down low over the eyes, brim broken in and curved flawlessly, or a dapper homburg with the brims "fore and aft" trimmed correctly. Now we clump about with our hats on backwards and brims jutting out sideways like a broken wing. Good thing Dad can't see that today.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Dad and baseball. Good grief, as if that is not cliché enough. Dad would roll into Candlestick riding the snorting, temperamental vehicle known as "the White Rat," emerging as if the swirling winds had no effect on him whatsoever. The rest of us would be bundled up within an inch of our lives, all looking like versions of Kenny from South Park. Dad was rocking the hat and greatcoat, pocket square jutting from the pocket, with a glint in his eye and a flask of vodka in his pocket. And inevitably people around us would start smiling and yelling over, "Hey Herb, looking great!"
He just had that effect on the world around him. People said that even if you didn't see him, you always knew when Frank Sinatra entered the room. The women stood a little taller, the men joshed with each other a little more, and the volume in the room went up. Dad had the same impact, but it was a wave of mirth and fun that spun out from him. Jokes increased, smiles got bigger, and bar tabs swelled. Even in the canyons of Candlestick Park, as Darrell Evans scrambled to his left in the fog to corral a Texas leaguer, the chatter and conversation in our section would always be twice that of the sections around us.
Now Candlestick is on its last days, the Giants play in their new ballpark at the foot of Herb Caen Way (damn he would have loved that), and we are swinging into another spring in San Francisco. You can tell it's spring because downtown you can see the annual flock of shivering tourists who still to this day don't understand our weather (fine, fine, another cliché).
But they still love us, bless their demented little souls, and they still fill up hotels like the Fairmont and the St. Francis. I noticed a United Nations flag outside the St. Francis today, so I called them to find out the occasion. Turns out they just have the flag in rotation, to remind every one of the signing of the United Nations charter here in San Francisco.
I always though it appropriate that an organization that tried to unite all nations, races, and languages would start here. Walking down our streets you will hear every language imaginable, with people yelling into their cell phones, gangster wannabees swearing on the buses and in the street, and of course our homeless, who truly have their own language. No wonder our families are fleeing the place -- you can't walk one block without your kid learning how to curse in five languages, including Klingon.
Although I will give the "talkers" a little leeway purely on entertainment value. You know, the people who loudly and animatedly talk to themselves as they barrel towards some unknown appointment. Now that the weather is better, they are in full force. One particular vocalist charged past me the other day, and as he did he finished his diatribe with, "...and that's why I swam to shore!" Admit it, you want to hear the rest of the story, right?
A thousand springs, a thousand new seasons, a thousand stories. Sure this town ain't perfect, but it's perfectly us, warts and all. So enjoy your Easter weekend of bunnies, baseball and beer. And I will be toasting my dad as the first pitch is thrown... he wouldn't miss it for the world.