The Glow That Will Not Fade

Monday, November 8, 2010

Venus at San Francisco City Hall
"Let's do this," she said.

"Are you kidding," I thought. "Do you know how many things can go wrong? Do you realize how many people are going to this? Do you understand how early we'll have to get up for this? The kind of traffic we'll have to fight through? Do you understand?"

"I don't care," she responded. "Let's do this."

This -- in a snapshot -- of why I so deeply love the dear wife that is Venus. Because only she can make me do things that I would not ordinarily do. Bill Bird doesn't take a lot of chances. He normally does not "jump without thinking."

That's what Venus is for I suppose.

Giants Win the World Series
The day was Election Day, Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010. I was walking precincts in my hometown of Modesto, CA for State Senate Candidate Anthony Cannella -- and also doing my level-best to fight off a world class headache caused by drinking far too much celebratory champagne the night before following an improbable and joyous San Francisco Giants WIN in Game Five of the World Series.

I kept repeating it to myself the next day: "We did it. We are World Series Champions." I kept repeating that line as I walked through neighborhoods where I had grown up as a child -- where I had listened to play-by-play radio greats like Lon Simmons, Joe Angel, Lindsey Nelson and Hank Greenwald on KNBR describe how Johnny "Disaster" LeMaster booted yet another ground ball.

No matter how many home runs would spring from the bat of "Stretch" McCovey or Jack Clark -- it would never be enough to account for the creampuffs that John "The Count" Montefusco or Jim Barr would lay over the plate in response. The Giants were lovable losers in the 1970's. And I loved each and every one of them.

It did not matter that my older brother -- who laughed with glee when Atlee Hammaker gave up the first and only GRAND SLAM in the 1983 All Star Game -- and tagged him with the cruel nickname of "Atlee Grand Slammaker." I still loved them. Each and very one.

And so -- while basking in the glow of an improbably World Series win in five short games -- came the email from Venus: "Giants are holding a victory parade in downtown San Francisco tomorrow! Let's go!"

There were so many things wrong with this idea -- I can't even begin to tell you. How would we get there? How many people would wind up attending? Could we even get into The City by The Bay?

"Are you sure," I texted back? "How will we get there?" Her response? "Plane, train or automobile, it doesn't matter. We've got to be there."

Slowly -- on the ride back to Sacramento from Modesto -- I warmed to the idea. I informed my immediate boss of the "wife's plans." He encouraged me to go.

And so -- at 7:00 AM the next morning -- Venus and I found ourselves boarding the Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to Richmond. From there -- we would catch the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) line into the City.

Or that was the plan at least. And what a plan it was. I could not have worked out any better. Because -- on the day after walking precincts in Modesto -- I found myself pressed into a crowd of hundreds upon thousands of delirious San Francisco Giants fans in front of San Francisco City Hall for a Victory Parade and Salute that I will never forget.

Best Giants T-Shirt EVER!
We ran into this lady on the BART trip on the way into The City. This was -- by far -- the most imaginative Giants t-shirt I came across that day. The lady in question (we didn't get her name) didn't have any Giants merchandise. So -- instead -- she did the next best thing. She took an orange shirt that contained the words "Everything is Bigger in Texas," and scrawled the words San Francisco in black pen across the middle.

Seriously? Could anyone say it any better than that?

Packed like sardines on BART
Venus and I were packed into that BART line like sardines by the time our train finally arrived at the Civic Center -- a stone's throw from City Hall. We emerged into a world of orange and black. The streets were closed for several blocks around us -- and although the streets were packed with Giants fans -- the fun was yet to get underway.

We made it. We made it straight through. Thousands of fans would have trouble accessing BART into The City on this day. Despite a record number of trains dedicated to getting people into downtown San Francisco -- thousands would be disappointed. More than a half million people were able to board trains to this event -- a BART record for one-day ridership.

In Front of San Francisco City Hall
Who knows how many got left behind? For some reason -- we made it while so many others were stuck in stations from Berkeley to Oakland. Some arrived late. Some not at all. There's no telling how many just gave up at the sight of one hopelessly packed train after another.

The first order of business? Taking care of a weak bladder. Fortunately -- the powers that be in San Francisco are used to events like this one. Portable restrooms set up by the hundreds on either side of the streets beckoned. No waiting.

The second order of business? Getting used to that rather OVERWHELMING odor permeating through the streets of downtown San Francisco. Closer Brian Wilson put it best during his presentation after the Victory Parade: "I'm kind of having a mini heart attack. Not sure what it's from, maybe the electricity in the crowd, maybe the smell of Prop 19."

I wasn't smelling heirloom tomatoes -- that's for sure.

Rally Towel Toss!
We knew it was "our day in the sun" when barriers that had been holding the crowd back suddenly opened in front of us and we rushed -- with thousands of others -- toward the main stage. Organizers were tossing Giants Rally Towels into the crowd by the hundreds -- and I was lucky enough to snag one of the first.

Our improbable run of luck continued moments later when someone tossed a pack of six towels into the air and they landed directly into the wife's outstretched hands. She was literally mobbed from that point on -- despite my best efforts to keep the throngs at bay.

One couple = seven towels. We did wind up giving some away to others around us -- but came home with our fair share for the GarageMahal of Sports Memories.

One by one -- our heroes took to the stage of San Francisco City Hall. Manager Bruce Bochy, pitching LEGEND Tim (TIMMAY!) Lincecum, Wilson, Juan Uribe, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff -- a parade of stars. My legs -- after about four hours of standing in the same spot -- finally started to give out.

Venus stayed behind while I fought my way out of a throng of thousands -- two solid blocks of wall-to-wall people (who did not move out of the way easily). It was a rare hot day in downtown San Francisco -- made even hotter by the masses around me.

Once I could find a place to sit -- and perhaps enjoy a bottle or two of cold water -- all would become right again. I did finally find that spot -- some two blocks away. And although the wife and I were separated by a crowd in the tens of thousands -- we managed to find each other after it was all said and done.

Venus with FOX 40 Photographer Dan Slack
We're former news reporters -- don't you know. When in doubt? Meet at the site of where all the satellite TV trucks are parked. Although we both haven't worked in the media for an untold number of years -- we still have friends who do -- like FOX 40 Photo Journalist Dan Slack.

This is an event that is hard to describe. I almost titled this "Two Gardeners: Our of Their Element." I've never been a part of anything quite like this before. I'm not sure I'll ever see anything like this again in my lifetime.

For -- if this is the only Giants Victory Parade that I will witness in my lifetime -- at least I can say this much.

I was there. The Glow Will Never Fade.

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