Ladies and Gentlemen, the Giants are the Champions of the World

The little boy whose Giants just won the World Series

About 1968, a father starting taking his son to Giants baseball games at Candlestick Park. It was a long drive so we didn’t go that often, which made it a very special treat. I learned to root for the home team, and if they didn’t win it was a shame. I watched Willie Mays and Willie McCovey hit home runs. I learned to drop my peanut shells on the concrete, and how to watch the outfielders instead of the ball. As the years went on, the Giants continued to not win, and it was always a shame. The 1970s and 1980s were, with a few exceptions such as 1978 and 1982, a wasteland of poor teams, forgettable players, and cold night games at the Stick.

The tide began to turn in 1987, when the Giants won their division for the first time in 16 years and lost the pennant by a whisker. In 1989 they won the pennant that had eluded them since 1962, only to lose to the A’s in the earthquake Series. In 1993 the Giants did not get sold to Tampa. On 29 September 1999, I attended the last night game at the Stick (the final game, the next day, had been sold out for months). The next spring, an utterly delightful new ballpark appeared. What a spectacularly fine place to watch a ballgame. Everything that the concrete tureen of Candlestick was not.

But still we couldn’t break through. In 2002 we won the pennant again (thanks to the ridiculous rule that is the wild card), only to have the title wrenched from our grasp with eight outs to go.

And now, a group that I thought would barely make the playoffs has won it all. This little boy was moved to tears when the last batter struck out, and the Giants stormed the field in delirium. After watching my team for 42 years, they had finally done it. A generous man bought champagne for everyone at the sports bar where I was watching the game. I raised my glass and, echoing broadcaster Vin Scully’s famous proclamation in 1955, said to the room “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Giants are champions of the world.”

16th Annual Arts & Crafts Show, San Francisco

If, like me, you are a fan of the Arts & Crafts Movement, then join Arlene and me at the 16th annual Arts & Crafts show, August 14 and 15 at the Concourse Exhibition Hall, 8th & Brannan, San Francisco. Furniture, pottery, graphic art, both period & modern, also lectures, exhibits and book signings.

Also: on August 14 from 5-9pm, there will be an open house at the beautiful William Thorsen house in Berkeley. Enjoy wine and hors d’oeurvres and network with fellow Arts & Crafts enthusiasts in this historic setting. The house is famous as one of Greene & Greene’s “Ultimate Bungalows“ and is rarely open to the public. Don’t miss this opportunity!

Tempura, sashimi & sushi at Ebisu

Today Arlene and I had lunch at Ebisu at 9th & Irving in San Francisco. Ebisu is one of our two favorite Japanese restaurants in the City (the other is Takara on Post in Japantown), and we often eat there if we’re near Golden Gate Park. We both ordered a bento box with tempura, sashimi and sushi. Ebisu’s salads (which in many bentos are mere afterthoughts, often cole slaw or potato salad) are delicious: seaweed salad, oshitashi, and mixed lettuce & radish.

Tempura Sashimi Sushi
Lunch bento #2 at Ebisu

Pappardelle in sugo di maiale

100 years ago today, my grandmother Lena arrived at Ellis Island, two weeks after sailing from Palermo, Sicily. In her honor, I dined this evening at Trattoria La Siciliana, in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley.

sugo di maiale
Pappardelle in sugo di maiale, from Trattoria La Siciliana

Here was my entree, homemade pappardelle in sugo di maiale (pork sauce). Not only was it really yummy, it tasted quite like what Grandma would have made herself. The owner, Angelo d’Alo, is very friendly and speaks Italian like a native. The restaurant is decorated with all sorts of Sicilian ceramics, posters and photographs. Two thumbs up!

The coolest canyon in town

My home town of Fremont, California is a modern creation, formed in 1956 from five towns in the old Washington Township: Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs. My village was Centerville, but Niles easily wins the contest for Most Historically Significant.

And that history all revolves around the canyon. Very picturesque, and still mostly unimproved. Two flour mills were built at the mouth of the canyon in 1850 and 1856 by the Vallejo family, owners of the Mexican land grant covering southern Alameda County. Some of the mill foundations survive and are a California registered landmark.

A railway was built through the canyon in 1869: no less than the famed Transcontinental Railroad on its way to the western terminus in Alameda (although a new route through Benicia bypassed Niles Canyon in 1879). Until Interstate 680 was built in the mid-1970s, Niles Canyon was our road from Fremont to Pleasanton and Livermore. I particularly remember several family expeditions through the canyon on the way to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.

Water politics also have played a big part in the canyon’s history. Alameda Creek, the river that runs through the canyon, flooded periodically until the creek was channeled in the 1960s. The Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct intersects Niles Canyon at the far end, underneath the Sunol Water Temple. Several tributaries of Alameda Creek are still owned by the San Francisco Water District and are off-limits to the public.

Niles Canyon also has its very own ghost—how many towns can say that?

Niles’s biggest claim to fame, however, is as a center of filmmaking. Chicago-based Essanay Studios, tired of how the long midwest winters limited the filming season, opened a studio in Niles in 1913. Essanay’s co-owner was Gilbert “Broncho Billy” Anderson, the world’s first cowboy movie star. Many of his 376 Broncho Billy movies were filmed in Niles Canyon, where the scenery and the railroad line made it easy to create a “wild west” feel. In 1914 Essanay hired Charlie Chaplin and filmed several of his movies in Niles Canyon, including, most famously, The Tramp. Chaplin left Essanay in 1915 and the studio closed the following year, but by then Niles had already been eclipsed by Hollywood as the center of the movie industry: filmmakers preferred both Southern California’s warmer weather and brighter sunlight, and the proximity to a major city.

Then as now, Niles is rather isolated by the wide channel of Alameda Creek as it exits the canyon. Perhaps because of this, more than a few 19th-century buildings survive in the town center. Recently, the old railroad station has been restored. Give Niles a visit the next time you’re in Fremont.