Last night, I attended a football game at San Francisco’s venerable Candlestick Park – Forty Niners v. Chicago Bears.
When the game was over, I stayed in my seat, waiting for the sold-out crowd to dissipate. I had volunteered to wait for my brother-in-law; he’s a Chicago-based sports journalist and the Bears beat writer for the Daily Herald . He was doing post-game interviews and filing stories. It was going to be a wait of about 90 minutes. I used the time to take laps around the park, now virtually empty.
I remembered my first experience here – a San francisco Giants game in April of 1993. I wore shorts and a tee-shirt to the game. I wondered why people were staring at me. Thirty minutes later I was at the merchandise stand buying an 80 dollar team jacket. I didn’t know that Candlestick Park is a combination of deep freeze and wind tunnel in the spring and summer months. Lesson learned.
The Forty Niners will soon be abandoning this tired, decrepit sports theater for greener pastures, a futuristic new stadium a stone’s throw from San Jose. We who live here know that the Forty Niners as we know it will cease to exist after the 2013 season. They will be a team in the suburbs, San Franciscan by name only, viewable at a price tag that is nothing short of breathtaking.
I lingered inside the bowl of Candlestick last night, taking note of the cracks, the dents and dings, soaking it in. I feel a bit of nostalgia for this place already. It’s a big ashtray, but it was our ashtray.
It was 5:30, the height of rush hour in San Francisco’s Financial District. A wave of humans poured onto a down escalator for a ride below the street to the Montgomery BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. I am one of a thousand. I am not unique in this morass of humans. Nobody stands out. We are all walking with purpose, save the few mentally ill street people who are having a conversation with themselves , or no one in particular. We are all headed for ticket machines and turnstiles, headed for destinations pre-determined. Some of us are going home. Some are possibly headed to a lounge or restaurant. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. There’s a roar created by this wave of humanity. Heels and squeaking sneakers and lace-ups and boots create a clatter down the escalator and on the floor of the station.
In the midst of this cacophony was a busker, a violin player. I don’t know how to play that instrument but I know a beautiful song when I hear one, and his guy was killing it.
The song was unfamiliar to me but it didn’t prevent me from hearing every note. As soon as his music caught my ear the din of the BART station receded. It’s as if my brain turned down the volume of the crowd to focus on the music. I could feel the bow being drawn over the strings. I could discern every note.
It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard, this solitary busker embedded in a tidal wave of harried commuters. I paused for a moment. I should have tossed a 10 spot into his violin case, and I regret I didn’t, for what I heard that otherwise ordinary rush hour weekday was priceless.
A student from Inner Mongolia was in my office this morning talking about internships. She uses an anglicized name, which I’m a bit embarrassed to use. In her native Mandarin (with a splash of Mongolian dialect) her name is beautiful.
She was petite, all of 5 feet tall, with a sweet disposition. She was by all measures a successful student. Her English comprehension was strong. She wants to succeed here.
She had one little flaw in presenation – she had a very weak handshake.
I told her that first impressions are many times created by non-verbal cues. The handshake is how we size up people, even if we haven’t spoken many words to each other.
“C’mon, shake my hand.” I implored.
She extended her tiny hand and placed it in my rather substantial paw. She grabbed my fingers.
“No, no – I want you to grab my hand, gently, and squeeze. You are a strong woman. Show me your strength. This is not about your physical power or your stature, it’s about your confidence. If I’m an employer, I want to feel your confidence. Shake my hand.”
Her arm extended, she took my hand. She pressed her hand into mine and gripped perfectly.
“Great!” I exclaimed. ‘That’s how you say hello to someone!”
She giggled. “Thanks. You are a good teacher.”
” I don’t know about that but I do know you’re the kind of student that I want to help, Diana.”
Moments, sights and scenes pass us by every day. It’s easy to forget about them, or forget to recognize them.
Try to savor those moments – hang onto them, remember them. In my story of Candlestick Park, I did not mention that I am a Bears fan. The Bears got crushed in that game. It was the experience of where it happened that made it not about football and the short-term shallow adrenaline it creates.
A life spent with a short memory for the little things can make us self-absorbed. The world around us is made up of cause and effect. There are people around us who are making this crazy planet a little less so, every second of every day. We cannot always take and not give back. A civil society demands this deal. Imagine what would happen if our politicians , Republican and Democrat, walked to a podium together, giddy over a piece of legislation that would help people of all walks of life. The generally cynical, jaded people who cover this event would be awestruck, wordless – they would search for the angle, look for the gamesmanship. and find none.
What we have, our embarrassment of riches, are so casually dismissed as something we are entitled to.
Thanksgiving Day is an easy opportunity to share some stories around a communal table, and it’s good to do so – before we engage in that culinary orgy.
I vow to try to recognize and cherish more moments as a matter of habit, not just fodder for a blog post.
As William DeVaughn once sang, just be thankful…for what you got.
John Scott is a media instructor, national online education coordinator and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications , Academy of Art University, San Francisco. He also counsels individuals and groups in the art of reinvention. His debut book Broken Glass and Barbed Wire will be available during the holiday season. Finally.