A few months ago, I found out that I was going to Phoenix for two weeks on business, and it just so happened that Cal would play Arizona in Tucson during my trip. The Cal-Arizona series has featured some of the most exciting and gut-wrenching finishes I've ever seen. The 1996 contest at Cal's Memorial Stadium was a four-overtime marathon [in college football, both teams get a chance to score in overtime]. My friend Cathy who has accompanied me on a few other road trips, made plans to meet up with me, and a little while later, our friend Andy decided to join us too. I knew this would be a fun trip.
On the day before I left, Cal hosted Arizona State in a twilight football game in picturesque Memorial Stadium. The first-half had very few highlights from Cal's perspective, but from the attendees view, there was a wonderful highlight. Late in the second quarter, the sun started to set; The golden rays bathed parts of the crowd and the California banner above the rooting section. Fans on the west (alumni) side, turned their attention away from the game and lined the rim to watch the sunset. Those of us on the east (students/young alumni) side turned our attention to the sky, where the clouds formed a high blanket over half of the sky. The colors were astounding. Cal did manage to do much better in the second half, but I'd say that the sunset was the highlight of the game experience.
During my trip to Los Angeles in October, my friend and fellow storyteller Liz invited me to join her and her friends at the Harp Inn in Costa Mesa to listen to The Fenians, an Irish band from Orange County. After the show, I learned that the Fenians would be performing at Fiddler's Green in Millbrae on the Friday before I was to leave for Phoenix. Unfortunately, I had had other, unbreakable plans for that evening; but fortunately I also found that they would be performing at Sinead's Irish Bar and Restaurant in San Francisco on the afternoon of my trip. I rescheduled my flight so I could catch their performance.
When I arrived at Sinead's, I was struck by two things:
I ended up spending some time talking with the band. The mandolin player, Terry, said that given the audience size, maybe I would have to shout out both the male and female parts for Seven Drunken Nights. I said I was up to it. (They didn't end up playing the song.) He also scouted the balcony section of the restaurant for a place to wail during Drunken Sailor. It would have looked cool for him to go up there, but not if he fell, so he decided against that. Soon some other friends of Terry's showed up, so I talked with other band members. A few highlights...
Just before the show began, a young blonde Irish lass brought me some Guinness, and noticed that I was balling up two wads of newspaper. She gave me a funny look, and I explained to her that there was one song where I was supposed to throw them at the band. I made two, because one was for Liz. When the time came (during "Finnegan's Wake"), I tossed both wads and they landed on the drum set. The show itself rocked, as I expected. While the place never got crowded, those of us there had a lot of fun. After the show I bought a CD (Live at the Harp) and a tee-shirt. I'll be sure to let folks know when they make a return trip to the bay area.
After the concert, and dinner with a friend, I was on my way to Phoenix. Since this was a business trip, there weren't that many highlights during the week. I found out that:
For Friday night, I decided to go Tempe. After watching The Little Mermaid and then Starship Troopers again at the Harkins Centerpoint (right next to The Three Rabbits), I went to the Coffee Plantation to people watch. I grabbed a seat alongside a window from where I could look at the action in the cafe and on Mill Avenue outside. While many beautiful women walked past outside, the best poeople watching was inside the cafe. There was a table of chess players, a table of card players (it looked like they were playing hearts), and lots of people talking. The most interesting group was a couple of guys who were also sitting along the window; what made them stand out was that one of them was wearing his motorcycle helmet and would tap on the window to attract passerbys' attention. Some folks outside would give them strange looks, and others would laugh, one one woman even gave the window a kiss. The best part though was when they got the attention of two women; one was a tall attractive blonde wearing a cowboy hat. She came in thinking that the guy knew her, but when she found out that he was just some guy trying a pick-up line, she walked away in disgust. Her cowboy hat prompted another table to screech out "Yeee haw!" After that, the evening just sort of died down.
The next day all coordination managed to fall into place. Cathy and Andy took different flights into Phoenix, and somehow we all managed to meet at the appointed hour. The drive to Tucson was uneventful, until we reached our hotel. The folks at the Ramada said "we can't check you in until later." So, we ended up heading to the university to have lunch and look around campus. Lunch at Geronimoz was good (I had a sandwich, Andy a salad, and Cathy some nachos) and our waitress was a friendly student from LA. Afterwards, we went to the campus, bumped into some Cal fans, and went to the student store. Andy and I ended up getting a tee-shirt which touted the "Top Ten Reasons to attend the U of A":
After checking out the campus, it was time to check in to our hotel. Unfortunately, we noticed a big problem with our room -- it had no bathroom door, just a sliding piece of wood which didn't slide very easily, and didn't latch. When we complained, we were given keys to another room. I had sinking feelings when I noticed "stars" pasted on the door to our next room. I opened the door and found the room to be occupied. I apologized and we went back to the front desk. The receptionist was stunned, "It's occupied?" Yes. Well, that made us decide it was time to try another hotel. The Ramada was hosting a bunch of noisy rambunxious college kids who were there for sort of conference. In many ways I think we were lucky for not staying there.
It was almost time for the pre-game reception, which was taking place at the Holiday Inn downtown. Andy added "The last time we stayed at the Holiday Inn, we won the game!" That was the clincher that made us decide to stay there. The Holiday Inn's receptionist laughed at our tale, and got us a room. We were very happy.
The reception itself was decent. It featured sausages (yumm), chicken sandwiches (a bit dry), and various salads. The best part was the cake for dessert. We had a chance to talk with other Cal fans, cheer along with the yell leaders, and sing along with the band. Everyone had fun and expected a good exciting game.
The game itself was to start at 8 P.M. local time so it could be seen at 7 P.M. on the west coast. We dressed warmly knowing that the game would last until midnight. After a little hassle at the stadium gate, in which Cathy had to surrender her pretzels (but somehow managed to keep her cookies) we got to our seats. The game itself lived up to the history of the series. Arizona would score, and then Cal would answer back. With time ticking down in the 4th quarter, the Bears drove to Arizona's three yard line. Unfortunately, running back Tarik Smith dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. The Bears had to settle for a field goal, and the game was tied. Time ran out, and so I yelled out "Hey Arizona! Here we go AGAIN!" (in reference to the the four-overtime game the year before). This time it only took two overtime periods (but it was past midnight) to decide the contest; Arizona won on a field goal on the final play of the second OT. The last time Andy and I had stayed at Tucson Holiday Inn, Cal won the game with a field goal on the final play of the game...I guess now that Arizona did it this time, staying at the Holiday Inn is a predictor for how the game will end, not who will win.
We returned to our hotel room just before 1 and most of us went to sleep right away. The next day, we were up before the sunrise and off to Phoenix. The drive back was uneventful and soon Andy and Cathy were on there way back to the bay area. I had a Sunday afternoon to enjoy...
Sometime ago, the Smithsonian Institution had a traveling exhibit which stopped in San Jose. Unfortunately I missed it. The exhibit had a special added stop in Scottsdale, where a group wants to create a new museum. That Sunday was the last day of the exhibit, so I decided to take advantage of my second chance. I was glad I did. The exhibit included a few special surprises:
The best surprise was seeing portraits of George and Martha Washington painted by Rembrandt Peale. Why was this a surprise? Rembrandt Peale was a grand uncle of my friend Liz.
Well, there weren't that many highlights for the second week of my trip. I was sad, because while I was in Phoenix, Big Game Week was taking place back in the Bay Area. The last time I had missed Big Game week events was when I was in high school. Now I wasn't going to attend any of the events, except for the possibly the bonfire rally, and the game itself. Oh well, I did get to watch the Coyotes beat the Edmenton Oilers in ice hockey. By the end of the week, I was ready to get home.
Unfortunately, it just didn't work out as I had planned. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to catch my 5:20 flight. But my flight didn't land in Phoenix until 6:00. We left Phoenix at 6:30 and got to SFO at about 7:30, which was when the rally was supposed to start. I didn't get to my car until 8:30, and due to other complications, which forced me to walk to an ATM machine, I wasn't out of the lot until almost 9. By the time I was in Berkeley, it was 9:30. I drove to the Greek Theatre and arrived in time to see Rally Committee cleaning out the theatre. While I had missed the rally (my first miss since the UCla rally of 1982, which was when I was a senior in high school) but I did get to roast marshmallows over the burning embers of the fire.
One of the Rally Comm members was celebrating her birthday, so we serenaded her. I found it interesting that one of the last things I did before leaving was to sing Happy Birthday, and now it ended up being one of the first things I did upon my return.
The next morning I pondered it further, when I awoke in time to see the sunrise, and it was almost as good as sunset I had witnessed two weeks earlier.
During the drive down to Stanfurd Stadium, Cathy and I discussed the possibility that Hillary Clinton would be at the game with her daughter Chelsea. I said that if either of the Clintons were going to be there, we'd have known about it. Well, Chelsea was at the game, but Hillary was not...It was odd though, that she came to the bay area two days later...she could have gone to the game.
One last example occurred after the game. The Stanfurd students rushed onto the field after their team won. They and members of the Stanfurd football team then decided to taunt the Cal students who were starting to leave the stadium. This taunting made the Cal students stop and start tossing things on to the field. The Stanfurd students felt safe because a chain link fence surrounded the field. Cal students went to work on pulling the fence down, and after about ten minutes, they succeeded. After the fence came down, the Cal students remained in the stands and waited. I had already been antsy to leave, because I knew that the post-game party was going to be a good one and I didn't need to watch a post-game melee. Cathy, on the otherhand, wanted to stay. I said "The fence has been down for a few minutes. If something was going to happen, it would have happened by now." As soon as I uttered the word "now", the Cal students started to rush the field. The Stanfurd students started to retreat, while the Stanfurd Band, which was already on the far side of the field, booked out of the stadium. Oh well, I guess I needed to say that in order for them to rush the field. It didn't look like anyone was seriously hurt. After deciding not to fight the reatreating Stanfurd students, the Cal students decided to take down one of the goalposts. On our way out of the stadium, we saw one of the goal post's arms being carried by four Cal students; What they were going to do with it is beyond me.
Eventually we arrived at the post-game party. While I hate Stanfurd Stadium, I love the Rally Comm alumni post game party hosted by the Edwards family. The house was packed to the gills with current members and alumni. We were all well fed, and had a fun time, even though Cal lost the game. Maybe next year, Cal will win these close ones.
Anyway, I want to thank the following individuals: