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Lacking Real Rivalry, It's Not Fine Whine

October 25, 2002|THOMAS BONK

SAN FRANCISCO — With apologies to the late, great Herb Caen, newspaper columnist and Bay Area icon, Thomas Bonk reports on the scene in San Francisco with the World Series in town.


SAN FRANCISCO -- It is an indisputable fact that the fine citizens of this city are voracious readers ... usually of menus and wine lists in fine restaurants. Sadly, this is not the case with our neighbors to the south, according to one local expert, who spent a year in Anaheim last week.

"Did you know," says political satirist and stand-up comic Will Durst, "that in Southern California, tanning booths outnumber bookstores, 2-1?"

One possible solution: the combination tanning booth-bookstore. Why hasn't someone thought of this before? All it would require is hauling in a few tanning beds and City Lights becomes Ultraviolet Lights.

But we digress.... Durst takes his Giants seriously, so seriously in fact that he has sold his jokes and used a portion of the proceeds to buy season tickets each year since 1985. Without fail, he schedules only Bay Area appearances in October, just in case the Giants are in the World Series. So far, non-World Series years outnumber Durst's dream years, 16-2.

Hard-core fan that Durst is, though, the Giants' World Series opponent, the Angels, has not caused his blood pressure to boil, percolate or even simmer. He says he simply cannot hate the Angels very much because, sadly, he feels no real animosity in return.

"The nature of a feud is, they have to hate us back," Durst says. "Maybe they hate us now. We would be glad to have them back in a feud. You can't beat a vacuum. You can't throttle a shadow."

Passing parade: Orange and black pennants congratulating the Giants hang from the light poles on Market Street as cable cars scuttle past, scraping out a rhythm on the tracks, bells ringing.... The signs read "Go Giants" in the windows of each city bus ($1 to ride, which makes the run home a lot cheaper than a World Series ticket to see a home run).... The WaterBarge in Vallejo and a special World Series menu featuring Giant shrimp and Angel hair pasta.

In another assault on the pocketbook, the toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge was recently raised from $3 to $5. Drivers pay the fee as they enter the city, not on their way out, and San Franciscans consider the charge something like the price of admission. Of course, the prevailing local opinion is that there is nothing lovelier than the sweeping skyline of the City. Some say the only thing good about Oakland is that the citizens across the bay have a better view of the City than they do. To remedy this slight, a giant mirror strung across the top deck of the Bay Bridge to reflect the city back those who love it best has been suggested. We think they were only kidding.

The people at the California Division of Tourism keep themselves busy by studying where visitors go when they want to spend their hard-earned money. That is, after they pay the $5 admission fee at the Golden Gate toll booth.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 are always near the top of the list, possibly because of the presence of the Silver Guy, who paints himself silver from the top of his hat to the soles of his shoes and stands motionless on top of a plastic crate, waiting for tips.

He has competition from the Gold Guy, whose act is similar to the Silver Guy's, as you might expect, although Gold Guy clearly outranks Silver Guy in the precious-metals market.

There is also the Bush Man, who provides a distinctly unsettling experience for those caught unaware of his act, which consists entirely of crouching behind a clutch of leafy branches and leaping out with a yell. Broadway will surely sweep him away any day now to star in a one-man revue. Many a bread bowl full of steaming clam chowder has been launched skyward because of the Bush Man.

The Wax Museum, called the Wax Museum because there are 235 figures made of wax and presented museum style, is a bargain at $12.95. You would have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge three times for equal value. No smoking is allowed, naturally.

Among the wax museum's attractions are a presidents' section, a chamber of horrors and a King Tut exhibit. Sports stars represented include Joe Montana and Willie Mays. Negotiations are under way for a wax figure of Barry Bonds. Museum officials apparently are waiting only for Bonds to stop long enough to allow experts to measure him for a wax form. If Bonds moved any slower around the bases after his home runs, there would be plenty of time.

Giant fan Bob Sarlatte shows up for each World Series game at Pacific Bell Park wearing the same clean Giants' tie. Clearly, he is a more accomplished hot dog eater than most because he has been able to avoid the dreaded mustard plop. Sarlatte, who wrote jokes for David Letterman, is the public address announcer for the 49ers.

A fan of long standing, Sarlatte preferred Candlestick Park as the home of the Giants, despite its inadequacies.

"It got so cold one night, the guy sitting next to me had a corncob pipe, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal," he says. "When the wind kicked up and the fog rolled in, you would see the center fielder cutting open a caribou to stay warm."

There is a different class of fans at Pac Bell Park, he says, "talking about stock options, a wine-and-cheese crowd, not knowing anything about baseball."

On the other hand, they can probably read menus just fine. And, waiter, make mine a double.

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