There’s a moment, as you’re heading to a Giants game from the west side of town, when your Muni train rises out of the darkness of the Market Street tunnel and rumbles into the sunlight.

It’s a moment I always anticipate, but this time it was particularly meaningful.

Until recently I didn’t know whether I’d be able to get to the ballpark this year. Typically I attend all the Giants weekday afternoon games, but for the last six months I’ve been suffering from savage nerve pain. For those long months I felt as though my eyes had been burned raw from the inside out, preventing me from seeing one ounce of beauty in the world around me.

But as fall became winter and turned again into spring, slowly and almost imperceptibly I started to get better. The murky tunnel in which I’d been existing started to recede behind me. I could finally start to clutch the world around me and feel the sensations of each moment clearly. It was time to take in a ballgame.


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When the T-Third Street train climbs out of the tunnel and onto the city’s surface streets, the sun emerges like a gift, and the vivid appearance of San Francisco’s people and textures makes you feel like you’re passing through the opening curtain of a sumptuous play.

It was a cloudless April afternoon. As our train poked its head out onto the Embarcadero, my very first sight was the magnificent, colorful “Cupid’s Span” sculpture sitting romantically on the shore, its red arrow partially drawn. Tourist boats and cargo ships went about their business. Scores of people strolled along the promenade towards the stadium, past the piers, past the palm trees, past the choppy waters of the bay. Most of them were dressed in orange and black, all of them hopeful and happy.

We got off near the main entrance to the ballpark. Our animated crossing guard was earnestly attentive to the elderly, and to parents with children. We all felt protected. Everyone was chatting. Our friend Mona remarked that just being there lifted her spirits. I said that it felt like we were about to enter the enchanting gates of Disneyland.


Once we got inside, Mona mentioned that it was our mutual friend Holly’s birthday. Holly was a fervent Giants fan who passed away from cancer 11 years ago at a much too young age. She was also a tequila lover, so we immediately determined that our very first order of business was to have some shots in her honor. Bellied up to the bar, we clinked a toast and Mona downed a shot of fancy tequila while Julie and I each slammed back a jigger of Maker’s Mark.  Moments later, as we weaved our way along, Mona blurted out that man, she was really feeling that tequila. I suddenly realized that I was almost blind with liquor. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” I kept yelling, laughing.

It had been a long time since I had quaffed a shot of booze. I felt like a swaggering buckaroo in a Nevada saloon. The day got warmer.


People who claim that the best seats are right behind home plate are not necessarily true baseball fans, especially at the Giants ballpark. I recently heard Mike Krukow, one of the team’s announcers, say that if he could sit anywhere he wanted, outside of the announcer’s booth, he would sit in the upper deck, first base side.

I agree, and that’s my chosen spot. It gives me a bird’s-eye view of the entire stadium, the huge fiberglass glove and Coke bottle behind the left field bleachers, the retired numbers of the greatest Giants ballplayers, and the World Series flags whipping in the wind. Beyond lies the bay, dabbed with sailboats. The dramatic white span of the Bay Bridge is visible east of Yerba Buena Island. And standing far in the distance are the gently rolling hills of the East Bay.


I always insist on grabbing my Sierra Nevada beer and my Crazy Crab Sandwich early so that I can be at my seat when the National Anthem is played. And yes, I know that my favorite sports meal usually involves a hot dog. But there’s nothing in San Francisco quite like crab and sourdough.

The bread, I believe, might be the best thing about the crab sandwiches at the ballpark. The Boudin sourdough is cut thinly and spread with a mixture of garlic, parsley, and butter. Inside lies the sweet, tender Dungeness crab, mixed with a hint of lemon juice and a light bit of mayo to keep it together. Ripe red tomato slices rest on top of the crab. The whole thing is then toasted to a golden brown and served hot. God help me!


We were at our seats on time. A school band from Healdsburg began playing the Anthem. Hand on heart, I looked to the right of the scoreboard, out in deep center field just behind Triples Alley. Yes, our flag was still there.

I thought about the past six months and the unrelenting nerve pain that had sizzled through my body. I thought about all of the times I had considered giving up completely. Who would care, I actually wondered at one point. But working against that desperation was a reserve of patience, strength, and will that I never knew I had. And when I was at my very lowest, the phone would often ring. That does it. A surprise phone call. A suggestion. A kind word. My beautiful friends and family. “I believe in you,” one of them said. “I believe in your ability to cope.” Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Our seats were in full sun. I felt safe. I’d left almost all of my pain behind me in the tunnel.

Our long-postponed road trip to Kentucky would be happening soon. The thought made me smile.

A cool breeze came in softly off the bay. A lone seagull flew white against the blue sky.

The players had taken the field.

I settled back and slowly brought my cup of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to my lips. Its hue was a vivid amber, its fragrance clean like the clear crisp water of the Cascades. I took my first baseball sip. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

2019_04-10_Paula at Giants game-2






Due to popular demand, I am including, at the end of each blog post, the latest random diary entries that I’ve been posting on Facebook for “Throwback Thursday.” These are all taken absolutely verbatim from the lengthy diaries I kept between 1970 and 1987.

3/11/72 [age 16]:

“My cold is still fairly bad but I am up here at Azama’s and Moore’s cabin anyway. . . . Skiing [at Bear Valley] wasn’t really that fun. Until lunch we were mainly trying to stay on our feet. It takes really long to get up if you fall. I was really a klutz, and Mrs. Espinosa was a chicken, so we stayed on the beginner’s slope. Mrs. Moore kept on repeating, “Why did you fall?” It made me mad. Then I got so hungry I could eat a bear. Luckily, lunch was fantastic. They had made us delicious sandwiches and I ate five of them. Miss Azama told me that skiing uses a lot of energy and that’s why I ate five sandwiches. After lunch we watched the Celebrity Ski Race, and I snuck under the tape and got pictures of Clint Eastwood and Peter Graves up close! Unbelievable! In the morning they made us something called sourdough pancakes and I had 13 of them. They were fantastic.”

2/7/72 [age 16]:

“Last year I saw a skiing movie in English called ‘Ski the Outer Limits’ and it was so beautiful I was hooked right then and there. Well, Miss Azama and Mrs. Moore asked Colleen, me, and Marie Ehrling, our Swedish foreign exchange student, to go up to their cabin for a weekend in March. I can’t wait. They’re going to teach us to ski. It’s going to cost us $15. They said the first day is the worst. I may, with my great coordination, find myself wrapped around a tree.”

2/6/72 [age 16]:

“This guy named Jerry in my English class has this crush on me. But I’m not going to spread it around like I did with Jeff last year. Jerry is kind of a baby but he’s nice. He’s played basketball with me a lot after school. And he sits in English and throws paper wads at me. Romantic, huh?”

2/5/72 [age 16]:

“You see, I don’t believe in finals. All they do is test a bunch of facts.”

2/4/72 [age 16]:

“We went to see ‘Dirty Harry.’ It was [my brother] Marc’s and mine first ‘R’ movie and [my sister] Janine saw it. Can you believe that? When I was eleven I got to see really good movies, like ‘The Love Bug.’ ”


20 thoughts on “A whole new ballgame

  1. Good day Miss P. As you can see I am trying to get caught up on your blogs recently. Reading an April post in September. It is all good, right? Again, I am on my patio with jacket, blanket and the morning glow of the sun on my garden. Oh, and my cup of joe. So, as you know I have been very familiar with your pain situation. But, your words helped me to understand the hell you went through even better. And I am so thankful that you are even better now than you were on Holly’s birthday. I LOVE San Francisco so much and miss it dearly (and my buds!). Therefore, the visions that you painted for me this morning of the city, the ballpark (especially from the Chosen Spot), etc, were fabulous! (Oh, FYI, As you know I live in Canandaigua, NY. The native Americans named my town back in the day. It means the “Chosen Spot.”). But of course Mona would suggest shots on Holly’s bday!!! I wish I truly knew how MANY shots of tequila that I have actually had with Holly over the years! I am still a bit surprised that the last word out of Holly’s mouth before she passed was martini….and not margarita. But, she loved her martini’s too. Oh, my cat Tigger just jumped on my lap. Sweet. By the way, I loved the swaggering buckaroo in a Nevada saloon image. First time for everything; I have never drooled at 7am-ish for a crab sandwich and a beer before, ha! I am thankful to read that the phone calls truly helped you with your chronic pain situation. I liked the quote, “I believe in your ability to cope.” Well, I BELIEVE in that too for you and oodles and scads of other wonderful things….as your personality and talents contribute so much to the quality of my life. Thank you for being you, and my dear friend! Love ya! ML oxo


  2. I loved this post and am taking it as a very encouraging sign to see you describe yourself as “a swaggering buckaroo in a Nevada saloon.” A little swagger is a good thing! Have a wonderful time on your road trip and I look forward to that post. Julia


  3. So great to see you feeling better and able to reconnect with the things you love. Chronic pain is no joke, and it takes extraordinary humanity to make it through, May you continue to heal and thrive. It was also nice to see what you wrote about Holly – I keep the photo from her memorial service in my office to remind me everyday why we fight cancer. Raising a Maker’s to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So very happy you are feeling much better! As someone commented earlier, you ARE a gift. Never forget that. Patty & I are both looking forward to seeing you & Julie soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so happy to read your blog and see how much better you are!!! Hang in there special one!!! Keep up the good work. So glad you are feeling grand!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a fantastically well written story! I could taste, smell, see and feel all that you described. I am so very sorry you’ve been in pain. You are a gift. Never give up!!! XO, Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sooooooo happy that you’re finally doing much better! Marc is too, but it’s been a long road with numerous ailments.

    The turn for Marc it seemed was finally making a decision about our new winter home. I wonder if just the uncertainty added to his illnesses.

    When do you head for Kentucky?

    On Mon, Apr 22, 2019, 6:04 AM Monday Morning Rail wrote:

    > Paula B posted: ” There’s a moment, when you’re heading to a Giants game > from the west side of town, when your Muni train rises out of the darkness > of the Market Street tunnel and rumbles into the sunlight. It’s a moment I > always anticipate, but this time it was momento” >


  8. Oh, Paula…this make me so so so so happy!!!! I am literally CRAVING sour dough now, thank you very much. How have I never eaten this sandwhich?! I must get back to SF soon, specifically for a Giants game and this crab sandwich you speak of, but only if we take that first bite and sip of beer at the same time, haha! 🙂 Miss you and can’t WAIT to see you in a little over one week! LOVE YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tara, I’ve never been happier about the prospect of seeing you all (y’all!) In Louisville. Thank you for reading my blog, and I’ll see your smiling face soon! LOVE YOU!


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