Friday, September 09, 2011

CHOO CHOOING TO COLORADO


I’m a sucker for trains.  Ok.  As a Cal fan, I’m a sucker for a lot of things.  For example, when I play poker, I can never figure out which one of the other players is the pigeon.

Speaking of suckers, we  even paid 75 smackeroos (think I was so stupid I’d pay 95?—I’m nobody’s fool) to sit in upper deck (corner of the endzone), to attend the Cal/Fresno State shoot out—ooh—bad word for Candlestick Park.

So Wednesday morning at 9am I boarded the Chicago Zephyr for Denver in the hopes that I would arrive in Boulder by at least the Second half on Saturday.  It was scheduled to arrive Thursday night.

I last rode Amtrak to watch Cal blow one to Maryland.  I came away with two truisms from that experience. 

NEVER fly to the east coast  the Friday before a noon (9am California time) Saturday game. And before you praise Obama Care, ride Amtrak to see what it is like when the government attempts to deliver a service.

That 4 day trip (scheduled to be 3 days) featured the rudest, meanest railroad workers I had ever met.   (Are they lucky Wisconsin Governor, Scot Walker wasn’t on board).  

The classic was when I was standing behind a women who was waiting to be seated for breakfast.  The porter shouted at her, “Sit here. “

“Where?” she said.

“Here!” he shouted louder.

“Are you pointing?” she said.

“Yes I am.  Are you DEAF!”  He shouted back.

“No.”  She said quietly.  “I’m Blind.”

She was. She had a red tipped cane, which she had folded up. This actually happened.  Folks have a different attitude about their jobs when they can’t get fired.  But I digress.

Boarding a train in Emeryville is like reading Sandburg’s “Chicago.”   “Hog Butcher to the world” comes to mind as one glides out through the old industrial areas of the east Bay.  Graffiti  mars the underpasses and rusted pipes, abandoned wharfs and cyclone fences escort us through what was once a thriving industrial section of the Bay.

I don’t know what makes me more excited--the fact that I’m glimpsing a part of the Bay which Jack London once knew, or the fact that  I can suck down a bloody Mary at 9:30 with no one busting my chops.

We pass a forgotten forest of Eucalypti (planted that we’d have enough wood for railroad ties, no less), and see tankers pulling up to the pipes which connect like clogged arteries back to the refinery.

Green waters and more rotted wharfs mark our entrance to Martinez, where one can think of only one  word:  Dimaggio.

The grandeur of the Carquinez Bridge is awesome.  The grace and sweep of the second span is awe inspiring.  I get dizzy as we pass under.

Soon we are crossing the longest train trestle west of the Mississippi as we look Eastward at the boat Graveyard  as thoughts of heroic 19 year old sailors, whose courage we will never comprehend, waft through one’s mind and the awesomeness  of the Greatest Generation comes once again to the fore.

As one slowly chugs up the 2.5% grade into the Sierra’s (2.5 feet for every 100 feet, we are told), Memories of The Bear/ Bull Dog shoot out (there I go again) emerge.

Zach Maynard:  The real deal.  He is taller than the game itself.  Missed on some passes, but threw early almost every time.  Most young QB’s hang on to the ball to long.  If he stays injury free, Big Game could be one for the ages.

Kicking:  First PAT low and blocked.  2nd, simply blocked.  Angle (the punter) running right and kicking rugby style (which is cool, but didn’t work) to avoid the fearsome rush.   

How Ray Wilsey used to bore us with his redundant, redundant, redundant iteration:  “Stress the kicking game—for there the breaks are made.”  Was there ever a single kick blocked during his tenure?

FreshmanOLB  #40 Chris McCain.  Didn’t make a play, but started the second half when the game was still close 19-14.   That tells you something.  6’6” and 233 he looks like Ted Hendricks and he’s got that “thang” which makes a player a player.  Watch him.  

Keenan Allen:  Dropped a 3rd down gimmie, and long pass completed to him down near goal line called back due to penalty.  The Bros will complete some loooooooooong throws, before this year is out.

O line:  Criticized in paper, but appeared to open some holes which Sofeli missed.  Run game could be good over  time.

D-Backs appeared athletic and there was one crushing hit.  Hard to tell.

Candlestick Park was not a great Cal day experience.  You know you’re not at Strawberry Canyon when a uniformed Cop pedals by on his bike through the parking lot, and rings a little bell (yes just like the ones we had has kids on the handlebars), to move folks aside to let traffic through.

Odd Venue.  .  Maybe they were trying to make the stadium balanced but it didn’t work.  Cal Band all alone in North End Zone.  Fresno Band in South End Zone.  Cal spirit group in upper deck above Fresno Band.   Cheer leaders at 10 yard line at Northwest section.  Spread out.  No spirit.

We like to be with one another, not spread out:  That’s code for old guys like to point out young chicks to one another—pretending to talk football.  

No one I asked, Administrators, donors or fans seemed to know how guarantee worked. 

One plan was to charge out of state students and foreign students three times the ticket price we paid.  I assume it was successful.

There was talk that we needed to sell 10,,000 tix or wouldn’t get the Million Dollar Guarantee.  . So did we buy up the last thou or so?   Did we lose money, or did we just not make as much as we had hoped? Inquiring minds want to know.

Clearly there were more Bull Dogs than Bears present.  That’s what happens when a brand gets damaged. 
As the athletic department is learning, rebuilding a brand is a lot more difficult than destroying it with the sports cut boondoggle.

However, wins will go a long way towards repairing that damage. 

Will we win?  

Well if Charlie Crocker and Theodore Judah with the aid of hard working Chinese and Irish laborers could blast tunnels through pure granite, just so Old Blues like moi can ride through them on an iron horse,  anything is possible—at least this early in the season.

Old Blues are nothing if not faithful.  If it’s true that “Had ye the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains,” imagine  how we might rock in Bolder!

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

P.S.  Attendants on this trip were much more polite before.  I wonder if that is because the majority of them were women this time?











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