Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Smell Playoffs!

I went to the LA vs. SF game last night at AT&T Park and saw the Dodgers pull out a rare ninth inning victory over their hated rivals. The Dodgers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs now. If they can beat the Giants today or if the Philadelphia Phillies lose this morning, they are assured a spot in the postseason as a wild card entry at the very least. The also have a chance to win the NL West, because they are now tied with the San Diego Padres. Last night, the Giants' fans were out in droves, cheering wildly at a sold out game. The orange and black squad was eliminated from the playoff picture last week, so all they're really rooting for at this point is the opportunity to knock the Dodgers out of the playoffs. In a way, I think that's kind of pathetic. It has to be an empty feeling for Giants' fans. It's like, "We've failed, so now we're going to find joy in spoiling it for you." The bottom line is that the Giants and their fans are going to be watching the playoffs on TV, while the Dodgers have a very good chance of continuing their season. I'm not too confident that the Blue Crew will do very well in the postseason -- Nomar Garciaparra looked like he was really hurting last night and one of their best starting pitchers, Brad Penny, is injured -- but at least they'll be there. There was this one Giants' fan sitting right in front of us last night, and every time we cheered for the Dodgers he turned around and gave us the nastiest look. It was like we had farted or something! He kept doing it and it was so annoying. In the old days I probably would have gotten it into him, but the new Ed just stared right back at the clown. Some people! Anyway, I got to meet Keifer Sutherland and Orlando Cepeda at the game last night, which made the whole evening that much more fun!
Go Dodgers! Win it today!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fifty Years By the Bay to be Released Next Month

(Chuck Nan is a good friend of mine and an awesome sportswriter. I met him a few years back at a Society for Baseball Research meeting at McCovey's Sports Bar in Walnut Creek. He is releasing a book called, "Fifty Years By the Bay" in mid-November. I helped him edit it and I can tell you it's the most complete and definitive history of the SF Giants that I have ever seen. To find out more about the book, visit I smell a best seller!)

Here is a bio on sports journalist and author Chuck Nan:

Chuck Nan is a sports journalist and broadcaster in the Bay Area. Nan received his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. For many years, he worked in the financial services industry, holding positions in operations, customer service and project management.After a successful business career, Nan started his own firm, SportsQuest Tours that specialized in fan travel to sporting events worldwide. He also served as Media Relations Director, and co-hosted several popular shows, for a local all-sports format radio station, covering all of the local professional and college teams and many high profile sports events.Chuck has recently turned to the written form of sports journalism. He is the Sports Editor for his hometown paper the Martinez News-Gazette. His first formally published piece was entitled “San Francisco Giants Spring Tour of Japan, March 1970” in Elysian Fields Quarterly-The Baseball Review in summer, 2004. Chuck has also had smaller articles published by SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) in their annual releases, The Baseball Research Journal and The National Pastime.Nan is also involved with youth baseball as a coach, instructor and administrator. In the past years, Chuck has worked with the San Francisco Giants Youth Baseball Summer Camp and EJ Sports, run by former Giants’ players, Rob Andrews and Erik Johnson, respectively and BayArea Baseball of Hayward. He has also worked with the baseball program at Alhambra High School in Martinez.A true native of San Francisco, Chuck grew up just 10 minutes from Candlestick Park. The Giants were his first sports love at age six, and still are. He has been a season ticket holder for many years and seen several hundred games in his life. Chuck has spent many a frigid summer night at the ’Stick watching his beloved team.Nan resides with his family in Martinez, California.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What a Dream Gig!

(This is an article I found on called, "The Secret Lives of a Baseball Card Writer -- I Worked for Topps and Lived to Tell About It" by David Roth. My first reaction upon reading it was, wow -- what a great job that must be. I am an absolute baseball nut and have a baseball site called I interview retired baseball players throughout Northern California for SABR ( When I was a kid, I had a collection of approximately 20,000 baseball cards that took up half the space in my closet. I spent countless hours looking at them and reading the text and statistics on the back of each card. When I was in college at San Jose State, I sold them all for a pittance to some guy who must have been secretly drooling. This was around 1980, right before the big baseball card craze hit. I hate to think what those cards would be worth today. I hope whoever has them is enjoying them as much as I did in 1969!)

Here's the article:

As a child, when I had what might be called a serious baseball card habit, I looked forward to a new year of Topps baseball cards in a way I looked forward to nothing else. In the way things happen when you're a kid, baseball, basketball, and football cards took on an outsized importance in my life. And then, in the way things happen when you're a slightly older kid, cards just stopped mattering to me. I forgot about them for 15 years.
Topps became real to me again thanks to some basketball cards my roommate left around the apartment. Deep in the doldrums of underemployment, I started flipping through them while enjoying an afternoon beer. Inspired by the text on Vitaly Potapenko's 2001 Topps card (his teammates had nicknamed him "Eddie Munster") and with a courage assist from Miller High Life, I sent Topps my résumé. I figured that would be the end of it, but I got an e-mail in response. They asked how I would describe my interest in and knowledge of sports; I answered "freakish/obsessive." I got an interview, and then I got the job.
Starting a job at Topps was stressful. I was about to enter, as an adult, a place I'd always imagined as a gum-scented, Willy Wonkafied dream palace. Before my first day of work, I pictured packs piled in leaning towers, slides from long-ago Darryl Strawberry photo shoots, game-worn Mickey Tettleton jerseys. When I showed up, I found a standard corporate office: cubicles, recycled air, bad carpeting, worse lighting. There was plenty of candy—Topps makes Ring Pops, Push Pops, and Bazooka bubble gum—but few cards in sight. There was little indication that this place churned out baseball cards and not, say, bath mats.
My job was to edit the text and statistics for the card backs. These came from a Virginia-based head writer named Bruce Herman (author of the Potapenko card that led me to Topps) and a Quebecois statistician named Nicolas Chabot, respectively. I did ordinary editor things—assigned text, edited it for accuracy and aesthetics, drew elaborate geometric doodles at meetings—but was buoyed by the fact that I was doing these in a not-so-ordinary environment.
While the text was inescapably repetitive, the stuff I edited was certainly better than the "Hector's hobbies are eating and sleeping" non sequiturs that made up the Topps backs of my youth. Today's cards top out at 400 characters (including spaces), or about 70 words, and usually take the shape of punchy feature articles. My favorite was a card for the St. Louis Rams' Harvard-educated backup quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The back text dealt with a question posed to him by his offensive line. Figuring that perhaps he'd covered this in Cambridge, they asked Fitzpatrick what would hurt more: getting kicked by a donkey or whipped in the face by an elephant's trunk. Fitzpatrick went with the elephant slap. Bruce provided a source, and I checked it. All true. At times like that, the job was something very close to fun.
Tight deadlines created tension, but it's hard to stay stressed when your bosses are pestering you for 50 words about some punt returner's hobbies. Sadly, though, the same things that bothered me about previous corporate gigs were easy to find at Topps. Upper management was a distant, nepotistic network descending from a mysterious, largely invisible septuagenarian CEO. Below that, departments feuded with other departments. Middle managers skirmished in snarky, caps-locked e-mails CC'd to higher-ups. "Good mornings" seethed with passive aggression.
My co-workers and I shared a sense that our contributions were undervalued. My job's irrelevance—I worked on the less glamorous back half of the card, you see—was confirmed through my absence from the card-distribution rolls. At Topps, the haves receive free boxes of each new product. The have-nots, like me, do not. When I asked for boxes of the products I'd worked on, I got brushed off. Eventually, I gave in and queued up at the company store along with copy editors from the quality-assurance department.
I was frustrated not only because this wasn't what I'd expected—who even has company stores anymore?—but because a myth from my childhood got sullied. Baseball cards, it turned out, are not made in a card-cluttered candy land. Rather, they are created by ordinary men and women who are generally unawed by their proximity to a central part of American boyhood.
Neither trading cards nor "novelty candies" have been breaking any sales records recently. Consequently, Topps has banked increasingly on ultra-high-end trading cards. The company's most expensive "pack," the beautiful, autograph-laden Topps Sterling, comes in a cherry-wood box and costs $250 for five cards. While those cards make money—as, it should be said, do the basic $1.50 packs—the trading-card business has been more or less moribund for a decade. So, it wasn't a total surprise when I was laid off in July, effective mid-September.
I'm glad I got the chance to work at Topps, if only because it was fun to tell people at parties that "I'm in the baseball card business." My Topps experience also helped me remember why collectors collect. It's the hunt for what the brand managers call "white whale" cards. I know it's awfully literal, but mine is the Herman Melville card I wrote for Topps' Allen and Ginter set. That's a new product—scarce around the office, not sold in the company store, $5 a pack in card shops—in which Gilded Age cultural figures mingle with the A-Rods and Nick Puntos. Odd, I know, but I love the set.
Before I left for good, I found what I'd been searching for. It was behind a locked door, which was itself behind an ordinary-looking backroom. I flipped the switch, and lights flickered on overhead, revealing a back-backroom awash in cards. Binders lined the walls, filled with every card in every Topps baseball and football set from the 1950s through the 1990s, all pasted—why?—to white three-hole-punch paper. To get to those shelves, I had to step on and over boxes brimming with loose cards and cards in bricklike 500-count vending boxes. And that was just the cards. A box fell off a shelf and baseballs autographed by Frank Robinson rolled out. Jerseys that were to have been cut up and inserted into "relic" cards gave one dusty corner the look of a chaotic locker room. A box of bats inscribed with the names of journeymen such as Geronimo Berroa and Ron Coomer sat in another.
This back-backroom would not have looked like much to most people. I was relieved, though, to discover that the baseball card wonderland I'd dreamed of was somewhere in that office after all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Top 5 Continues: Gangster Movies

1.) The Godfather (1972): Any conversation about gangster films has to start with a discussion about this movie. Based on the novel by the late Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather is so much more than a film about an aging patriarch (Marlon Brando as Don Corleone) transferring control of his crime family to his youngest and least-likely son (Al Pacino as Michael Corleone). The richness of the cinematography, the poetic dialogue, the perfectly crafted script and the almost rhythmic pacing of this film all work together to make it by far the finest mobster movie ever made. With great performances by James Caan as Sonny Corleone, the hot-headed philandering son; Robert Duvall as the family consigliore, and John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, the weak-willed brother, all contribute to a wonderful tail of trust, respect, treachery and revenge. The most memorable scenes: The horse head in the bed and Clemenza teaching Michael how to make spaghetti.

2.) Goodfellas (1990): Based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi and directed by Martin Scorsese, this film is a classic for many reasons, including the sets, the music and memorable performances by Robert De Niro (Jimmy Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill) and Joe Pesci (Tommy De Vito). It’s based on the true story of Hill, who got busted and ratted out his entire family. There’s a lot of blood, cocaine and larceny in this epic, but Scorsese knows how to do it right, primarily because he grew up with a lot of the guys this movie is based on. From the opening shot all the way to the final scene, Goodfellas weaves a story together that is compelling, disturbing, but most of all – damn entertaining. The most memorable scenes: When family boss Paul Cicero (played by Paul Sorvino) has to turn his back on Henry Hill, and the scene where Pesci shoots Spider (played by Michael Imperioli, who later became a star in the HBO show, the Sopranos) for mouthing off at him while serving drinks at a poker game.

3.) Casino (1995): Another Martin Scorsese film based on a book by Nicholas Pileggi, Casino is the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, played by Robert De Niro. It’s actually loosely based on the story of Left Rosenthal, a big-time real-life Las Vegas gangster/gambler who ran into trouble when he got a little too big for his britches. Joe Pesci is with De Niro once again in this one, playing the out-of-control Nicky Santoro. One of the best things about this film is that Scorsese cast a bunch of comics in bit roles, including Alan King, Kevin Pollock, Dick Smothers and Don Rickles. The only thing I don’t like about this movie is the over-acting of Sharon Stone, who plays the whining, drug addled Mrs. Rothstein. I have never cared for Sharon Stone, and when I think about the fact that she got an academy award nomination for this one, I have to believe the voters were high that year. The most memorable scenes: The horrific scene where Nicky and his brother are killed with baseball bats and buried in a corn field semi-alive, and the one where Nicky loses control playing blackjack and insults and threatens the dealers. I’ve always wanted to do that!

4.) Donnie Brasco (1997): This movie was written by Paul Attanasio, based on the book by Joseph Pistone, so I guess I’m just a little biased. Al Pacino plays Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, a sweetheart of a mobster who is loyal to a fault but not all that bright. Johnny Depp plays Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, an undercover FBI agent who gets into a big New York mob family and almost becomes the first federal agent ever to become a made man. Great performances by Michael Madsen as Sonny Black and the late Bruno Kirby as Nicky really make this one special. Some of the dialog in this film is priceless, like the conversation these goombas have about which is a better car – a Lincoln or a Cadillac. One thing I don’t care for in this one is the storyline where they show the family problems Pistone is having due to the fact that he’s working undercover and never home. Anne Heche plays his wife, who is upset all the time and a real pain in the rear. No wonder Pistone’s on the road all the time. I’d risk my life to get out of that house and away from her too! The most memorable scenes: When the boys give Lefty a pet lion and feed it hamburgers, and the scene where Pistone/Brasco almost gets his cover blown by another agent at the airport.

5.) Scarface (1983): More of a cartoon than a movie, Scarface qualifies for my top five even though Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, isn’t Italian. He’s a Cuban exile who works his way up the crime ladder by dealing blow, killing everyone in his path and dropping more f-bombs than Andrew Dice Clay. Directed by Brain De Palma with a screenplay written by Oliver Stone, this movie is about a man who rises to the pinnacle of gangster-dom rapidly and then falls just as fast. Awesome performances by Mary Elizabeth Mastriantonio as Tony’s sister and Michelle Pfeiffer as his coked-out wife make this film a dizzying spectacle from beginning to end. The most memorable scenes: Tony Montana with the bazooka gun, yelling to his killers “Say hello to my little friend” as they descend on him in his mansion, and the scene in the restaurant when Michelle Pfeiffer tells him, “Nothing exceeds like excess Tony. You should know that.”

Runners-up: A Bronx Tale, Carlito’s Way, King of New York and Godfather II.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Forgiving Old Friends

Last night I got a very emotional phone call from an old friend who felt he had done me wrong. (Sounds like a country song, doesn't it?) Well, it was really a relief and a wonderful moment to be allowed to forgive him. What happened between us wasn't his fault, and I let him know it. I think it was a real relief for him to hear it. I meant it, too. Life is too short to hold grudges. I have a lot of friends that have people who were in their lives but are no longer, due to something that caused one or both of them to break it off. I don't want any situations like that in my life. Friends, especially long-term ones, are precious and should be treated as such. Of course, my friend also offered some A's playoff tickets as a peace offering, which was very cool. I'm a real sucker for playoff tickets! Do something real and get on the phone, jump on the computer or hop in your car and forgive someone in your life you've been estranged from. It'll make you feel a little more human and a whole lot better.

This Week's Restaurant Review: Zagora in SF


They say variety is the spice of life. And when it comes to eating out, I couldn’t agree more. There are so many restaurants out there that serve the same exact stuff that it gets really old. Certain entrees become popular, and all of a sudden every joint in town jumps on the bandwagon. If I see one more Chicken Caesar Salad, Panini Sandwich or Veggie Lasagna on a menu, I will scream. I go out to eat because I want to try new and exciting flavors, not for things I can make at home or get to go from my local Pasta Pomidoro or Applebee’s. That’s why the idea of Moroccan food made by real Moroccans intrigued me when I visited Zagora in the SF Mission last week. I’ve had Moroccan food in the past that was not authentic faire. They had belly dancers and hummus, but the fixed price meal they served was basically barbecued chicken and pork jerky. Zagora, I am pleased to say, is the genuine article. And they don’t have belly dancers either. I love a good belly dance as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong. But, there’s just something about an undulating belly that makes me lose my appetite. It’s the same thing as ordering a meal at a strip club. Food and half-naked bodies just don’t go together. When we arrived at Zagora, the place was empty, primarily because we got there around 6 pm. My fiancée Angelina has a strong aversion to loud restaurants, and in a way I agree with her. One way to avoid this dilemma is to eat out earlier. Some places have early bird specials and getting there earlier means the restaurant isn’t as crowded -- so you get served more quickly, in most cases – so it just makes sense if it fits in with your schedule to make it an early meal if you can. The minute we walked in, our waitress was right there. I like that. Nothing upsets me more than an establishment where you have to wait for 10-15 minutes before your server comes over to your table. We were served two different types of bread with a wonderful spread that tasted like turmeric and garlic. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the food, even though we could tell she wasn’t Moroccan. At one point, the owner came by and introduced himself. He was very helpful and described the particular dishes we inquired about with an enthusiasm that one can only get from an owner. We kicked off the festivities with a Momona Salad ($6), which consists of honey-glazed roasted carrots, Atlas Mountain cured black olives, grapefruit and nice, light vinaigrette that wasn’t overpowering. Sometimes I regret ordering vinaigrette, because they can be so tangy and complex that your taste buds get badly confused. For appetizers, we also sampled the Merguez Sausage ($8), which featured the aromatic signature Moroccan sausage, accompanied by hummus, a celery root puree and horse radish yogurt. Now, this is what I came for! The Merguez sausage has the flavor of linguicia and chorizo, with a little Italian sausage thrown in. The texture is gritty, which I love. The hummus was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. For entrees, we had the Lamb Tajine ($16.50), which came in a clay tajine pot, and consisted of roasted lamb shank, apricots, dried prunes, goma seeds and steamed couscous. Oh my! The flavors hit the palate with a vengeance and were so interesting that each one overlapped the next. We also had the Saweera Prawns Tajine ($15.75) which came with orange blossoms and organic roma tomatoes. For the price, I didn’t think there were enough prawns and the flavors were too basic for my liking. The Kobe Beef Kefta ($15) was a winner, my only criticism being that the meatballs of Kobe beef were a bit dry. Other than that, the sauce of garlic and tomatoes was outstanding. Overall, I would recommend Zagora, if for nothing else than the fact that it offers flavors that can’t be found anywhere else but in Morocco. With a plethora of restaurants to choose in SF, I don’t know if I’ll go back any time soon, simply because they’re so many other exciting places to eat in this town. But if you crave Moroccan, it’s a solid spot with reasonable prices and a passionate owner, sans bare bellies and loud clapping. Zagora is at 1007 Guerrero Street and their phone number is: (415) 282-6444. Their web site is:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Only Your True Friends Will Tell You

(We have all had that one friend whose breath is so bad you can hear it. And it always seems to be the same person who has to consistently violate your personal space and get about six inches away from your face before talking to you. I had bad breath for about 2 decades, until my good friend Roger Henson turned me on to dental floss while we were on vacation in Puerta Vallarta. I guess he felt it had become a crisis situation one day when I breathed on a burro and it died.) had this list called the "Top Five Causes of Bad Breath"

1. A dirty mouth. “Ninety percent of mouth odors come from mouth itself—either from the food you eat or bacteria that’s already there,” says Dr. Richard H. Price spokesman for American Dental Association. “Mouth odor is like any other body odor—the result of microbes living in the body giving off byproducts.” In the mouth, this means bacteria that normally live in the mouth interact with food particles, blood, tissue, etc., to create volatile (i.e., stinky) sulfur compounds. If you don’t clean properly, the bacteria build up, and next thing you know—that’s not toothpaste on your tongue.

2. A mouth out of balance. Certain mouth conditions can exacerbate bacterial growth and odor, such as gum disease and dry mouth. Gum disease causes bloody gums, creating more elements for those pesky bacteria to putrefy. But it is a dry mouth that is the more common cause of bad breath. Saliva helps flush out the mouth, keeping bacteria moving so they don’t settle down and multiply, while drier mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. In spring and summer, allergy medications can dry you out; in winter, dry heat tends to be the culprit.

3. Stinky foods. If it stinks going in, chances are it’s going to stink coming out. The obvious offenders are onions, garlic, alcohol and tobacco. And foods don’t only create a stench in the mouth. “Plant oils are absorbed and the byproducts enter your bloodstream so you are actually breathing the odors out via your lungs three to four hours later,” says Jeannie Moloo, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. [Full disclosure: Moloo is the author’s cousin.]

4. Not enough carbs. You look great after four weeks on Atkins, so how come you still can’t get a date? High-protein, low-carb diets cause your body to burn stored fats for fuel instead of carbs and can lead to a condition called ketosis. “As fat burns, ketones build up in the body, and some are released through breath,”explains Moloo. “Unfortunately ketones don’t smell particularly good.” And bad breath trumps six-pack abs.

5. Illness. Occasionally, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious illness. The most common systemic causes of bad breath are diabetes or GERD (or gastro esophageal reflux disease). Diabetes can also cause ketosis, and the resulting bad breath is sometimes one of first symptoms that lead to diagnosis. GERD is a backflow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus. Less common but possible are liver or kidney disease—when toxins from these organs are excreted through the lungs, causing bad breath.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another Day Off

LIFE ON THE EDGE is taking a rare day off. Angelina has a honey do list for me today that is so lengthy and involved that there is just not time for blogging today. See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Lousy Drunk of the Year Award

(I’ve done some pretty stupid stuff while intoxicated, I hate to admit. One time I ran out onto a basketball court and slid headfirst in front of about 5,000 people at a college basketball game in Fresno. But, this guy must have really been whacked out to do something this crazy. Not only did he wake up the next morning with a really bad hangover, but he had a nice big panda bite to go along with it. And all this after only 4 beers? What a lightweight! And they're not going to arrest him? If he tried this stunt here in California, he'd get at least 60 days, not to mention all the heat he'd catch from animal groups.)

BEIJING (AP) — A drunken Chinese migrant worker jumped into a panda enclosure at the Beijing Zoo, was bitten by the bear and retaliated by chomping down on the animal's back, state media said Wednesday.
Zhang Xinyan, from the central province of Henan, drank four jugs of beer at a restaurant near the zoo before visiting Gu Gu the panda on Tuesday, the Beijing Morning Post said.
"He felt a sudden urge to touch the panda with his hand," and jumped into the enclosure, the newspaper said.
The panda, who was asleep, was startled and bit Zhang, 35, on the right leg, it said. Zhang got angry and kicked the panda, who then bit his other leg. A tussle ensued, the paper said.
"I bit the fellow in the back," Zhang was quoted as saying in the newspaper. "Its skin was quite thick."
Other tourists yelled for a zookeeper, who got the panda under control by spraying it with water, reports said. Zhang was hospitalized.
Newspaper photographs showed Zhang lying on a hospital bed with blood-soaked bandages and a seam of stitches running down his leg.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted Zhang as saying that he had seen pandas on television and "they seemed to get along well with people."
"No one ever said they would bite people," Zhang said. "I just wanted to touch it. I was so dizzy from the beer. I don't remember much."
Ye Mingxia, a spokeswoman for the Beijing Zoo, confirmed the incident happened but would not give any details. She said Gu Gu was "healthy."
"We're not considering punishing him now," Ye said in a telephone interview. "He's suffered quite a bit of shock.

Put a Fork in the SF Giants: They're Done!

The San Francisco Giants lost again yesterday, and I think it's safe to say they will be watching the playoffs on TV this season. The Boys by the Bay never really got it together this year, and even though they showed signs of making a run every once in awhile, they bogged down at the crucial moments and are now deader than roadkill on Hwy. 101 at this point. There is hope for next year, however, because they've got some real good young pitching with guys like Lowry and Cain. The big questions during the offseason will be how can they get younger overall. With veterans like Bonds, Alou, Durham, Schmidt and Finley, they are an old and cricketty bunch. Now that the Giants are done, their only real joy in life will come during the final 3 games of the season, when they will attempt to do what they do best -- knock the hated Dodgers out of postseason play.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Theater Review: Not a Genuine Black Man

Not a Genuine Black Man, a one-man show written and performed by Brian Copeland, is so incredibly moving, so outrageously funny and so mesmerizing and engrossing that once you’ve seen it, there’s no doubt that it will stay with you forever. It’s been described as an evening of laughter, tears and sociology. In 1972, the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing called the California city of San Leandro a racist bastion of white supremacy. It was selected as one of the most racist suburbs in the United States. At the time, CBS News and Newsweek magazine did in-depth stories on the situation. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted hearings concerning it. It was a huge story, because people were shocked that something like this could happen in Northern California. Brian Copeland and his mother moved to San Leandro when Brian was just eight, and they experienced all of the hate and racism that existed in this small town. They were discriminated against by their landlords, their neighbors, their peers and the entire community, and yet they learned from it and persevered. Brian’s mom raised her son pretty much by herself and stood her ground and refused to move out of San Leandro. Not a Genuine Black Man is Brian Copeland’s story of how it happened – how it affected him personally, changed his and his mother’s life, and, in many ways, led him to become the incredibly insightful and tolerant man he is today. I worked with Brian way back in the late 80’s when he was in his early 20’s, and even then I could sense that he would be a big star. He has been doing standup ever since then, and recently won the San Francisco Cabaret Gold Award for his act. He is a multitalented comedian, writer, TV host (Channel 5), radio talk show host (KGO) and commentator. But, this one-man show has really put Brian on the map, and for good reason. It is the longest running one-man show in the history of San Francisco. HBO is in the process of creating a series around the show. It has gotten rave reviews from everyone who’s seen it – from the SF Chronicle to every single TV and radio station in the Bay Area and beyond. I have seen it twice, and the second time was actually better than the first, because I remembered a lot from the first time and was actually more prepared for it. I was able to catch a lot more of the subtlety and nuances of his monologue.
Not a Genuine Black Man is playing at The Marsh, a very small and intimate theater in the Mission, on 1062 Valencia Street (near 22nd Street). Call (415) 826-5750 for information and tickets. It’s only being perfumed on Thursdays and Fridays through October 21st right now, so get your tickets before all of the shows sell out. Copeland also recently wrote a book based on the show, which is also getting stellar reviews. It’s currently available through For more about Brian Copeland and Not a Genuine Black Man, visit his web site at: For more information about The Marsh, take a look at:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This Week's Restaurant Review: Greens in SF

When my lovely fiancée told me about this vegetarian place called Greens, I shuddered and here’s why. I am the anti-vegetarian. I am the anti-bean sprouts kind of guy. I believe that man was designed to be a carnivore. That’s why we have big, sharp teeth. If human beings were meant to eat lettuce and graze out in pastures all day, we’d have smaller incisors and four stomachs. I like meat, beef especially, and things like ribs and steaks and brisket. So, when I hear about a veggie joint called Greens I run to the nearest Wendy’s for a big, greasy double with cheese. That’s my way of coping with a tofu sandwich made on organic wheat bread and served by a gal with braided armpits. But, this restaurant is not like that at all. Greens in San Francisco is a great place. The fact that there’s no meat, fish or fowl on the menu isn’t even an issue. I had a girlfriend long ago who was obnoxiously vocal and militant about the fact that she was a vegetarian. I would go out of my way to make her special veggie meals. But, every single time she saw me cooking meat, she would always say stuff like, “Oh that must be the smell of burning corpse.” I shut her up once by telling her that Hitler was a vegetarian. Anyway, Greens at Fort Mason is a wonderful place. It’s right on a pier, so you can see the bay, and the décor is a mixture of art gallery and dance studio. The wait staff consists of young, hip, good-looking non-yuppie types who are attentive and pleasant. We went to brunch there last Sunday and it was a healthy as well as nourishing experience. I thought we’d have to go for a post-meal pizza because I figured I’d still be hungry afterwards, but that wasn’t the case. We started off with some unique beverages. I am so tired of places that have one or two non-alcoholic drink offerings. Sometimes I am not in the mood to have wine, a beer or a cocktail. But, usually the only alternatives are soft drinks, your basic coffee or tea. Not so at Greens. I had a chocolate chai drink that was excellent and Angelina had a really tasty cup of warm organic apple juice with a cinnamon stick in it. To kick the brunch off, we had a bowl of fresh fruit with yogurt. The grapes, plums, raspberries and boysenberries were outstanding – perfectly ripe and juicy. Then, we went for the brunch specials. We sampled several things, including the Rancho Portobello Sandwich, which is on an Acme roll with grilled onions, poblano chiles, chipotle mayo and arugula. It’s served with a potato salad made of yellow finn and French fingerling taters, with roasted peppers, cilantro, frisee and chili vinaigrette. It might as well have been a steak sandwich, because the Portobello mushrooms were succulent and meaty. Outstanding. Next we tried the Yukon Gold and Scallion Cakes, with St. George cheddar and Italian parsley. Served with eggs over easy, pesto, roasted tomato, garlic sauce and arugula, this dish was hearty and filling without being heavy and rich. Finally, we sampled the Fritata Mexicana, with crisp tortillas, poblano chiles, peppers, marjoram, sage and smoked cheese. It also comes with Green Gulch lettuces, escarole hearts, avocado, ruby grapefruit and citrus chili vinaigrette. The bill for this great meal was around fifty buck, which when you consider the crazy prices for food in SF, is quite reasonable. My only criticism of Greens is that too many of the entrees at Greens come with some type of cheese. If you leave out the meat and substitute it with cheese, how much healthier is it, really? I don’t care because I like cheese, but if you’re cheese-intolerant like many folks are, just ask them to leave it out. Greens is located at Building A, in historic Fort Mason Center in SF and their phone number is: (415) 771-6222. I’m not about to give up my carnivorous ways, but a place like this one is a healthy alternative once in awhile. I guess it doesn’t hurt to spare a cow’s life now and then. I totally recommend Greens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Book Review: Tales from the Dodger Dugout

This is an awesome book with a lot of great stuff about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Willie Davis, Walter Alston, Maury Wills and the great LA Dodger teams of the 60's. I would say it's a must-read for Dodger fans and baseball fans in general.
Some refer to the early to mid-1960s as the Golden Age of baseball in Los Angeles. Not only did Tommy Davis (a Dodger from 1959–1966) have the best seat in the house, but the two-time All-Star left-fielder who twice led the National League in hitting was also the Dodgers' silent superstar. Relive exciting Dodger Blue memories from games at the oval-shaped Coliseum to the opening of Dodger Stadium to the fun and satisfaction of the World Series championship seasons of 1963 and 1965 and the disappointment and sorrow of the team's famous collapse of 1962 and Davis’s career-altering ankle injury.

Monday, September 18, 2006

LA, Detroit & Chicago: Folding Like Omelettes!

I hate to toot my own horn, but all three of the teams I accused of choking lost yesterday. It is painful to watch, kind of like an Ashton Kutcher movie. You know it's only going to get worse, but you have to sit through it to witness just how bad it will be. The Tigers lost to the Orioles, the Chisox got swept by the Incredible A's, and the Dodgers got bitch-slapped by the suddenly unstoppable Padres. In the next 2 weeks, it will only get worse. The only reason Detroit will get into the playoffs as the AL wild card is that the Boston Red Sox are more beat up than the Army of Iraq!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tigers, White Sox and Dodgers, Oh My! Three MLB Teams Will Fold at the Finish!

It’s crunch time in the major leagues and I can see three teams in particular that are poised to fold. The Detroit Tigers are the first one. After an incredible season that shocked just about everyone in the baseball world, they are limping to the finish line. Their young players haven’t been in this situation at this level before, and they are starting to show their true stripes. I predict that the Minnesota Twins will pass them up and win the division. The Tigers should really thank the Chicago White Sox, because it looks like Detroit will sneak in as the wild card even if they fold, because the pale hose are looking even sicklier down the stretch. The Oakland A’s can sweep them with a win today, which they will, because the Chisox don’t look anything like the World Champs of last year. The third team preparing to crumble, I believe, is the Los Angeles Dodgers. They're a little too old at some positions and a little too inexperienced at others, I think, to fight off the well-managed, balanced and aggressive San Diego Padres. I hope I’m wrong, and a lot will be decided today and tomorrow when they play the second half of a four-game series with San Diego, but I just have a scary feeling that the boys in blue are going to be saying boo-hoo by the time this whole thing is through!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My favorite charity: TOYS 4 TOTS

(About a decade ago, I was looking for a charity to do work for. I figured, hell -- I've lived this long, someone must be watching over me -- so it won't hurt to give a little something back. When I looked at a bunch of different charities, I was shocked at how many are actually semi-bogus. In many cases, when you give $$ or time to a charity, it never even gets to the people who are supposed to be the ones that are in need. The majority of the $$ goes to the people who run the charity. That's why I chose to work for Toys 4 Tots. When you give a toy to T4Ts, it goes to a child, no if's, and's or but's. Awhile back I did a brochure for the Santa Clara County T4Ts. Here it is.)

Santa Clara County Toys 4 Tots

Once you see the look in their eyes, you know. An unexpected toy during the holidays is just what’s needed to make any child’s Christmas a holiday to remember.

Do you think that the people who first started Toys for Tots in 1947 had any idea the organization would grow and flourish to become what it is today?
The founders of Toys for Tots can be proud and satisfied in knowing the groundwork they laid over 53 years ago is still in place and that the program is stronger than ever!

During the program’s first year, over 5,000 toys were collected and distributed to needy kids throughout the Los Angeles area. In just over a half-century, the Toys for Tots program has grown to include over 360 Marine Corps sites all over the U.S., with more than 120 million toys collected and distributed over the years, including approximately 120 million toys last year alone.

In 2006, the San Jose Marines, in conjunction with the Santa Clara County Toys for Tots Committee, conducted another incredibly successful campaign. More than 130,000 new toys were collected and distributed to 134-plus individual charitable groups throughout the county and its surrounding areas.

This unprecedented accomplishment is the result of one full year of teamwork between the San Jose Marines, dedicated volunteers, local businesses, labor unions and a wide range of organizations that share the Tots for Tots’ belief that every single child in this country, regardless of race, color creed or religious beliefs, deserves the joy that a toy brings during the holiday season.

Community and corporate support for Toys for Tots in 2000 was unmatched, ranging from record toy numbers and generous monetary donations – to the unparalleled media coverage and the donation of warehouse facilities.

What You Can Do to Make a Difference

Getting involved in Toys for Tots is an ideal way to bring joy to the children of Santa Clara County and its outlying areas. The importance of corporate sponsorships and media support is vital to the success of this holiday charity program. Local individuals can make a major impact on the program’s efforts, but to really succeed, sponsorships from highly regarded businesses and corporations are essential. It’s a winning situation for everyone – your fine reputation helps enhance Toys for Tots’ presence in the community – and identifies your organization as one that is committed to doing something meaningful and positive for disadvantaged children and families throughout Santa Clara County.

In exchange for the recognition you’ll receive and the good will you’ll create by teaming up with Toys for Tots, businesses and corporations can make a difference by:

Monetary Donations

All cash donations are earmarked exclusively for buying toys from local retailers for direct distribution to the local community. As a government non-profit organization, the Marines have increased purchasing power as a result of their tax-exempt status. Local merchants also provide the program with substantial discounts on any toys we buy from them.

Providing Sponsorship for Specific Toys for Tots Events, including:

San Jose Holiday Parade

San Jose’s very own parade is a success every year, with a total viewing audience of over 50,000. Local radio celebrities ride the Toys for Tots float alongside the Marines and various committee members. The entire event is televised every year on KNTV, Channel 11.

Stuff the Bus

Formerly known as the Super Saturday Toy Collection, Stuff the Bus is an all-day ‘drive-through’ toy collection event that takes place at Downtown San Jose’s Christmas in the Park. It’s amazing and inspiring to see a Valley Transit Authority bus as it is filled to the brim with new toys. This year, KNTV/KBWB and KBAY will be on hand for the event -- greeting people, collecting toys and signing autographs. Corporate sponsors can get involved by providing giveaways to toy donors and by displaying their logos on the outside of the VTA bus.

Donating New Unwrapped Toys

As the Marines would say, our primary objective is to collect and distribute toys. Arranging a toy collection program within your business or corporation makes you a partner in this mission, and is a great way for you to help us reach our goals.

Providing Toy Drop-off Locations

Setting up toy collection boxes at your workplace gives Toys for Tots added visibility inside your business or corporation. These familiar drop-off boxes are a convenient and fast way for your company’s employees, customers and associates to donate toys. It also shows that you’re committed to helping the community and are aligned with one of the finest children’s charities in the world. To participate, all you have to do is holiday wrap a large box and decorate it with this year’s Toys for Tots poster. When your box or barrel is ready to be picked up, call (408) 286-6501.

Collecting Toys

Collecting toys at holiday parties or organizing a group caravan to drop-off toys collected at a specific Toys for Tots event is a great way to help, too!

And there’s more…

Uniformed Marines may be available to attend corporate events, meetings or social gatherings to support and represent your Toys for Tots efforts. This is their opportunity to thank you personally for your generous donations. The San Jose Marines will also be happy to make a brief presentation explaining the Toys for Tots program to your employees and associates.

If you ever need more details about the Toys for Tots program, please do not hesitate to call either myself, the San Jose Marines or any Toys for Tots Committee member.

We will continue to thrive and grow with your support. Everyone on the Santa Clara County Toys for Tots program is looking forward to working with you during this holiday season.

Sylvia Manker
Chairman, SCC Toys for Tots Committee

In 1868, Brigadier General Jacob Zeilen, the 7th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, approved the Eagle, Globe and Anchor as the official emblem of the Marines. The emblem consisted of an American Eagle with wings spread, standing majestically on the Western Hemisphere of the terrestrial globe. In the Eagle’s beak there is a scroll, inscribed with the words “Semper Fidelis”, which means “Always Faithful.” The hemisphere is superimposed on an anchor to make the emblem complete.

In 1954, General Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps, modified the emblem by “fouling” the anchor with a length of rope.

The U.S. Marine Corps has been involved in helping provide toys to children in need during the holiday season for over 50 years.

The three signature symbols of the Toys for Tots program are:

A Raggedy Ann Doll, the very first Toys for Tots toy donated.

The three-train Toys for Tots logo, designed by Walt Disney in 1948.

A Marine attired in dress blue uniform.

Secretary of War James McHenry first authorized the famous Marine Corps blue uniform on August 24, 1797. This highly distinctive uniform incorporates many traditions of the Marine Corps. Navy blue was selected because it is an inconspicuous color of the ocean and is employed generally by the naval forces of all countries. The pattern and trimmings of red and gold were selected to make the uniform unique. Although the red edging or piping on the coat was used primarily for decoration purposes, it should also be noted that John Paul Jones dressed his Marines in red uniforms. The early organization, duties and regulations of the American Marines were patterned after the ways and customers of their forerunners – the British Marines. Although the Marines today wear a variety of uniforms for different occasions, activities and events, the traditional dress blue uniform remains the uniform that truly sets the Marines apart from all others.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fergie's "London Bridge" is Stolen

Fergie is the new queen of musical unoriginality. Her song, “London Bridge” is a flat-out rip-off of several different tunes produced by other artists. She saw what songs were doing well, and decided to shoplift them! It’s so blatant and obvious that even an old 48-year-old geezer like me who really doesn’t have any business listening to these songs can clearly see it. In journalism, we call this plagiarism. In music, it’s just called stealing. I really hope Nelly Furtado (Maneater) or Gwen Stefani (Hollaback Girl) decide to sue Fergie for this blatant lack of class. I hate it when artists steal from other artists. It goes completely against what creative types stand for in the first place. I always thought Fergie’s music was drivel. Now I am even more disgusted because I know it’s stolen drivel. It’s not even her drivel!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This Week's Restaurant Review: Aqua in SF

People ask me if there are any restaurants I don’t like and I tell them of course. It’s just that I do my homework and really scout these places before I eat there. That way I have a good time and enjoy a great meal. Believe me, when I do find a place that I don’t like, I will not hesitate to write a bad review. In the meantime, here’s a review of another restaurant that is absolutely incredible.


I have never been a huge fan of really expensive, high-end cuisine. For one, I’m a big eater who likes hefty portions. Two sprigs of parsley and a couple of slices of cucumber with a speck of pate or whatever doesn’t excite me. Plus, I’m not wealthy, so to spend $200 or $300 on a meal for two (which is not unusual in San Francisco) doesn’t really appeal to me either. So, when a close friend invited Angelina and I to a place called Aqua, I was skeptical. I looked at the menu online and saw a lot of expensive-sounding, very fancy entrees, and I thought, uh-oh – this is just the kind of restaurant I have attempted to avoid. Well, first impressions can be wrong, and I’m happy to say I had nothing to worry about. Aqua is amazing! The food, the atmosphere, the service, the whole package – all the way from the table cloths to the glassware to the plates – this place offers a five-star dining experience that is unsurpassed. I felt like royalty from the minute I walked in the door, like I was a guest at some really rich gourmet’s palatial home. The chef’s name at Aqua is Laurent Manrique, who several years ago was chosen Chef of the Year by Bon Apetit magazine. I can see why. His food is flawless in every way. The dishes we sampled on the evening we were there can best be described as innovative, unique and world-class. Nothing escapes this guy’s attention to detail. They say that genius is in the details, and in this case it couldn’t have been more appropriate. First, there was the service. Our waiter was one of the most professional, knowledgeable and just plain genuine servers I have probably ever had serve me. At a lot of these higher-end places, the waiters walk around with a large implement up their derriere, and heaven forbid if you ask them something they don’t feel like answering. I can’t stand that whole scene – when they roll their eyes or talk down to you or act superior just because they have the privilege of working at a nice establishment. There was none of this from our waiter. He was such a nice person that I really wanted to invite him to go out with us later and have a drink. But, obviously, he was busy. Then, there is the menu at Aqua. It doesn’t have a ton of items on it, which is always a good sign. I’m tired of those places that have 100 items on their menu. When I see that, I figure the place does a lot of things in a really mediocre way. It’s better, in my opinion, to concentrate on doing a few really special entrees correctly. I don’t want to diss Greek restaurants, but I’ve actually been to a few that try to offer their patrons every single dish ever created by the human race. I don’t trust a menu that features gyros, eggplant parmesan and sushi on the same page. But, I also don’t like the cheeseburger, cheeseburger, Pepsi, Pepsi thing were there aren’t enough items on the menu. So, it’s a fine line and Aqua walked it perfectly, featuring 10 appetizers, nine entrees and six desserts, each one sounding like a little slice of heaven. For $68, you can have one from each category, which is very reasonable. There are certain items, however, where there is an additional charge. For instance, if you decide you want to try the Osetra Select Caviar, it will set up back an additional $70. But, let me tell you – we tried it and it was worth every added penny. Accompanied with a caramelized onion tart and smoked sturgeon Crème Fraiche, the caviar was superb and came with toast, potato pancakes and a cornucopia of incredible condiments, like chopped egg, chopped scallions and more. It was a journey into gourmet nirvana and an experience I will not soon forget. We also tried the Trio of Cold Artisan Foie Gras (an additional $5), which features Smoked Torchon, Au Poive Terrine and Syrah poached Foie Gras. I know it’s not pretty what they do to the ducks to make the foie gras, but in this case, the poor little birds did not die in vain. It was incredible! We also had the Select Seasonal Oysters with a Red Wine Mignonette sauce. The only word I can use to describe this dish is not really a word. It’s more like a really satisfied grunt. After the appetizers, the culinary bandwagon of bliss just kept rolling down the track. We had the Ahi Tuna, which came with Sausalito Watercress, Yucca, and an incredible “au Poivre” Coconut Rum Sauce. It was excellent – the tuna was cooked just right and I would have been content to just drink a big vat of the sauce, maybe even bathe in it. We also tried the Scottish Salmon, which came with a Vidalia Onion Soubise, Cucumber and Radish Salad with a Turmeric Vinaigrette. Salmon isn’t normally my favorite fish, but this piece was so fresh I imagined that it had been pulled out of the bay just minutes before hitting the plate. To top of this trilogy of magnificence, we had the Brioche Crusted Halibut, with English peas, bacon and lettuce served with a Poultry Jus. The fish was expertly prepared, crispy and crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. For dessert, we all had the Coconut Souffle with exotic fruit and chocolate pearls. It takes an extra 15 minutes to prepare, but who cares? It was the best soufflé I have ever had, not too sweet and just the right texture. If I had one small criticism about Aqua, it might be that the tables are right on top of each other. I leaned back a couple of times and actually elbowed the guy sitting at the next table. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but I like to at least find one negative thing to say in my reviews, because otherwise I look like a total pushover. Aqua is located at 252 California Street in San Francisco and is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and for dinner on Saturday. To go there without a reservation would just be silly. If you are looking for a complete dining experience with all the little things that will make it memorable, Aqua is more than worth it. When I left the place, I almost felt guilty that I had had such an amazing time there. As Wayne and Garth of “Wayne’s World” used to say, “We’re not worthy.”

You can see this review and many others on a great web site called:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Interview with Jim Davenport

Jim Davenport

Jim Davenport played third base and shortstop for the San Francisco Giants from 1959 to 1970, and finished with a total of 77 HRs, 456 RBIs and a career batting average of .258. His best season was in 1962, when he hit .297, won a Golden Glove and was chosen to play in the all-star game. He played with greats like Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey, but got to the World Series only once, in 1962, and batted .136 in the Fall Classic while SF lost to the New York Yankees in 7 games. Davenport never really intended to play in the major leagues. He went to Southern Mississippi on a college football scholarship and wanted to be a high school football coach, but ended up playing baseball. Davenport managed one year at the MLB level, in 1985 with the Giants, piloting a team that finished 56-88 and six games out of first place in the NL West. He was also a third base coach for many years, with San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland and San Diego.

Willie Mays:
The first time I saw Willie Mays play was when I was about 15 years old. Willie was from Birmingham, of course. My dad took me up to Birmingham to see the Black Barons play and Willie must have been about 16, and there he was, playing for the Black Barons. At that time I didn’t know how great he was going to be. Then, years later when we played together on the Giants when I first came up, I didn’t have a lot, and Willie many times gave me the jacket or sweater off his back. He was like that. And we’re still great friends. Willie got along with everybody on the team. We were a very close-knit club at that time. He was the greatest ball player I ever saw. I got to see the things he did day in, day out, so I can say that without a doubt.

Juan Marichal: The greatest pitcher I ever saw. It didn’t matter what the count was, he could get the ball over the plate. I don’t know how in the world he ever had such great control with that high leg kick, but he had outstanding control. He was a very, very smart pitcher. When we went over the hitters in the opposition’s lineup, he knew exactly how to pitch these guys. It helped us in the field, too, because it you knew that he was going to pitch a guy a certain way, you could position yourself in a particular spot and they’d hit it there.

Gaylord Perry: He was the most intense pitchers I think I’ve ever seen. That man came out to beat you any way he could. Of course, they talk a lot about his spitball and all that, but hey – he mastered it, I’ll say that. He could throw it for strikes. It got him into the Hall of Fame. But, I think he would have had pretty good stuff even without the spitter.
He was so intense that a lot of rookies were scared to death to play behind Gaylord, because if they made an error when he was pitching, he was liable to chew them out.

Playing in Candlestick Park: It was a tough park to play in, no question about it. The wind really affected the balls. As the home club, I think we had an advantage over the visiting teams, because, of course, we had played there every day in the wind, and if a team had good players and they wanted a day off, they would take it when they came to play us in Candlestick Park, because it could get cold there and be very uncomfortable to play there. We never thought about it much, because back then you couldn’t play out your option and go somewhere else. So you did the best you could. That wind could do some really funny things to the baseball when it got up there. We could handle it better, I think, than a lot of the visiting clubs could. The wind blew from left to right there and there is no question it took a lot of home runs away from guys like Willie Mays. I have to think that if Willie played in the same park Henry Aaron played in, he would have had just as many home runs as Hank got. The infield was lousy too, and they changed it all the time. They tried Astro turf on it and one time they used that kind of pea gravel on it for awhile, but nothing helped.

Managing the Giants in 1985: The year I managed everything that was bad happened with the Giants. We had those silly spandex orange uniforms that looked like pajamas. We had that Crazy Crab mascot, and we played about the same way he performed. They booed him and they booed us. It was quite an experience. I really thought that team in ’85 was going to hit better than we did. I knew we didn’t have any pitching, but I thought we would have hit better. In the outfield, we had Jeff Leonard, Dan Gladden and Chili Davis, which were three outstanding players. But, it was just one of those years when nobody hit. I think the leading RBI man knocked in 60-some RBI, which now a lot of guys have that before the all-star break. And, of course, our pitching was awful. And then Mike Krukow got hurt. I thought I was going to have a pretty decent bullpen, but then, Greg Minton did not have a good year. Scott Garrelts pitched well for me, but we lost a lot of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 ballgames. But, it was a good experience. I wish I would have waited a little later to manage, maybe I would have had a little more experience and maybe I would have had a little better team. You know, things might have turned out better. But, when you get a chance to manage in the big leagues, you better take it because it might not happen again.

Bad moves and bad players at SF in 1985: I was mad that they traded Jack Clark and got a kid named David Green, who didn’t turn out well. By the time we got Manny Trillo he was about through at second base. Then, a kid we got at shortstop, Uribe didn’t do all that well. Chris Brown was another youngster who had some ability and who I thought would do better, but he just didn’t want to play, for some reason. I tried everything I could think of to try and motivate the boy, but I don’t know what his deal was.

Incidents with Jeffrey Leonard: We butted heads a few times. I recall one situation we had when Leonard got into it with our third base coach Rocky Bridges in Cincinnati and Jeff came in the dugout all unhappy with Rocky, telling me, “You have to get rid of him.” And I told Jeff, “Whoa, there, son. All of us need to look at ourselves in the mirror. You can’t blame this one man for all the ball club’s problems. We all need to look in the mirror and say – hey, we can do better.” It was just one of those things. I think it all kind of started because Leonard had been very good friends with Frank Robinson. And, of course, I replaced Robinson. And I don’t think that set well with Jeff to start with. And I think he always held it against me for taking Frank’s job. Jeff was a good player, but he did not do well in 1985.

Pranks in Chi-town: Yes, it’s true. There was a statue of a horse in downtown Chicago that the team bus would pass every time we went from the hotel to play at Wrigley. And the older players used to make the rookies paint a certain part of the horse’s body Giants orange. It was always the rookies. The vets would tell them, “This is what you gotta do if you want to stay on the ball club.” So, the rookies would get some paint and paint this statue of a horse on his you-know-what, and it was kind of funny, you know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Germaine Greer is Way Out of Line!

(I must admit I had never heard this woman's name before yesterday when a good friend of mine (David Declue) told me about her. Germaine Greer is the Australian version of Matt Drudge or maybe Howard Stern. The remarks she made about the death of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, were completley insensitive and uncalled for. Irwin was so much more than just a guy who got on TV to mess with wild animals in their own environment. He was also a conservationist and a real benefit to animal lovers everywhere. I believe in Greer's freedom of speech, and I realize she has the right to say what she did, but I also have the right to blast her for doing it! I was going to do a Douche Bag of the Month column for my blog, and I already gave the award out for September, but the way things are going, I think I will have to come up with a Douche Bag of the Week. There are just so many deserving candidates out there. F-you Germaine Greer, you dried up old bag of foul air. I hope a crocodile gets a shot at you and bites your head off. Oh wait a minute, even crocodiles have taste. He'd probably spit you out!)

Here is an excerpt from Greer's article that appeared on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald:

"There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress. Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation, which was to strike."

Yesterday, I read this article from the Daily Telegraph in Australia when I googled this waste of human life:

THE backlash against expatriate academic Germaine Greer over her comments about Steve Irwin has reached new heights, with The Daily Telegraph newspaper sending the outspoken feminist a muzzle.
The Daily Telegraph today called on all Crocodile Hunter fans to tell the controversial academic exactly how they feel.
Greer raised the ire of a nation this week when she said in a British newspaper column that the animal world had taken "revenge" on Irwin when he was killed in a stingray attack in northern Queensland on Monday.
A furious Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said Greer should "back off" and keep her "stupid" comments to herself.
"Germaine Greer is just wrong and I just can't imagine anyone being more insensitive and, frankly, stupid. This argument is just extreme radical rubbish from Germaine Greer," he said.
Readers flooded The Daily Telegraph website yesterday to express their outrage.
"Steve Irwin has made the world aware of the animal conservation and opened our eyes to the many beauties of the animal kingdom," web reader Brad Chong said.
"These comments by Germaine Greer are pathetic and tasteless and I think its quite sad that you can even call yourself Australian when you are merely gaining publicity from the death of such a much-loved Australian."
Donna Renee of Cornell wrote: "Why is she allowed to write such rubbish? I believe her words are born of jealousy. Steve Irwin won the love and respect of millions of people worldwide, myself included. Yes, she will die a sad, lonely old woman and who will care when she does bite the dust?"
It was also revealed yesterday that Greer had never requested permission from Aboriginal elders to enter Sydney - despite claiming she always asked traditional owners before setting foot in her home country.
Greer bragged to a gathering of Australian writers in London six years ago that she never returned to her home country without getting permission from Aboriginal elders.
"Whenever I arrive the traditional owners of the land come to meet me and I won't leave the airport until they allow me in," she said.
"They are always there - one would be enough, but I get nine, 12 or 15."
NSW Aboriginal Land Council spokesman Paul Molloy said yesterday Greer had never asked permission despite visiting Sydney several times in the past six years.
"We debunked that myth some time ago. I know she made that claim but it was a lot of hooey. There is no one group of elders or traditional owners you can seek permission from to enter Australia," he said.
Greer followed up her Irwin claim by mocking Australians who mourned his death, saying they were "idiots".

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Sept. Article for the Haight-Ashbury Beat

(Here is an article I wrote for the Haight-Ashbury Beat newspaper for their September issue. This gal is fascinating and a real inspiration. You can just feel a real positive vibe when you talk to her. If you're not doing anything on Sunday, Sept. 24th, The Heart of Cole Festival sounds like it will be a blast! To read more stuff about the Haight, visit:

Lori Elder: Artist, Organizer, and Inventor with a Love Haight Relationship
By Ed Attanasio

Lori Elder does more in one day than most of us accomplish in an entire month. After speaking with her for just a little over an hour, I came away with the impression that she’s highly creative, intensely focused, community conscious and extremely driven in everything she does. If she wanted to, I’m quite confident that Lori could be the CEO of a major corporation. Cole Valley and the Lower Haight should be happy that she’s chosen another path, and has decided instead to use her incredible abilities to organize events in our communities, while still pursuing her passions for the arts, as well as creating and marketing her own inventions.

With help and guidance from fellow organizer and local merchant Mario Mogannam from Postal Chase, Elder is once again organizing the Heart of Cole Festival in Cole Valley, an event she helped create in 2003 and has developed into a major local event.

The Cole Valley Merchants Association is hosting its fourth annual Heart of Cole Festival, on Sunday September 24, from 9 am to 6:30 pm on Cole Street between Carl and Grattan. The festival will promote local community art, culture, entertainment and cuisine, according to Elder, whose official title for the event is Arts & Crafts Coordinator.

Other than an impressive assemblage of area artists, musicians and various performers, this year’s the Heart of Cole Festival will also feature a vintage car exhibit, as well as a photographic display of the history of San Francisco firehouses, sponsored by the Cole Valley Neighborhood Improvement Association.

“We’ve had consistent support from the very beginning with major sponsors who have jumped onboard,” Elder said. “Without them, the Heart of Cole Festival probably never would have happened.” Some of these sponsoring companies include Craigslist, Wells Fargo, and Walgreens, just to name a few.

Then, in October, Lori is putting on the first annual Lower Haight Block Party, a similar event focusing on the Lower Haight and its unique flavor. The Lower Haight Merchants Association is hosting this event on Sunday October 15 from 11 am to 6 pm on Haight Street between Fillmore and Pierce. The block party will feature live music, events for children, and reasonably-priced booth spaces to accommodate local and emerging artists.

“This is a totally unique event unlike anything else in San Francisco,” Elder said. “It’s not Union Square, it’s not Cole Valley and it’s not Fillmore Jazz -- it’s the Lower Haight. There’s been a lot more work involved with this event, because of the fact that we’re basically starting from scratch. Festivals like these should be about the community and reflect the people and the neighborhood.”

For this reason, neither the Lower Haight Block Party nor the Heart of Cole Festival allows alcohol booths. Local bars and food merchants can sell their wares, but no outside vendors have been invited to participate, making these truly unadulterated community events, Elder said.

Tentatively scheduled to appear at the Lower Haight Block Party are the Rumblers Car Club, with a hot rod and choppers display on Steiner Street; a skateboarding demonstration by the Delux Skateboard Company; performances by the San Francisco Mime Troupe; the Western Addition Steppers Dance Team; five DJ’s, local rappers and a full schedule of local bands.

Another aspect of these events that makes them special is that all the artists who participate are invited and must be selected by a jury of their artisan peers, of which Elder is surely a member.

“I’ve pretty much been an artist all my life,” Elder said. “I have always been into metal smithing, working with precious metals and making custom jewelry.” Elder has made some amazing pieces for some well-known major musicians and performers, and although she doesn’t want to drop any names, what I can tell that she’s done custom jewelry for the most well-known metal band from the Bay Area, and for a diminutive musician/songwriter/producer who several years back changed his one-word moniker to a symbol.
Then in 2002, Lori came up with a unique idea that has blossomed into a burgeoning business. While watching the third game of the major league baseball World Series at AT&T Park, Lori observed all of the fans floating in the body of water beyond the right field fence known as McCovey Cove.
“I saw people floating around on rafts that looked like putting greens and all kinds of other stuff,” Elder said. “And the idea just suddenly hit me -- the thing to be sitting in that cove with is a big inflatable baseball glove!” Elder’s friends all agreed with her, and after calling Major League Baseball and finding out that nothing like it existed, Lori started her own business and began coming up with plans and prototypes for the floating mitts.
In July of 2003, Lori’s designs were officially licensed by MLB Properties. In January of 2004, Left Field Enterprises was formed and began working with Sevylor, Inc., a top manufacturer in the business of sports-related inflatables. Left Field Enterprises makes mitts with the logos and colors of every major league team. They come in two sizes – a large one for floating in and a smaller one to put on your hand – and both have met with great success and awesome reviews.
If you want to get involved in the Heart of Cole Festival, contact:
Heart of Cole Festival
912 Cole Street, PMB #2954+
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 621-5033
Fax: (415) 566-9776
If you want to be a part of the Lower Haight Block Party, contact:

Lower Haight Merchants Association
597 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117 Fax : (415) 738-7905

To find out more about Lori’s dirigible mitts, visit her Web site at:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My NFL Playoff/Super Bowl Predictions

I already selected my NFC/AFC playoff teams earlier this week. Here are my Division and Super Bowl picks:

In the NFC, I see the Seahawks and the Giants in the Final. I think the NYG will win it all in this one. I believe Eli Manning will improve as the season progresses, and I also think the Giants' D will jell over time. So, I'm picking the New York Giants to win the NFC.

In the AFC Final, I see the Bengals and the Colts. I love Pittsburgh, but I just think teams will be gunning for them all year long and they'll probably run into some injuries. NFL teams really get psyched when they play the Super Bowl Champs, and I just believe that over the course of an entire season, the Steel Curtain will develop holes. I then see Indianapolis beating Cincy, primarily due to the fact that they've been there more.

So, it's the Giants and the Colts in the Super Bowl, a replay of tonight's game. It will be a really fun matchup, the press will have a major field day with the matchup of Eli vs. Peyton, and I think little brother beats his big bro in a tight contest.

Final score: New York: 34 Indy: 28

If I'm right about this stuff (which is doubtful) New York Giants' fans will be smiling from ear-to-ear, just like in the above photo.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Terminator is Now a Geneticist

(For the most part, I like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even though he's really just a puppet, tell me one politician who isn't. But, when someone makes stupid remarks like this about someone's race, they are asking for it. Arnold should know about mixed genes. He himself is a volatile combination of Austrian blood and steroids, which makes him prone to saying stupid sh-- like this and prevents him from being a good actor. Arnold apologized for the comments. While you're at it, Arnie, why not also apologize for "Kindergarten Cop"?)

This was on today:

SANTA MONICA -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are naturally feisty and temperamental because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood."
He said the tape-recorded comments "made me cringe" when he read them in Friday's Los Angeles Times.
"Anyone out there that feels offended by those comments, I just want to say I'm sorry, I apologize," Schwarzenegger said. He added that if he heard his children make similar comments, "I would be upset."
The furor comes amid a re-election campaign in which the Republican has tried to mend fences with Democrats and moderates and look more statesmanlike and less like the swaggering action hero he played on screen. Schwarzenegger has a history of making off-the-cuff remarks that get him in trouble. He called California legislators "girlie men" and "losers" and talked of kicking nurses' butts.
During California's 2003 recall election, he was accused of groping or otherwise mistreating women on movie sets and other locations. He apologized for having "behaved badly sometimes."
The statements about Hispanics and blacks were captured on a six-minute tape made during a March 3 speechwriting session between Schwarzenegger and his advisers. On it, Schwarzenegger and chief of staff Susan Kennedy speak affectionately of state Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia and speculate about her nationality.
"I mean Cuban, Puerto-Rican, they are all very hot," the governor says on the recording. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."
Garcia, who is Puerto Rican, appeared with Schwarzenegger on Friday and said she was not offended by the governor's comments. Garcia earlier told the Times that she often calls herself a "hot-blooded Latina."
Schwarzenegger also said he called leaders from ethnic groups, who he said were not upset.
"All of them understood it was an off-the-record conversation," Schwarzenegger said. "It was not meant to be in any negative way."
A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez declined to comment directly on the remark but said the governor "has always been very respectful toward Latinos."
"These are hardly Nixon's Watergate tapes," Nunez spokesman Richard Stapler said.
However, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger, Phil Angelides, said the governor should "conduct himself with dignity."
"Once again, Gov. Schwarzenegger has used language that is deeply offensive to all Californians and embarrassed our state," Angelides said in a statement.
Schwarzenegger aides routinely tape his speechwriting sessions so the writers can keep a record of his thoughts and speaking patterns.
The newspaper did not say how the tape was obtained. The participants suggest during the meeting that they know they are being recorded.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My AFC Predictions


New England Patriots: Will the Pats make it back to the big one? I don’t think so. Will they even win the AFC East? Maybe. QB Tom Brady can take himself to Joe Montana/Terry Bradshaw levels if he can do it again, but this year will be tougher than ever because the talent surrounding him just isn’t as good as it’s been in the past. Coach Belichick reminds me a lot of Lorne Michaels, the creator and director of Saturday Night Live, because nothing seems to phase him or get him upset. This could be the year. Their best wide receiver, David Givens, is gone. WR Deion Branch held out and rookie WR Chad Jackson was injured, so both of them missed most of training camp. The O line is older and the D line is a little beat up, so the Pats will need some revolutionary game plans to make it happen in ’06.

Miami Dophins: These fish are as raw as fresh sushi, but with one of the best head coaches in the business (Saban), new QB Daunte Culpepper, who looks healed after an injury many people predicted might be a career-ender, and an exciting second-year RB in Ronnie Brown, the Dolphins look poised to dive into the playoff tank. After winning the last six games of the season this year, they’re ready to jump through some hoops to get there. Despite a lot of off-season moves designed to upgrade their suspect defense, including the addition of rookie S Jason Allen, CB’s Will Allen, and Andre Goodman, as well as FS Renaldo Hill – Miami is hoping to stop pass-happy teams from turning them into stinky chum.

Kansas City Chiefs: With the emergence of RB Larry Johnson during the second half of the season last year, QB Trent Green will be able to hand the ball off a minimum of 35 times per game, which will take the pressure off of him arm and other susceptible parts of his anatomy. New coach Herm Edwards is a superb motivator and puts his heart and soul into every team he coaches – kind of like former KC coach Dick Vermeil. On defense MLB Kawika Mitchell and OLB Derrick Johnson will cause more havoc than Paris Hilton at Studio 54. Of course, the offensive line lost two of its biggest pieces – OT’s Willie Roaf and John Welbourn, so it will be interesting to see if Johnson will still be a star or just another little Indian.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Most of the Steel Curtain is back to pull the drapes shut on the rest of the AFC, They’ll miss WR Antwaan Randle El, but the team is counting on rookie Santonio Holmes to fill that hole. Ben Roethlisberger is smart in the pocket and had one of the most impressive seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had, but he’s a complete idiot for ever getting on a motorcycle and he paid the price. RB Willie Parker should be able to get through some big holes created by guys like LG Alan Faneca and RT Max Starks. And the defense, led by SS Troy Polamalu and loudmouth but hard-hitting OLB Joey Porter, should keep opponents out of the end zone long enough for Steelers' fans to once again begin chanting, “We got a feeling…”

Indianapolis Colts: With Peyton Manning about as frustrated in the postseason as the Buffalo Bills are in the history of the Super Bowl, the pressure is on these horses to gallop all the way to the finish line. Edgerrin James is gone, but RB’s Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai should be able to eat up enough yards on the ground to take the Colts to the promised pasture known as the Super Bowl. WR’s Marvin Harrision and Reggie Wayne are great targets for the man with the golden arm, and with behemoths like LT Tarik Glenn and C Jeff Saturday knocking opposing defenses back, this team can play on Sundays. On defense, RE Dwight Feeney, FS Mike Doss and OLB Cato June should all help this team be there in late January. This herd of studs isn’t going to be happy to place or show, so watch out AFC!

Cincinnati Bengals: This team revolves 100% around QB Carson Palmer. If he’s healthy, the tigers have more than enough in their tank to take it all. If the rest of the Bengals can keep up with their Johnson’s they will be back in the playoff picture in ’06. They’ve got RB Rudi Johnson, who is fast and tough; they’ve got WR Chad Johnson who is loud and clutch, and they have OLB Landon Johnson who is all of the above. The only problem they could run into is if Palmer can’t play, because backup QB Anthony Wright is really, really wrong. I can’t believe they didn’t spend some serious cash on a more capable backup. If the parts of this striped puzzle can emerge from the jungle in one piece, Cincy may finally be able to stop chasing its own tail.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Censorship of the Worst Kind!

(I've really made it a point to stay as non-political as possible with this blog, and so I've been writing primarily fun stuff like sports columns, interviews, things about San Francisco, restaurant reviews and celebrity-bashing pieces. But, when I read this today I got so pissed I just had to comment. A group of former Clinton staffers are upset because they say there are portions of a miniseries by ABC about 9/11 that aren't accurate and they're demanding that changes be made. Demanding? Since when can politicians demand that something in the media be changed? How can they be so arrogant? Haven't they ever heard of a little thing called Freedom of Speech? When former White House officials (they're not even currently in office!) start telling people what can and cannot be on TV, on the Internet, in newspapers or on the radio, well, folks, it's time to change our name to the U.S.S.R. (United States with Shady Rules). How dare they demand anything! There's no doubt that to some degree Clinton and his administration blew it with the Bin Laden situation, but I guess old Bill wants to re-write history and avoid taking any of the blame for 9/11. What these people fail to realize is that they are inadvertently providing some amazing publicity for this miniseries. I didn't even know about it, but now I wouldn't miss it for the world! In fact, I just Tivo'ed it. If these washed-up bureaucrats are upset over it, I figure it's a must-see!!)

This was on this morning:

(Sept. 7) - A "terribly wrong" miniseries about events leading to the Sept. 11 attacks blame President Clinton's policies, former Clinton administration officials said in letters demanding that ABC correct it or not air it.
But in a statement released Thursday afternoon in apparent response to the growing uproar, ABC said, "No one has seen the final version of the film, because the editing process is not yet complete, so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clinton Foundation head Bruce Lindsey and Clinton adviser Douglas Band wrote in the past week to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC's parent The Walt Disney Co., to express concern over "The Path to 9/11."
The two-part miniseries, scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday and Monday, is drawn from interviews and documents including the report of the Sept. 11 commission. ABC has described it as a "dramatization" as opposed to a documentary.
"For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, and time compression," ABC said in its statement. "We hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it."

My NFC Predictions

NFL Predictions

With the 2006 NFL season starting tonight, football fever is in the air.
Today I'm doing my NFC predictions and tomorrow I'll have my AFC predictions. Then, on Sunday, I'll give you my division winners and my Super Bowl Champion.

NY Giants: With a seasoned QB Eli Manning, a much improved defense and RB Tiki Barber rolling up the yardage, the Gigantes will play so well that even Jimmy Hoffa will dig his way out from under the 50-yard line to watch this team win. People are calling their defense highly questionable, but with great new additions like LaVar Harrington and Sam Madison, I believe the Big Apple has a core they can be proud of.

Seattle Seahawks: QB Hasselback is better, RB Alexander will thrive again and the seagulls from the Northwest will play just enough defense to rain supreme. They lost LG Steve Hutchinson and WR Joe Jervicius during the off-season, which will hurt, but they also picked up OLB Juilan Peterson and WR Nate Burleson, and have improved their overall depth in many places. Take away a few questionable calls last year, and we'd be calling them World Champs. The Seahawks are well-coached and one year smarter, so they'll be even tougher to beat this year.

Minnesota Vikings: I can hear the groans from here. A lot of you must be asking, "What is this clown smoking?" Well, nothing anymore. I just believe that if this team can stay away from the stripper boat excursions, they should win because they're loaded with talent on both sides of the line. I'm confident that a new coach and a new attitude will help the Vikes do right. C Matt Birk is supposedly healthy again, which will help their O-line in a big way, and their defense is stronger than its been in a long time with DT's Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze, who are tough to block and whose names are even tougher to pronounce. Brad Johnson is a very capable, experienced QB and with RB Chester Taylor running behind the great blocking of FB Tony Richardson, this team will surprise a lot of people. Besides, the NFC North is weaker than the coffee at I-HOP!

St. Louis Rams: Less passing, more running and a much-improved offense will help the horned ones get into the playoffs in 2006. With Bulger at QB, RB Steven Jackson power running through an experienced offensive line and WR Torry Holt leading a strong receiving corps, the Rams will make a run and butt a few heads. If their totally revamped defense can hold up, they may even go deep into the playoffs. The best thing that happened to this team was when they said goodbye to former head coach Mike Martz, who started to display the brains of Paula Abdul coupled with the arrogance of Simon Cowell.

Carolina Panthers: They’re well-coached, experienced in the right places and should excel in 2006 with a tough D and just enough O to make it to the postseason. I predict right here that DeAngelo Williams will win rookie of the year honors and have people asking “Reggie Who?” QB Jake Delhomme is only getting better; the addition of a humble WR Keyshawn Johnson gives the receiving corps much-needed depth, and with names like Peppers, Jenkins, Morgan, and Ricker, the Panthers have the best defense in football. There, I said it.

Atlanta Falcons: If Mora can control Michael Vick, the team should soar into the playoffs with a team that is young and cocky and can back up the swagger. This team made a ton of off-season moves in order to shore up their weakest link – their run defense, by picking up RE John Abraham, SS Lawyer Molloy, FS Chris Crocker and DT Grady Jackson. MLB Ed Hartwell is back from injury and LE Pat Kerney and DT Rod Coleman round out a really solid group. On the other side of the ball, TE Alge Crumpler is amazing at getting open and he has clutch hands, and RB Warrick Dunn will run just well enough to keep opposing defensive squads off Vick’s expensive back.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Restaurant Review: Pane e Vino: A Whole Lot More than Bread & Wine

Pane e Vino
There is a restaurant on Union Street in San Francisco that is so good the first time I went there I returned two days later. Since then I have gone there many times and I have never been even remotely disappointed. The name of the place is Pane e Vino. I guess there are several other restaurants throughout the United States with the same name, and I don’t know if they are in any way connected to this location, but it really doesn’t matter. Pane e Vino in SF is multo bene. The food is authentic Italian; the portions are generous; the service is prompt and professional, and the menu has a little something for everyone. From fresh fish and meats to great thin-crust pizzas, all the way to some of the best pasta dishes you’ll find anywhere – Pane e Vino is a whole lot more than just bread and wine. I met one of the owners, Bruno, down on Union Street several times before I tried the place. He wasn’t bragging about it or anything – he’s a nice, very humble and rather soft spoken guy – but he kept telling me I need to stop in sometime. Well, it took me a couple months to get around to it, but when I finally ate there, I said to myself, “What the hell took me so long? Man, have I ever been missing out!” The place has a great atmosphere. The people – both the staff and the patrons – just all really seem like they’re in a good mood. Good food and fine wine will do that to you! What should you try when you visit Pane e Vino? To be honest, I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything on the menu. If there’s a bad item on that menu, we haven’t found it. Nor have any of the many people who we’ve recommended the place to. (I put that in there because I’m always lobbying for a free meal. Why else do you think I do these reviews, for my health?) To kick off the meal right, we always get the best appetizer they offer at Pane e Vino, which in our humble opinion is the Antipasto Della Casa ($14). I am so tired of restaurants that throw a couple pieces of salami and some peppers on a plate and call it antipasto. This is the true version – with a cornucopia of things like bruschetta, cured meats and house-marinated vegetables that will have you racing your dinner guests for the last little piece of proscuitto. They also have a seafood salad called the Insalata Mista ($8) that consists of bay lettuce, tomatoes, leeks, oil and vinegar with an assortment of marinated squid, shrimp, mussels and clams that will make you feel like you’re at a seafood grotto on the coast of Italy. For your main course, I would definitely try one of the magnifico pasta selections. I’ve had the Pappardelle alla Contadina ($14), wide egg pasta with chicken and porcini mushrooms in a light tomato cream sauce. The pasta is homemade, cooked al dente the way the experts who know what they’re doing make it, and the sauce is not weighted down with too much cream like in many Italian restaurants. Or sample the Pennette Rigate con Salsiccia e Cipolle ($14), which is a great combination of penne pasta with sausage, onions, tomatoes and Romano cheese. This is truly a penne you will not forget. Or should I say it’s a penne for your thoughts? (sorry.) I was really surprised when we went there the other night and Angelina ordered the Bisteca alla Fiorentina ($28). Whenever I’ve ordered steak at an Italian restaurant, I have been disappointed, to say the least. Italians aren’t known for their steaks, at least not in this country. But, let me tell you – it was one of the biggest, juiciest pieces of prime-quality meat that I have ever seen or tasted – right up there with Ruth's Chris or Morton’s or any of your so-called great American steakhouses. A carnivore’s dream come true! Fan-tas-tic!! They also have an awesome selection of fish dishes at Pane e Vino. Order the Pesce Fresco del Giorno Aq (Fresh fish of the day – price varies) and you will not ever be unhappy. The thin-crust pizza is also outstanding. They have a big brick oven which I guess is the only way to go, because the texture is light and crispy and right on target. We like the Napoletana ($12), with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, anchovies and oregano. Sweet and simple. We have also had the Diavola ($14), with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, spicy salami, hot pepper flakes and oregano. Sweet and spicy. For dessert, maybe you’d like the tiramisu ($6), which is better than a lot I’ve tasted. My personal favorite are the Profilteroles ($6), which are white chocolate gelato filled cream puffs topped with hot chocolate sauce. Pane e Vino has an extensive and somewhat expensive wine list, and they even have those Italian sodas I love so much. They remind me of my days in New York when my grandma owned and operated an Italian family restaurant in the Bronx right down the street from Yankee Stadium. Pane e Vino is located at 1715 Union Street in SF, just far enough away from the yuppies and the drunks. There is never any parking, so walk there or take a cab. On the weekends, be sure to make a reservation, because the place gets packed. If you can, request to be seated on the patio in the back. It’s less noisy and it’s got a roof and heaters, so you won’t catch pneumonia. For more information about Pane e Vino, visit their web site at: