The indecent proposal of #socialmedianight at the ballpark


Don’t Miss Social Media Night Presented by AT&T Tuesday, July 1 vs. STL
—San Francisco Giants press release

When I was a senior in high school, my brain and body had yet to fully develop. I subsisted on chalupas, Dad’s Root Beer and Twizzlers. My girlfriend’s name was Echo, or at least that’s what she wrote in her sexy bubble writing on her centerfold profile. She was perfect but for a magazine fold crease around her midsection. I would drive my two best friends around in my yellow Volvo with the clammy vinyl interior killing time before the first of us had to shove off to college 2,500 miles away. The passing of something between us felt inevitable and right.

One night we went and saw Indecent Proposal. We were all pretty sure we’d end up married to a version of Demi Moore. She would have a raven pixie cut and eyes that look like they could pool at any moment from happiness. She was going to be the bohemian artist type who hung out in coveralls and drank spritzers at noon and wore no bra and instead of boring dinner made priceless works of art—splashing on a canvas in a way that maybe looks like a hummingbird broke into the house and got dipped in wet paint.

We were pretty sure we would become a version of Woody Harrelson. All denim-on-denim up-and-coming architect. We could build a dream canvas for her to showcase her work and our lovemaking. To live in permanent blue with some neon headboard to ignite our passion’s fire. Slow motion showers together. Feeding one another entire bowls of cut fruit with no mess and no sticky. Wiggling and intertwining toes under billowy sheets, the chorus of sunrise blowing through the white curtains. Sipping on coffee in over-sized mugs to the mating call of Sade. Her, wrapping both hands around the glazed ceramic, looking furtively at the time to come.

I moved to San Francisco just after college to pursue the Indecent Proposal dream as a young professional. For a moment, it lived for me with the same false promise of bar lighting. Men’s faces and women’s legs shimmery like a winter lake of promise. Lips full, a glance over the shoulder, eyes feral and pitiless. I sneaked around North Beach which was still drawn by charcoal in the night. The wet streets and dark alleys of Hammett’s prose and light cast from a street lamp was a friend to know as I staggered home. It was as good in reality as it has become in memory.

Tech was reaching a slow boil, but its hot dog subordinates relegated to the Silicon Valley. Herb Caen still wrote a column. Rents were still under a grand for a one-bedroom with the painted-shut windows and leaded glass too thin to keep out the fog horn and the vibration of the trolley track. The city’s working class, union pipe hitters and cab drivers and teachers and street cleaners—only pushed out as far as the Sunset and the Richmond. The Mission is where you went when you were lost, or met the wrong girl, or someone on the fringe of your going-out group needed drugs.

I was a Giants fan. I grew up one. I was a regular at the ‘Stick. To me, all things in the city (The City) resonated from the losing club’s heartbeat. That was proven in 1989 when an earthquake threw everything off and its stadium was shaken down to its stanchions. I knew the real epicenter was in the clubhouse, Bob Brenly slumped in front of his locker, shin guards still on three hours after defeat.

As a teen, I probably should have paid more attention to the second act of Indecent Proposal. In it, wealth and greed in the form of Robert Redford manifests all harsh lighting and angles. He wakes the couple up from their milky dream with the flourish of a grin across his cheekbones and pen across his checkbook. He prices Demi and Woody out of their cocoon.

My indecent proposal was the bait of a new brick (I still don’t understand why brick, San Francisco post 1906 quake is a limestone and granite city) stadium. A chance to be a season ticket holder at the new AT&T (née Pac Bell). The palazzo was blandly similar to all those going up at this century’s turn: better food options, bigger ramps and a smaller pixel screen in the outfield. But the structure, floating on top of shipyard landfill, was genius in its waterfront placement.

Giants games—once a safe zone—a shield from job woes and social shortcomings, were now a reflection of the team’s marketing team’s efforts. The deal with the devil was inked in blood the moment ground was broken in China Basin.

The experience I knew: a stadium full of solitary men in the recessed clutches of the upper deck, protected from the toilet bowl swirl of wind. There sitting on a Zim’s restaurant-sponsored seat cushion keeping score with a golf cart pencil and scratching at a beard grown for warmth, not in the glow light of a lap top. Barely flinching as late-inning dancing wrappers and come-from-ahead losses smacked him in the face.

Today, 41,584 identical guys and girls from the made-up modalities pile in every game: Salesforce, Yelp, Square, Zynga, Twitter, Facebook or Google or some loosely affiliated marketing or PR parasite. There checking a device for some work or friend or dating or food or where-you-are (hint: you’re there) alert. Checking because someone else did and conversation stopped and now everyone’s looking at something besides one another, or whatever-it-is that’s happening on the field.

There because they sell product and go out and sell more and go out more and isn’t it that what it’s kind of about whether I’m there or not? There because the boss’s boss drives a Tesla and when the semi-annual lanyard-and-flare convention happens someone’s up on a giant video screen telling them what they want to hear: that this, this whatever, will continue forever.

Trapped in a stadium. This mass of people who exist only to validate other people’s existence. This sort of endless, egregious, fetid loop of not helping one another at all, not one fucking bit. Instead of being pilloried or being called a misanthrope, antisocial—a dick—they all profit from it mightily. Even given their own #night. For a moment, anyway.

Nothing is done anymore in San Francisco that is a necessity. Even vestigial celebrations of the city’s once diverse and effective tapestry are mocked by the forced spotlight of the self-aggrandizing current participants. In the working life, there is small solace in the approaching looking-glass moment of middle management on top of middle management chasing each other around an endless cartoon backdrop loop as the up-and-comers age out of relevance in a swipe with a career shelf life of fewer than five years. Bubble companies blowing it out other people’s assets, Few will cash out in time, the others will dive like rats from Pacific Heights into the carving sea.

The whole conceit of attending a Giants game is predicated on the fan’s acceptance of this epic tome of self-preservation through the selling of air as actual commodity. To be a #giantsfan means you must to buy in to social media night. You must be complicit to forgo your anonymity, to actually hand it over to the club.

Being a fan, to me, meant disappearing. I went for the comfort of being unknown in those uncomfortable little red seats as much as I did the frozen brats and trough urinals. Swirling like trash’s unheralded tango in the outfield bleachers. Those rare, cherished nine who stood above all on that emerald filed of dreams, or, more accurately, broken promises. I didn’t have the glove or the bat or the patience at the plate to make my way down there. So my penance was to pay to see it play out before me, helpless and wanting more.

The deal San Francisco made was to #lookatme. #Look #at #me. #fuckinglookatme! I do nothing. I don’t not like you because you’re not me. It’s just, well, you’re not me. I do nothing. I’m hand-crafting an image of what I eat and who I know and who I sleep with and where I lay my head. I do nothing.

It’s all #nothing. It’s Keats’s headstone: “Here lies one whose name is writ in water”. Tag everything with that. A sea of special, but nobody’s special. It all recesses with the tide.

Roger Ebert gave Indecent Proposal a thumbs up. He wrote: It is artificial and manipulative, and in the real world this sort of thing would never happen in this way, but then that’s why we line up at the ticket window: We want to leave the real world, for a couple of hours, anyway.

I guess that’s how I feel about San Francisco and its #Giants now: All artifice dressing up a moment already passed.