What's better than watching the Giants win the World Series? How about watching them win the World Series for the second time?
Not too many people can lay claim to the distinction, but somewhere betwixt sneaking into an at-capacity Polk Street pub and watching the fireworks on Valencia explode with gigantic glory last night, I ran into Elliott Isenberg, who was all of nine years old when the New York Giants took home the World Series trophy in 1954.
“There was a lot of celebration in my house,” Isenberg -- who is a therapist during the day when not causing trouble in the streets -- told me the next morning, after the euphoria of last night's win (and the Anchor Steam coursing through my veins) had sufficiently dissipated to allow journalistic endeavor. Back in '54, they were getting crazy with it. “My grandfather danced on the table and they gave me a glass of wine. I had only had wine before at Passover. I didn't go downtown -- I heard there were huge celebrations in Manhattan, in the Bronx, but I was a nine year old boy!”
Well he certainly made it to the show last night. When I stumbled into him, Isenberg was wearing a neon pink and yellow windbreaker below his shock of grey hair, a garment that had granted him a sort of inadvertent celebrity earlier that night when he walked down from his home of 32 years on 24th Street and San Jose to partake of the late night street celebrations sweeping the Mission. He was eager to tell me the story of his night.
After watching their team trounce the Texas Rangers 3-1, beard-clad festivators were filling the streets from Polk to Castro to City Hall -- but the parties in the Mission were the big ones. Undeterred by the throngs of champagne-popping Giants fans, flat bed trucks full of waving people were chugging resolutely down the middle of Valencia between 16th and 17th Streets. SF – like you didn't know this already – loves a good street party.
And then they started burning the mattress. Which is awesome. Isenberg took the opportunity to show the crowd what he's got, which sounds like a nice vertical. “I did, I actually jumped over it. I got a little bit singed though.” He says people were approaching him the rest of the evening to congratulate him on the leap. My guess is they got an earful about the grandfather on the table, the wine, the wonder, as well.
“For a few hours, it was the people's territory, no cops,” Isenberg recalls. But the cheerful anarchy amidst the taquerias and bike lanes wasn't to last forever. He reports that at some point after midnight, cops linked arms to form a phalanx and advanced on the revelers. “I ducked into a recessed window -- most people were smart enough to move, but those that were too drunk or had an attitude got hit by the police officers' clubs. Not a murderous hit, just to get them going.” He says after the phalanx cleared the crowd around the boudoir bonfire, a fire truck arrived to douse the flames and the crowd never regained its full insanity levels.
Still, Isenberg was in high spirits on his walk home, high fiving like a madman. After all, it's not so often that his baseball team wins the World Series. And after living in the Mission as long as he has, he's not easily rattled by rowdy crowds. Even if this one was special. When asked if he'd ever seen anything like the celebratory mayhem that had ensued, he said “it was a little more wild than I've seen before. It was one level up from Halloween.”