Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Falling from Above

It was a Thursday night in early October 2000 and the Mets were in town for a playoff matchup with the Giants at Pac Bell Park. My roommate Mike had an extra ticket—which I was happy to take—and I just stopped by the Hyatt to pick up my paycheck before meeting him at Zeke’s Diamond Bar on 3rd St.

Getting off of the bus at the Embarcadero, I looked south towards the stadium, where fog spilled over Potrero Hill like an overzealously poured beer, and zipped up my jacket. There was a slight chill in the air, enough to color the cheeks and making for great playoff baseball weather. Truly great baseball weather . . .

After making the familiar descent into the bowels of the hotel via the employee entrance adjacent to Justin Herman Plaza, named after the patron satyr of urban renewal, I made small talk with the security guys who were responsible for handing out checks. We agreed that Piazza should be living in our fair city due to his likely sexual preference, that J.T. Snow was the consummate Giant and that the 49ers would be better off without Terrell Owens.

With the thought that there would be a fair amount of drinking before, during and after the game occurring to me, I felt it would be wise to grab a few bottles of water from the bar where I had worked the night before. The main floor of the Hyatt Regency-the Atrium-held a few restaurants, a gaudy 20 foot tall bronze globe-like sculpture and 16 floors worth of open air into which the guest rooms opened up. During the Holidays the space was festooned with strings of lights cascading down from each floor, sparkling over the heads of the tourists and business travelers who frequented the hotel. Year round people were always stopping in to take pictures and after spending most of my first 26 years in Akron, Ohio I felt that it was a pretty neat place to work.

I took the elevator up from the basement and emerged into the Atrium where I exchanged a “Como Esta” and a “Nay Ho Ma” with a few of the housekeepers who were waiting to take the lift up to do their jobs. The Atrium bar, that was given the moniker “13 Views” for the number of windows looking out on Justin Herman Plaza, was buzzing.

Anchor Steams were being lifted by suits watching Baseball Tonight and inexpensive chardonnays being discussed by rotund women who had just returned from a day trip to Napa with a newfound lexicon to play with.

Then it fell. It looked like a golf bag. Thats how I interpreted the white and black object falling from ten floors up at the very first moment that it entered my field of vision. As long, thin clubs started to fall away from the bag at strange angles, I spied two wide open spheres with bits of blue in them at the top of the bag.

You hear how things move slowly when peculiar things happen in life, or at least that’s how we recall them to have happened, and true to form I can clearly remember the electric pulse that ran through me when I came the the realization that this was not a golf bag, that there were not clubs extended akimbo from it nor were there a pair of blue specked balls careening from the top it.

She hit the floor about fifteen feet in front of me and bounced slightly. The explosion of weary flesh and bone on naked cement echoed throughout the Atrium slowly. For the first five or ten seconds nobody seemed to notice what had happened except me and I walked quickly towards her. I took my jacket off—appropriately a black one that I had just bought the week before—and threw it over her. Before I did, I was surprised to see that there was no blood.

That’s when the first rotund woman screamed. More shrieks followed as husbands held the gazes of their wives on their shoulders, away from where I was standing dumbly silent.

After being interviewed by the police and the same security guys that I was talking sports with earlier, I still went to the game. JT Snow hit a three run shot into McCovey Cove in the 9th to send the game into extra innings but the Giants lost in the 10th.

The next day was my birthday.

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