My brother is a well-known fashion designer in the Philippines, and when his name became a brand he found he needed an office and a workshop. My grandparents were looking to sell their house so they suggested selling it to my brother.

But this house wasn’t your typical Quezon City house with its flat roofs and dull, flat-brown paint. In fact, it also used to be my grandmother’s leather goods shop.

My brother has often told me stories of walking arou

nd my grandma’s backstock, smelling the strong musk of leather hide, and seeing my grandma immersed in her creative flow as she designed wood carvings to be pressed on leather, experiences he says inspired him to experiment with making clothes today. He instantly grabbed at the chance to establish his flagship store in the same space as her old leather goods company, knowing a lineage of craftmanship is in these walls!

Fourteen years has passed since I left my motherland, and two weeks ago I returned, at almost the exact mark on the calendar in the month of July. July is the storm season of the Philippines. I was expecting hot tropical sun but I got something deceivingly similar to San Francisco (or at least where I live in the Outer Richmond). You know, that skyless grayness? But that’s just the sky. Once you walk outside, it is humid and hot. And guess what? All parts of my outer body can produce sweat, even my elbows.

The trip was riddled with revisting the part of my brain that contained my Tagalog vocabulary, reopening the pocket in my stomach where rice usually goes, and, of course, heavy…heavy nostalgia.

One of the things I was excited to see was my brother’s shop, to explore the mingling of old and new.

I expected to see at least one piece of vintage mechanical equipment that churned out leather bags or wallets. I wanted to turn an old rickety iron leather straightener (that’s an actual machine right? Probably. You know those machines you imagine when you don’t really know anything about machinery). I wanted to blow dust off metal templates that had my grandma’s name on it and I wanted my brother to show me framed ephemera that he’d salvaged, holding on to memories of our trailblazing family artisan.

But rather than a monument to the past, I found a space alive with creativity, and a craftmanship solidly of the present: rooms filled with fabric and cloth from China and India, shelves lined with jars of buttons and “motifs”. There were racks upon racks of outgoing gowns and suits ready for praise at their designated wedding or soiree.

In the office of the creative staff, up to date magazine cut-outs colonized a cork board, whether for inspiration or perhaps milling out competition. Next to them, paper cut-outs of new designs that would eventually be translated into fabric.

And then, my brother, working in his office drawing up his newest design for his 11 o’clock client. I was enamored by the intense pace of activity.

For the last several years I’ve been coming across my brother’s name, buzzed around in Hollywood-esque gossip media shown on Filipino channels, and even seeing him featured on America’s Next Top Model, when he designed couture dresses using Hello Kitty products.

During my high school prom I wore my Francis Libiran penguin-suit with pride as I showed my classmates the tag that bore my last name.

Finally seeing his workshop was fulfilling in a way that I can’t explain. It was inspiring! I felt like his younger-self must’ve felt walking around my grandma’s leather shop, wide-eyed and unconsciously brewing an inclination for artistry. Thus realizing the possibility to turn creating into a profession. It was intense for me to see the magnitude of his fame, but even more so how comfortable and confident he was practicing his craft. I love that he loves what he does and is so good at it.

During a long car ride to one of our island hopping escapades, he showed me a magazine that featured the “25 Most Influential Fashion Designers in the Philippines.” He’s in it of course and he also pointed out the older designers he originally looked up to. “I used to clip magazine cut-outs of their gowns and pieces when I was your age and now… I am one of them,” he said.

When Lorenzo first reads one of Ellison’s mysterious letters aloud, he mistakes the postage date for 1951, instead of 1957,  and reads the P.S. about the World Series. We wondered which was actually the better year for baseball. Turns out it was 1951.  In 1951, when Major League Baseball hadn’t yet arrived on the west coast, what would make somebody from San Francisco mention the World Series in a letter to his wife? When Ed asked Elsie who she thought would win the World Series, there had to be some serious historical significance to be worth mentioning.

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The 1951 Major League Baseball season isn’t remembered for who won the World Series, or for that fact that Joe DiMaggio retired that year, or because it was the rookie season of future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, or for the death of MLB legend and member of the disgraced Chicago Black Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson, but for Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World.” 


Entering the 1951 season, the Philadelphia Phillies were the favorite to win the NL Pennant following two very strong seasons including an appearance in the 1950 World Series. They seemed to be on the rise as the most dominant team in the National League, with the Brooklyn (soon to be Los Angeles) Dodgers and New York (soon to be San Francisco) Giants nipping at their heels. In the American League, the powerhouse New York Yankees were the favorite to win the World Series for the 3rd year in a row, and for the 4th time in 5 years.

What made the 1951 season so significant was the drama that surrounded the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Early that year, the Giants struggled tremendously and appeared to be careening toward a disastrous season. On August 11, 1951, 100 games into the season, the Giants were well behind the Dodgers who were cruising toward a National League Pennant. Then something incredible happened; the sort of incredible that creeps up on the you.

The Giants won 37 of their next 54 games including 16 in a row to pull into a tie with Dodgers with only one game left in the regular season.

Sunday, September 30th 1951 – final day of the regular season: Both the Giants and Dodgers were scheduled for a 1:35 p.m. start time. The Giants easily took care of a lackluster Boston Braves team in just 2 hours to pull ahead of the Dodgers by half a game in the standings. The Dodgers would find themselves locked in four and a half hour marathon against the one time contender, now wannabe spoiler, Philadelphia Phillies. In the bottom of the 6th inning, with the Dodgers trailing the Phillies by three, the final score of the Giants/Braves game was posted on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Needing to win that game just to stay alive, the Dodgers managed a dramatic 9 to 8 come-from-behind victory and rejoin the surging Giants atop the National League standings, setting up a crosstown best of 3 between the two NYC franchises in only the fourth tie breaker in major league history.

Monday, October 1st 1951: the series opened at Ebbets Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, home of the Dodgers. As if tensions and excitement weren’t intense enough already, the game was the first in Major League Baseball history to be televised live from coast to coast.

The Dodgers were exhausted from the previous night’s game against the Phillies and were handed quick and clean 3 to 1 defeat.

Tuesday, October 2nd – Game 2: was at the Giants’ home field at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan. Both stadiums were demolished decades ago, but they were only 15 miles apart! Imagine two rival fan bases, in a late season showdown to determine who would go to the World Series, in the same city. Yeah. Intense. Anyways, the Dodgers came back with a vengeance and scorched the Giants 10 to nothing to even the series.

Wednesday, October 3rd – Game 3: 1:30 p.m., do or die time at the Polo Grounds, home of the NY Giants. Winner goes on to face the Yankees, loser goes home. The Dodgers struck first with a run in the top of the first inning. They held that lead until the bottom of the seventh, when Bobby Thomson (remember that name) drove in a run to tie it up at 1. The Dodgers struck back immediately in next inning, the score now 4 to 1. Jump ahead to the bottom of the ninth, the Giants needed a miracle to win the series. Three of the first four batters reached base, scoring one run, and setting up one of the most dramatic and defining moments in Major League history. Down 4 to 2, with two runners on base, Bobby Thomson stepped to the plate. First pitch, strike.

Second pitch, fastball up and in, Thomson turns on it and rips a screaming line drive down the left field line. That 3 run home, game winning home run instantly embedded that moment and Bobby Thomson into annals of baseball lore forever.

That radio call by the Giants’ play-by-play man Russ Hodges WMCA has been immortalized, having been played over and over throughout the decades, never losing its magic.

In the next day’s New York Herald Tribune, Red Smith wrote of the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff, “Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”

The Giants went on to face the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees but were no match. The Yankees took care of business and won the best of 7 series in 6 games for their 3rd consecutive World Series title. The Yanks would go on to win the next two titles for 5 in a row!

Over the next 10 years, three of the eight National League would be relocated to other cities in the US. The Giants to San Francisco, the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and the Braves to Milwaukee. Baseball would never look the same. What a way to send off that early, great era of Major League Baseball.

*Coogan’s Bluff is a promontory overlooking the former sight of the Polo Grounds and is regarded as the boundary between the Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan. Read the rest of Red Smith’s article here:
http://deadspin.com/5615284/stories-that-dont-suck-the-shot-heard-round-the-world-and-the-greatest-lede-ever-written

 

 

A funky dancing enthusiast, Ezra is Manhattan born but Bay Area raised. He has always gravitated toward the more obscure and misunderstood.  He is a traveler, taking time to explore the beautiful and expansive United States, before eventually taking on responsibility again.

@goldezra on twitter & @ezragold on instragram

A few months ago, I was stumbling through the streets of Cole Valley on my way to a party when I spotted not one, not two, but three pairs of skis in a dumpster. I don’t usually participate in winter sports; I’ve gone snowboarding twice and I was terrible at it. But when I saw these specimens in my slightly inebriated state, they were the most beautiful things in the world. Needless to say, I claimed them, and when I arrived at my friend’s house with my newly acquired limbo poles, the party officially started.

I like stories that live in something. Discarded objects, old photos—they all have a story to tell, and the streets (and dumpsters) of San Francisco are ripe with material. Just as long as the moist ocean air doesn’t ruin it.

I used to send my ex-girlfriend letters with pictures from garage sales or thrift stores included. We traded off. I sent her a black-and-white of a matador in action, and she sent me a grainy cowboy in return. We then added a rule: we must make up stories for each of them. On the back of each photo we’d include a short biography or a description of the scene. Suddenly, the characters captured in time were brought to life.

So it should come as no surprise that when I saw a dusty old suitcase heaped on top of a dumpster on 16th Avenue in the Inner Richmond, I was ecstatic and knee-deep in junk in no time. Much to my delight, the discarded luggage contained old pictures. They might as well have been gold coins. I bolted out of the trash and speed-walked to the nearest cafe, clasping the suitcase tight. The pictures were of a Japanese American family and ranged from 1918 to the 1980s. They’re high quality with great composition and clarity. The content is even better, chronicling the life of a Japanese family immersed in quintessential American culture, complete with family excursions, dinner parties, cat-eye glasses, and fishing.

And amongst the photos, two letters. One opened and another unopened. My adventure was just beginning…

*Originally written in January, 2013.