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Waiting for friends to arrive at the bar last night I got to overhear drunk drama. One guy was yelling at his friend, "I know what you’re doing! You’re stealing my friends. You’re always stealing my friends. You’re not my friend."

His friend, not nearly as drunk, replied in a voice soft enough that I couldn’t understand individual words. He was trying to soothe his friend but it wasn’t working. A woman was also with them and caught my eye and knew I heard the drunk’s outburst . She gave me one of those what-are-ya-gonna-do looks that come with a shrug.

Drunkie saw this, looked over at me, and stormed out.

My friends arrived but I guess the bar was emptier than usual because I kept being distracted by alarming statements coming from the tables around me.

"I have body issues! All women have body issues!

"I’ll beat up your father for you if you want me to."

"Is that a rat under that table over there?"

I decided against hanging out for a second pitcher.
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Wow. What a great day I had on Sunday. Brunch at [livejournal.com profile] ilipodscrill and [livejournal.com profile] telebraker6’s house, Beer Bust at The Eagle, and seeing bands at the Clarion Alley Fair. It was a perfect day of drinking and hanging out.

There are simply too many LJers to namecheck everyone at the Guerilla Femme Bar [livejournal.com profile] final_girl organized but I arrived in good style with Illipod and [livejournal.com profile] amarama. You know what I love about The Eagle, besides, of course, the rowdy urinal line? What other gay, male leather bar plays "What we all want" by Gang of Four. That’s right. Not "I love a man in uniform" or even anything off of "Entertainment" but a song of the obscure, under-rated "Solid Gold" album. Forgive this moment of music geekery but I’ve never heard anything off that album at any bar anywhere.

As [livejournal.com profile] claudimp put it, probably with better phrasing than I can remember this morning, usually gay bar music inspires less positive thoughts. "Sometimes you have to wonder whether a life of deviant sexuality is worth having to listen to bad disco music every week."

And while I met a bunch of people there, I should note that I finally met [livejournal.com profile] rivetpepsquad who lives in my town and has been on my friends list since 1/9/03 (I checked). [livejournal.com profile] jwz is the only local Ljer on my list longer who I’ve never met. Heya Jess! Sorry about that unintentionally innuendo-laden thing I said about you not coming to my birthday party

I walked over to the Clarion Alley Street Fair with [livejournal.com profile] fightingwords, [livejournal.com profile] _astrozombie_ and a friend of theirs. Sorry about losing you guys so fast, but I was drawn to Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes who were playing near the Valencia St. side of the block. That band just gets better and better. It was so crowded that people couldn’t get through unless they danced through the "pit".

Clarion Alley, right next to Community Thrift, is a community mural project where many different artists murals over the years, They’re on people’s garages, houses, stores, whatever. The alley is alley-sized, not a euphemism. It gets extremely crowded when hundreds of people are crammed in for a fair and with very few lights by the time the night hits. Everyone brings their own beer in bags and travels the length of a single block. Fire juggling, electronica, breakin’*, DJs, punk rock…a lot of stuff in one small space. I ran into an old acquaintance when she left the porto-toilet (this seems to happen to me a lot these days. See my Folsom St. entry) and she was all, "Come see my band, we’re playing in five minutes!" Well, ok. Latina/o punk en espanol. I love SF street fairs.

While hanging out with my buddy Dianarama though, we did notice something odd. Trying to work our way through the crowd to the liquor store, indecisive indie rockers blocked our way. "Have you noticed how skinny all the young punks are?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied. Without saying another word to each other we linked an arm and pushed through creating a path while saying "Excuse me" sarcastically. White belts and backpacks went flying out of the way. They were no match for late 30s, 200+ lb, medium-old school punks! Don’t get between us and the liquor store!

*I’m old. Is it still called that?
**Hey [livejournal.com profile] wookiepocket!
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Thursday night was crazy. First, at about 6 PM, the compressor for the freezers died and for some reason the alarm system didn’t go off. A customer came up to me and said, "You know, the ice cream is soft" to which there is no response possible but, "Oh shit." Cooler malfunction, not maggots or mold, is truly my worst fear. Obviously it’s even worse for frozen food.

Every worker who could, tried to move the savable frozen food to the small backstock coolers. We immediately started giving away the ice cream because once the temp goes up at all it’s unsellable. Customers were excited. As [livejournal.com profile] ctrhotpink described it in her journal "We had crates of ice cream in front of the store and, apparently, there is a trail of empty pints, lids, spoons and puke from here to midtown. Were people binging then purging so as not to waste any???" Even [livejournal.com profile] atakra made a post asking for people to come eat ice cream someone brought to his apartment. Punk rockers I didn’t know started showing up saying, "I heard you guys are giving away food"

When this was as under control as it could get, I made it to my conference planning meeting were we disposed of tasks and added more to our list with frightening equivalency.

But then was the event I’d been looking forward to for the past few weeks. A reunion of The Dicks at the Eagle. Was there a better night to hear a band who’s most famous song contains the lyrics "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, look at your son. Maybe you once loved me, but now I’ve got a gun. You better stay out of the way, I think I’ve had a bad day"?* The secret of The Dicks was that they, like the Big Boys who were also from Texas, were about fighting back against the Reagan revolution, against the red necks who wanted to beat up punks and not accepting the power of those people as absolute. And I’ve always had a thing for punk bands that I found a little scary.

I had to be there because I missed their under-publicized reunion a few years ago and I hadn’t seen them for 20 years at one of the punk shows that changed my life. I have never seen the Eagle more packed. If you’ve never been there, it’s not really set up for shows. There’s only a space of about 15 feet from the stage to the bar. We made our move to the front as the second to last band finished but so did everyone else. Combined with the fact that the only "women’s" bathroom is on the stage, the crowd was doing that uncontrollable surgy thing from 15 minutes before they took the stage. Only the fact we were so densely packed kept me on my feet. After a few songs I started to feel hot and melty just like that Double Rainbow.

I love that they made no attempt to look punk. Dianarama, who’d never seen them, said she thought the singer must be their manager when he took the stage. He immediately referred to himself as an "old queen"** who’d stop the show if people started acting stupid. "You know I’ll do it too." He even invoked a one song penalty on the audience when someone tried to stage dive.

They sounded great. It’s not like the songs are that complicated or anything, but man, it was like 1984. I know it’s pretty much self-imposed, but my last week or so has been filled with crazy stress. There are some things that one a cathartic punk rock event can fix. I needed this show bad. Thank you Gary Floyd.

* FYI for non-punks: reading punk lyrics literally misses the actually meaning. Oh yeah, I guess Mudhoney covered that too but I kinda ignored that whole grunge thing cuz it, uh, sucked.
**I heard that he recently greeted the 20-something editor of MRR on the street with the phrase, "Hello little boy who wishes it was 20 years ago."
*** I saw [livejournal.com profile] nux_vomica, [livejournal.com profile] atakra (nice to finally meet you. Did you get any pics?) and [livejournal.com profile] magpiesf there too.
**** I was surprised they didn’t play "No Fucking War" or "I hope you get drafted".
*****oh yeah, "I’ll tell you something, and it’s true. You can’t find justice, it’ll find you."


Dec. 1st, 2003 01:04 pm
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Saturday After work I went to the Lusty Lady benefit party South of Market with a friend and co-worker, Hot Historian. Of course, she had the time to go home, change, and look good while I came straight from the cheese mines and was stained and stinky. Oh well. The main part of the party was just like any small club show with people standing around watching bands, though the bands were probably wearing less clothing than usual.

I should have realized something was up when we had to finish our drinks before going into the next room but we were too busy discussing where the kids area and the karaoke machine should be during our worker party which, coincidentally, we’re having in the same space. We were wandering around planning and suddenly all these women wearing lingerie were being extra nice to us. Hot Historian was talking to one of them who turned out to be a scantily-clad friend from school when I realized we had stumbled into the lap dance area. Uh clueless? Yah.

HH* eventually got a lap dance from another dancer and came back hot, bothered and unable to form complete sentences. After watching a couple of rounds of lube wrestling, everyone got kicked out of the area because the "Fire Marshall" declared it too full. I decided to go home, satisfied that I’d done my duty supporting another cooperative. My only regret was that I missed The Space Whores because I didn’t want to lose our front row wrestling seats, on nice comfy couches.

*Um, for any co-workers reading this, it is not our co-worker who’s initials are actually HH, though he is somewhat of a historian. Otherwise, he’s about the polar opposite of the person I’m talking about.
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There’s always something stressful about celebrating my birthday. I’ve got no problem with my age. I’m actually happy about that. It’s the feeling I have that I should be doing something more fabulous or meaningful than I’ve planned. Because It’s my birthday after all.

But the thing is that I’m not that into fabulous. I have many friends who are and pull it off well, but it’s just really not my thing. My thing is more friendly, sloppy, messy, run-down, and probably beer-soaked.* I did have a moment last night when I wondered if I took the non-fabulous thing a little too far.

I had a birthday dinner with a few close friends. I picked a restaurant** that I like and that I knew would be low key, no-reservation-necessary and not too pricey because I knew my friends would insist on paying and I didn’t want them to be out too much money. But man it was empty. We were the only people there for most of the hour or so we were there. And there was a fly in the pitcher of beer. Still, the food was tasty even if I kept asking What Would Anthony Do?*** and wondering how often they actually got fresh meat deliveries.

Highlight of dinner: Me, [livejournal.com profile] nodoilies, and [livejournal.com profile] ilipodscrill arguing LJ vs. Friendster with Gary Fembot. Ugh, kill me now.

Finally [livejournal.com profile] jactitation, KerryPerry, and Dianarama showed up and we headed for the bar where [livejournal.com profile] fattest’s sister works. The bar that [livejournal.com profile] ctrhotpink used to describe as an "old man fart bar" when she used to go there in high school. Since it can be a little sports bar-y sometimes, it was lucky that the Cubs had already fucked up and their demoralized fans had slumped home leaving the bar fairly empty. But of course it was empty. That’s why I like it. Is the pattern becoming more clear?

After much anxiety about whether anyone I invited would actually show up, people did, and my Anchor Steam, magically, never ran dry. I usually compound my birthday anxiety by shyly half-assing the invitations and remembering people too late to ask them to come. But I had already decided to keep it smallish this year because I still felt partied out from our house party a month before. Still, I got to do what I like to do on my birthday, be the center of attention and wander amongst groups of friends trying to get them to mingle with other groups of my friends who they don’t know. Eventually people staggered off, some even drunkenly deciding to go to The Mint**** to sing Billy Joel and Queen songs.

But I didn’t. I felt done and satisfied with my birthday. And I had to get my yearly work evaluation***** this morning at 10 AM. Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday!

*Or maybe I’m just lazy. Actually, I know I am. Why else pick a mediocre restaurant and a no atmosphere bar to hang out in for my birthday if not because they are both within two blocks of my apartment? But then again, acknowledging my own laziness is giving myself a present on my birthday really.

**You’ve been there [livejournal.com profile] surlygrrrl!

***Forgive me [livejournal.com profile] grapesoda.

****OK, everyone in SF has a website now.

*****Think Cultural Revolution era "Peer review".

******The only other LJ people who I didn’t name check above are [livejournal.com profile] plee, [livejournal.com profile] superchones, and her Bunnyboy. Except for Bunnyboy, I knew all of ‘em before my LJ existence.

*******[livejournal.com profile] arasay and [livejournal.com profile] de_gustibus you were missed. Why did you move to England again?
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(I know that my market research showed that this is the most unpopular aspect of my LJ. But I just can’t help myself.)

I will never doubt [livejournal.com profile] walktheplank’s musical advice again. A few weeks ago, I saw Grant Hart (ex-Husker Du) at The Eagle and it was amazing. It was just Grant and a guitar but I swear some of those Husker songs sounded even better than they did back in the day. I had never realized how well-written those songs actually were.

Imagine most ‘80s punk played acoustically and without a drummer.

This was nothing like that.

I was prepared to heckle, yelling out for "In a Free Land" etc., especially when the cover was an extra buck because "Hey, it’s Grant Hart",* but he won me over right away. Me and the other 20 people who stayed to see him. Most of us were singing along and I swear I was tearing up during "Don’t want to know if you are lonely". Grant also did a bunch of Johnny Cash covers as a little tribute.

I don’t want to get into one of those who’s-your-favorite-Beatle things, but as he was playing, I realized that he wrote most of my favorite Husker Du songs. Gender ambiguous songs, sad, smart, and angry, part of the soundtrack of my teen-age years.** The only song I could have done without is "Diane" because that whole in-the-mind-of-a-serial-killer thing is so ‘80s-tired.

Weirdly, most of the crowd seemed to be there for Waycross, a band I really want to like and can’t. Caroleen, the singer, was in the Bedlam Rovers who I will still defend as one of the most overlooked bands of the ‘90s. Waycross plays mid-tempo can’t-decide-if-it’s-country-or-rock songs that always fool me. When they start playing, I always think, "This is pretty good". Then after the fourth or fifth song that sounds pretty much the same, I go buy another beer and hang out outside.

Of course, it could have just been that, like always, the Eagle shows are absurdly late-running for Thursday nights. Grant Hart fans aren’t getting any younger.

*Just goes to show that those leather bar boys have a big, hidden, sappy side.

**If anyone wants to burn me some Huskers that’d be great. My tapes are dying and I only have "Metal Circus"/"in a Free Land" on CD. I have "Zen Arcade" on vinyl but, you know. Not "Wharehouse: Songs and Stories" though. That album still sucks.
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So [livejournal.com profile] reddawn came to town to drink and watch videos. I was happy to meet her since she was one of my first LJ "Friends". Of course I thought she’d be older since her user name is "Red Dawn".* We met up at Doctor Bombay’s in honor of [livejournal.com profile] bornbent who like Reddawn is from Detroit (though Red Dawn Lives in Chicago now). I bought a book on the way over because I knew that she was coming over with [livejournal.com profile] socialretard and [livejournal.com profile] slipkid and I figured they’d be late.

Actually, I just knew it would take me a lot less time to get to the bar since I was already out. Some old SF friends who’d moved to LA were up for the day and we’d been eating dinner and perusing Castro stores for a bear paw belt buckle. I picked up a hanky code guide because I hadn’t had one in awhile. I’d forgotten all about flagging mosquito netting if you’re into outdoor sex. Hott.

When I grabbed a booth with my Jim Thompson novel Doc Bom’s was a punk bar. An Emptyish punk bar, but definitely a punk bar. Punk music, surly counter punks, cute bartender with dyed hair and raccoon-eyed make-up, etc. Somehow by the time I left, 3-4 rounds later, it had transformed into a yuppie bar playing lite-techno and filled with khakied going-out-on-the-town-so-I’ll-put-on-too-much-aftershave people. If this was a metaphor for the Mission it would seem a little too heavy-handed. But I swear it’s true.

About five chapters into the book, the LiveJournalers showed up. Luckily, I was drinking slowly so I wouldn’t be an incoherent jerk by the time I met Red Dawn for the first time. Those first impressions are so important after all. I even wore my leather jacket so she’d feel more at home. Of course, my impression of Chicago punks is gleaned only from Screeching Weasel records.

We drank and discussed tattoos, how cold SF is, how hot her migrant labor "internship" in the desert will be, and how much we exaggerate in our Live Journals. At one point her and Social Retard were discussing water sports and then both excused themselves to go to the bathroom at the same time. But since I would never exaggerate myself, you’ll have to ask them the rest of the story.

Red Dawn and her boy are thinking of moving to SF with him teaching in the public schools.** After a disastrous convincing of my (now former) best friend to move here 12 years ago, I have vowed to not try and convince anyone to move to SF. You really have to want to live in this city to be here.

I don’t know if it’s possible not to have a love/hate relationship with the city you’ve lived in for a number of years, but I know it’s not possible in SF unless you have an unlimited supply of money. Eviction worries, the space crunch, and the cost of living can make it a hard place to set down roots. Or to even keep the roots you do have from being strangled from trying to grow in too small a planter box.

The LA friends that I spent the early part of the evening with are part of the semi-depressing story. They moved down to help care for the dying father of the San Ho part of the couple. It was certainly just a temporary move. But they ended up settling, buying a house, and creating a new community for themselves and have no plans to move back up. Even though I’m happy for them, I feel my Bay Area Pride hurt by defections like this, as well as feeling like I need to consider whether I’m being dumb by staying.

But this is home for me and I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else. It feels right in a way I can’t explain, and I can’t imagine not feeling like an outsider forever anywhere else I’d think of moving. Moving away would also make me feel like a lot of the last 15 years was somehow wasted. Plus I’d miss the fog and my job. Sigh.

(San Francisco angst to be continued at a later date…)


**With the yearly trauma of layoffs in the SFUSD this sounds like a strange idea to me, even though I’d like to say otherwise. SF-based opinions anyone?
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I really like bars. There are a lot of people out there who don’t, I know. And of course, some like the bars too much. But I really do like them. I like the smell of spilled beer, the neon, the etiquette, handwritten signs with drink specials, the names of last night’s pool players written in chalk , watching other people socialize, the whole concept of the jukebox: it’s all so comforting.

But since I tend to like empty bars, my favorites often close. There was that one which is now the table-clothed ‘Lone Palm" where the bartender wouldn’t let you pay if you weren’t working. It had incredibly ugly Egyptian friezes behind the booths. The Crystal Pistol was great back in the day, before it became a tapas place, especially the happy hour which usually consisted of me, my housemates, and two 50ish women who were there every weekday from 5-9pm. The women kept to themselves and treated us like unwanted visitors to their living room. Happy hour "free food" was advertised so at about 6 PM every day the bartender would leave and return five minutes later with a bucket of KFC. Or sometimes a 5-piece box if the "crowd" was especially sparse or he was in a bad mood. I played the one Joan Jett song on the juke box ("I hate myself for loving you") every time we went.

But bars also scare me. Neither my brother or my dad drink anymore and with good reason. I don’t have a big family, but I guess it’s big enough to have a black sheep relative, who I didn’t know existed, call me once, drunk, looking for my mother. I pretended I knew her because she knew exactly who I was and I didn’t know what else to do. Plus, experience has taught me to humor, not rile, drunks.

But I keep a worried eye on my own drinking. Of course, I don’t drink nearly as much these days as I drank in high school so I suppose it’s working out ok. Though it seems that drinking, while acknowledging a bad family history with alcohol confuses some people.

Awhile ago, I was at a birthday party at a bar, waiting to catch the bartender’s eye. A woman who was also at the party started talking to me, flirting a little. Heck, it was a party full of the sex-pos crowd so it was hard to tell if she was actually flirting with me, or flirting out of habit.

Anyways, she started to talk about how weird it was to be in a bar because she hadn’t been in one since she went into recovery a couple of years before. She started detailing her drinking problem and I shared some of my family history. We were getting along nicely, good for me because I only knew a few people at the party and I wasn’t feeling quite social enough to bust into the main group around the birthday girl. Just then the bartender looked my way. "Hold on," I told Flirting Girl, and I ordered a beer.

I looked back at Flirting Girl, who looked peeved and much less interested. That was when I realized that she started talking to me because I didn’t have a drink in my hand. "It was nice to me you," she said in a voice that told me it wasn’t. Then she got up and walked to the other side of the circular bar.
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I don’t know what to think of my local bar. I’ve started going there often after avoiding it for years. I mis-read their nice paint job as another slice of gentrification and though I didn’t like the rocker-themed bar it replaced, I appreciated the rocker-bar’s low rent appearance. Now that I’m going to the new bar I’m finding that it defies type. Yet it doesn’t transcend into something amazing either.

On the plus side, it has good beer and sangria, good music if not a talented local DJ, and it’s very close. On the questionable side, it only has a beer and wine license, it’s too packed to go there after 8 PM and get a seat, and I always have a nagging feeling that the other customers are just not my people.

When I say "not my people" I don’t mean it in the "enemy of my people" way. In fact, one of the things I like about the bar is that no one style predominates. But it’s not exactly like The Expansion either, a bar with little character of its own that soaks up the overflow on weekend nights. It has its own crowd and part of my problem is identifying where that crowd ends and the rest of us start. I just can’t figure out the other customers.

They’re not flashy and annoying, but they tend to be better dressed than my friends. Even though it’s my neighborhood bar, most other people seem done up and there for an outing. There tend to be equal amounts of big tables of friends and couples on dates. It’s mostly a het bar but not exclusively: certainly better than most bars in the lower Haight. While the above is relatively constant, it fluctuates dramatically racially, some nights almost solely white people and other nights are very mixed. And although the bar is DJ-oriented, it also has two TVs dialed into whatever local sporting event is happening. Last night they alternated between the Giants game and the NBA playoffs.

It’s also the fist place (except for probably Gilman St.) where I’ve started to wonder if I’m noticeably older than the rest of the crowd. I don’t think I’m there yet, but it is a harbinger of things to come. When I start thinking about asking them to turn down the music, I guess it’ll be time to stop going. Actually, one of my fears is that this bar is totally set up for the XXXXXX-crowd and I’m just not hip enough to recognize these things anymore.

After a few beers one of the very first times we went there, [livejournal.com profile] jactitation wanted to conduct some sociological research and that might still be in our future, especially since I often go there with Davis sociology grad students. Are they bridge and tunnel? Are they SF State students? Are they moderately hip temps and office workers? The bartender’s friends?

Because, generally, there is an absence of the white-guy-with-baseball-hat or the more-tattooed-than-thou crowd, overflow from the other local bars doesn’t seem to predominate. It’s also not much of a mixing bar, people tend to talk with who they came with and not make much conversation to others. But again, not in an unfriendly way, it just doesn’t happen.

Maybe I’m pre-occupied with this bar because the usual type of bar I’m attracted to is a local bar, sparsely populated and with little atmosphere.* As could be expected, these bars either change or go out of business, especially in a volatile real estate town like this. The relatively hip bar is a new thing for me.

*In fact, I like the pitcher-of-beer-at-Hahn’s-Hibachi deal and keeping up with their whatever-beer-distributor-we-paid-this-month on-tap selection is always fun. If they’d just turn the lights down a little, I’d drink there more often. And while I’m at it, let’s remember the Crystal Pistol, the early days of Casanova, and that bar that was great before it became the Lone Palm. Sigh.


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