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Bouncer Finds DaDa Doesn't Live Up to Its Name 

Wednesday, Dec 28 2011

I have many lifelong friends, but my memory is longer and clearer when it comes to the nuts I have known. I am generally docile and sedentary, but get me next to someone funny with a mischievous streak and some sort of switch goes off inside me, and our Wonder Twin powers activate. This has led to some bad employment situations, at least for my bosses, who have had to separate me from other people so that we could actually get something done. All I need is another Sweat Hog, and it's on.

"Jesus, you remember everything," said my old friend Karl, with whom I reunited last week. I do indeed remember a ton of stuff from hanging out with him, primarily because he ranks as one of the biggest nuts I have ever known. We went to high school together, but didn't become friends until we graduated and got our first apartment together that summer.

He was unique. If he didn't like something, he said that it was "stink stank stunk!" He found some seriously warped porno mags and would do dramatic readings from them: "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: Bang my box, not my poop chute!" He was an odd duck in other ways. He wasn't particularly hot, but he always scored with super hot chicks. He was completely apolitical and didn't drink, which also set him far apart from me. But he was funny. "Why don't I like folk music?" he would ask, mock-wistfully. "Well, I can think of three reasons ..." then this voice would switch to a building anger: "Peter ... Paul ... AND MARY!"

We were at that age when we had just left home and really didn't know shit, but were pretending to be adults. Living with him was one gigantic slumber party.

"I know where I want to take you!" I said to him last week, after being reunited with the help of good ol' Facebook. He was in town for a week to pitch some videogame ideas, having made it big in the gaming industry. It made sense — he was always tuned into new technology and he was an artist. I had been wanting to visit the bar Dada in SOMA for a long time, and who better to do it with than the Kurt Schwitters of Urbana, Ill.?

Naming your bar (presumably) after the Dada movement is a pretty interesting move. The Dadaists were the Occupiers of the WWI era. They eschewed capitalist greed, which they saw as leading everyone into war. They also rejected anything cultural, like the dominant modern art of the time, which they saw as being bougie. If you ask me, which you haven't, I would say that they were simply the first postmodernists. Were Dada a truly Dada bar, getting a drink there would be very frustrating. You might be presented with a turkey leg instead of a mojito. The bartender would give you his order when you approached the bar. There would, however, be a nice collection of urinals — i.e. "fountains" — in the men's room.

We roamed around lower Market Street for awhile, while I tried to remember where the place was. Karl decided to look it up on his phone. He had changed a lot, but he was still funny, and he still was up on tech crap. His biggest change is that he is now a Marxist. He spends hours and hours reading anarchist stuff. All the more reason to get him to a Dada joint.

"Should be up here," he said, as we plodded down Second Street. Soon we came face to face with the picture window out front. We stopped and peered in, then looked at each other.

Hmm. From the outside looking in, there was nothing even vaguely Dada about Dada. It was a smallish barroom packed with what appeared to be office workers and other people from the Financial District. There were men in nicely tailored pants and women tossing their heads back and laughing at whatever they said. The bartenders behind the bar stared back at us like bonobo chimps pining for the Congolese forest. "They DO serve popcorn," said Karl, optimistically. Some music was pouring out the door, and it sounded like something a teen goth suburbanite would play at her cocker spaniel's funeral. (Okay, so that is vaguely Dada.)

Then and there we made a decision. It would be the same decision that Jean Arp, or Jean Cocteau, or Kurt Schwitters would make. It would be the very Dada thing to do, and that was to experience the bar on the outside without benefit of crossing the threshold. We would be post-post-barhopping, a Through the Looking Glass Snuggie bar crawl of the absurd. If a urinal can be a fountain, than my review of Dada can be made without actually going to the place. By doing so, I am of course pointing out the SOMA irrationality of New Growth. Karl seemed down with the idea. A guy like him would be.

"Let's get some pizza," I said.

"Nice," said my pal. And we headed down to the subway.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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