I took one look at the Anchor Brewing Company joint at SFO and was immediately hit with a cliché: Oh how the mighty have fallen. It looked like a Subway with beer taps.
I had heretofore put off visiting this bar in the terminal, figuring it would be the coolest of all the booze joints at the airport. I had been holding off so that I could savor the moment. I'd hit the wine bar, the Gordon Biersch outpost, and even tried to sneak into the Admirals Club (that's for another Bouncer). All that was left was the San Francisco original, Anchor Steam.
Can anyone tell me any business that started small and got big that didn't start to suck? Maybe the folks at Anchor Steam know that the average shmuck who dines at their airport establishment has probably never even heard of its beer. Maybe the licensing fees to have a restaurant at SFO are so gigantic that prudent business people have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Maybe power corrupts.
I had just returned from an epic adventure in L.A. For starters, the bed-and-breakfast that I was staying at had a very special guest the entire time I was there: Robert Carradine, aka Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds. When I realized who he was I screamed out loud; luckily only his wife was there. She and I had bonded about other things before that, like Eckart Tolle, grape harvesting, and her time as a ski rescuer. "What are you doing in town?" I asked her. She said she and her hubby were doing a reality show. I figured he was the director or something.
"It's about nerds; how to find the best nerd," she said. I was intrigued. She said there were competitions, so I casually said, Oh, like on Revenge of the Nerds.
"Yeah!" she said, adding that Booger was one of the hosts. As soon as the mellifluous word "booger" escaped her lips I shot up, shrieking with glee. Eventually she admitted that her husband was Lewis.
It was like everything in my life had led up to that point. She made me promise not to talk to him or let him know that I knew who he was; he is very private. (She wasn't kidding ... he said zero words to anyone, ever.)
Anyway, once I touched down in San Francisco I was looking forward to re-S.F.ing myself at Anchor Brewery. I do love L.A., but a little goes a long way. Especially since I was behind Lita Ford at the security checkpoint and had to sit there while she corralled her two Chihuahuas. At least they weren't wearing shoes that had to be taken off and put back on again.
I pulled up a chair at the brewery and peeked at the food that others were eating. It looked godawful, like something you would get in a Kentucky junior high school free lunch program. I must say that you can order a gigantic beer for a reasonable price, though why anyone would drink that much fluid before a flight is beyond me, since I despise plane lavatories.
I was still excited to have seen Lita Ford, a woman who hangs out with the Osbournes, knew Kim Fowley, and had probably the corniest hard rock song of the '80s, "Kiss Me Deadly."
"You heard of her?" I said to the guy next to me.
"Of course," he said, "I'm over 40." He told me that he bumped into Owen Wilson in Berkeley last week, literally, but that Wilson was very apologetic for bashing into him. This is the part where we began listing off brushes with fame, which was doubly odd since we had just met. It must be strange to be a famous person and realize that the person who helped you with your rental car will probably set off a ripple effect of reportage. He will tell his wife that he helped you, she will tell her sister, the sister will tell her boyfriend, etc. Heaven forbid that you might've been in a shitty mood that day, or forgot to tip. I guess it makes sense that Carradine's wife would be protective of him. I mean, some nutty female fan who can quote every line in your movie and who writes a culture column in a local weekly could base her entire opinion of you from that one chance encounter.
And so it goes, actually, with the Anchor Steam Brewery in the airport. One critic can wander in and declare you unfit to exist anymore in the cutthroat world of craft brewing. Any awards you have won, any groundbreaking beers you have created in the past, all poured down the drain once a beer snob realizes that you sold out. But shit, you did sell out, Anchor Brewing. I know, it's not like you were Nirvana on Sub Pop before but you did have some sort of foodie cache. You're breaking my heart here. It's like when you go overseas and see that Daniel Day-Lewis has done an Orangina commercial.
Here's the good news: Once you leave the terminal and pass security, you can't go back. It's like the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco International Airport never really existed.