I have been reading a bunch of memoirs lately, like Patti Smith's Just Kids and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. There is a reason autobiography is so popular; nothing stimulates me more than a well-written first-person account of someone's life. I recommend both books highly, but I especially recommend the Walls book if you think you had a shitty childhood — it will give you some perspective. My lonely upbringing seems positively halcyon compared to the broken, backwoods blight of hers. It made me appreciate the things that my parents gave me, like indoor plumbing and a roof over my head.
I always had everything I needed, at least materially, when I was growing up. Now, I wasn't like that girl on Wife Swap, whose parents had the yearlong Christmas tree up so that they could continue to shower her with gifts, but I did make out well. I never really thought about it much until I read the part of Walls' book where she gets a new bike, which arrived like a winning lottery ticket. My bike was my favorite thing also. I felt the same way about it that a 16-year-old boy feels when he gets his first car. My bike brought me freedom and escape. My dad still likes to tell the story about when I first got it on Christmas morning and immediately went outside to ride it in three feet of snow.
If you try, you can think back to what it felt like to have your hands on the handlebars of your first bike. You can remember the satisfying thwack of the kickstand. There was something grownup about it, which was why it was so liberating.
Now that I am an adult, I realize that I spend most of my days trying to recapture the feeling of being a child pretending to be an adult. Every time I check into a hotel, I feel like a kid who has escaped the field trip and is having a solo sleepover. Whenever I board an airplane by myself, I feel like a very responsible little lady, and I make sure to connect with the flight attendant so that she knows I am traveling alone and may need some extra assistance.
I get the same feeling when I go into a bar by myself. In fact, I am convinced that adults who frequent bars by themselves are rekindling their childhoods. You feel like a 6-year-old who is left in the kitchen with the proverbial cookie jar, or that lucky fifth-grader whose parents didn't regulate her Halloween candy intake. Bars are not your job, or your house, or your relationship. They are a naughty escape.
I can't really say that there is anything outwardly "naughty" about the lounge area of CyBelle's Front Room in the Inner Sunset. But if you are lucky enough to score the sofa area by the fireplace, you can definitely feel like a little kid having a Mixed-Up Files sort of adventure. I showed up too late to sit in the lounge, so I took a table directly behind it, essentially the same area, only less cushy. It was the now infamous Giants-Dodgers opener, and everyone was dressed in orange and black and drinking pitchers of yella American beer.
The Front Room puts the "parlor" in pizza parlor. The space is Victorian, with dark greens and maroons. There is a painted portrait of a lady I like to call Mama Maloni over the mantel, and cozy tables on two levels.
Tim Lincecum was pitching. He looks like someone who would play Little League in my hometown, and I could easily picture him with some Big League Chew in his cheek, wearing a Plumbers and Steamfitters jersey. I used to ride my bike down to the park at the end of the street to watch the games. I had crushes on various players, principally a kid named Abe, who was short but could throw a mean fastball. He was a little fish in a tiny pond; although he was the Man in Little League, he was never good enough to develop into a professional player. He was pretending. He was acting like a grown-up, and we treated him like he was a star major leaguer.
I looked at the menu. CyBelle's has one of those red, yellow, and green monstrosities with oversaturated photographs of the selections and about 12 subsections of sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. Still, it was fun to sit there and order whatever the hell I wanted, with the game on, with bottomless drinks at my beck and call. I ordered a pizza so gross that even the waiter took pause: jalapeño, anchovy, capers, feta, and garlic. I call it the Date Eraser.
I didn't even really have to watch the game, because anytime anything interesting happened, the men who surrounded me would whoop or complain. In this way I kept a steady tally of how the game was going. I must say that I still find it exceedingly annoying when grown-ups clap at events that happen on a television set.
Once it became apparent that the game was not going to go well, I settled my bill and headed outside and called a cab. I could have hopped on the N-Judah or taken a bus, but I was pretending to be a grown-up, and that seemed like something that grown-ups do. I would never have done so, however, if I knew that I would have to wait more than an hour. I was out there for so long that the waiter brought me out a chair to sit on at the curb. After I spoke to the dispatcher for the third time, and realized he had been lying to me ("We went by twice but you were not there ..."), I broke kiddie character and became an adult bitch of the highest order. I told him I wished his testicles would shrivel and fall off, and that his dog would then accidentally eat them and then shit them out into an urn of his mother's ashes.
I have big ideas on how to improve S.F.'s pathetic cab system, but that is for another column.
For now, I am contemplating getting a bike. Again.