Trax may be the most laid-back gay bar in town. On a Friday, a mixed crowd numbers about two dozen. Four televisions are tuned to Fox Sports, and '80s rock fills the air. "It's very low-key," says Derek, kicking it with a friend. "In San Francisco, you either have your Castro tourist traps or your SOMA sex/meat markets, so this is a nice alternative."
Down the bar, Tim also appreciates the scene -- or lack thereof. "You don't have to worry about wearing your muscle shirt; you don't have to do your hair," he explains. "You can just hang out and not be ashamed that you used to listen to AC/DC in high school."
The same spirit pervades Hobson's Choice, up the block at Clayton. At this homey neighborhood saloon, attire hits extreme levels of easygoing, including Birkenstocks, a softball jersey, and sneakers with a corduroy purse. AC/DC's "The Jack" is followed by downtempo hip hop. As befits a Victorian punch house, the décor is rich with wood molding and plump, velvety couches. In the upstairs lounge, Steve shares a love seat with Lisa, his hand stroking her thigh as they sip Hobson's wickedly potent rum punch. Steve lives a block away, leading to speculation that this is where he comes to seduce the ladies.
"Yeah, this is where I bring the babes to get them nude," Steve grins.
"Oh, you said '"in the mood.' Right."
With that settled, we travel a few doors farther up Haight to Aub Zam Zam, where pristine arches and a gorgeous Persian mural make for an elegant -- though still informal -- drinking experience. Out celebrating a friend's birthday, Lou mourns the death last year of owner/"Martini Nazi" Bruno Mooshei. "That guy had the touch, I swear; those were the best martinis in the world," Lou says. Of course, the new Zam Zam has benefits, too. For example, the notoriously strict Mooshei would surely have 86'd Lou and company due to their predilection for shooting drunken group photos.
Meanwhile, up near Shrader at the venerable skankhole known as Murio's, you'll find the neighborhood's most motley crew -- from tattooed rockers to crusty old-timers to a dude who has fashioned his hair into a pair of insectlike antennae. Apparel runs from homely T-shirts to halter tops to Vanessa's pin-striped jacket. Everyone curses like he's getting paid by the "fuck."
"I could come down here wearing a fucking muumuu and it would be all right," Vanessa says. "It's a fucking dive bar. There's a deer on the wall."
Elsewhere, Chris continues the obscenity trend: "It's not a yuppie fucking stupid-ass place. The drinks are stiff; the fucking people are cool."
Then comes Betty, who stumbled into Murio's after aimlessly wandering the Haight -- like so many before her. "I was looking for a bar that was suitable to drinking, making merry, and not listening to no fucking jazz band," Betty says.
Without a doubt, she found the right fucking place.