One thing people learn about me pretty quickly is that I am ridiculously prompt. "Meet me at my house at 7," friends will say, so I'll show up at 6:59, and they'll answer the door, often still in their bathrobes, with quizzical looks upon their faces.
"You said seven, right?" I'll say.
"Uh, yeah," they'll respond. "Right ..."
I suppose I should keep up some mystery about myself and show up 20 minutes late to everything, as if I have a life or something. But nope, I'm driven to be prompt. The main sucky thing about being on time, all the time, is that 90 percent of the population is late. I suppose that's fine when the person I'm meeting is still in a bathrobe, but has cable TV on and an open box of Cheez-Its on the coffee table. The times it sucks for prompt folks like myself are when I'm supposed to meet someone in public, and I get there on the dot — probably even a little early — and then have to wait for more than an hour for the person to arrive. I am mildly annoyed ten minutes in, then pursing my lips and looking at my watch at 20. By 30 minutes I am boiling, steamin' mad. It's really irrational, I know it. But grrrrr.
"Meet me at the new Benders at 10," my friend said. He very much has a life and is always late. The logical thing for me to do would be to tell myself 10:30, then hope he gets there by 11.
So I showed up in the Mission at the new Benders at 9:30. It's the "new" Benders because the old Benders burnt to a crisp a year and a half ago. Before that, the bar was the place for scruffy rawk types, punks and metal dudes, and the molls who ran with them. Someone poured an accelerant all over the door and lit it. The owner, Johnny Davis, had no idea who could've done such a thing. A disgruntled patron who got 86ed? Neighbors who didn't appreciate all those long-haired rock 'n' roll types milling about? The event seemed singularly senseless and cruel. Still, Johnny is an upbeat sort. After it happened I even joked with him about the downside of letting members of a band called High on Fire hang out there.
What makes a bar great is that certain, oh, shall we say, "patina" a place gets after years of wear and tear. The old Benders patina was particularly becoming, like the basement party pad of your cool cousin who bought you beer in high school and ogled your friends kinda creepily, but you still loved him.
I'm happy to say that the rebuilt Benders, despite shinin' like a new penny, still holds that vibe. It's the same place, same layout. When you walk in, the bar is to your left. Go up a few steps and you have the billiards area. Go to your right, and tables line the walls. The most striking change is the bar itself, which is made out of some lovely wood that is just waiting to have "I [heart] pussy" carved in with some keys. The word is just getting out that Benders has reopened, and slowly but surely the bedraggled black-metal set is returning, like swallows to Capistrano. And hey, you know what? The swallows come back to Capistrano at the same time every year. They are never late. They must not have a life.
My watch said 9:45. I ordered a Maker's on the rocks. I waved to someone I work with at Thee Parkside, but other than that, I knew no one. The bar housed a smattering of your basic Mission types, hipsters, and heshers.
My thoughts turned to Bernie Ward, the KGO talk-radio host who discusses religion, philosophy, and politics. He is what you would call a dyed-in-the-wool "moderate," so he doesn't hold that same whacked-out right-wing charm I usually go for in talk radio. As a result, I never listen to him, but I used to, and I really like the guy. He just got busted for downloading child pornography. He claims he is innocent, and that it was for research purposes. I suppose, as I am a reporter of sorts, that this could be true. I have also been fascinated with pedophiles, and spent about two years visiting a big online chatroom of theirs for a story. Being a reporter of sorts myself, I was definitely doing it for research. However, I never went near porno. You would have to be an idiot to do that. First, why would you want to see something that upsetting? It was bad enough hearing what some of these guys had to say about their predilections.
Secondly, it's really, really hard to get your hands on that stuff. You have to forge relationships with people online, then meet them in person to see what they are all about ... and so they can see what you are all about. You can't just go online and say, "Hey, know where I can get some kiddie porn? Mmm-mmm good!" Pedos are a paranoid, careful lot. So this gives me pause about Ward's story. You have to be dedicated and put in a lot of time to get to the smut. There's also the fact that he once studied to be a priest. However, I hope he is telling the truth, and that his intentions were pure.
I looked at my watch, and it was 10:15. I was mildly annoyed. I was running out of things to think about. Ike Turner had died, another person I like for his work despite the accusations leveled at him. I could run with that, so I did for a little while, humming "Rocket 88" to myself. The important thing about waiting for someone to show up is that you mustn't look as if you are waiting for someone to show up. Then, heaven forbid, if they never show, you don't look like a gigantic loser.
The bartenders were laughing about something and I had a pang to join in, but I was feeling sort of solitary. Waiting for people who are late always makes me feel solitary.
You know what? Fuck this, I thought. I've spent my whole life waiting for people. Why sit here all by myself, thoughts wandering to pedophilia, when I could be home, watching my Netflix and eating Cheez-Its? And what is going through the head of the person who keeps someone waiting for almost an hour? Grrr.
The barkeep asked if I wanted another. I said no, getting up and putting on my jacket like I had an engagement elsewhere with someone exciting whom I had kept waiting. "Gotta run," I said with a wave, leaving a tip. I texted my friend that I was leaving so don't bother showing up, buttcheek. I mean, jeez. I have a life, you know.