There's a fine documentary series, The Bachelor, currently airing on television. A single American male with a garden-variety yet manly job, like firefighter or power broker, meets a slew of women, goes on dates, and whittles down the harem by one or two each week. In theory, he finds the woman he wants to marry in the end, and proposes to her on the last episode. The runner-up gets the real prize, though, because she'll go on to be The Bachelorette, earning her pick of 20 handsome young bucks in her own show. And the circle of life continues.
This season has been the best Bachelor yet. It features an airline pilot who likes "family values" and says he's all about heart appeal, not sex appeal. That explains why most of the women on the show are swimsuit models, wardrobe consultants, fitness experts, or spokesmodels. He certainly isn't about brain appeal.
There's one girl on the show, Ali, whom I've never liked. She's a blonde who wears pale-pink lip gloss and delicate eye makeup (which makes her an anomaly). She has this snottiness to her, this fake humility. She's L.A.-ish, but with a superiority that bespeaks culture. She reminds me of someone, and I just couldn't quite place who — until last week, when The Bachelor came to San Francisco. "I can't wait to show him around my town!" she said. Aha, I thought, so she's from here. And wouldn't you know it, the first place they headed to was her stamping ground, the Marina. Then I knew what bugged me about her. Ali is every East Coast J. Crew transplant I hate in this town. She's a phony two-faced ho who'll never have to work hard for anything in her entire life.
"Die die die," I muttered. I was sitting at the Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis, watching The Bachelor on my laptop until my friend arrived.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: I love hotel bars. The Clock Bar is one of my favorites because it's relatively small and overlooks one of the lobbies. It also has a ton of cozy seating and warm lighting. When I'm there I like to figure out who's a high-priced call girl, who's an out-of-towner, and who's a local trying to impress someone.
I'd buried myself into a sofa with my computer. All I needed was my cat and it would've been just like sitting at home. There were no potential hookers in the vicinity — at least, I hope the chick with the ill-fitting Chanel-knockoff suit wasn't charging for her services. An older man sat austerely in an easy chair, his legs slightly apart and his hand dangling his highball glass. He wore a thick, gold-braided bracelet on his right wrist. The staff kept walking past and greeting him by name, so I figured he was some high muckety-muck at the Westin. He kept staring at me and trying to "read" me, I suppose — that's what it felt like. I guess I didn't look like a high-class call girl, nor an out-of-towner, nor a local trying to impress someone.
Jake, aka the Bachelor, gave Ali a rose at the end of the show. Boo. I slammed my laptop shut. It's strange to think that Ali and I both live in this city and we've never met. She knows an entirely different aspect of San Francisco than I do, and runs in totally different crowds. Winona Ryder also lives here, and Tony Curtis. How come I've never run into either of them at Squat and Gobble? Strange.
Come to think of it, I've also never met the guy with the gold bracelet. He could very well have been born and raised here, 70 years ago (I'm guessing). Let's say he was working at the hotel in 1994 when I moved here. Now, so many years later, we are finally in the same room together. Maybe that's why he keeps staring at me.
But really, we've never met because we have nothing in common. Same goes for Tony Curtis and Winona Ryder. But, gentle reader, that is the fascinating thing about living in a big city — as large as it is, you do meet people with whom you share commonalities. I bet that all the ultimate Frisbee dorks in this town know each other. Ditto the black-metal heads. And the East Coast J. Crew hos. And the people who own Pembroke corgis. And folks who can't eat gluten. We all carve out our own niches.
When you sit at a hotel bar, you surround yourself with people with whom you'll never have anything in common. It's great entertainment, just like The Bachelor — which, God forbid, is full of people I hope I'll never have anything in common with.
I was beginning to wish I hadn't asked my friend to meet me at Clock Bar. It would destroy the feelings of alienation I was enjoying. I texted her and asked if we could go to Lefty O'Doul's instead — another strange, uncharted land where people who like buffets go to drink.
"Christ," she responded.
"Jesus," I wrote back. And that was all that we needed to say.