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We Try Harder to Abide 

Wednesday, Jul 30 2008

"You've seriously only ridden BART once?" my friend asked me as we boarded. "Seriously?"

"Yep," I replied. I suppose this was a fib. I think I have actually ridden it twice before, but that was long ago, when I wore a younger man's clothes, to quote Billy Joel.

"Pah-thet-tic!" he replied. I reminded him that I don't do public transportation, adopting my most old-money cadence.

We were heading to some fancy beer joint, the Monk's Kettle, which opened up on 16th Street near Mission. It was the kind of place that probably had obscure Basque brews for 15 bucks a bottle.

When we arrived it was packed to the honey-stained-oak rafters with people who could actually afford to buy entire rounds of $15 beer, so we said forget it. It was too bad, because I can picture monks beekeeping, singing, and even gardening, but standing around a kettle like the three witches in Macbeth? Count me way in. The only unsettling thing was that it also seemed to be a restaurant. What did they serve, gruel with a balsamic reduction? At any rate, I made a mental note to return.

We stood on the street and looked it up and down. Kilowatt? Been there. Dalva? Been there. Elixir? Been there. I felt like that comedian who does the Donald Trump impersonation where he looks over the New York skyline and says, "Own it, own it, don't own it yet, own it ..."

We settled on Delirium. Please don't make me describe the inside, as it is the same as so many others I have detailed: bar, stools, tables, pool table, low lighting. Let's face it, the real thing that sets off any bar is its clientele; Delirium's was tattooed rawk types and general slackers. The other thing that sets off a bar is the service, and although the bartender here was nice, it took him a while to stop talking to his friend and take our order, even though we were standing right in front of him. This happens a lot in bars that do good business, because I suppose they think that they don't have to bend over backwards to keep people coming back. You see, most other bars are like Avis, which had the slogan "We try harder." Delirium is the Hertz Rent a Car of hipster bars, I guess.

Speaking as a seasoned bar pro, however, permit me to analyze this phenomenon: When a bartender ignores you for no apparent reason, there are a few things that can be going on. The first is understandable. Let's say that a regular whom he doesn't know that well, but has a friendly rapport with, has sat down and started telling a story about how his cat got hit by a car. The bartender sees someone else walk up to the bar, but he can't very well excuse himself from the sad story because he will look insensitive. However, that shouldn't stop him from giving a little wave with a "hold on" finger point to the newcomer.

The second scenario is that the bartender is a dick, and he is talking about the Melvins show from a few nights back, and how he drank too much Powers whiskey that night, and oh-by-the-way did you see Gina was there with Jack? What the fuck was she trying to prove?

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone's cat had been killed by anyone else's car, so I fear the bartender was more than likely talking about the Melvins. At any rate, once he took our orders he was pleasant enough. He was just a dude.

"The Dude abides," I thought to myself. We had just seen The Big Lebowski, and that quote from it was coloring my world. For example, I noticed that there was no rug in Delirium, which is a shame, because it probably would have pulled the room together nicely, just like the one in Lebowski's pad.

My friend was determined to make The Big Lebowski my favorite movie, because it is his. "Did you love it?" he asked me for the fifth time on our way to the bar.

"Yes!" I said, exasperated. "It was great! Fantastic! Sublime!" But this friend knows me well, and he could sense that I didn't offer the orgasmic gushing I usually reserve for my most favorite things.

"Really?" He was pushing me.

"Okay, okay ..." I gave in. "It's a great movie, but it reminds me of setting off fireworks. What I mean is it's really more of a male movie. Men dig setting off fireworks, which hold zero interest to a lot of women, and men love The Big Lebowski much more than women do, too."

He threw up his hands, then suggested that I needed to see it five times before I could really appreciate its brilliance. I seem to remember being told the same thing about Weekend at Bernie's, and it was wrong. No, it was the sixth time that really sealed it.

I will say this, though: I am sort of fascinated by figuring out exactly what "The Dude abides" really means. Does it mean "Same shit, different day"? Maybe it's a slacker take on Waiting for Godot. I have a strong feeling that it is Buddhist, whatever it means. Perhaps on the fifth viewing it will all become clear.

I ran into a friend at a back table who had all of her teeth knocked out in a bike accident. She has no insurance and is desperately trying to raise $7,500 to fix them. I have dreams that my teeth have fallen out. I can't imagine how she feels. Still, she gamely keeps going out and living her life. The dudette, it seems, abides.

All in all, it was a very Seinfeld evening, with nothing much happening, save the occasional trip to the bar to wait for the bartender to notice me. My two male friends and I passed the time by talking about our first sexual encounters. "Mine was awful," said one, and went on to say that he didn't fit inside of his date. We just sort of stared at him. "What a nightmare," I deadpanned.

The second said his was awful, too. She got pregnant, and at the age of 15 they had to raise $300 for an abortion. I agreed that his was worse.

But then I brought up mine, which was pretty much date rape, with the guy bashing the sides of my head in and screaming in my face because I told him he was hurting me. In all, I had the number-one bad first-time experience of all of us. It was the Hertz Rent a Car of traumatic deflowering. I assured them that I am fine now, and that the guy who did it has been punished by living out the rest of his life as a total douchebag loser; a total failed-artist type. That dude is definitely not abiding.

The evening ended early and we walked out to the strains of Gish by Smashing Pumpkins. You usually never hear that record, just the band's later stuff. I liked Delirium for that. And you know what? The bartender even waved a modest goodbye to us and seemed to smile. He was indeed trying harder, which, in my book, elevates him to a number two.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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