... Yes, there really is nothing better than roamin' in the gloamin' in Nob Hill. You can only do so much wandering, though, before thirst or hunger begins to strike, and then you come to the realization that there ain't no such thing as a $4 burrito in these parts. Most of the bars and restaurants here are in luxury hotels. I love them, don't get me wrong, but I am always reminded why I return only once a year.
Last week I was with my friend Allen, who stopped every few steps to log into Foursquare on his phone. When I pointed out the Big 4 Bar, he began to sweep and type with his fingers, quickly realizing that no one he knew had checked in there yet and he could be on his way to becoming "mayor" there. I haven't figured out how I feel about our new ability to tell what our friends are doing at every given moment; worse still is the idea that some people need to share this stuff with others because it is supposedly interesting.
The door to the bar is imposing. It just says "The Big 4" on an awning that hangs down grimly, giving no indication that there is a party on the other side. I'm sure this is to keep out the riffraff, but if there is one thing this riffraff has learned, it is that if you walk into a place that wouldn't normally have you as though you go there all the time, no one will really bat an eye. I was wearing black jeans, Adidas, and a ratty old Amoeba sweatshirt. Allen was in a similar outfit. We trundled up the stairs and sat at the bar, defying anyone to question our right to be there. This is one thing I love about San Francisco. I am sure that other big, fancy cities are less accommodating to outsiders. That is just not our way.
The first thing you notice when you enter the bar is how dark it is; even after your eyes adjust, you will have a hard time seeing across the room. This is perfect for all the famous people who stay here and do not want to be bothered or recognized. (It also helps your cause if you are ugly.) The decor is early-20th-century, which may be based on the fact that the "Big 4" refers to the railroad industry. There is a lot of wood and beveled glass, and amber globes buried in brushed-crystal sconces.
The bartender made us feel very welcome, although the people around us seemed to get a bit prickly and sniffy, in a "Well, I never!" sort of way. The woman to my right actually moved her stool farther away from me. Then she methodically pulled her soup bowl, breadsticks, and white wine along with her. I used to be disgusted by such things. Now I try to be amused...