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Bouncer acts like a classy masseuse at the Mandarin Oriental 

Wednesday, Jun 9 2010

I absolutely love hotel bars — they are my very favorite. I love how in San Francisco you can walk into any fancy hotel and sit in its bar, even if you can't afford a room there. I love how I can show up at a place like the Mandarin Oriental in a ripped, paint-spattered Amoeba T-shirt; jeans; and scruffy Converse and get the royal treatment. The staff have to be nice to everyone, because who knows, I could be Lady Gaga's masseuse or something. Or I could just be a rich person who dresses like a slob (although when you are wealthy and a slob, you are referred to as eccentric).

Suffice it to say that I was looking quite eccentric when the doorman opened the glass portal to the Mandarin. Once inside the vestibule, I headed left, toward the bar. The actual counter has only four stools, but before it lays a vast expanse of luxurious nooks and cozy sofas, all decorated in rich brocades and tasteful textures. There is a definite oriental theme in the design, of course, but you aren't hit over the head with Madame Wu's Opium Den. It is all very lovely, though I don't really care for brass fixtures, of which there were many.

There was a couple eating dinner at one table, and three people discussing some business venture at another. "When I opened the St. Regis in Tokyo ... ," one man was saying to another guy dressed like a chef and an Asian woman.

I ordered a coffee and was happily surprised to see that it came in a cup and saucer with biscotti. I picked the most comfy-looking sofa, sat back, crossed my legs, and held my cup and saucer like the Queen Mum at the Derby.

I simply watched the people come and go, which is one of the best things about hotels. The Mandarin Oriental's bar is perfect for this because it's adjacent to the front desk, so you see people in the bar as well as everyone who is staying at the hotel. A dude walked in, handsome and a bit careworn, but with longish hair and a tan. Analysis: An outdoorsy type who retired early and travels the world rock-climbing. Three young girls pranced in, giggling, in halter dresses and fancy flip-flops. Analysis: Gossip Girls' weekend getaway on daddy's dime. A couple checked in. He was stout, bald, and dressed like a golfer; she was pretty, blond, and about 20 years younger. Analysis: No way would a guy who looked like him get a woman who looked like her unless he were rich.

The couple seemed to examine me as closely as I examined them, no doubt coming to the conclusion that Lady Gaga must be in town and in need of a good rolfing.

I sipped my coffee and realized that as I sorted all the guests, I was doing something that is entirely rare for me. I was living in the moment. I wasn't thinking about what I would do next, or worrying about shitty things about my day thus far, or plotting a coup. I was just sitting there, watching people, and enjoying my drink. Maybe that is why I love hotel bars. Time stops.

The man who opened the St. Regis was debating whether they should go to "the German restaurant" or to "the Thai one." I, of course, thought he must be referring to the nearby Schroeder's, everyone's favorite oompah lounge, so I had to interrupt with a "Hear hear!" He was very jovial and friendly, and said that he was actually talking about Suppenküche in Hayes Valley. Of course. People like that wouldn't appreciate beer served in a barrel. Still, he was appreciative of my input, and thanked me profusely. In fact, a bit too profusely. Look, dude, I can't get you any Lady Gaga tickets, so buzz off.

By this time, I was feeling really good. I had indeed had a shitty day, full of melancholy and woe, and only by stepping into the Mandarin did I begin to feel better. No one knew I was there. No one could bug me. No one knew who I was. I could be in any mood that I wanted at that point. I could start the day over at 10 p.m.

I gave the bartender my credit card, and she told me that she liked my name. Here is where I shall reveal a deep, dark secret, gentle reader, and that is that my first name is not Katy. It is Anneliese. I get a lot of compliments on the name, which for me holds no real meaning. I don't know this "Anneliese" person. But I always tell the same story when people comment on it: When I was in Amsterdam, visiting the Anne Frank house, I saw a copy of her birth certificate and learned that her full name was Anneliese. From then on, I have felt proud to share the name with her.

"I couldn't bring myself to see her house when I was there," the bartender said, and we commenced to discuss the entire continent of Europe for about 10 minutes. She was delightful.

So I realized that there, in the Mandarin Oriental, I was Anneliese, not Katy, and I was in a good mood, not a crappy one, and I had a fabulous life as a high-paid masseuse. Life was good.

Follow her on Facebook at "Katy St. Clair's Bouncer Column."

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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