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Bouncer: At the Lone Palm, mulling Prop. 8 and dead German tourists 

Wednesday, Aug 18 2010

And the winner for Best Bar Snacks goes to ... the Lone Palm! Every table in the bar has bowls of various nummies: cheddar Goldfish, Tokyo mix, crunchy whatsits, nutty buddies, and salted charmkins. Better still, the bartenders don't seem to mind when you grab bowls from several tables and put them all in front of you. Still, I always try to do this as stealthily as possible. Usually I will grab a bowlful and trade it for a now-empty bowl, so at least the table still has pottery on it, which can of course then be refilled by said barkeep.

I went to the Lone Palm not once but twice last week, both times with work colleagues from my various vocations. It's the perfect place to hang out with pals and talk smack. It is, dare I say it, romantic, with a sort of Deco feel. Classic black-and white-movies play on the TV instead of sports; it's loud enough that you won't be overheard, but quiet enough for you to actually have a conversation. And when you walk in, I guarantee the bartender will smile at you. That is all I have ever really asked for in a bar.

Last week was a strange one. Firstly, it was cold. Really cold. Cold enough to be aggravating. Along with the chill came the fact that there was very little sunshine, so I found myself slipping into seasonal affective disorder about four months too early. I need my rays. Then a small beam of light pierced the clouds from Proposition 8 being struck down. I happened to be on the J when it happened, so a parade of revelers blocked Market Street for about 20 minutes.

"Oh, another protest!" the elderly man beside me said.

"They aren't protesting," I said. "They are celebrating."

He hurrumphed in reply. "It's my tax dollars that pay for this nonsense," he snorted.

A voice inside my head said I should shut up and let the curmudgeon curmudge, but I couldn't help myself. "It's their constitutional right," I iterated, which invited more grumbling. I knew he had no idea what Prop. 8 was; thankfully, we didn't get onto the subject of gay rights, because I'm sure he would've had some more jewels to drop.

Prop. 8 was on our minds at the Lone Palm, and although I was with two gay women, we all seemed to have differing opinions. "M" found it to be a hollow victory, since she sees gays getting married as acquiescing to a heterocentric society. I likened her view to Malcolm X decrying the practice of lightening one's skin so as to look more "white," while he was still militant. I was intrigued, because I had never heard this anti-gay-marriage argument.

Earlier in the day, I had had a spirited discussion with two Mormon missionaries about the same thing. I had just finished watching the American Experience two-part documentary on their religion, and was overjoyed to encounter them in the lobby of a Castro apartment complex. We talked about Joseph Smith and all that good Mormon stuff. They seemed impressed with my breadth of knowledge, which I owed to Internet cramming the night before (it would all be forgotten in a few days, as such things go). As with most members of outsider religions, they seemed awestruck that I could know so much about them but not feel compelled to join. They told me that after they heard the "good news" for the first time, they signed right up. But I told them I could never be a part of their clan, because they were the main people behind Prop. 8. (I left out the part about how I don't believe in God, which would also be an impediment.)

Back at the Lone Palm, my other friend was defending gay marriage. "You might not want to get legally married," she told M, "but some people do, and they should have that right." I agreed. Marriage seems like an ink blot: Everyone sees something different in it. M sees the patriarchy; I see a sexless, soul-draining institution built on the outdated idea of monogamy. Potayto, potahto.

Then came the last element of the week, which was the German woman who was shot and killed downtown, near the Ruby Skye nightclub. I find this story very sad; it also struck me that people get shot all the time in the Bay Area, and those shootings don't seem to hit me as hard. Maybe because she was a schoolteacher, middle-aged, and on vacation — something I do every year with my middle-aged schoolteacher mother. I thought about the German woman's husband, who had to figure out how to get her body home from a strange country. Where was her body? It was in some bureaucratic American freezer while he had to sort through this and pull it together enough to make the arrangements. It was this aspect of the killing that struck me the most. I don't know why.

So I made two visits to the Lone Palm in one week, both of them cold, both of them in a post–Prop.-8 world, worrying about a German man's psyche. I moved on to my second bowl of Goldfish, which, when push comes to shove, are my favorite bar snacks. I could leave the Lone Palm, I thought, and get hit by a bus and die. I would be in a freezer. I wondered whether my passing would garner a mention on Wikipedia's notable deaths page. After all, it mentions psychology professors from Akron and stuff, so maybe a columnist from San Francisco could get a little space. Is that too much to ask? Happily, I didn't start thinking about who would show up at my funeral, which is what I usually do when my seasonal affective disorder rears its ugly head. I am making progress. Things are looking up.

When I walked to BART, I wrapped a scarf around my neck several times, but I made sure I could still see well enough to avoid any buses. Damn, it was cold.

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Katy St. Clair

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