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Bouncer: Discussing law and billionaires at the Buena Vista 

Wednesday, Dec 1 2010

The Buena Vista Cafe is one of those so-called San Francisco institutions, like the Tadich Grill or the Cliff House. It bills itself as the birthplace of Irish coffee, but we all know that real Irish coffee was probably invented by a dipso named Stu who could not face going to work sober. People have been pouring whiskey into coffee since Pangaea split up and formed the continents. It's like the "invention" of the sandwich, made famous by its eponymous namesake, the Earl of Sandwich, who is credited with having the brilliant idea of putting pieces of meat between bread and then eating it.

The cafe is near Ghirardelli Square, so it's no wonder that I have never set foot inside, let alone in the vicinity. In fact, when researching how to get there on public transportation, it seemed that the most efficient way to arrive was by boarding a cable car at the Powell Street turnaround, something any self-respecting local would be reluctant to do.

But I am a rebel. I also stopped caring about looking cool somewhere during the first season of American Idol.

I was meeting an OK Cupid date at the stop, but I was not that nervous, which was odd. We boarded the car and chose a seat between the Australians and the Japanese. He was tall, dark, and handsome, just as advertised. We were chatting away merrily before a woman who looked a bit like the governess in Rebecca leaned in, eyebrow raised, and informed us that we really should give up our seats to the family with the baby. We felt immediately ashamed; I for one am very vigilant about such things on Muni and BART, but somehow got swept up in the Rice-a-Roni adventure we were on. However, the lady was such a bitch that I nonetheless wanted to break my foot off in her austere ass.

We continued on our way after ceding a seat. Here's the thing about cable cars: They are herky-jerky, and half the "fun" seems to be the danger of falling off at any time.

The car reached its terminus at the doorstop of the Buena Vista, and we went inside. I liked the place immediately. It was indeed old-school, and was packed to the rafters with fantastic San Francisco types. You know who I mean; they looked like their ancestors were ruddy-faced European peasants who swam over with their accordions on their backs and set up a new life here full of plastic sofa covers and bingo nights.

We took a seat at the counter in the back, and my date ordered a Mexican Irish coffee. I'm sure there is a joke in there, but I do not wish to offend, so I will let you create your own.

We commenced to talking about his work. He is a lawyer, and he is about to embark on his own personal-injury practice. I have never met anyone who did this for a living. I tried to picture him posing authoritatively in front of a bunch of casebooks for his phone-book ad.

He wants to make money, which is okay in my book, and he says that this type of law is the most lucrative. But he is not a vulture; he also likes helping people get what they deserve, on either side.

From there, we talked about what to do if you get pulled over for a DUI (opt for the blood test; do not take the Breathalyzer) and, heaven forbid, what to do if you are a suspect in a murder (keep your mouth shut, no matter what). I can't see myself in either situation, but who knows? You must be prepared for anything.

The Buena Vista is a mixture of an old department store lunch counter and a place like Tosca; the drinks are set up on the bar ahead of time, since about 90 percent of the people in attendance will be ordering an Irish coffee. The bartenders keep churning them out. Every table was full of groups of people; I don't know why this struck me as odd. I suppose I am used to bars that are full of single imbibers. The servers were efficient but not overly bubbly.

I love to pick people's brains, so I asked my date about a million law questions. He told me that sexual harassment isn't such a big issue in law anymore; the big cash cow is gay harassment. And it's not so much that one incident will hurt a company — it's the companies that know that it is going on and ignore it that get hit with the big lawsuits. But even then, homophobic judges in the Bay Area have been known to throw out these cases no matter what. We have a long way to go.

But much money to make. He seemed slightly embarrassed that he was motivated by money, but I totally get it. When you have been working long enough, you start to enjoy not working, and the only way to reach that zenith is to start really earning. So you can stop working. Makes sense to me. The previous guys I have dated have rarely been to college, let alone held a job. The idea of dating someone with earning power was something new.

I got up and went to the bathroom. When I was washing my hands, I saw a book on the platform above the sink: Having the Billionaire's Baby. Now that is one shortcut to wealth. It was a Harlequin romance. I guess millionaires are old-school, like Thurston Howell. It is the billionaire that women fantasize about now. I thumbed through it and it was ridiculous, poorly written, and entirely absorbing.

"I wonder how it ends?" I asked my date.

"It has to have a happy ending," he said. I skipped to the last page and read this: "He was her husband now. The father of her child and the man she wanted to wake up next to for the rest of her days. How incredible and divine." I couldn't help but worry for the woman; any man with that much dough would have to acquire a mistress at some point. But that stuff never happens in Harlequin romances. The men are hard to catch — hence the plotline — but once you get them, they are monogamous.

We boarded the cable car for the ride back. This time it was almost empty, so we were in no danger of pushing little old ladies aside for a seat. I felt like the Bachelorette; what a generic S.F. date. But it was quite romantic on the car, actually. I liked him and wanted to see him again. If this was a romance novel, he would impregnate me and I would be Having the Six-Figure Salaried Guy's Baby. It would have a happy ending. It had to.

Follow Bouncer around town on Twitter @BouncerSF and like "Katy St. Clair's Bouncer column" on Facebook.

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Katy St. Clair

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