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Bouncer Watches the Neighborhood at Mix 

Wednesday, Sep 28 2011

I pass the Mix all the time, and every time I do, some good song is playing: "Heart of Glass," "Karma Police," even Television's "Marquee Moon," once. Besides the Midnight Sun, which is a rowdy, fun place to watch TV finales, or Twin Peaks, which feels like a scene from a movie, the Mix is my favorite Castro bar. If you were wondering where the lesbians were hiding in this 'hood, look no further. It is indeed a "mix," of ages, genders, and orientations. That might not be other people's idea of a good bar, but for a straight girl who likes to people-watch, it's a great choice.

Happy hours and weekends at this place are insane, so I only duck in for a quickie during off-hours. I like to sit at the window in the front and watch everyone walking by, and there is usually someone else with the same idea, who doesn't mind the occasional sarcastic comment from me about the view. Sometimes, if I get lucky, the other person is even bitchier than me.

From the outside, the Mix looks tiny, but it gets bigger once you enter it. (I'm sure there is a sex joke in there somewhere, but I will leave that up to you.) Most people end up on the back patio after their third or fourth drink, probably chain-smoking after going five days without any nicotine. D'oh! In order to quit smoking, one must first quit drinking: This is the real secret. But I digress.

This evening I'm content to sit in the front of the bar, sippin' and gazin'. The day had been unusually hot, so many of the men walking by were shirtless. But I'm not looking at the men; what I really like to check out in the Castro are the dogs. I recognize most of them immediately.

There's a dog there I see all the time that I really like. He looks like a boxer mix, and he is always out in front of Starbucks with his owner and his owner's coffee-drinking buddies. He's an old soul with a salt-and pepper face — the dog, not the owner. In fact, I don't know if I have ever really even looked at his owner. I pass by them a few times a week for work, continuing on my way toward Church Street, past the Mix, then the psychic's house, then the shrine to the young woman who was killed on the corner, then the tea-sippers outside of Samovar, then the creepy guy who works at 7-Eleven, then the dry cleaner that became a men's boutique, then, finally, my developmentally disabled client's house. I spend so much time at this block of public housing that "LaTonya," the Grand Dame of the SRO where my client lives, has taken to calling me an honorary resident. When I arrive, I settle into one of the sofas in the main entrance to people-watch and gossip with LaTonya.

A lot of people think this building is a convalescent home. It looks a bit like a Soviet Bloc building; it certainly doesn't match any of the lovely Victorians that surround it. A guy across the street once planted some trees in front of the SRO, so that the view from his bay window would include something besides cement and glass. The residents were a bit offended. They take pride in their home, imperfect though it is.

I got the lowdown from LaTonya: The building manager found out that the heroin addict has three cats in his apartment and they are all feral; the crazy woman who forgets to put pants on most of the time is having "one of her days" and pacing in the garden; and a woman on the second floor flooded her apartment when her toilet continuously overflowed and the manager refused to turn off the entire facility's water to fix it.

Back at the Mix, someone finally plunked down next to me, a guy in a leather vest and leather pants — the last things I would wear in this heat. At least he dispensed with an undershirt. He tipped his Guinness at me and I tipped my drink back. "S'up?" I asked, unable to think of a greeting to artfully convey my comfort with his Leather Daddy status.

"Not much," he replied jovially.

"Me neither," I said. This was not going to be a gabfest, nor would we be making catty comments about the passersby. But I believe that we were both glad to be sitting next to someone. I feel very comfortable in the Castro; in some ways I know it better than any other neighborhood in the city. I knew that after I finished my drink I would head up the street, past Cliff's Variety — which I avoid because I always spend too much money — then the movie theater, then Hot Cookie, finally crossing over to the Muni station to go home.

I had almost finished my drink when I saw LaTonya scooting up the street on her Rascal. Behind her was the resident who owns the shih tzu that limps like Billy Barty. LaTonya was off to get some deal at Walgreens, no doubt. She buys a ton of stuff and then hands it out in the lobby of the SRO. She is always trying to give me toothbrushes, candy, or a chintzy seasonal animatronic toy, like a Wolfman on a motorcycle that plays "Born to Be Wild."

I take my last drink as she passes by. She doesn't notice me, but I'm pretty sure the shih tzu does. We are pretty tight.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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