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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bouncer and the Drunks at the White Horse Tavern Have a Fascinating Conversation About... Grass

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 2:53 PM

From the latest Bouncer column:

The White Horse Tavern.
  • The White Horse Tavern.

Did you know that the majority of the world's sod comes from grass fields in Oregon? This blew my mind when I found out -- or perhaps my fascination with ground cover indicates I have developed Asperger's Syndrome. But think about it: Anywhere in the world that a sport is played on grass, or someone has built a new home and installed a lawn, or some avant-garde designer has decided to make a ball gown out of a graminoid, they most likely have Oregon to thank. I was driving past these grass farms last year and marveling at the empire that sod built. While other moguls were plotting to overtake the cut-flower market, some smartypants realized that grass was far more ubiquitous and profitable. What could he do but laugh maniacally and rub his garden-gloved hands together with glee?

So imagine my delight when the conversation turned to grass versus Astroturf during a recent visit to the White Horse Tavern. It had heretofore been very difficult to steer conversations with strangers to lawn husbandry, but on this evening the subject came up without any prodding on my part. It was during the last, fateful 49ers game, third quarter. Optimism still ran high, and folks were on their seventh and eighth pints. It was a good time to be a San Franciscan.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bouncer Finds Solace in a Sea of Misery at Twin Peaks Tavern

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Twin Peaks, a comforting Castro tavern.
  • Twin Peaks, a comforting Castro tavern.

From this week's Bouncer column:

The Twin Peaks is soothing. It is soothing from the outside, where the amber-lit patrons look like San Francisco's answer to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. It is soothing from the inside, where older men huddle around tables and talk about neighborhood gossip.

If I am lucky, I can get a window seat and watch the busy intersection out front. If I'm really lucky, people will be walking their corgis or bulldogs past. If I'm really, really lucky, the nudists are out in full force.

I needed to be soothed; it had been a hard week. I wanted to feel like I was part of something without actually having to actively participate, and what better place to do that than at a bar? Twin Peaks is a parlor, it's someone's living room, it's a salon. I just wanted to sit there with my book and occasionally look up at people who seemed content.

I was doing what I usually do when I am feeling down: reading about people who are worse off than me. That's not hard to do, because I don't have much to complain about. Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship fit the bill, though; during Black History Month I usually read some civil rights thing, but this year I decided to delve further into history.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bouncer Battles a Weirdo at Aub Zam Zam

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 4:30 AM

From this week's Bouncer column:

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"MAN DIS WAS 1 OF MY FAVORITE SHOWS HERE!!! BARBRA ENDEN WAS "SEXY" AS HELL HAHAHAHA!!!!!! MN WISH I HAD A JEANNE LIKE DAY!!! WHEW!!!" -- Facebook post about I Dream of Jeannie from one of my old high school classmates, Jan. 9.

Most people avoid old classmates on Facebook, but not me. I love to get the updates from the super-Christians, the Republicans, the avid bicyclists, the homemakers, the gangstas, the divorcees, and the antisocial psychopaths who were all in my class.

The fellow I have quoted above did not strike me as being completely fucking dumb in high school, but he has definitely proven himself as such online, much to my morning coffee routine's delight. This post made me spit out my Philz, and I spent the rest of the day muttering "Wish I had a Jeanne like day, whew!" under my breath whenever I saw something I liked (cute dog, cute baby, cute cupcake).

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bouncer Seeks Shithole Glory -- And Finds it at the Lucky Spot

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

From this week's Bouncer column:

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And so it was on the first day of 2012 that I found myself inside a bar that had called to me on many occasions. Yet until now my soul had not been ready to heed the clarion. I speak of course of Vieni Vieni Lucky Spot -- and a more gay and frolicsome establishment I know not of. In short, the joint is a shithole. A glorious, glorious shithole.

I covet any of the last remaining true dives in this city, and by passing them by time and again, saving them for "later," I suppose I am making some vain attempt at their preservation. It's like a kid who saves all his Halloween candy all year, or a housewife who never burns her cinnamon-scented candle in the shape of a duck. Many a time have I walked past the Lucky Spot and peered inside, and many a time has a patron beckoned me in with a "Hey! Where ya goin'?" I felt their pull but never gave in. Not even when I saw a man at the bar with long, gray, curly hair and a top hat who was quite obviously the father of Slash.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bouncer: SOMA Bar DaDa Doesn't Quite Live Up to Its Name

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 8:52 AM

From this week's Bouncer column:

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I have many lifelong friends, but my memory is longer and clearer when it comes to the nuts I have known. I am generally docile and sedentary, but get me next to someone funny with a mischievous streak and some sort of switch goes off inside me, and our Wonder Twin powers activate. This has led to some bad employment situations, at least for my bosses, who have had to separate me from other people so that we could actually get something done. All I need is another Sweat Hog, and it's on.

"Jesus, you remember everything," said my old friend Karl, with whom I reunited last week. I do indeed remember a ton of stuff from hanging out with him, primarily because he ranks as one of the biggest nuts I have ever known. We went to high school together, but didn't become friends until we graduated and got our first apartment together that summer.

He was unique. If he didn't like something, he said that it was "stink stank stunk!" He found some seriously warped porno mags and would do dramatic readings from them: "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: Bang my box, not my poop chute!" He was an odd duck in other ways. He wasn't particularly hot, but he always scored with super hot chicks. He was completely apolitical and didn't drink, which also set him far apart from me. But he was funny. "Why don't I like folk music?" he would ask, mock-wistfully. "Well, I can think of three reasons ..." then this voice would switch to a building anger: "Peter ... Paul ... AND MARY!"

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bouncer Finds That Even The Man Supports Occupy (Well, Sorta)

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

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From this week's Bouncer column:

I like bars for the same reason I like Facebook: I can come face-to-face (literally and metaphorically) with people who have different opinions than I do. When I was growing up in the middle of Illinois, liberals were hard to come by, so I couldn't wait to head west and surround myself with other radicals. Once I arrived here and realized that everyone felt the same way, I quickly got bored. Not only that, but something really terrible happened: I began to move to the center. Being a journalist helped with that -- you can have a political hypothesis, but once you actually go out and test it through reporting, you see that the world is not all black and white.

Not surprisingly, my favorite watering holes consist of strange mixtures of people. These are usually places that straddle more than one neighborhood. Case in point, Sutter Station on Market, which caters to a trickle of tourists from the Embarcadero, blue-collar guys who work in the nearby hotels, suits who want to find a place to drink where they will not run into any of their co-workers, and a few scruffy sorts cashing in their recycling change. It's also down the street from my own day job, so I dip in on occasion to escape the maddening crowd.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bouncer Gets a Pre-Flight Glass of Reality at Vino Volo in SFO's Terminal 2

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 3:17 PM

From this week's Bouncer column:

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For people-watching, airports are second only to hotel lobbies. In fact, they might even be better, since there is a larger mixture of human oddity at the airport: Businessmen, bratty kids, pasty musicians, and bloodthirsty terrorists all scurry about on their merry way, while I sit in self-righteous judgment of all of them. My vacation begins at the security gate.

When I traveled earlier in the year, there was much indignation about the all-over body scan thing that we all had to pass through. I don't see what the big deal is -- I just pretend I am bionic and it is the opener to my television show. On my most recent trip, no one was bitching about the machine, but there was still that same, baffling 4 percent of the population that never got the "no liquids" memo and want to argue about their confiscated Axe Deodorant Body Spray.

Once I am through the gauntlet, my next stop is always a bar -- drinking before a flight is really dumb and always makes me sick, but I love to watch other people do it.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bouncer Finds the Imperfections Charming at Melt!

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 12:24 PM

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From this week's Bouncer column:

My favorite line from Vacation is uttered by Cousin Eddie: "I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself." I feel the same way about Melt! in North Beach -- it's a fondue restaurant, but it works much better as a bar. Just look at the people there at any given time; you are more likely to see them sipping wine or beer and listening to the live music than eating the $20 fondue. In fact, the first time I wandered inside I didn't even know it was a restaurant. It took me about 40 minutes to realize that they served food. This was partly because that's how long it took for a waiter to come by my table, but who's countin'?

Another odd thing about Melt! is the exclamation point at the end of the name. It doesn't fit. For one thing, the process of melting cheese is not an extreme sport. A more proper name would be "Melt...," or maybe they could throw in a schwa. Nothing happens quickly at this place, and that adds to its European charm. It looks like a tiny cafe on a cobblestone street in the Alps. The tables and chairs are scattered somewhat randomly, half-read newspapers and Penny Saver-type periodicals are left on various counters, and it's small and cozy.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bouncer: On Missing Jesse Morris, San Francisco's Punk Rock Johnny Cash

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

From this week's Bouncer column:

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At times I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of suicide -- not my own, but other people's. I visit suicide memorial websites and read each blurb. I always look at the recent suicide postings on Wikipedia. It was there that I learned of the death of one of the men behind the social network site Diaspora: He killed himself in our city, at the age of 22, on Nov. 12. This means that he was still around on the 11th, feeling awful and hopeless. I was tooling around town that day, going about my business, being annoyed with stupid shit, and he was still alive.

Known as San Francisco's Punk Rock Johnny Cash, Jesse Morris, killed himself on Nov. 6. Anyone who ever visited the 24th Street BART station has heard him busking; he looked like Wattie from the Exploited, but sounded exactly like the Man in Black. His voice echoed through the station and would follow me up the escalator. Because of him, I frequently went to work with "Folsom Prison Blues" stuck in my head. Sometimes this pissed me off. Other times I wished he would sing new songs. But most of the time I felt grateful for him. This is how our brains work -- we can be programmed to be bummed out or happy, and external things can stoke our despair or feed our bliss. I call it a Brain Fork: We can go either way, depending on how much force pushes us in either direction. We can see a busker as an annoyance, or a rose to smell. (Okay, maybe that is a bad metaphor for a street musician. But you catch my drift.)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bouncer Steps into the Twilight Zone at the Saloon, SF's Oldest Bar

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM

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From this week's Bouncer column:

I have a few personal earworms that periodically run through my head. Every time I turn on the furnace at home, for example, I sing Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On." When I go to the Pet Club to buy guinea pig kibble, I hum "In Da Club." I have invented my own song for Trader Joe's, a song to the tune of "It's So Easy" ("It's so easy to shop TJ's, it's so easy when you're shoppin' TJ's"). I admit that these things might contribute to my still being single. Bed Bath & Beyond also brings up a familiar refrain: It's not a song, but the word "Beyond" always echoes in my head, as if uttered by an disembodied deity. I think it would be rad to turn the corner from the mattress pads and see billowing clouds and a golden escalator going up, up, up into eternity. Then "One Step Beyond" by Madness kicks in.

There are bars that remind me of the great beyond because they are composed of two parts, a front and a back, and the back is generally shadowy and (often) uninviting. There is a Twilight Zone episode just waiting to happen in these places. This occurs mostly in "shotgun"-style bars, where the actual bar itself stops halfway down the room, and the rear is filled with chairs. The Attic is such a bar, although it does a great job making the back seem inviting and cozy. Others are less successful with the no-man's-land space. The Sea Star comes to mind, and the Saloon on Grant.

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