Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, America!

I saw a girl punch another girl on the 4th of July. It wasn't even 9 p.m. AMERICA!

After a particularly angsty July 3rd, Cheryl decided we needed to do something on the 4th. At her urging, I decided that seeing actual fireworks wouldn't be such a bad thing. I usually avoid any and all crowded events because ugh crowds. But I was coaxed out of my usual introvert shell and made a plan to meet Cheryl in her neighborhood, the Marina, so we could grab dinner and then head over to the greens to grab a spot and see the fireworks.

We went to Dixie, which through Eater or Grubstreet or whatever, I heard had a big front porch where they'd be having cocktail specials where you could sit and watch the fireworks. But the patio was all reserved or something? I was hungry and annoyed at this point, and think this pretty young restaurant has some kinks to work out, so Cheryl and I sat in their large lounge area instead and had $5 cocktails and $5 burgers. Which, really, was quite the steal. The waiter, who I expected to dash off at any second for a Glee casting call after his guest starring spot in a sitcom as "sassy gay waiter", made the experience much more pleasant. Cheryl analyzed how despite Dixie selling itself as a place to see the fireworks, there was very little likelihood that you would actually be able to see them from there between the fog and the trees.

I'd recommend going to Dixie for apps and drinks because the actual dinner menu has chicken fried quail with roasted garlic waffles. What? No. Every Southern chef just cringed. You want Southern in SF? You go to Boxing Room (where I had gone the previous night, had Abita and fried alligator, and wanted to make the New Orleans native waiter with fantastic accent talk to me all night long). There's my recommendation you didn't ask for.

After dinner at Dixie, and with my brain not fully functioning and not really having a plan and it still being three hours 'til fireworks were set to go off, Cheryl and I moved the car closer to her apartment. Which puts us right in the thick of Union Street. Cheryl couldn't believe how crowded her neighborhood was. Uh. Yeah. That was my hesitation in going out. All the people. I guess it didn't occur to her that since 4th was midweek this year, all the Marina denizens didn't leave and stayed close to home. And day drank their asses off. Her neighborhood was a rowdy mess when we arrived at 7 p.m. I saw bouncers refusing reentry to guys because they were too drunk already. At 7. 

I wasn't really in the mood to continue drinking yet so I went and got a cup of tea. As we sat there discussing what the plan was, we both came to the conclusion that walking from Union Street to battle crowds on the greens was not gonna happen. Also: it was cold out. It had been a perfectly pleasant morning and afternoon but then there was the fog and the wind and the clouds. LOVE YOU, SF SUMMERS! #sarcasmfont

After tea we wandered down to try a new bar that just opened on Union called Lightning Tavern. I read about that on UrbanDaddy. (Look at me doing the cool kid things!) Guess what: It's a bar on Union. Like all the other bars on Union. Maybe they have great cocktails or something? But super packed on the 4th we got beers and headed to a corner to carve out a not crowded spot. Cheryl and I discussed the conservative political right's highjacking of moral superiority and the separation of church and state which turned into how speaking against government is actually more patriotic than going along, despite what Republicans would have you believe, and also discussed reproductive rights. I didn't mention it to her but I'd take a guess we were the only ones discussing such topics in a Marina bar at that exact moment. We're classy. Or something. 

I went to use the bathroom, as the line had finally reduced from 10 people to three for the one stall facility, and that's when shit got weird. I was waiting in line behind a girl who was making her boyfriend wait with her. She was annoying me by not respecting the wall as where the line should be, standing in the middle of the walkway, and I thought it was odd that she was so insecure she wouldn't wait in the bathroom line alone but made her boyfriend wait with her. I mean, it's the line for the ladies room, you make friends. As I observed her and gleaned her conversation, she was busy berating her boyfriend for whatever day drinking transgressions had occurred. He stood there and silently let her rattle on. The line wasn't moving quickly but if you've ever had the intense pleasure of waiting for a ladies room, you know this to be a universal truth. *I* am speedy about this process and no, I have no idea wtf they are doing in there but it's the Marina so let's go with coke. (Fun with stereotypes!)

Blonde girl with boyfriend is now next in line for the bathroom, leaning on an armoire thing that is adjacent to the door. I am behind her in line but on the other side of the walkway from her, leaving room for people to go up and down the stairs to the patio. A girl comes up behind me in line and eyerolls at the dramatic blonde and I say, "Oh no. This is fantastic people watching. She's yelling at him. Just wait." I am a horribawesome person, you guys. I had no idea how right I was about to be.

Blonde chick had apparently grown impatient, in her drunken state, with how long this was taking and double fist banged twice on the bathroom door. I could hear the girl who was in there bang back. Less than a minute later the girl who had been in the bathroom, a small brunette, opens the door. From five feet away I hear the brunette say, "Was that you who banged on the door? WTF?" The blonde, with her back to me, I can't hear completely says, "Yeah, I did..." and begins to snarl. A few more words are exchanged and then the blonde throws her drink on the brunette. Throws her drink! The brunette, shocked at being attacked by a drunk girl, says something else to the blonde who then PUNCHES HER IN THE FACE. I'm standing there in utter shock. Much larger boyfriend drags the blonde out of the bathroom entry and through the bar. But brunette now has the adrenaline of being punched in the face by some bitch kicking in and goes flying after the blonde and her boyfriend. Because of where the bathroom is in relation to the rest of the bar, I know that I'm the only sober (one drink at dinner over an hour ago and half a beer at this place) witness to this ruckus. Actually, I'm one of the only witnesses due to the angles of the bar.

The boyfriend is now standing in the middle of the sort of bar walkway area with his outstretched arms between the blonde and brunette. I, who generally has no qualms about inserting myself in these situations, is sober enough to think, "I'm not holding back either one of these girls for them to turn their wrath on me. This isn't my fight." But I had walked over to the general area so that I could a) make sure nothing else did happen and b) to let it be known that the blonde was a psycho bitch who did all the violence, not the brunette, if it was ever questioned. So I wait 'til bar staff figures it out and one of the brunette's friends comes over and grabs her. In the meantime, I still have to go to the bathroom so I head back there. The girl who had been in line behind me had jumped into the bathroom. She comes out and says, "I hope you don't hate me that I just went ahead!" I laugh and tell her no, of course not, totally expected and fine. I finally use the bathroom and rejoin Cheryl and fill her in on what happened. I stop by the brunette, surrounded by her friends and crying, and ask if she's okay and if she needs anything, I'm happy to help her out. I was hoping they'd call the cops and press charges because I like accountability but that didn't happen. I don't see the blonde but assume the idiot boyfriend has dragged her out of the bar, shoved her in a cab and made her go home. My thought immediately after that is, "Nah, she's the kind of drunken combative idiot who is going to want to keep drinking." Cheryl and I leave that bar because really that's not the kind of vibe I want to stick around for and head on our way.

I walk to my car, a block away, to drop off my purse and downsize. 15 minutes or so have elapsed since the altercation at the first bar. We walk to Bar None because of course we do. As I'm walking in I notice that the blonde is STILL on the street with her idiot boyfriend and another couple. She seriously didn't just go home after, oh, I don't know, violently battering a girl in a bar down the block? WTF? I'm discussing this with Cheryl as we approach the bouncer, who I don't know, and he asks what we're talking about. I tell him the short version of what happen, telling him the girl standing by the bus stop cold cocked another girl at a different bar, and point out the girl. He says, "That girl?" Yes, that girl. "She just gave me total attitude when I asked for her ID! She got all mean with me like I shouldn't be asking her for it. It was a NY ID. NY people have attitude." (This was a logical thought progression for the bouncer. I'm not really gonna argue with it.) I couldn't get over the audacity of this angry girl. She punched another girl because she thought she was taking too long in the bathroom. It is the height of absurdity. I am thankful that my drunk manifests itself far less violently.

Cheryl and I go inside and hang out with my favorite bartender for a bit. We then mosey outside to the patio where the bouncer calls me over and tells me the blonde further berated him before finally getting into a cab and he wants to make sure she never gets back into the bar ever again. I liked his use of what power he has. It's something I would do.

The bar was pretty dead, as it was in between day drinkers and night drinkers. It also pretty much emptied out for fireworks. We didn't actually see any fireworks. We're a bit ridiculous. (Also: after reading this account of what did transpired over on the greens, I'm glad we didn't attempt to go over there. I'm thinking of making an actual plan for the day next year...but that's a year from now.)

Cheryl was perplexed by the empty bar. I love my tiny friend. I knew that everyone would leave to go to rooftops to watch the spectacle and then be back shortly after. I was right, as the bar got crowded again. Cheryl thinks I have magical powers when really I just sort of guess about patterns and how people will behave and am observant.

Oh: side note: Apparently the fourth of July is a costume holiday and despite it being pretty brisk in SF, all the girls were dressed like they were headed to a Kid Rock concert. Short shorts abounded with ripped patriotic t-shirts. Looked like a casting call for the re-re-make of the Dukes of Hazard. The Marina is never not absurd. There were also a ton of girls in white pants. Who should not have been wearing white pants. Because America! Red, white, and blue! And then the usual sundresses that don't actually work in this city this time of year. Gotta love the effort though. I finally saw a dress on a girl I liked. Had long sleeves, was closed in the front and flowy but then had big keyhole cutouts in the back. It was super cute. (#shitwhitegirlssay) I told the girl that I liked her dress and asked her where she got it and she says in a thick accent, "Eees from Svvveeden." Of course it is. My luck that my sensibilities don't run to typical Marina fair, I like the dress on the girl from Sweden.

Before even heading to the bar, after an exceptional hangover the previous week, I'd decided that the free shots from my fave bartender were the devils doing and I was not about to do them again. I stuck with Bud Light. (Yes, I know it's an exceptionally horrible watery beer. But it takes like a million of them to get you drunk so it's nice when you would like to remember your name in a few hours.) Inevitably, bartender gives us a couple shots and him and I have an epic standoff about me not doing mine. Cheryl downs hers. It's cinnamon whiskey. Which is even more not happening than already established. Freshman in college me spent a lot of time drinking syrupy frozen Goldschlager. Because 18 year old me was an IDIOT. But to this day the mere hint of artificial cinnamon flavored alcohol brings back a flood of not pleasant memories and a wicked gag reflex. Bartender and I do our banter back and forth about this shot thing. Cheryl sips mine. I look at the 90lb Asian girl and caution her against drinking the second shot. Eventually I throw it on the ground when he's not looking. Today Cheryl texts me and says, "Ugh. You were right about that shot. Feeling it today." You guys! I've matured! I didn't do the free shot and behave myself! Or at least I did in this one particular instance, because let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

We really should have just gone home. But we naturally stayed 'til close. In the half hour or so before close, we finally started talking to some guys. The first group included a guy whose birthday it was who didn't believe mine had been the previous day. We pulled out dueling IDs to prove it. Glad he didn't check the year. Because as I began chatting with him and his friends I discovered that they were all 22. (I also mistook a red C with a bear for the bearcats of Cincinnati and not Cornell. I should know better.) Good lawd. They were adorable. And so so young. They went off to play beer pong (this is the main draw of Bar None) and we went over there to hang out with them though I refuse to play (so very bad at it). They were obnoxiously loud and drunk. Because they're 22.

As I go to the bar to get another drink, Cheryl, not usually the observant one, notices the guy next to me has pulled out a Louisiana ID. So I ask him about that. He's actually from Alabama. As is his friend. And they're Bama fans. (Never ever randomly meet an LSU fan. Sigh.) We're talking football and random stuff when something about where he went to college came up. Annapolis. Dammit/swoon. But it also comes out in this conversation that he too is 22. I then tell him my age. He says I'm a little old. The kicker was that I'd shaved several years off my age. Thanks, guy in Marina bar. It was, mercifully, last call, and I went home. (I don't generally go around lying about my age but I just...whatever. It was a holiday in the Marina and I didn't really feel like being the exact version of me that I am. I don't feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.)

This morning it dawned on me: I'm too fucking old to be hanging out on a Wednesday night when most people have work the next day at Bar None. And the whole middle part of that sentence can be stricken: I'm too fucking old to be hanging out at Bar None. Yeah, I realize some of you figured this out years ago. I'm always a little behind the curve on these self realization things. Or: have gaps in my usually self aware nature. I've rationalized it for long enough: I drink for free. It's not that bad even though it's the Marina. The people watching is great. Clean cut all American douchey guys are sort of my type, for better or worse. It's two blocks from Cheryl's apartment and she's a lightweight. But the reality of marking another year on the calendar hit me fully: I need new places to hang out. I need a more appropriate beer and a shot dive bar with maybe some more of my contemporaries there. Where the hell are those places? Because I don't really know. I know it's also not North Beach because we've run that loop enough too. Please don't tell me the Mission. I don't really want to start hanging in the Mission. I am nowhere near hip enough to hang in the Mission. So what you got, commentariat? I need chill people who want to talk sports/other random topics in a bar that has a TV and isn't super pretentious. I am a comfy pair of jeans kind of girl, not a $16 cocktail kinda girl. (I might be, but I'm broke so...) I just know, definitively, that the novelty of the Marina has DEFINITELY worn off. It's time for something new.

As already said above, in the immortal words of Detective Murtaugh: I'm too old for this shit.


  1. Well, I used to hang out in the Mission almost exclusively, and while it can be pretentious and annoying, I have never seen a girl punch another girl there. I'm sure it's happened, but I just haven't seen it. And there are bars in the Mission where I definitely felt too old (Uptown, hey!).

    Moved to the Inner Richmond a while back and it might be the kind of scene you're looking for. The bars here are pretty laid-back, they've got a good mix of people, and they're generally friendly. And there's very little of the kind of preening and peacock-tailing you see in the Marina. (The exception is on weekend nights when USF is in session - some bars get pretty young pretty fast).

    Wow, this is the longest comment I've ever posted anywhere.

  2. Well, it was a question in your wheelhouse, but I do appreciate the length.

    Do you have specific Inner Richmond suggestions?

    I spent too much time underage drinking at the Abbey, which colored my opinion of the place. I also would say how I will inevitably run into too many people from high school there, but really, that's something I'm just gonna have to get over, SF being the smallest big city in the world.

    The girl fight was sort of an awesomely fantastic train wreck, btw. I mean, I don't regret being privy to it. Especially when sober.

  3. On the off-chance you're checking this comment thread still, I would recommend the 540 Club (divey, totally unpretentious, not as college-y as some other places) and the Bitter End (standard pub feel, fireplace, can get annoying on weekends), both on Clement. I haven't been to the Abbey Tavern in so many years that you may have been underage drinking there the last time I was there.