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Believers 

Getting bleary in the bars on Geary

Wednesday, Nov 21 2001
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Of all the bars on Geary Boulevard -- or Geary Street, or Earth for that matter -- few have a name as intriguing as Would You Believe? According to Shirley, the owner, this decades-old watering hole at 11th Avenue was named after the TV show/ museum chain by the previous proprietor ("That's what he say. I believe it"). You'll find no shrunken heads or six-legged chickens, but rather a bustling scene that captures the face of today's Inner Richmond.

On a Friday, the place is packed with stylish young Asians and the occasional blue-collar Caucasian. Shirley delivers baskets of shrimp chips and downs shots with customers as hip hop and '80s pop tunes fill the air.

"It's like this almost every night," says Jimmy. "No fooling."

One might speculate that the bar's popularity has something to do with its trio of fine bartenders, stunning array of specialty cocktails, and free cocaine night on Fridays (and if you believe that last item, check out free-sex-with-a-porn-star Sundays). But seriously, most say it's all about familiarity.

"I know at least 70 percent of the people here," says Ken, one of many, many regulars. "Plus, there are a lot of cute girls."

Alan's not scoping babes (his wife Lilyana might object), but he has unshakable faith in the magnetism of WYB?

"Well, first of all, I'm so glad to be a chosen one [to be interviewed]," he begins. "We went to all the bars around here, but there's always aggressive people. This atmosphere, as you can see, people love to balance themselves, everybody is so nice. I don't mean to advertise," he says, then launches into a long advertisement. "Thank you again," he concludes. "I hope you have a good time while you're working."

Thanks to you too, Alan. Having a good time is rarely a problem, and a tour of the wilder, woollier bars of Inner Geary is no exception. A few blocks east of WYB?, all hell is breaking loose at Abbey Tavern. At the bar, a couple makes out with a feverishness surpassed only by the couple making out in the door to the women's room. One Irishman is about to lose his shepherd's pie in the men's room. On the dance floor, a broad-shouldered Scottish woman cavorts to disco tunes with inhumanly ferocious abandon.

"I'm so drunk!" she says. (Believe it.)

Incredibly enough, this is a slow night, according to Dermot the bartender.

A block farther east, the scene is mellower at Fizzee's, which hosts a multicultural crowd reminiscent of the one at Would You Believe? Sarah, a local, came with her friend Neander-Bill (who looks like a Neander-Bill). Rob, another local, speaks of the neighborhood's charms. "You can walk down the street and hear Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, Irish accents, all in the course of a few blocks," he says. "I love the way the different groups remain somewhat unique and on their own, and yet everybody mixes."

One group Rob forgot to mention -- college students -- has taken over the pool room at Ireland's 32 to celebrate the debut of a short by a stoney dude named Dave. The film, Goldfish, is the tale of a boy who trades his father for some goldfish, then has to find his father when his mother becomes upset.

Alice, a member of the Goldfish posse, claims to be Scottish. "It's nice to have places like this, where you can feel like you're back at home, even though Ireland's not Scotland," she says. Funny thing is, her accent fades the longer she talks. Even funnier: the similarities between Goldfish and the short film Father, the tale of a boy who trades his goldfish for a dad, upsetting his mother, who happens to enjoy the single life.

"Really?" asks Alice, now speaking with an American accent. "How weird."

Sure. And perhaps next we'll visit Geary's Club Taliban, which may close soon due to an overly harsh dress code and strict no-music policy.

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Greg Hugunin

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