A Night Less Traveled

Sunday drinking at Church (and Market)

Other than one obvious drawback for 9-to-5ers (that'd be Monday morning), Sunday is a fine night to drink. The weekend warriors have gone home, people who have ventured out may seem a bit more down-to-earth, and normally bustling crossroads such as the corner of Church and Market take on the quiet air of an amusement park after closing.

At 8:30, Lucky 13is nearly empty, giving Tobias the bartender time to share some interesting facts about Market's premier rocker bar. For example, among the place's abundant namesake apparel -- T-shirts, sweat shirts, etc. -- the fastest-selling item is Lucky 13 thong underwear (currently sold out).

Another disclosure comes from a regular named Max, of Taraval Street's Pacific Tattoo. The question: Is any part of your body tattoo-free? The answer: "My ass." As for the intricate line work on his face, "People stare a lot, but you get used to that." Tony the Book, a roving vendor, strolls in bearing an impressive array of literature: Dostoevski, Twain, Salinger, Slim (as in Iceberg Slim, aka Robert Beck).

"I recommend them all," Tony says of Mr. Slim's works. He charges four bucks for Airtight Willie & Me: The Story of Six Incredible Players, a dark, hard-edged, pimp-centric book that more than lives up to the title.

Throw in a few other bonuses (free pool, free Pacific Tattoo condoms) and slow nights at Lucky 13 may be the way to go. The same can be said of the homey, decades-old Expansion Bar a few doors down, where Sunday sees young locals mingling with old-timers like Frank, whose glasses are so thick that (to cop a line from Iceberg Slim) you could use them to spot cockroaches fornicating on Mars.

Billy, a younger guy, came to avoid the "hipoisie." Mary, an old union gal, is drinking with Rough John, an old union guy. She says the Expansion is a union bar.

"It better hell as be," grumbles John, taking a sip of his "union beer" (Bud).

Meanwhile, lesbian DJ night (aka "Junk") is starting slowly up the street at Cafe Du Nord. Jeff, Du Nord's sound guy, isn't doing much. "I hook up the DJ rig and it's over. Now I'm just sitting here drinking."

One gets the impression that life could be worse. Amidst endless dark wood and soft, sultry light, couples nuzzle on couches, listening to tunes by DJ Shadow and the Kinks. Grace, out with a friend, says there aren't enough chicks yet. Nicki and Dorian, macking heavily, brought their own. "She's looking for the chicks," says Jen of her friend Gina.

Adds Jen, who likes dudes: "I'm chick support."

As midnight approaches, no one's complaining about a lack of chicks at Church Street's Pilsner Inn, a gay bar where every night is boys' night. The crowd is boisterous, mixed, and often quite hammered. One Sunday tippler identifies herself as "the big-breasted, blond-haired, bootylicious girl." Another, Jeni, says, "I was supposed to go to "Spundae,' but this beautiful piece of cake [Alex] looks better than the scummy dance floor at 1015 Folsom. And I'm his slave, by the way."

A fellow visiting from Berlin ended up at Pilsner after his friend Martin took him on a tour of some of the Castro's gaudier bars.

"This has the most real flavor," says the German, spelling his name -- Johaniss -- as Martin interjects.

"It's spelled "J.O.,'" says Martin, referring to an abbreviation for the opposite of "jack on."

J.O. looks perplexed, but only for a moment. "Ah, the dirty talk," he says.

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