Safe Harbor

Attitude-free bars of the Marina

Perhaps you've gone drinking in the Marina District and decided that, for whatever reason (say, the tendency of certain bars to become anchovy-packed with obnoxious, oxford shirt-wearing fuckheads from L.A.), the neighborhood isn't your style. Then again, you may have missed Silver Clouds, at Lombard and Webster -- not a hip scene, but certainly unique thanks to the inhibition-shattering ritual of karaoke.

After all, where else in the city could you see a dude in white pants belt out "Funky Cold Medina" while exposing a Saturday night crowd of about 100 to jackhammer-style crotch thrusts?

"All I have to say is, "You go, boy,'" says Erin of the above-mentioned spectacle, taking it in from the safety of the smoking patio. Though some numbers are gruesome (off-key Pearl Jam, a "Copacabana" free-for-all), Alice and Kami perform a very tight version of "Don't You Want Me," complete with synchronized dance steps.

"We're actually in a band [the Virgins], so we come down here to sing without any pretenses," says Alice. As for the band's future: "We've only played once, and we may only play once. Virgins are like a one-time thing."

A few minutes later, Del proves quite the ladies' man in his yellow sweater and topsiders, dropping to his knees as women swoon (well, sort of) over his rendition of "At This Moment." He's an old hand at wielding the mike. "I used to run a karaoke show at Benihana in Burlingame," he says. "If you catch me here on Thursday I do all kinds of stuff: "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,' the Eagles, Neil Diamond."

We'd rather see the Virgins -- but hey, it could be fun.

Amazingly enough, Silver Clouds isn't the only worthwhile bar in the Marina. Down on Pierce you can get your soothe on at Windows, Beverages for Adults, where the old-timers sip cocktails as Sinatra oozes from the jukebox. The big, namesake window is very, very groovy; you can just stand there and watch people watch you as they walk by. Shawna, a regular, says she comes to avoid the "young, beautiful, see-and-be-seen crowd." A Frenchman named Guy (pronounced "ghee") is also a fan.

"I come almost every day," he says, lingering over a glass of wine as he leafs through the paper. "It's quieter here. Not too many yuppies."

Ah yes, yuppies. They have them in France (les nouveaux riches), but not like here, says Guy. One must mention them at least once when writing about the Marina, but it's not like they're the only breed in the 'hood. At the Marina Lounge, a tiny sliver of a pub on Chestnut, owner Tom Donahue is more of a friendly neighborhood bartender than a white-bread, Audi-driving, Balboa Cafe-loving hoser (or at least that's the impression he gave us). At the Horseshoe Tavern, a rowdier spot up the street, you may even see a young woman in a sleeveless T-shirt (Angie) lick her companion's face from jaw to temple, then extend her tongue as if to say he's not too tasty -- or he needs a shave.

But then comes Robert, whose voice drops as he admits that his employer is ... not al Qaeda, the Aryan Nation, or the DPT, but (gasp!) "a dot-com type company."

In that case, Robert, get your carpetbagging ass back to wherever it came from. No, we're kidding -- Robert seems like an OK guy, and his friend Jonathan has some insight into the city's current zeitgeist.

"A year ago, San Francisco had all the people who thought they were going to get really, really rich," Jonathan says. "Now, you've got people who are here because they want to be here, because they identify with the city."

Wouldn't that be something.

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