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Celebrating the dawn in the bars of San Francisco

Wednesday, May 22 2002
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There's nothing quite like finding yourself at the immortal Endup at the crack of 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. By this hour, all prudes and pretenders have long since departed the corner of Sixth and Harrison. The bright-eyed denizens of "Other Whirled" stand two deep at the bar, celebrating the end of California's nightly, four-hour prohibition with ice-cold beers and Bloody Marys. Layers of deep, infectious house music boom from the sound system. The crowd on the dance floor emanates waves of heat. To say this is an interesting locale to people-watch is like announcing that bed is a good place to sleep.

Behold the sculpted, tattooed muscle boys, the girl in the furry cat-ear hat, the dude in the floppy beanie who grooves with an exuberance that may carry him clear through to afternoon. Chris and Amy look downright scene-y, with their matching silver-tinted sunglasses. "We work it out, we're fierce," Chris says. The player with the Hustler T-shirt peeking out of his track suit gives his name as "Adonis." He certainly didn't get up early this morning, nor did Joe, who stands shirtless on the patio in the frigid dawn, a thick-torsoed hoochie mama at his side.

"We just came from Fresno, and there's nothing going on," Joe says. The man's a long way from home, but he fits right in with his shaved head, shaved chest, and pierced lip, ears, and nipples. "Hopefully, I'll get my penis [pierced] one of these days," Joe says. "I'm kinda scared."

Hey, we would be, too.

Meanwhile, over on Haight near Fillmore, the same morning sees the Mad Dog in the Fog packed to capacity at 7:30 despite -- believe it -- a $20 cover. The event: a live broadcast of the Football Association Cup final between London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal. The best way to avoid the cover is to stand with the dozen or so cheap bastards on the sidewalk, peering through the window at the TV in the front room. The Chelsea contingent rules the back of the pub. "There you go, send 'em back to the poor part of London!" bellows Paul. Up front, about five dozen Arsenal fans erupt as their team scores the first goal in what will be a 2-0 victory.

Noel got up early to see today's game. He sips a frothy black Guinness. "I was expecting it to be unpleasant, but it's actually quite good," he says. "The second one's probably even better."

Weekday early-morning tipplers land at Clooney's, a timeworn relic of the old Mission District at Valencia and 25th streets. At 7 a.m. on a Wednesday, most patrons among the crowd of half a dozen have come for coffee. You'll find no freaky club kids or rabid hooligans here, but if you meet two regulars -- James and "Jaime Cucaracha" -- you probably won't be bored.

Out front, Jaime inserts a cigarette into his nostril. "Got a light?" he asks, then snorts a few puffs in the sun. Not to be outdone, James says he once tried to circumnavigate the bar while walking on his hands. He made it most of the way, then stopped when he realized that the shelf under the beer taps wouldn't support his weight.

"I can do the splits on top of the bar," offers Jaime, a red-bearded roughneck with a cross and an eight-ball pendant dangling from his neck.

As rare as that sight would be, we decide to take his word for it. For the record, Jaime and James claim to be drinking cranberry juice and iced tea, respectively.

"That's what they're getting for their next drink," adds Gene the bartender.

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