Bouncer

What's the best way to corrupt your sheltered friends? Take them to Arrow Bar, of course.

So my day job is working with developmentally disabled adults, getting them out into the community, getting them jobs, getting them some self-esteem, getting them drunk. OK, not that last part. Well, kind of that last part.

You see, my favorite client is a good-time gal. Her name is Bobbi and she has a wicked laugh, two cool jobs, a string of jilted boyfriends, and Down syndrome. What Bobbi doesn't have is a cool mom. Bobbi is 35, lives at home, and is still treated like a baby in her conservative evangelical family. Her parents shield her from PG-13 movies, premarital fornication, and watching Sex and the City or Friends ("Rachel had a baby out of wedlock!"). As a result, she is obsessed with all of the above, and what with me being one to easily subvert the dominant paradigm or what have you, I have taken it upon myself to "corrupt" this full-grown woman behind her family's back.

First job: Take her out with me in the city. She loves to dance and meet new people but never leaves the confines of her town. Bobbi and her friends like to talk about the time she drank too many margaritas in Hawaii, so I was ready for a wild night, an evening free from the yoke of the Bible. I decided to take her to the current "It" spot, Arrow Bar at Sixth and Market. The ride there was spent debating what we would have to drink. Fuzzy Navels? Sloe Gin Fizzes? Punxsutawney Wombats? "Party on, dude," she said when we pulled up.

Now, the neighborhood at this intersection, which is just 'round the corner from some of S.F.'s not-so-finest strip joints, is funky at best. Everyone who lives in an urban area is used to his city's grittier parts. Bobbi don't live in no city though. Her mother lives in a milky-white town and still refers to black people as "coloreds."

When Bobbi saw the landscape of broken-down street people, she paused. But what I have always loved about Bobbi, and about people with DS in general, is that she never judges a book by its cover. I took her hand and we walked across the street and into the bar with nary a panhandle.

Arrow has a good vibe, despite being owned by the guy who owns the Beauty Bar, which loyal readers of Bouncer will understand the significance of. This time around, the management isn't trying too hard to be cool. In fact, the whole place looks kinda thrown together all hodgepodge, with a neon cobra above the fin de siècle bar, Japanese lanterns over the DJ booth, and a sparkly cave theme in the back. The clientele attempts that subtle mix of trying to be hip and not really caring one way or the other. But it's the staff here that makes the difference. Everyone is friendly and happy to be there.

Excitedly, I plunked down at a stool at the bar and helped Bobbi (she's barely 5 feet) onto hers. In the background the DJ was playing an '80s set (why is it that wherever I go, the DJ is playing an '80s set?) and discussing the finer work of Roxy Music with a guy who looked like the bassist for Interpol.

"OK!" I exclaimed, rubbing my palms together enthusiastically. "What'll it be?"

"I'll have a Coke," Bobbi said to the bartender.

I was totally crestfallen.

"A Coke? A Coke?! What happened to 'Party on, dude'?"

"Later," she said flatly. When Bobbi is angry or uncomfortable, her eyeballs start to jiggle a little. Her eyeballs were jiggling. She looked from side to side and around the bar with some major trepidation. Slowly I began to see the place through her eyes. It reminded me of the first time I went to a club when I was 16. I suppose I was nervous and shy, but I definitely thought the people were really cool. I can't say that that was what Bobbi was thinking about Arrow. I wasn't going to give up so easily, though, and I was frankly a little pissed off. Not so much at Bobbi, but at her family for never letting her two feet from their door. I told myself that she just needed to talk to some of the people who were there. We decided to go to the back and sit on the sofa by the dance area. We settled in and her eyeballs calmed down a bit, but she was still pretty bummed that I had taken her to this place, and she wouldn't talk.

Then the DJ put on "Melt With You" by Modern English. Two girls moved over to the dance area right in front of us and began their best Molly Ringwald dance. Bobbi smiled and began to tap her foot. When she's not listening to KOIT-FM, she's into some decent music. She watched them very intently and sipped her Coke. One thing I know about her, the one thing I wish I could change for her, is that she knows she is different and she hates it. She wants more than anything to be a regular girl. Knowing this, it was hard for me to figure out if her discomfort at Arrow was because of the funkiness of the place, her disability, or both. Also, she really likes Celine Dion and nothing can change that. I decided to call it a night.

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