All Is Full of Luck

On Anú, DJ Polywog, and finding new year luck where you least expect it

A pollywog is a tadpole, which is a baby frog, which is a sperm with eyeballs. So why a female DJ would name herself after said larva is beyond me, except for the fact that it is a cool, Wind in the Willows sort of word.

DJ Polywog has the distinction of being one of the first female Bay Area DJs to make a name for herself, besides bra-tossing Pam from the Coup. And like most "firsts," that doesn't exactly mean she is the best, just the earliest.

"We call her 'DJ Lucky,'" said a bar patron who chose to remain nameless, the implication being that she ain't that good yet somehow made it into the film Groove. As we spoke, Polywog was attempting to mix Skynyrd's "Free Bird" into a Skinny Puppy song, sounding something like a sea gull attacking a baby cocker spaniel.

"Ah," I said, wiping the Stella from my mouth, "I see what you mean."

In my mind, of the two skills a DJ needs, being able to seamlessly blend one song into the other is of lower priority than being able to select good records. For that reason, I think DJ Polywog is pretty amazing. When she says she has everything from the Rolling Stones to Massive Attack, she means it. She played a song from the second R.E.M. record, then a house track, then a cut from Synchronicity, then something like Squarepusher. The petite blonde was probably leaning heavily to the '80s because of the "crowd": a thirtysomething couple, a twentysomething bored bartender, and me. We were all collected at Anú, yet another bar at the top of Sixth Street, smack dab in the middle of the slow week between Christmas and New Year's.

Anú is named for the Irish word for "luck," not a bad move when opening a club in S.F. The place is dark and inviting, its walls painted a deep mustard, with flickering candles, cushiony seating, infused vodka, and burning incense -- sort of a way less expensive Levende Lounge.

Of all the bars down on Sixth, however, this one gets the most random walk-ins from seedy street peeps. Bartender Bryce has been chased by a guy with a hammer, almost peed on by a guy with his dick in one hand and a knife in the other, and breathed on with the fetid breath of everyone in between who got in his face.

When I arrived at Anú and sat down, there was no one there but me and Bryce, who is tall and slim and looks like Robert Downey Jr., and who, at least initially, didn't exactly have the open-to-chat vibe of a Cheers bartender. I decided not to engage him, instead scribbling New Year's resolutions on a napkin before Polywog showed up.

If "luck" is defined as "the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual," then this has been one motherfucking lucky-ass year for me. I have sent a second roommate packing and screaming, a fifth boyfriend away silent and weary, and a seventh Franchise Tax Board henchman to my bank account. I have no driver's license, I'm about to have an expired registration with no money to cover it, and I'm the proud owner of $5,000 in credit card debt. Lucky lucky lucky, I'm a lucky son of a gun.

"You were here last week, right?" Bryce asked. Wow, he remembered me. I was immediately ripped from my thoughtful year-end self-examination and thrust back into the superficial world of bar culture. Phew. That was a close one.

"Yeah," I replied, and we proceeded to talk for about two hours about Wisconsin, the band Low, Christmas music, and writing. Bryce wants to be a writer, but he's pretty sure he sucks. "Hey now," I offered. "Maybe you just aren't properly tuned in to your muse [blah blah blah]." It's the standard spiel I give people about my philosophy of writing, which is: Thems that think too hard about the audience suck; thems that write for themselves don't suck.

Bryce assured me he is tuned in to himself when he writes, but that he still sucks. I asked for an example, and he told me of a tale for children that he wrote about a turkey. This turkey had a birthday on Thanksgiving, an irony seemingly lost on the author. But on this turkey's birthday, the chickens were getting all of the attention because they had some gold pieces so had therefore become kings of the coop. The little sweet turkey was overlooked on her birthday. "I have always felt sorry for people whose birthdays fall on holidays," he said, "so I wanted to write a story for them."

I was beginning to see how my theory of good writing could indeed be misguided. Perhaps not everyone who is tuned in to his muse is on the right channel. However, all Bryce needed to do was change his story from a kid's book to an adult parable. The irony of feeling blue on the day you thought you would be celebrated, the day on which you are actually going to be slaughtered, could surely speak to all of us. Face it, the turkey lucked out when the chickens stole the show and got the attention of the farmer.

Speaking of lucky, it was around this time that DJ Polywog showed up, her arms laden with record crates and her sherpa hat pulled down snugly over pinched but pleasant features. Bryce poured her a drink and she settled into the DJ booth in the back, immediately playing the opening notes of "Free Bird," my unironic request. Right then, I felt lucky to be at a dark bar on Sixth Street with at least some connection to my muse, and bus fare in my pocket.

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