Sorry for getting all Andy Rooney, but this stuff has been on my mind lately. You see, I have become a member of another subculture that I had heretofore rejected: Dog People.
In November 2004, one Flossie M. Berry snuggled into her bed, the same one she had slept in for 60 of her 100 years, and peacefully passed into the great beyond. Her little dog, an 11-year-old corgi/border collie mix named Sidney, was with her when it happened. The dog became very depressed in the weeks and months to follow, not wanting to leave the spot where her owner had died.
This is the dog I adopted, my first dog. She is stumpy and cute, she likes to eat cat shit and then try to kiss me, and I fell in love with her in about 24 hours. I have bought her toys, treats, beds, and brushes. She adores the dog park -- you know, that place where we Dog People congregate and compare notes. Most of these spots are pretty cool, but for the most part Sidney and I stay in our own little bubble when we go. Dog parks are like Berkeley: They remind me of why I hate white people.
Then it hits me: Man, like, I can take Sidney out with me to a bar! I can't do that with my cats or guinea pigs. Besides, I can always use a designated driver. I set about trying to find all the clubs and bars in San Francisco that allow dogs. The good news is, there seem to be tons. The bad news is, no one has ever made a list of all of them, so I painstakingly called up a handful to find out if they were game. I decided that whoever was the kindest to me on the other end of the line would be the place I would hit, and that prize went to Wendy at Treat Street Cocktails.
Sidney was beside herself as we went out -- corgis like to meet people -- and the bar was a fine place for the two of us. Treat Street is much like any neighborhood tavern, with beer signs, a jukebox, a pool table, and a long bar with stools along the perimeter. Taxidermy animal heads stare down at you, the popcorn is free, and my favorite beer is on tap, Widmer Hefeweizen. Maybe it was the dog, but the night I visited everyone was friendly and wanted to talk to me even though I was wearing sweat pants, a Funky Cold Medina baseball hat, and granny glasses.
The description I read of the bar online told of a place where Van Halen was always playing, but all I heard was the Pixies. I was just perusing the juke when someone spoke up to my left. "Oh, that's a cutie," he said with a Southern accent, bending down to pet Sid. He was wearing a baseball hat, too, with a Native American necklace, a red waffle-weave shirt, and Wrangler jeans. He looked like one of the Oak Ridge Boys on holiday. He smiled up at me from his crouch and said with a steady gaze, "Yeah ... a real nice one." He seemed harmless enough, just a flirt. Besides, I could tell he wasn't from around here, and I like visitors.
"My name's Robin," he said. "I just moved here from Kentucky."
"No one is named Robin in Kentucky!" I said back to him with a smile, thinking of the Bee Gees. He said he was more used to Batman jokes. He bought himself a boilermaker and me a Hefeweizen, and then proceeded to spin speedily downward into an alcoholic reverie.
"You ever drank white lightnin'?" he asked me.
"Ah, no, George Jones, I haven't," I retorted. Oh did he hoot at that one, but just as quickly he switched gears into profound melancholy.
His fiancee died of cancer; his dog died of kidney failure; his mom died of whatever, God Rest Her Soul; and he has no friends here. I did feel bad for the guy. I remember what it was like to move here with no friends. But I feared he would keep talking about his misfortune all night, so I tried to develop my own coping mechanism. Whenever I wanted to veer him away from his pain, I would interrupt him by singing, "Blue moon of Kentucky, wontcha keep on a-shinin' ...." His eyes would light up and he'd sing the next verse. Then it was back to his dead fiancee.
Sidney was entertaining herself over by the pool table, but she would return every once in a while to check on me. When she did, Robin would rub the top of Sidney's rear rapidly so that she would get her back leg air-scratchin' the way dogs do when something is feeling good. "Dang!" Robin exclaimed. "Wonder if a person would do the same thing if you rubbed their butt?"
I believe this was Robin's idea of seduction.
"I'm never gonna see you again, am I?" he asked me. His pain hung on him like a secondhand Members Only jacket. I assured him that I would see him in Treat Street again. Though it might have seemed dishonest, somewhere inside I knew that Dog People usually return to places so their doggies can feel like they have a home away from home.
Wendy refilled my popcorn for the third time without my asking. Sidney drank from the water bowl marked "Dog" at the back door. Robin excused himself to use the "facilities." I slipped out, mutt in tow, and headed home. Despite being the human beer into which the gentleman from Kentucky cried, my first official night as a Dog Person in Public had been pretty good.