It's the sober life for me

I need to come clean about something, gentle reader. I haven't been drinking. I'm not supposed to imbibe because I had surgery, and I run the risk of coma or death if I take a swig. It's sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Spike had that chip in his head that would give him convulsions of pain if he did anything violent.

Reading this column every week, astute souls have probably wondered to themselves, "Hmm, do that bitch be a dypso? A rummy? A vodka achiever?" The answer is I'm not sure. I certainly know how to surround myself with alcoholics. Aside from several friends, my father was an alcoholic, as well as myriad great aunts. Certain pals of mine know that if they invite me to their birthday party and throw in someone else goofy — like Incredibly Strange Wrestling's El Homo Loco — the both of us will consume drinks and try to pull each other's pants down when ABBA comes on the stereo. Then there was the time that I interpreted the soundtrack to Night at the Roxbury through sign-language. Or — and this was wacky! — I threw up all over my friend's photo album.

So I can be a lot of fun. Trouble is, now that I am sober all the time, I don't think I'm much fun anymore. It's like that Friends episode where Monica is dating "Fun Bobby." Then "Fun Bobby" stops drinking and he's super borewad.

Case in point: This week I decided to go to the 540 Club on Clement in my favorite neighborhood, the inner Richmond. This is the kind of place that you can walk into without knowing a soul and strike up a great conversation. It's probably most well-known for its yearly Catholic School Karaoke extravaganza, and also for its jukebox, which is large and in charge. The bartenders are incredibly friendly and the patronage is probably the most diverse of any place in the city — everyone from nerds to aging Bettie Pagers to metal guys to blue collar workers to freshly minted hipsters.

I went alone because I knew I would have some interesting interactions. Actually I wasn't entirely alone because I took my dog Sid. The 540 loves doggies and has biscuits for them. The joint is comfy and DIY, with curtains along the walls and a long bar with stools. There is a smoking porch at the entrance, and it's one of the few bars in the city where you can sit and drink outside, cafe style.

I ordered a bottled water and settled in for some serious mingling. Then a Mercury Rev song came on and I decided to stare into space and listen to it. Then a Neil Young track came on and I decided to pet my dog to the beat. Then an infomercial came on the TV and I decided to actually watch one for a change. Long story short: I am incredibly antisocial when I am sober. Several people came over to inquire about Sid and pet her, and I gave them a cursory smile and then continued back to my space bubble. Even when the guy who looked like Othello came and sat next to me I avoided eye contact. Usually I would have struck up a convo and then analyzed it here by deconstructing the black/white themes in the play, you know? Sigh.

All of this concerns me. Lately when I have been at a party I feel like a balloon that is slowly deflating, like that Everwood episode where Ephram sneaks out to go to that party in the woods and Amy disses him bigtime. Someone will be talking to me, and the entire time I'm wondering if my face looks interested enough or if I have responded with "Oh yeahs?" at the right time. I even rented a beach house with some friends a week ago and found myself escaping to my room a lot to be alone. The moral of this tale is, I am a solitary person who can pull out gregariousness when necessary or when I've have had some booze. When I'm left to my body's own chemical reactions, I'm a loner at heart.

Here's the weird thing. I am so fucking happy right now. I wake up giddy and go to bed content. I told the frumpy toll-taker that I loved her new haircut. I have been writing thank-you notes to people. I actually picked up tax forms at the post office in an attempt to file. I am listening to post-Rumours Fleetwood Mac albums. I'm living, dammit!

After I had made my way through three bottles of water and about 30 songs on the jukebox (still not getting to the ones I programmed) I decided to take my leave and walk a bit with Sid. I love the Richmond because it is truly the most varied neighborhood in SF. It's old-school San Francisco mixed with contempo mixed with immigrants mixed with foodies mixed with working class. And it's quiet. I really, really like peace and quiet these days.

Driving down Van Ness on my way home I saw something rather odd. At first I thought it was some weird cult sect. The bus to my right was full of women in white head scarves. They weren't Muslims. Some of them were wearing bonnets like the Amish. All of them were standing up and holding onto the handrails. One of the women had some blue bands on her headpiece thingie, like Mother Theresa, and then I figured out what they were: nuns. One even had prayer beads cascading out of her fist. It was ironic, I remember, because I was listening to Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me" at the time. In retrospect, I suppose any rock music is ironic when you are looking at busload of nuns.

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