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Part II of Radio Bar 

Wednesday, Aug 2 2006
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When last we spoke, I had posited the question as to whether or not a perfect evening out had to meet the same criteria as a good work of fiction. Using the Seven (Six) Basic Plots as a guide ("overcoming the monster," "rags to riches," "voyage and return," "comedy," "tragedy," and "rebirth"), I set out on my adventure. I wanted to discover whether a guy like Huckleberry Finn would have a good time at a place like Radio Bar in Oakland, his raft having left the bosom of the river and instead finding purchase in a strange, PBR-infested land.

I had a quest of my own, in that I was to meet a fella who had asked me to join him for drinks to discuss the forthcoming release of his album. Said gentleman was both handsome and eager to see me. My brain began to calculate the risk/reward ratio of allowing myself the pleasure of his company. Was it a date? Was he trying to get me to write about his band for free publicity? Was he a wealthy cuckold bent on disguising himself as a virtuous vicar, thereby stealing my birthright and resigning me to a life of serfitude? My mind boggled.

I was sitting at the end of the bar, on a stool near the door. The bartender, who had yelled at me for not programming the jukebox fast enough, seemed to soften a bit after I called him on it. With a sheepish smile he refilled my glass.

My jean jacket was buttoned up tight, my Delia's catalog was open to page 14, and my posture was bad. I was wearing lipstick. I was just about to regret that I was missing Entertainment Tonight when he walked in. He was tall, over 6 feet, with dark hair. He was wearing Levi's and a dark-blue T-shirt. He had great arms. I jumped up and hugged him, glad to see him again. He was sort of shy and smiley. He ordered a Guinness and we began to talk.

Immediately we hit it off. We both liked Springsteen and hated people who dissed that fact. We both didn't believe in God and thought that romantic love was a chemical reaction. However, never let it be said that we didn't like chemical reactions (another beer, please). We are both from the Midwest, raised by liberals in a sea of right-wingers. We both thought that the Clash was the coolest-looking band in the history of rock. We both love and appreciate retarded people. We laughed, we cried. This was turning out to be the best date I'd ever had, bar none.

At this point, gentle reader, I would like to introduce a literary device. So far we have a tale that hints at a romantic quest, hopefully leading to a rebirth of spirit. Everything is lined up perfectly. Now, when you have a situation like this but the author wants to suddenly go off in another direction — or perhaps has written herself into a corner — it is helpful to pull out what is called the deus ex machina. Literally translated, this means "Ta da! Monster! No, really! Look over here!" In the film Magnolia, the deus ex machina would be the raining frogs. In Chinatown, it would be when Faye Dunaway says to Jack Nicholson, "She's my sister and my daughter!" Basically, it's a seemingly far-fetched way to neatly sew up a plot.

Picture, if you will, me sitting at the bar, jean jacket removed to reveal tight, white T-shirt, lipstick a bit muted from so many visits to the rim of a pint glass, and posture somewhat improved. The fella and I have just finished laughing about the Looking Glass song "Brandy" (he likes lite rock classics just as much as I do!), when a flash of light hits my eye. I blink a few times, momentarily blinded. Once the spots disappear, I refocus on the deus ex machina before me: On his left hand, on the second finger in from the left, sits a wedding ring.

"Oh," I say nonchalantly, swallowing my PBR. "Did you get married?"

"Yeah," he says, not sure what to add to that. I definitely stop sitting up straight.

The bar starts playing unusual '80s videos. I am strangely filled with relief. Now it's like hanging out with a gay guy. I can sit closer to him and really be myself. It doesn't matter if our feet accidentally touch under the bar when I cross my legs. Do you know what happened after I realized this? I had the best date-that-wasn't-a-date that I'd ever had. We played the song-story game, where you tell a story that is based on the lyrics of a song and the person has to guess what the song is. (For example, "OK, there's this guy, and he meets this great girl at a club, and he takes her back to his place and he realizes the 'she' is a 'he.' Answer: 'Lola' by the Kinks.") We talked about how albums should be produced. Then, when the noise of Radio Bar got to be too much, we walked down the street to Van Kleef's and heard a great jazz combo. I hate jazz, but sitting there sipping whiskey, listening to an ornate instrumental, well, the night was perfect.

Soon it was time to go, since BART was going to be shutting down. He said we should do it again sometime, but I knew we wouldn't. He called me when I got home to see if I was OK, and he e-mailed me after that to say what a great time he had.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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