Taking Cues from Oprah: Making a Man List at the Beach Chalet

Something caught my eye the other day while I was driving along the Great Highway. It was an old library-looking building with a restaurant on top, where rows of bluehairs were eating soup and looking out over the waves. A rather hokey sign for the Beach Chalet winked at me with promise of a brewery and good food. The name was painted as though it were advertising some great ride at Disneyland. How had I never been to this San Francisco landmark before?

I wandered up the stone steps and found myself in the Golden Gate Park Museum. There were glass enclosures full of history, all right, and I made a mental note to learn something later. Then I headed for the brewery.

There are two restaurants/bars at le Chalet. The one upstairs is more expensive, so I opted for the one out back, which is in a separate building about five feet from the museum. I found myself in a glass-enclosed room with a fireplace and a bar. Beyond the glass was an expanse of grass and trees. An elderly couple chewed on a gourmet pizza at one table, and a bored waitstaff wiped down chairs and straightened salt and pepper shakers.

I was sort of disappointed in the decor. I mean, you see a sign like Beach Chalet's and expect a Jeff-Spicoli-in-Bavaria theme. Instead, the place exuded tasteful elegance.

The bartender was a plucky sort with dreadlocks and a nice smile. I ordered a house-made Hefeweizen from him. I'm picky about my Hefeweizen. I like it to be supercloudy. This Hefeweizen wasn't, but it tasted okay. I have yet to go to a small brewery that knocks my socks off.

I rested my chin on my hand and got back to something I've been working out in my head for days: my List. Let me explain. I'm not an Oprah fan, but her O magazine promises a better life in every issue, and I always fall for it and snag a copy. This month she promises this little nugget: "The Love List: How to Attract Your Heart's Desire."

"Pshaw," I said to myself. "How banal."

Then I grabbed a copy and threw it on the checkstand faster than you could say Dr. Phil. The article talked about a woman who wrote down 100 things that she wanted in a mate, then put the list in the back of her drawer, only to find, of course, that the perfect dude showed up in her life and she is now blissfully happy. Then this life coach lady chimed in about how this stuff really works. She can't explain it, but it works only for people who are deep and realistic and not caught up in superficial needs.

"Pshaw," I said to myself. "How banal."

Yeah, so far I have listed 50 traits. The first one was easy: "He is passionate about something interesting and constructive." "He is honest" came in at, like, number 45, which should say something sad about my priorities. The second thing I came up with was, "He is smart in a way different from me but also the same." I have no idea what this means. Perhaps when I meet the guy he can explain it to me.

In the spirit of my list, something occurred to me about the Beach Chalet. "This place would be great for wedding receptions, huh?" I asked the bartender. He said yep, they host them often. The glass windows turn into doors that retract and leave the entire place open. I was going to have to start thinking about stuff like this once my list was done and in my drawer, workin' its magic.

I ordered the corn fritters, expecting hush puppies. What I got were some fresh corn patties held together with some gloopy spicy stuff. They tasted okay, just like the Hefeweizen, but they didn't seem fully cooked. Perhaps they were supposed to be that way, but generally if you have to ask yourself, "Is this fully cooked?," then someone, somewhere has made a mistake. Which brought me to numbers 32 and 33 on my list: "He is an adventurous eater on whom I could try out new recipes" and "He would suffer gladly through my dinner parties."

I suddenly felt an urge to go see the ocean, despite the fact that it was freezing and rainy outside. When you are working on something like a love list, however, you have to take picturesque and profound breaks that whip your hair and billow your scarf. It's just how it's done.

I stood in front of the surf for about three minutes, just long enough to watch a pair of gigantic, loud Caterpillar machines move the sand around on the beach for some bizarre reason. This seemed particularly apt; there I was, trying to conjure up some hope-tinged gravitas in the crisp sea air, and someone else was bulldozing that dream.

Number 13: "He encourages, not squashes, my girlish fancies and dreams."

Number 27: "He sees the humor in everything."

My fingers were about to freeze off and I could barely hold my keys. I thought of a good 51: "He keeps me warm." Then I jacked up the heater in my Honda and drove back into S.F. proper.

 
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