Second-rate success at Luques

But back to our conversation. It occurred to me that a few famous people have probably stayed at the hotel, so I grilled the bartender. She laughed and said, "No one really famous that I know of." Shucks.

"Well, there was one guy, don't know if he counts or not ..." My ears pricked up.

"Dang, now who was he? He was from one of those stupid '80s movies..." Oh, shit. My ears now began to grow Spocklike points. "Let's see, what was his name? ... I think the movie was Sixteen Candles ..." My eyeballs began to bulge out of my head. Anthony Michael Hall? Or maybe Michael Schoeffling, the hot guy who played Jake Ryan? But no, last I heard he had moved to the wilderness and was living off the land or something.

Then the bartender snapped the refrigerator door shut and pointed her finger up. "Ah!" she said. "Long Duk Dong. The guy who played Long Duk Dong."

"Gedde Watanabe?!" I gasped. She might as well have said Benicio Del Toro or David Bowie. Holy crap. But you see? You wouldn't get an anecdote like that at the St. Francis. Long live the Number Twos.

I wanted to stick around a bit longer, but the place was closing at 10:30 p.m. (I guess they aren't trying hard enough after all), so I paid my bill and headed back down Powell toward BART. On my way I needled through large groups of sluggish travelers pointing at various signs. A tiny elderly woman in chintz pants was simultaneously panhandling and ranting in front of a sidewalk cafe. An entire band was set up on one corner, and a sizable crowd had gathered. And through it all, the sounds of the woman's shrieks and the noodly bass from the musicians, I heard the dingdingding of the trolley, carrying its next load up the hill.

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