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Bouncer: Made Men at Bob's Bar 

Wednesday, May 5 2010

When I peered through the window of Bob's Bar in the Financial District, which is attached to Bob's Steak and Chop House, I was both aghast and intrigued — two things that always compel this intrepid journalist forth. Here's what I saw: Men, and only men, dressed in expensive suits, drinking copious amounts of grain alcohol in what looked like Dick Van Dyke's library. Oh, man, I was so gonna get laid.

Then I was struck with a sensation I don't usually get when I am about to enter a bar: the feeling that I might not be allowed in. Everyone looked pretty well-heeled, and, indeed, a "business casual" dress code is supposedly enforced (although the fact that dinner for two comes to about $300 should weed out the riff-raff just fine on its own). Luckily, I had $20 burning a hole in my pocket, which would probably cover one drink. Also, I had just come from a work function, and was actually wearing makeup and a dress, and had even administered hair-care products. I might pass for a low-level executive assistant.

I went in. Yep, I felt uncomfortable. I sat at the bar. The rest of the room was tables and leather and the imaginary scents of pipe tobacco and racial oppression. It reminded me of the country club in Los Angeles to which my great-uncle, Elden Canright, belonged. It was so exclusive that it didn't even allow in movie stars and other industry folk (though Ronald Reagan was permitted to be a member; he was special). My great-uncle told me that the club didn't want the undue attention brought on by the spotlight of having famous members, but now I realize that "Hollywood types" actually probably meant "the Jews."

Nowadays, the people who are left out of circles like the one at Bob's are stereotypical San Franciscans: the uppity vegetarian lefy, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe scent-free. Bob's is a place where a man can get a cruelty-laden steak and openly admit that he works for Goldman Sachs.

Luckily, the bartender was friendly. I might even have detected a slight giddiness because I was female. I ordered my drink and looked at all the guys at the bar. It was pretty packed, and since it was around 9 p.m., I suspected most of them had someone at home waiting for them, perhaps wondering where they were. Just like on Mad Men. You and I watch that show and marvel at how strange and different things were back then, but here's a news flash: There are plenty of people who still live exactly the same way now. There are families who have picnics and then leave all their trash on the grass and drive away. There are women who are struggling to be accepted by old boys' networks at their jobs. Men still cheat. Women are still expected to be thin and attractive for as long as possible. People still smoke.

Here's another thing from the Mad Men era that is still apparently up for debate: scheduled feedings for babies. I had just visited friends — intelligent, compassionate people — who are about to have a son, and they are still trying to figure out whether they should feed him at set times, or if they should respond to his need for food whenever he asks. I was aghast and intrigued, two things that always compel this intrepid journalist forth. For one thing, I have been in enough therapy groups to know that those people whose parents adhered to strict feeding schedules grew up never feeling like they had enough of anything. Drugs, booze, food, sex. I can remember standing in my crib, holding the bars, and crying and crying for my parents to come — and they never did. This has imprinted a permanent Why have you forsaken me? approach to life, let me tell you.

And another thing ...

"Look, I'm not going to take advice from you, you spinster!" scoffed Will, the father-to-be. We laughed, because he was right. I know jack about having kids, but I do feel strongly about this shit. I do not want them to do scheduled feedings.

I decided to pull out my trump card. "Dude, they do that on Mad Men." He paused. "They do? Oh, that's not good ..."

Wow, I got through. Let's hope he never finds out that, to my knowledge, they aren't actually doing scheduled feedings at the Draper household. He should be grateful, though, because I am saving Will and his wife from the pain Jeffrey Dahmer's parents went through. My work here is done.

Though I wanted to do my usual nosy overhearing of the convos around me, there really wasn't much juicy stuff going down at Bob's. Just a lot of yadda yadda. I guess anything that keeps the men away from their henpecky wives and cowboys-and-Indians-playing rugrats is a welcome experience.

I was getting hungry again, but having 15 Gordon Gekkos watch me devour a bone-in steak didn't seem appealing. I also had only $10 left, just enough to BART home and buy cat litter. You know, the high life.

"Good evening, young lady," the bartender said as I left. I love it when people call me that. Some antiquated traditions never go out of style.

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Katy St. Clair


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