By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
I know I have been writing about a lot of dives lately, but I can't help it. They are a dying breed, and I want to cover as many of them as I can. I'm a journalist, dammit, and I take my work incredibly seriously. I'd rather go to jail than to reveal my souses. (Get it? Souses! Ha!)
My friend Floyd promised to take me on a tour of Tenderloin dives I still hadn't visited. We went to a few I shall chronicle at a later date, but for now, let's discuss the Geary Club.
What's the Geary Club, you say? I wouldn't blame you for missing it, because the place has absolutely no signage. It's just another door on a long block of apartments and rinky-dink businesses. If you walk west up Geary to the Club, you will pass my favorite lil rinky-dink business a few doors down, a tailor's shop that seems to stay open late. It's a small, sunken space with a big window in front. The two men inside, hunched over their work, have a certain Bob Cratchitness I find very endearing. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the store was heated by a coal stove. From there, it's just a few short steps to the Geary Club.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Hayes Valley/ Tenderloin
I have mentioned before that fear plays a big factor in whether a place is a dive. You should feel incredibly trepidacious to enter. The fact that this place has no sign only adds to the disquiet, because you can't help but wonder whether it is some sort of broken-down members-only club you will be immediately thrown out of.
Luckily, the only Members Only stuff going on inside on this night were the secondhand jackets worn by dudes in their 60s. To be fair, they all turned and glared at us when we came in, and for a moment I thought I would have to come up with a password or guess the secret handshake.
The woman behind the bar greeted us warmly and began joking around in a language that I couldn't quite understand but was definitely English (I think). She was either a very young 65 or a very old 39. Her eyeliner was applied by King Tut, and her lace-up bodice of a shirt tried its damnedest to add some curves to her tiny frame. Jovial doesn't begin to describe her. Whenever we said anything, she would chime in bawdily with a double entendre over her whiskey-pouring shoulder.
Me: "Yeah, I could really go for some french fries right about now."
Bartender: "Ho ho! French kissin'!"
What really sealed the deal for me with the lady was when she came out from behind the bar and began to load the jukebox with Stevie Nicks songs.
At this point, I suppose I should describe the inside of the Geary Club. It's small, with no windows, but it is clean and cozy. There is very little decoration, save a stuffed lioness head hanging over the middle of the bar. I would say that the bar can fit about 15 people comfortably, if five of them were okay with standing. Older men perched next to us, somberly sipping their drinks while the bartender danced around like a white witch.
Suddenly a tall, middle-aged tranny in blond wig and bowler hat leaned into the doorway and yelled, "You stole my dope!" Everyone turned, and he repeated the phrase. He seemed to be pointing at the bartender, who waved him off in a fiddle-dee-dee kind of way. She did, however, look sort of embarrassed, which led me to believe that she might have, in fact, stolen his dope.
My attention turned to the TV. The sound was off, but the Giants game was on. Here is what I saw: a kid with long hair who is apparently the pitcher and looks to be about 12. He gets interviewed a lot. Then there were a lot of fan shots of kids wearing panda hats. I am glad I have no idea what any of this means.
Floyd mentioned RJ's Sports Bar down the street, which he says isn't a true sports bar. He went there for the third game of the World Series a while back, and the dude behind the bar said to him, "So what exactly are the rules to this game?" I freakin' love that story.
I was the designated driver that night, so I was just drinking club soda. The bartender kept my glass full and never charged me. Rod Stewart came on the jukebox, singing Motown, and I felt compelled to sing along even though it was a total sacrilege. She, of course, joined in with me, and then I teased her about stealing my dope. She laughed and then said, "You got any?" I think she was kidding.
Floyd finished his drink and left a nice tip. The bartender looked kind of sad to see us go. And you know what? We were kind of sad to go, too. Farewell, Geary Club. May you never post a sign.