By Ian S. Port
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By Ian S. Port
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By Christopher Victorio
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All I need to do is hear or read one word that reminds me of some random song, and I will have that song in my head until my head hits the pillow at night. Yesterday the song was "Showdown," by ELO, because I was planning on hitting the bar of the same name on Sixth Street. It's not even a very good ELO song, so I was sort of bummed. Why couldn't I have heard someone say "Telephone Line" on BART in the morning? We can't ask for the cards we are dealt, though, so I took the song my corpus callosum had chosen for me and went with it.
10 Sixth St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Region: South of Market
Folks who live along Sixth Street near Market will tell you that the neighborhood has gotten a lot better. I'm not sure whether this is true; it could just mean that other parts of the city have gotten so much worse that Sixth Street pales in comparison. I have to walk down a three-block stretch of it for work, and this week was no different, except for the fact that I had Jeff Lynne in my head singing, "Rainnninnnnng, all ov-ah the worrrrld," then ELO's backup singers going, "It's rainin' rainin'!" to the beat of my footfalls as I gingerly avoided dog poop, half-eaten pizza slices, and being run into by dudes walking backward and talking to themselves.
The Showdown is just a few doors down from Market Street, and has seemingly changed hands more times than a perfidious poker player. It was the Arrow Bar for a long time, then it was the Matador. The new ownership has chosen a name that belies some sort of ultimatum: "I'll see you at high noon, O Very Difficult Bar Demographic to Reach."
It's not that surprising that many bars have tried to make it here; it is both a great location and a horrible location. It's great in that it is close to BART, and there is a serious lack of good bars in SOMA, so any new ones are welcome. However, few of the boozy hipsters the bar seems to want to draw in actually live in the vicinity.
I walked over the threshold, singing to myself more "Showdown" lyrics, "The night! The lo-ong-est nighhhht ..."
The bar is lovely; I must say that this round of owners has done the best job making the place look inviting and warm. Vintage bird wallpaper flanks a few of the walls, and large mirrors hang over the bartender to make the room appear bigger. It's a shotgun-style bar, like most watering holes — long and deep, with tables in the back and an expansive bar down the right wall. Somewhat mismatched thrift-store pendants hang over the bar, all '60s-'70s and in the same shade of butterscotch glass.
My ELO autoplay was interrupted by the Roxy Music that was playing, so I happily invited the new music in and offered it a virtual chair. The bartender gave me a friendly hello. He was busy setting up for the night and was wearing an Old West hipster ensemble, complete with skinny jeans, tight waistcoat, and tie. I grilled him about the place — ownership, DJs, trivia night, etc. — and he was a good sport. This was especially nice, since the two guys who came in after me asked him all the same questions over again.
There were three other people in the bar, sitting on my right. They were discussing Justice Antonin Scalia and the news that had come out that day that he had said, according to the Constitution, that women are not a protected class. This news tickled me, because I have been reading a gigantic biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and I am now even more convinced of how mutable our rights are. A lot of the freedoms we have depend on certain people in power being in the right place at the right time (or, conversely, the wrong people being in the right place at the right time). MLK himself was swept up by others into the civil rights movement; although he felt passionately about it, he didn't volunteer himself for the role of leader. People appointed him, and he followed the call. He was overwhelmed by it, and with every new situation that developed in the 1960s (boycotts, desegregation attempts, Freedom Rides) he found himself further and further dug into a movement that he knew would end in his death. He is no less great a man for this. In fact, it shows his amazing courage. But I think it is fascinating that he had greatness thrust upon him, and not the other way around. No matter how hard King worked, the Supreme Court was still the most important impetus of the civil rights movement. None of the gains he helped attain would have happened if it hadn't been for Brown v. Board of Education.
All of this is to say that Scalia has a gigantic amount of power at his fingertips, and apparently 50 percent of us are not afforded equal protection in his view. I can't help but think that Scalia would have voted against desegregation.
I didn't say all of this to the people next to me. I didn't tell them that it's all about timing, and we better hope that no real legislation that effects women will arise while he is in power.
More people shuffled in, and doggone it if it didn't seem like ol' Showdown was doing a nice little business for itself. Timing is everything in business as well, after all. Maybe 2011 is ready for a hip bar near the corner of Market and Sixth streets. The bartender told me about a Twin Peaks party the bar was hosting on Feb. 23, the "anniversary" of Laura Palmer's death. Doughnuts, coffee drinks, logs, and eye patches would all be part of the event. The Showdown is a bit Twin-Peaksy, when you really look at it. There are owls perched up high and low, and One-Eyed Jacks–style lighting.
Someone else said the word "Showdown" again, and there was the song, back in my head. I took this as my cue. Outside, a few scattered droplets began to fall. "It's rainin' rainin'," I muttered, scurrying as fast as I could to BART before a full-scale downpour erupted. Timing is everything.
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