Illustration by Jason Crosby
In an airport bar, anyone can be from anywhere. The patrons are all transient, all in limbo, and although they'll make snap judgments about each other — based on some article of clothing or gesture — they really don't know the first thing about those around them.
In this bizarre holding pattern, they're stuck in a place they wouldn't necessarily have chosen. While some at the bar are no doubt wishing they could just get home, others are more enthralled by the break in routine — and the possibility for adventure.
All this also holds true for the singles scene in San Francisco. At a time when more Americans than ever are remaining single through their 30s and beyond, this city has become a gathering place for the unattached. Some are complacent in their solitude, while others remain solo based on lofty romantic ambitions.
The reality seldom resembles the dream, but, then again, sometimes that person on the next barstool winds up far more interesting than you could have imagined.
For several weeks, SF Weekly has been collecting tales of romantic takeoffs and turbulent landings in San Francisco. Some are funny. Some are deeply depressing. Each demonstrates a little something about what it's like to be single here, now, in a city that feels so much like drinks at the airport.
Between flights, there's always the one guy doing more drinking than the rest. Maybe he starts talking to a woman near him, and begins to find her very intriguing — movie star intriguing. Rather than trying to find out more, though, he plays it cool.
Isaac wasn't the kind of guy who went on many dates. Ensconced in a mid-20s "boozy zone," he had been cavorting strictly with bar skanks, he half-jokes. But when several years ago an incredible opportunity arose — a chance to go on a date with the famous and highly desirable actress Zooey Deschanel — he jumped on it.
"My whole life was going to change," he remembers thinking.
Isaac had been volunteering at 826 Valencia, the pirate store and writing center founded by Dave Eggers, when one day Zooey came in with some guy associated with 826. Isaac was introduced to Zooey, and although he's not "a starfucker," he immediately decided he wanted to make an exception. "She was this really pretty girl, and although I hadn't seen her in anything, I figured out that she was a movie star."
Zooey began coming back to 826 every week, which Isaac found strange, considering that movie stars usually live in L.A. But he was glad of her company, and they hit it off. He couldn't believe how easy it was to flirt with her, and began telling his friends that "something might be goin' on with me and Zooey."
Finally he went for it and asked her out. She said yes.
Isaac took Zooey out to cocktails (apparently even a movie star was not dinner-date material) and "it's going so fucking well. I'm playing it really cool," Isaac says. "I'm not going to mention her movie career, because I'm going to be a badass and get to know the real her."
His plan seemed to be working. A few drinks in, they started making out. At that point, Isaac decided it was the best date he ever had.
Zooey brought Isaac back to her place and they started kissing on her bed. He couldn't believe he was scoring with Zooey Deschanel. And then he started to look around. There were some weird photos of Zooey with snow in the background. When he asked about them, he found out she was from Minnesota. Hmm.
Then she mentioned something about being a waitress, and it began to occur to Isaac that he was not about to bang Zooey Deschanel. Instead, he was about to bang a girl who looked like Zooey Deschanel. In fact, Isaac had met the real Zooey only once (and that guy she came in to 826 with? Yeah, that was her boyfriend). This girl — "Diane or something" — had started volunteering right after Zooey came in, and had the same dark hair and blue eyes.
Back on his date, having realized his mistake, Isaac went through "a very weird shift." He was still getting it on with an amazing chick, he told himself, but no matter how hot and fun and smart she was, she was not Zooey Deschanel.
After that night, they never went out again. Isaac regrets it to this day.
In periods of transition, strangers may turn out to be douchier than they initially appear.
On her first Saturday night after moving to San Francisco, Amanda went out in North Beach and met a guy named Larry. He seemed nice, and offered to show Amanda the city. She was thrilled at how easy it was to get a date, and delighted when he invited her to NightLife at the Academy of Sciences, a display of exotic creatures from abroad set to hip music and plenty of alcohol.
When Thursday came around, Larry asked Amanda to take a cab to his apartment. Amanda lives in the Richmond. Larry lives in the Marina. "This was before I knew what a Marina DB was," Amanda says. "But I think I found one."
The first sign of potential douchery: Upon arrival at Larry's, Amanda noticed some Gossip Girl DVDs on the shelf in his living room, but tried to put them out of her mind as they had a glass of wine. Then they headed out to Larry's vehicle. As they approached a line of cars, she was sincerely hoping that the bright red Smart Car was not his. It was.
Although Larry had lived in San Francisco for seven years, he did not know how to get to the Academy of Sciences. Amanda, who had been a resident of San Francisco for less than a week, gave directions.
Larry paid the $12 admission for himself and Amanda, but she got the drinks. Although he said he would "hit you back," that never happened.