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And so it was on the first day of 2012 that I found myself inside a bar that had called to me on many occasions. Yet until now my soul had not been ready to heed the clarion. I speak of course of Vieni Vieni Lucky Spot — and a more gay and frolicsome establishment I know not of. In short, the joint is a shithole. A glorious, glorious shithole.
1431 Stockton St.
San Francisco, CA 94133-3817
I covet any of the last remaining true dives in this city, and by passing them by time and again, saving them for "later," I suppose I am making some vain attempt at their preservation. It's like a kid who saves all his Halloween candy all year, or a housewife who never burns her cinnamon-scented candle in the shape of a duck. Many a time have I walked past the Lucky Spot and peered inside, and many a time has a patron beckoned me in with a "Hey! Where ya goin'?" I felt their pull but never gave in. Not even when I saw a man at the bar with long, gray, curly hair and a top hat who was quite obviously the father of Slash.
But this is 2012, and I only have so much time left to enjoy life before the Mayan Upheaval begins. It is time to eat those Fun-Size Snickers and burn those wicks. On Jan. 1, I went inside Vieni Vieni Lucky Spot.
If New Year's Eve is "amateur night," then only the true professionals go out and get drunk on New Year's Day. If you are belly-up to a bar and inebriated on this day, then you need to admit that you have a problem and your life has become unmanageable. Only a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity. But thank god the people at the Lucky Spot were going to wait at least one more day to quit drinking.
Like any dive, the Lucky Spot is short on decor and long on seating. The bar stretches most of the way down the narrow room. There is another platform near the door with some stools. The place is merely an alcohol delivery receptacle, a dialysis center for dipsomaniacs. When I went in there was no music playing, and a football game was on the TV. An African-American gentleman was drinking a whiskey with a beer back; he looked tired and weary, with miles to go before he would sleep. Another oldster in a baseball hat that said "Rumplemintz" was silently sipping his drink. Then there was a smattering of other people on down the line, none of whom were under 55 years old. "Hiya! Welcome!" said one of them, tipping his drink to me. He had a gigantic smile on his face. And what a face it was — he looked like a Dick Tracy villain. His face was incredibly flat, with his nose pressed into his head, making his nostrils flare like two portals into the Tunnel of Love of his brain. I smiled back at him with a little wave. That was all he needed. "Whatchew up to?" he asked me. I decided to pretend I was a tourist. I told him I was taking a break from sightseeing. "Nice!" he said. Then he got a bit sheepish and said, "I think you're cute!" He lowered his head a bit, trying to tamp down his shyness. Dang, this guy was pretty sweet. I thanked him for the compliment and went back to, er, riffling through my bag so as to look occupied.
I took out the book I was reading, Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. She attempts to show how animals think, and how that relates to how people think. The best part so far was her explanation of the "seeking" brain. This is the part of the brain that searches for prey; it is different from the part of the brain that reacts when we actually get prey, or eat the prey. An entire part of our head is devoted to searching for something. We no longer hunt for prey, of course (unless we are the Nuge), so our brains seek other things. For me, I am sure it is the part of my head that loves puzzles and gaining new knowledge. My pleasure centers light up at the chase. This is also probably why I hold out on going to all the wonderful dives in San Francisco. I am in seeking mode, and that is often more fun than getting there.
A woman at the front window seat at the Lucky Spot was in her own seeking mode, rubbing off lotto tickets. Flat Face was seeking something else — a woman — and everyone who was there alone, drinking on New Year's Day, was mired in some search for ... something. It is a drive in all of us.
I looked up and there was Flat Face, beaming at me. I smiled back and held eye contact with him. He glanced down shyly, then quickly back up, smiling big again. He has been looking for something for a long time. He is a gentle soul. I hope he finds it.
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