Bouncer Finds Old-Fashioned Gratitude at Blush

Three cheers for San Francisco wine bars that don't look like San Francisco wine bars! There is nothing sleek about Blush, nothing mixed-media, nothing that strong-arms you toward a trendy Malbec. The place looks like a coffeehouse, if you want to get technical. There's a large communal table with French farmhouse chairs, rotating art exhibits, and a broken-in sofa. Nothing particularly matches. I like businesses like that.

I don't, however, particularly like wine, which is why Bouncer rarely ventures into this terrain. I have friends who love wine, but they are generally stay-at-home drinkers. In these places, I am forced to go it alone. But wine bars do have cheese, generally, and I love me some cheese.

So there it stood, Blush, the last hole in the Castro that I had yet to explore (I have been waiting to use that joke). The bar is smack-dab between some of the rowdier joints along the street, so it can be easily overlooked. It also doesn't have a very inviting exterior, with a rather DIY façade and windows that seem to be gloomy prologues to a depressing novel. But once you make it over the threshold, Bob's your boozy uncle, because there is something about the place that makes you want to sit and stay a while.

As soon as I walked in, I made a beeline for an armchair. Man, just like Starbucks — I felt so lucky to score a comfy seat! I loaded it up with my stuff and then headed to the bar to order something other than wine. I lucked out, because as soon as I sat down, a busload of people began to come in. The noise level escalated to Badlands proportions, but no biggie, I was squashed into my seat and ready to people-watch.

Who am I kidding? I was reading a great book about North Korea, and human misery always trumps any immediate reality. Feeling depressed? Has life dealt you a shitty hand as of late? Here is my prescription: Watch Hoarders for a week and read about Kim Jong-Il's regime. If, after steeping yourself in these things, you don't feel some gratitude for what you have, then it might be time for some harder drugs.

Hoarders has made it easier for me to throw away things like candles, soaps, or interesting gourmet salts that I have been holding onto for about 20 years. Watching people who ascribe deep meaning to piles of trash made it easier for me to recycle generations of New Yorker magazines that I was saving for ... um, the apocalypse? (What if I have nothing to read?)

Compared to North Korea, a place where people were forced to live off tree bark and moss, where you could be thrown into a gulag for life for making a joke, where your entire family could be wiped out if you didn't put up a picture of the Great Leader in your home, well, yeah, we have it pretty damn good.

Of course, being human, I used the knowledge that I was gathering this week to scorn my fellow Americans. Seeing a bunch of people in a wine bar whooping it up, while I sat on my fat ass and read a book and nibbled on cheese, was my way of feeling superior. I admit that.

But then a little thing happens to shift your whole perspective.

Four women came over and all sat down at once on the sofa, Three Stooges-style, with none of them fully fitting. Finally, one of them gave up and grabbed another chair amid the giggles. I laughed too. This small joy made me feel happy. I closed my book and put it in my bag. I would participate in Western society's entitlement for a bit.

The women immediately started chatting about a friend of theirs who couldn't make it, because she was in a codependent relationship with a guy who was probably cheating on her anyway. He gave all of them the creeps. (I am giving you the CliffsNotes version.) They spoke about this chick in such a cavalier way that I realized that they must all be co-workers; there is a certain cruel intimacy in such acquaintances.

The conversation was pretty boilerplate Girls Night Out, so my thoughts of course drifted back to North Korea, and how you can't talk about anyone in public because you don't know who is listening. Here, no one gives a shit. People have intense cell phone conversations on BART for all to hear. And now I knew all about Tricia at work whose boyfriend is a douche. Democracy!

As small as Blush is, that place can really pack 'em in, and the din became too great for me to justify trying to concentrate on my book. Also, Tricia (I presume) eventually did show up, so I offered her my seat. Seeing as she is so codependent, I figured she does enough for other people and deserves a nice turn. "Thank you!" she said, with a look of genuine gratitude.

My work there was done.

 
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