Distillations: Channeling the Inner Townie at The Corner Spot

The Corner Spot on 14th Avenue is so new that the neighbors are still complaining about the new paint smell. There were enough booze brands in neon lights that if you sat a toddler on the bar he'd learn to spell "Jameson." The pool table in the back had two guys going at it like there was money on the line.

I sat down at the shiny long bar. I counted seven TVs, all on the same game. There was music playing constantly — if by "music" you mean an endless wall of sound pulled from the iPod of your old frat brother Todd.

The menus are small cards offering "eats" and happy hour specials — with no drinks mentioned by name except a pitcher of Sapporo for $12. I glanced at the taps — I've seen prisons offer more beers. Sapporo, Blue Moon, and Guinness topped the list, which is okay by me, but it's not so much a bar selection as "what your friend Marty might have in his fridge after a party."

If it's not a beer bar, it's sure as hell not a cocktail bar: Later on I overheard someone order a hot toddy, and the bar staff had to confer to figure out what to do about it. It was hard not to laugh.

I ordered a Sapporo. "Oh, that's really good stuff," the bartender told me, with more enthusiasm than I muster for Christmas and birthdays.

"Sure," I agreed, noncommittally. It depends on your frame of reference. I divide the beers of the world into three categories of ascending quality. Sapporo is at the top of the second category: the best of the acceptable, but not a top ... ah, nevermind.

I sipped slowly, looked around, and was reminded of bars I spent time in during my Midwestern college days. In another city, The Corner Spot would be a place appealing to girly girls and manly men who go to bars because it's an expected part of the mating ritual. Here, it's an escape from oppressive hipness. The crowd's game isn't up to Marina standards of aggressive bro-flavored normalcy, but neither is it anywhere close to even moderate San Francisco standards of weirdness. Sitting here was what I imagine living in Daly City is like.

Another bartender, an Asian girl in a baseball cap, was cleaning up the bar near me. "How's your day going?" she asked.

I am a bitter and frustrated "creative," but didn't want to go there. "Quiet," I said. "Just got off work. You?"

"I've had a pretty productive day," she said. "I've been up since 6:30. I'm trying this new exercise thing."

I groaned. "Well, whatever you're doing is working for you, but I can't stand being conscious that early."

"Oh, I hate it!"

"Yeah — be honest, if you had your way, what time would you wake up in the morning?"

She considered. "Noon," she said, and dissolved into laughter

I was serious. "Exactly! 11, 12, these are civilized times to wake up."

"I don't know why anyone does anything before 7," she said a little bitterly.

"We ought to just admit how much we hate it, adjust, and get on with our lives."

"Yes," she said, and sighed. "What's worse, the woman who teaches the class I'm taking? She's like 62 but looks 40."

I sighed too. "Yeah, some people can pull that off. Some of us go the other direction. You wouldn't know it to look at me but I'm only 19."

"Wait, what?" She stared. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence.

"No," I said. "No."

She grinned in relief.

"But my point is — some people manage to look young. But I'm going to be mistaken for the world's oldest man, with well-meaning reporters asking me 'What's your secret?' when I'm 40."

She opened her mouth to reply, then got called over by another customer.

The Corner Spot's pub food is pleasing. The fries are nicely spiced, pork sliders delicious. The place reminds me of a pretty good townie bar near a rural college. Your friends Todd and Marty would have come here to relax, and made fun of anyone who needs more to have a good time.

After my second beer, I motioned that it was time for me to cash out.

"This a night cap for you?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. And it occurred to me then that everything I'd told her — except the part about hating to get up early — was a lie. How did that happen? Did I do it on purpose?

"Weird," I said to myself, as I left The Corner Spot and returned to San Francisco, where we divide weirdness into three categories of ascending quality.

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