Rainy Sundays in San Francisco are always lonely. No one is out and about. Normally I would relish such times, but the older I get, the more my feelings are tied to the weather. The fog and drizzle can cover the whole city and my mood like a wet wool blanket. Even the Folsom Street Fair people seemed despondent, and I couldn't help but notice that the ass cheeks that normally press up against one's face on a packed Muni car were, this year, attached to leather daddies who seemed like they were just going through the motions.
When I emerged from Embarcadero station, there was not a person to be seen, not even BART staff. Empty subway stations always remind me of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. (Or, whenever I run into people with big foreheads who can communicate telepathically).
Speaking of apocalyptic scenes, gentle reader, come with me now to the Financial District on the weekend. Even the Starbucks is closed. You can walk for blocks and never see another living soul. This is what I imagine the city would look like after a neutron bomb has hit, just buildings and signs and empty newspaper racks.
I shuffled down Jackson, because when you are wandering through a desolate, empty city, you do not "walk," you "shuffle." I was, of course, looking for a bar, and I figured that I would have to walk — er, shuffle — all the way to the Ferry Building to even come near a place that might be open for business.
Finally, on Clay, I saw a building with flags unfurled out front (in a desolate, empty city, flags do not wave) and beer signs in the window. "OVER HERE," they seemed to say, like a way station from Mad Max. I dutifully headed over and found myself in front of the Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant, and, lo and behold, there were lots of people inside. Don't mind if I do!
The hostess led me to a table adjacent to the bar and plonked down a gigantic menu before me. "Bang on!" it said at the bottom, and then it described what "Bang on!" means in England, in case you thought the restaurant was telling you to go ahead and have sex at your table. The menu also differentiated between the British meaning of "pudding" and our American idea of "pudding:" "Pudding = Dessert," it said in big, bold lettering.
"'Ello, guvna!" I couldn't help but say to the waitress, who was not amused, but friendly nonetheless. She took my drink order and zipped off. I took a moment to absorb the décor, which, in my humble opinion, was pretty "spot-on" (which is sort of like "bang-on," but a bit more sedate). It reminded me of a lot of pubs that I have been to in Britain, especially in Scotland. Many places here try to replicate pubs by being full of wood and Guinness signage, but they tend to leave out the cheesiness. I remember most genuine pubs being trapped in the '80s, with mauve and maroon seating, dusty gold light fixtures, and busy carpeting. The Elephant & Castle had this vibe, along with a few Tudor nods. It was nice though, don't get me wrong. The bar itself stretched almost the entire length of the place, and several rugby types were lined up, watching sports. I overheard a few genuine British accents, so at least some expats seemed to feel at home here.
According to the website, the Elephant & Castle got its namesake from the cockney slang for Infanta de Castille, the Spanish babe who married Charles the First. Not to compare myself to a queen, but I was also given a Cockney slang name when I was in Ireland: A right bastard called me a "septic tank," which took me about 10 years to figure out meant "Yank." I suppose we could come up with a few of our own local Cockney naming versions, as in "Ego Trip Blur" for "Hipster" ("hip" rhymes with "trip," "stir" with "blur").
Some people were discussing their Facebook doppelgangers, which are, in their own way, a bit of visual Cockney slang. They were all trying to figure out which celebrity they looked like. I couldn't help but try and figure out who they each looked like as well. The loudest guy was definitely Aziz Ansari. Then there was someone whom I would describe as a gay Anton LaVey, who in turn looks like the guy who does Tim Gunn's job on the Australian version of Project Runway, Alex Perry. The third guy was the spitting image of character actor Dub Taylor. The woman was the most attractive, and I would say that she could pull off Parker Posey on a good day and Margaret Hamilton on most others.
Once my work there was done, I could go back to silently disparaging the rest of the place. Actually, though, I was enjoying myself, and found it to be quite cozy. The darker and bleaker it got outside, the snugglier and warmer it became inside. This was actually a pretty kick-ass olde publick howse. I almost forgot that the world outside had ended, which reminds me of the Cockney slang for "apocalypse," which is "herpes," or, a pox on the lips.
Okay, so I made that part up.