There has never been a better name for a dive bar than "The Outsider." There has never been a better location for a dive bar than the corner of Larkin and Geary. There has never been a better time to get drunk now.
So what are you waiting for?
Well, maybe you are held back by the knowledge that the Outsider pretty much sucks. To be fair, I don't know how one visit can really cement a review, but I have been at this game a long time, oh Very Young One, and I know a shitty bar when I see one. This one just had a weird vibe, and not in a good way.
The establishment is composed of one square room with billiards and a bar. Gentlemen in various vestments speckle the tables and lean expectantly against blighted walls. Loose women born during the Korean War perch seductively upon scarlet Naugahyde stools. The barkeeps are heavily painted Jezebels, bent on misleading the saints of God into sins of idolatry and sexual immorality, thus sending them to the fires of hell.
So I know what you are thinking: "Dang, this place actually sounds pretty rad!" Well, it does have one thing going for it, which is that it is in the Tenderloin. Any bar in the Tenderloin will have some redeeming value, because anyone in the Tenderloin can walk into it at any time.
This "anyone" just happened to be me last week. I hoisted my ass all the way up Larkin Street in search of the next great dive. And there it was, standing before me with all the promise of a bottle of Cuervo on prom night. The Outsider. The name appeals to multitudes, but especially drunks, who inherently feel different from everyone else.
I walked in and let my eyes adjust to the light change. Absolutely no one noticed my entrance, which is strange for this kind of bar. Usually that is half of the thrill; you walk in, and six sets of eyes bore into you and make you feel like an alien who has wandered in clutching your To Serve Man cookbook. But not this place. A pair of bedraggled people whom John Steinbeck would have described as "Okies" were playing pool. Young Asian preppies were drinking fruity drinks at the tables. Men were lined up along the bar. A Korean love song was playing. Really, really loud. So far, so good.
I joined the men at the bar and waited for the bartender to notice me. She was quite pretty, and obviously held her cleavage in great esteem. I waited for her to take my order. And waited. Her eyes never found purchase on my fertile countenance. I figured maybe she just thought I had been there for a while, already drinking, and that she didn't think I had just come in and wanted a drink. But then a man walked in and stood behind me, waiting to get a drink, and she immediately came over and took his order over my shoulder. (Cue Wanda Sykes voice: Oh, hell no!)
I looked down the bar and saw Asian women chatting up working-class white men. Was this one of those "hostess bars" I kept hearing about, where attractive (read: tarted-up) women flirt with dudes and get them to buy more drinks? Since this wasn't exactly my milieu, I couldn't be sure. And far be it for me to say that this was some sort of alleged ho shack. Nosirree, I couldn't say what was going on here, only that I had a better chance of finding a seat on a Chinatown bus than getting a drink.
This bar committed the cardinal sin of ignoring me. I can take a lot of stuff from a tavern: weak drinks, bathrooms that rival Abu Ghraib's, even Dave Matthews Band on the jukebox, but I will not be ignored (cue Glenn Close headshot from Fatal Attraction).
I sat there, wondering what I should do. The goofy, sticky-sweet Asian pop slow jam that had been on heavy rotation seemed to mock me. I was stuck in an alternate reality where Korean-speaking baby dolls sing in the background and white men who are all neck feel like kings. Oh my god. I am an outsider.
This was too deep to take in all at once. Whoa. A bar called the Outsider can actually make you feel like one. I was living irony. And I love irony. For a brief moment, the English lit major in me felt a sublime happiness and contentment. This called for a drink!
So I tried again to make eye contact with the lady. Her avoidance of me was now just plain vindictive. It was like she thought I was from Vice or something. Well, fuck this. I can go get treated like crap down the street at the Ha-Ra. At least it has a better jukebox. I hopped off my stool, which was immediately taken by the next Bluto in line. I made a beeline for the door, and half-expected some sort of cosmic ectoplasm to stick to my face as I made it over the threshold into reality. Back to Geary Street.
So you see, gentle reader, I can't recommend the Outsider. But I also don't regret going there. I suppose that makes it a bit like Brisbane.
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