I have a lot of nice memories about my trip to Dublin, but none of them involves going to the pubs. You would think that a bar full of Irish people would be a drinker's paradise, but they actually seemed to take a North Korean approach to outsiders. It was like I stole their pot o' gold or something. One guy called me a "septic tank" (completely unprovoked, mind you), which I later learned was Cockney slang for "Yank." Where were the ruddy-faced chaps in cable-knit sweaters and rubber boots, whose pipes fit directly into the gap where their tooth used to be? The rest of my trip was spent wandering around town and eating Indian food.
I wonder if our tourists think it's odd that our city has so many Irish bars. I certainly did when I first arrived. They truly are a dime a dozen, I'm sorry to say. The only thing that sets each one apart are their regulars, and, I suppose, the bartenders, some of whom are actually Irish.
If push comes to shove and you have to go to an S.F. Irish pub, I recommend the Irish Bank. First, you can sit outside. Second, the obligatory paraphernalia decorating the walls is a good hodgepodge of interesting things that are pleasing to the eye. Third, you can hear some real Irish accents there. Fourth, the mixture of people is always diverse, so you can start up a conversation with a stranger who will not refer to you as a toilet. The fifth and final thing is that this bar gets tourists, but they are tourists who are smart enough to find the joint, so you know they didn't fall into the doorway from one of the hop-on, hop-off double-decker buses.
Speaking of falling, that's just what I did outside after making the fateful decision to wear my new wedge heels. Nothing looks stupider than a woman who cannot walk in her tall shoes. Luckily for me I had a backup pair of Converse in my bag (along with some Sriracha hot sauce, a pair of earplugs, Tupperware, three books, a hat rack, and a tassled lamp).
It takes a while to recover from the indignity of falling over, but I persevered, and sat down next to someone who I thought might talk my ear off. He looked desperate enough, in a North Face slicker and with a pint o' Guinness. He made the mistake of smiling at me, you see, which is the international signal for "Use me to take your mind off your shame."
I said howdy, he said hi, to quote the Beastie Boys. He asked where I was from, and I realized that he thought I was a tourist, so in that moment I decided to pretend to be one. I had to think of a place to be from that I knew pretty well, in case the conversation got a bit too detailed.
"I'm here from New Orleans," I said, immediately mentally slapping myself on the forehead. Dumb! He was gonna ask me about Katrina, or football, or Cajun spices, or any of a million other things I don't know firsthand.
"Never been there," he replied, adding that he had always wanted to go. Phew!
"Still recovering from Katrina?" was, of course, his next question. Crap. The only thing I know about big storms down South is how to make a hurricane cocktail.
"Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes," I replied, slowly, drawing it out so as to give myself time to come up with something. "We will probably always been recovering from that one. Nothing is as it was, nor, dare I say it, will it ever be again." I looked off into the woodwork, wistfully. He reiterated how sorry he was that it happened.
"Anne Rice still live there?" was his follow-up, and goddamn it, if this guy didn't know his N'awlins. I scanned my memory bank for any useful information.
"Oh yes, in the Garden District. She's a Christian now, but she does open her house every Halloween to party-goers." I thought about adding, "She's the author, you know, of The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned," but that seemed too robotic.
"Nice," he said. "I had my first, what do you call those — big-nays? Byenyay? — the other day. I guess you guys came up with those." Beignets? Holy fuck, this guy was a pro. Time to switch the subject.
"You from here?" I asked him, relief washing over me. He said he was originally from Chicago, but that he had been living here for five years. I'm actually from Illinois, so I was just getting ready to line up my best Abe Lincoln anecdotes when he interjected about the governor of Louisiana.
"That Bobby Jindal, do you believe that guy?" My heart sank. I do, actually, have a lot of opinions about the idiot, but I was trying to move the conversation northward, to Rockford or maybe even Peoria. Luckily for me, my companion had plenty to say about Jindal, so I just sat there and nodded.
He paused for a bit, then sort of looked quizzical, the same way he had looked at me before asking all the other probing questions of the Bayou State. The only things left to discuss in my repertoire were probably Emeril Lagasse and Crystal hot sauce. I headed him off at the pass before he could even go there.
"Well," I said, getting up from my stool, "I'm still on Eastern time ... pretty tired, nice talking with you ..." Yadda yadda. He of course inquired which hotel I was staying at, and I threw out "the Hyatt" as I backed away. "They still on strike?" he asked me (argh!), and I pretended I didn't hear him, since I didn't know the answer.
I emerged outside, triumphant. The next time I lie at a bar, it will be about something sensible, like my age or marital status.