Let's start with a little history about Top of the Mark, because I rarely lead with facts and I'm feelin' frisky. The hotel was built in 1926 on the site of the Mark Hopkins Mansion, which burned to a cinder after The Big One in 1906. If you do your calculations right you will figure out that it was built during Prohibition, so planning a panoramic bar and restaurant atop a luxury hotel at the height of The Boring Years was an exercise in hope. Apparently the room (hell, it's an entire floor, really) just sat there for 13 years, patiently waiting for booze to be legalized, because Top of the Mark opened in 1939. This is, coincidently, the same year that The Wizard of Oz was released, so we can liken its opening to Dorothy's full-color emergence into Munchkinland. I always feel like that when I walk into a bar. I want to be transported and I usually am.
Top of the Mark is "affordable opulence," and if you are scared of heights, it's big enough that you can sit somewhere towards the center and pretend you are not 19 stories up. It's still a somewhat cheesy hotel at the end of the day, with lots of brass and busy carpet designs, but you know I love me some hotel bars. I'm an equal opportunity imbiber.
At first I didn't think my friend and I would get a window seat, but thankfully some fools up and left and we cold-jacked one. This place takes "the customer is always right" to new levels, so no one bitched at us for possibly going out of turn and stealing from some rightful heir to the seats. One of us was even wearing jeans, an apparent no-no. I guess we just looked damned important.
"OK, pull 'em out," she told me, referring to my tarot cards. Yes, gentle reader, I am an amateur medium. And by that I mean I have a book that tells me what every card means. I paused a bit because all of a sudden it struck me that this might not be the place to whip out the devil's tools. My friend could see my hesitation.
"No one will care," she assured me. Or maybe it was the martini she ordered and downed in one gulp. Top of the Mark makes a big to-do about its "100 martinis," which was sort of a big deal about 10 years ago, before mixology became a foodie cottage industry in this town.
We decided to do a small reading of six cards. Her reason for wanting one was the same as everyone's reason for wanting one: She got dumped and wanted to see if there was a chance, any chance at all, that the fates were going to squeeze any last drops of "giving a shit" into her ex-boyfriend's psyche. Yes friends, it was the disbelief stage of grief.
I channeled my inner guide and then shuffled while she looked out the window. "You know what?" she told me, interrupting my connection with the Spirit. "The City really doesn't look that pretty from up here." I turned around and glanced over Grace Cathedral and Nob Hill. She was right; it looked like a black and white photograph of a generic city, all gray buildings and rooftops.
"Ah, you don't come here for the view," I quipped. "You come here for the $12 shit drinks and $149 caviar. Now please allow me to concentrate."
I laid out the cards. Let me cut to the chase: She was doomed. The fucking Tower was right there, one of the worst cards in the deck, then there was The Devil, which I instantly read as her going back to her former habit of getting drunk and sleeping around, and then there was the card of total despair, the Nine of Swords. I pretended to flip through my book as I tried to develop a good way to impart this bad news. She glanced at The Devil and did what most sane people would do: look like she would burst into tears. Acting quickly, I began to talk about the Chariot card, because that was actually a pretty good one. I told her that her life was in her own hands now and how it went from here on out would be up to her. I also pointed out that she would have a lot of strong female support (Queen of Wands). Then I gently let her know that the dude was history but that it was OK because he is a dipshit (Knight of Swords). Then I said what I have told myself and countless friends in these situations: You are just going to have to feel like shit for awhile.
"Great," she said, resigned to it. Sort of. Then she did what I would also do in this situation, which is ask for a reading about how he is doing. I suggested she do what everyone else does and just read his horoscope every day and fill in the vague information you read with your worst fears. She didn't laugh.
"Let me buy you another one," I said, secretly knowing about her upcoming wanton sexual liberation with other drunken schmoes. Time to start that train movin'.
"Yep, might as well," she said, like it was a totally new idea to get wasted.
No, that was in the cards all along.