It's rare to find someone who looks Dickensian in San Francisco, but I did. For the two or three people reading this who don't have a master's in English, by "Dickensian" I mean that they look like they could be in a novel by Charles Dickens. Certain parts of their appearance are usually exaggerated — as with Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol, who has a shock of bright red hair sticking up in front like an aerial. Or Uriah Heep from Oliver Twist, who is skeletal and weasel-like. It helps, of course, if these people are wearing fingerless gloves and pocket watches, but it's not necessary.
My li'l Dickie was a 20-year-old cross-dresser who came to stay with me and my roommate for five long days. We thought it a small act of kindness on our part. He had been thrown out of his grandmother's house for being gay and had nowhere to go. An orphan! How Dickensian. He also had a mountain of red hair that curled up tight like pinecones. He wore dainty scarves that hung down to his waist, and every morning he would press his hair down straight with about five gallons of our expensive hair gel (after shampooing with our Bumble and bumble). He took midnight showers during which he would sing Christmas carols. He ate all of our food. He scratched my Buffy DVDs. He was a functional 12-year-old, basically. Lovable little imp.
I wanted to get away from him before I hit him over the back of the head with a rock and threw him in the Thames, so I hopped on the N-Judah. I find that line very soothing, and better yet, I can get off at just about any stop and find a bar. Though I am usually reluctant to go to a wine bar, Eos in Cole Valley has always looked interesting. And so it was that I found myself sitting in its "wine salon," the bar area to the right of the restaurant.
I was there in the heart of the recent cold snap, and I'd dressed extra-warmly in a vintage red leather coat with fur collar and cuffs. Basically, I looked like I should be on PETA's Most Wanted list, so I got a few looks from people who I assume were disgusted animal lovers. But maybe I'm just paranoid. Anyhoo, I knew that wherever I went I'd be cold, so I might as well look as cute as possible if I were keeping my coat on the whole time. (When S.F. gets that chilly, you really see how few places actually have heat.)
Imagine my surprise when I walked into Eos and it was toasty warm — from a heating system, not just from the assembled bodies. The bar is a smallish room, with intimate tables around the perimeter and a wall of wine bottles behind the bartender. It's sleek, but also cozy and, dare I say it, unpretentious, which doesn't seem possible for a wine bar. The jocular server immediately said hi and told me the kitchen was closed. Shoot. I was hungry. But I had a feeling that this was the kind of place that serves "tapas"-sized plates that add up faster than you can say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So it was probably for the best.
The bartender made me a passionfruit drink and I settled in for my usual snooping. Couple embroiled in relationship discussion: Check. Group of co-workers dissing the boss: Check. Older married couple not saying anything to each other: Check. Two people on a possible date that seemed to be going well: Check. Dipshit in a fur-lined coat with a crossword puzzle: Check. The warmth of the room, the chill outside, the dim lighting, and pleasant company all felt pretty Christmasy. All I needed was a fat goose. Or figgy pudding.
My thoughts invariably turned to Dickie, the urchin we had taken in and who was apparently, in turn, taking us for a ride. As the days unfolded, we learned that he had never held a job, was waiting for his welfare check to come, and had been couch surfing for more than a year. At 20! Not to be judgmental, but — oh hell, I'm gonna get real judgmental. Get a fucking life, dude. I'm not even sure, at this point, that his grandma kicked him out. This wasn't Oliver Twist, sheepishly asking for more gruel. This was the Artful Dodger.
But here was the problem: My roommate and I weren't ballsy enough to kick him out. And, truthfully, the thought of booting him onto the cold, hard pavement seemed genuinely mean. On the other hand, he couldn't stay with us anymore. And we couldn't fix him. We would have to draw a line. He had to be out the next day. My roomie would break the news to him that night. We would have to be firm and not get co-dependent.
The couple at the window, the ones embroiled in relationship talk, both had full wine flights in front of them. This seemed odd. Don't the flights usually come out one glass at a time? Huh.
I asked the bartender for the bill and took out my credit card. "Oh, don't worry about it. It's on me," she said. I was flabbergasted. Just because the kitchen was closed when I walked in, she was gonna give me a free drink?
"But I have no cash," I said, "and I'd like to give you a tip."
"It's no prob," she smiled. "Just come back again." Wow. Now that was a small act of kindness. So it's official: There is a wine bar I actually like.
When I got home, there was Dickie in his jammies, watching season six of Buffy and eating Chex Mix. "I found a place to stay," he said. "They say I can stay with them till the end of the week!"
"Yay!" I said, somewhat shocked at how easy it had been for him to find another place to crash and, if that was the case, wondering why we hadn't kicked him out earlier.
"I just love it when Willow goes bad," he said, as he watched her flay the dude who killed her girlfriend between two trees.
There was something very likable about ol' Dickie, sort of a spunky down-and-outedness, if there is such a thing ... very Dickensian. I might even miss him. A little.