If there's gonna be sports on TV in a bar — and let's face it, there always is — then I can hope that it will at least be hockey. It's the only sport that really makes sense to me. A point is just a point, and not, like, six points or two points. If the game ends in a tie, the teams simply do a shootout. And if you're bad, you go to the penalty box. My little brain can easily wrap itself around these rules. Then, of course, there are the fights. It's Jerry Springer on ice.
I was sitting in the bar area at Basil on Folsom, and hockey was on the TV. This seemed incongruous. Basil is a Thai restaurant. It's sleek and, er, fashion-forward, like most SOMA eateries. Why is the default television setting automatically sports? This place could get away with Turner Classic Movies, or the Food Network, or, heck, the Thailand channel. But no, it was sports, and it was hockey. The sound was off, but the subtitles were on. One of the players was named Nabokov. "And here's Dostoyevsky with a lateral pass!" I chuckled to myself. "Chekhov intercepts on the back nine!" (Okay, that last phrase probably makes no hockey sense, but whatevs.)
I was alone again (naturally), and in the mood to aurally sponge. But if you really want to eavesdrop, and lord knows I do, restaurants are the best. People talk way more intimately at a table with food than they do saddled up to a bar. I couldn't believe my luck when a couple was seated directly behind me. The acoustics were perfect for overhearing some tasty nuggets: No one else was in the place, the floors were shiny wood so sound bounced off them, and the stereo volume was set low.
She ordered a Pinot Grigio, and he ordered something red.
"I really liked that guy she brought," the man said. "What was his name? Pete? He seemed grounded and —"
"He's an alcoholic," the woman interrupted. Ah, she had taken this guy's "inventory," to use an AA phrase. Yay! This was gonna be good. "She has once again attached herself to someone whose problems are bigger than her own." Wow, she had taken the woman's inventory, too. I set my virtual Miracle-Ear to ten.
The first fight broke out on the TV. The players were beating the shit out of each other, pressed up against the barriers. Despite the obvious displays of machismo, hockey fights are so "chick." The players whack each other over the head with their fists, and shove instead of going for straightforward face punches. They might as well be Ruth Buzzi walloping someone with her purse. The hockey audience just sat there, inches from the spectacle, bemused.
"Well," the guy at the table continued, "I liked him." The waiter brought the pair their drinks. Immediately the man protested: "You call this a glass of wine?" I had to turn around. He did have a point: The glass was, like, an inch full. The waiter explained that the customer had said that he wanted to "try" it, thinking that meant taste it. The guy explained that it was a figure of speech, and could he please have a full glass. Tension! I sat there, bemused.
Then there was another fight on the TV, this time in the middle of the ice. Even the waiters took notice. We all gave each other a look that said, "Jeez."
The man at the table started talking about some recent drunken evening he'd had. "I had to go into the bathroom; I was pukin' everywhere." The woman chuckled. He continued: "People were coming into the john and asking if I was the guy that was puking in the bathroom. Word traveled, I guess!"
I always like conversations about someone else's alcoholism that involve alcoholic tendencies. The lady seemed more interested in discussing her codependent friend who was seeing Pete.
"She just can't seem to not surround herself with chaos," she sighed. Then she said something really interesting. "But I guess out of all her friends, I'm the worst influence, so I really shouldn't be talking." It was the man's turn to chuckle.
Basil gives you great snacks at your table and at the bar. They are like Thai nachos, probably made from rice something-or-other. They fizz on your tongue like Pop Rocks. I ate the last one and finished my beer. Another fight broke out on the TV. Wait, no: It was just a replay of the last one, filmed from another angle.
"I just hope she gets her shit together," said the woman, back on the subject of her friend. "You'd think after her last husband left her she'd like, you know, reassess things. Oh god, here she comes." The man turned around to greet their third party. The lady they had been talking about! I got a gander at her. She looked like someone who would make intelligent choices in dating, not foolish ones. I shook my head in judgment. "I know waaaay more about you than I should," I thought. Oh, man, would Pete show up? I could only hope. They told the waiter that there would only be three of them. My heart sank.
The TV replayed the first fight on the barriers. I guess the media has absorbed that cliché that hockey should just be a series of fights with some play interspersed. I suddenly didn't feel like watching any more fights, or hearing any more drama. Strange, yes. I had the urge to head home and watch my Golden Girls DVDs. Everything always gets resolved on The Golden Girls, although there is the occasional chick fight with purses.
I said bye to the staff and gave an invisible "bye" to the trio. Enjoy your meal, I thought, sending the codependent, jerk-loving woman some extra-warm vibes. I left, and another fight broke out on the TV.