There comes a time in everyone's life when you try to be less cynical. Less sarcastic. Less glass-half-empty. Less of a douche. For one thing, it takes a lot of energy to constantly be hatin' on everything. Also, you can end up like Scrooge, with no friends, no family, and — to quote Russell from Fat Albert — no class.
I realize all of this, but I'm nonetheless drawn back into negativity, like a prodigal son of a bitch. The simple fact is, I find it fun. I enjoy having a running commentary of spite in my head. And in this city, it's just so freakin' easy to find good material to spew over.
Take public transportation, for example. In order to get to this week's bar, Bloom's Saloon on 18th Street, I had to take the 22 bus. Yes, that 22 bus, the infamous ride through the Fillmore, the Mission, and then on up into what I call the poor man's Noe Valley, Potrero Hill. Along the way it picks up all the foul-mouthed teenagers, muttering old coots, Salvadoran families of 12, mendicants, carpetbaggers, ne'er-do-wells, and wastrels it can carry.
This time I was sitting in front of a man and his wife/girlfriend. He was loudly berating her in front of everyone, saying that she "wasn't shit" and was a "fucking bitch." Nice. I hate you I hate you I hate you was going through my head. Then a gaggle of teenage girls got on and starting going into how they were gonna beat this one girl's ass, and she better not try an' front. All I could do was thank my lucky stars that I wasn't the doomed victim, who undoubtedly would lie in bed that night dreading going to school the next day.
But the really depressing thing is how we all just sit on the bus and listen to conversations like this, none of us even attempting to make eye contact with the assholes. We're all thinking the same thing, but none of us have the guts to tell people to shut the fuck up. And the bus drivers are no help, either.
By the time I entered Bloom's, I had no faith in my fellow man. I'd like to say all of this changed once I stepped over the threshold. I'd like to say that the bartender hit me with a wry smile and a tender little joke. I'd like to say that a guy who looked like Johnny Depp had saved a stool for me. But noooooooo. Van Hagar was playing. The only available seat was between two guys who looked like Darryl and his other brother, Darryl. And the bartender? It seemed to pain him dearly to get me a drink. Bah humbug.
From the outside, Bloom's looks promising indeed. It has a dark interior, but through the front door, you can see a picture window all the way in the back. The folks who stand outside and smoke look like Bob Seger roadies. Needless to say, I was pumped to try it out. Inside, though, it's the strangest thing: The place has very little personality. It's too clean to be a dive, but too working class to be yuppie. I suppose if I liked sports, it would be a good enough place to catch the game. To be fair, it does have an amazing view of San Francisco, and it would be fun to sit at one of those tables and play Scrabble.
Yet something was off. Potrero Hill is indeed the poor man's Noe Valley, which means that the baby strollers you see are all under $500 and have no braking system, but the area also hasn't completely found itself as a neighborhood (residents, please direct any angry letters directly to my editor). And Bloom's personifies this identity ambiguity — there's something missing, and it's hard to put your finger on it. Whenever I find places like this, places that make me feel like my soul is slowly being wrested from my frame via overpriced bags of Funyuns and mediocre crotch rock, I assume that they are built on an Indian burial ground. You know, like the IKEA in Emeryville, which sits atop the Ohlone shellmounds and gives me the willies.
I looked around for evidence of Native American possession at Bloom's. The first thing I noticed was that the bar was out of tomato juice. According to old Hopi lore, being out of V8 means that your maize will wither and die, and that the buffalo will no longer gather at the stream. It was surely a bad omen. Second, there were no women in the place except for my friend and me — probably because all others had been banished to a Navajo menstrual hut earlier in the night. Third, and perhaps the biggest sign, was the deep, disembodied voice that kept intoning, "Getttt Outttt ... Getttt Outttt!" every time I took a sip of my drink.
Okay, okay, so maybe I'm being a bit hard on the place. Hell, I've been to worse watering holes in the city. And it isn't the proprietor's fault that I'd arrived after a particularly grueling bus ride. Maybe the bar hasn't been usurped by a vengeful throng of Ohlone wraiths bent on the white man's destruction. But I ain't takin' any risks.
I got out of there toot sweet. And yes, I had to take the 22 back to the 16th Street BART station. It was later in the evening, so the bus was mostly full of stinky weirdos and teenage goths out past their bedtimes. BART, on the other hand, had become host to East Bay drunkards heading home.
"Cue inner commentary," I told myself. Sure enough, two Bill and Ted wannabes got on BART, one of them with his dirt bike, and began talking very loudly about their invariably shitty band.
"You know how 'Phoenix' goes dun dun duuuun dunn dunnnnnn?" said the one guy, who was, I guess, talking about whatever bitchin' song they were working on. He made sure that everyone on the train could hear him sing the parts. Then his friend chimed in with his opinion of the dun duns, which was that they sounded too much like fuckin' Mastodon.
'Tis a sure sign of immaturity to think that everyone around you gives a shit about what you think. (This column, included.)
Oy, what a long day, I thought to myself, and now I have to deal with these two. I rolled my eyes up into my head as far as they would go and sunk down deeper into the seat. I hate you I hate you I hate you.
But of course, I secretly loved it.