The best bars in S.F. don't have to try too hard. Olive is small and artfully arrayed, like a hipster Munchkin. Bright, abstract paintings line the walls. The proprietor has put a lot of DIY love into the place, and made sure to hire friendly staffers. No fewer than three of them approached me when I was cozily ensconced in a corner booth, waiting for the rest of my entourage to arrive. I got there early to save the seats, which proved to be very shrewd, as the place filled up one by one with postwork imbibers, all jockeying for a stool. My guess would be that most of them work in Civic Center, possibly in the courts that handle those unfortunate aspects of alcohol -- DUIs and other misdemeanors -- all day long.
I was also there for after-work revelry. Eventually my co-workers showed up. We had planned on a cathartic, job-related bitchfest, and chose Olive for its cheap drink and food specials at happy hour. They ordered the signature olive martinis and I got a $8 pizza. By then the whole bar was filled with others engaging in cathartic bitching, and you couldn't hear the music over all the chatter. This was okay with me, because when I arrived they were playing some pretty stale mash-ups and Katy Perry.
Our conversation ran the gamut, but turned to drugs eventually, as all good conversations do. Our jobs involve doling out some pretty serious opiates -- Vicodin, Oxycontin, and even fentanyl. We all remarked at how liberally they seem to be prescribed, which led us to talk about what could probably be the nuttiest legal medication out there: Ambien. Alcohol, apparently, is not the only way to voluntarily check out and go berserk.
Ambien, it seems to me, is one of those drugs you'd better get while the gettin' is good, because once the 10,000,000th person does something completely insane on it, the FDA will pull it off the market. It's one of those substances where you suspect scientists created it in a lab, studied its effects on mice, and then figured out which ailment they should market it to for maximum profitability. Since it probably knocked out all of the lab rodents, insomnia became its application. But using Ambien to help you fall asleep is like shaving your legs with a lawnmower.