Bouncer Seeks Absolution at Locanda

So, like, Locanda is apparently a restaurant. I didn't realize that until I crossed the threshold. Food & Wine listed it as a “must” on Valencia for its cocktails and bar snacks, so naturally I made a mental note to head straight there and actually arrived about two years later. The bar part does take up at least a third of the restaurant, so there ya go.

Locanda means “Inn” in Italian, but it's too modern to be associated with any sort of B&B theme. I've said it a million times about a million San Francisco hotspots: It's chic, somewhat cold, hip, pricey, tattooed, infused with bitters, people with small butts, drinks that take an hour to prepare, iPod shuffle, expensive eyewear, beards, burnished metal, blown glass, cucumber slices, and hardwoods. But Locanda reminded me of a modern-day Stanley Kubrick set in some ways, so that was cool.

I can't complain though because it's nice to get away from it all and just sit on a barstool with upper-middle-class folks and the people who love/put up with them.

I wanted to immerse myself in metrosexuals. I was feeling guilty about something that I saw and didn't handle the way I wanted to, in retrospect, and though I was trying to erase it and make myself feel better, I could not.

I live in a part of town that people make fun of because it has a reputation for crime and poverty. By “make fun of,” I mean my friends sometimes joke about not wanting to come over at night, or making sure that they remove their own hubcaps first, etc. etc. But mostly it's just me and a bunch of elderly residents. It's quiet and I love it. There are, however, some things that I see that I do not like. I see little children walking to school by themselves eating bags of Doritos for breakfast. I see just about everyone dropping their litter as they walk past my house. And sometimes I see abuse.

“What can I do you for?” asked the bartender in a sing-song parlance that, let's face it, has to go with a comment like that. I had been perusing the menu for a while, reading words like “ginger,” “lemon,” “maraschino” and “chartreuse.” I did what I always do and said, “Surprise me.” He gave me a quick interview of foods/tastes I might prefer and went from there. In about 10 minutes he presented me with a hazy concoction of lemon, seltzer, and … hmmm, I dunno, other stuff. It was delicious, of course.

The bar was crowded but the restaurant wasn't quite full, so I guess it's true that this place is more known for its booze than its apparently overpriced and tiny-portioned food.

I was just settling into enjoyment when I got a flash of the bad memory I had been repressing: A child being slammed into an ice cream freezer at the corner store near my house. I was fiddling through my bag at the time, balancing it on the ice cream case and trying to ignore the loud young woman who was ordering the 5-year-old around like a dog. Then all of a sudden right next to me I head a thud, and he was there, right at my left, dazed and staring up at me. In a split second I realized that she had probably pushed him very hard into the case. “Did she push you?” I asked him, horrified.

“Yes!” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. He had mustered enough courage to tell me that she had hurt him. He wanted me to do something. I froze.

“I didn't push you, don't be lying about that!” she continued as he rubbed his eyes. I froze. If I called the police, he would possibly be taken away, which seemed like it would be even more traumatic for him. Also, she scared me. If I had stood up to her we could have ended up fighting in front of him. A million things were going through my head, the same thing I imagine has gone through all of our heads when we see someone mistreating a child. But I was not powerless. I could have done something.

“I believe you,” I told him, bending down. He nodded. She grabbed him and hauled him out of the store. And I have forever regretted not helping him. I want to make amends somehow but I'm not sure where to begin.

My plate of olives arrived and they seemed an extravagance, like everything in this place. The people next to me had ordered a pile of food; must be nice to order with impunity and a high credit limit on your card.

There is one thing I learned from the experience at the convenience store, and it is that I will never falter again when I see something like that. When I go back over everything and how it might have played out, I should have put the child first. I will never make that mistake again. This somehow makes me feel more hopeful and less sad.

That said, denial is a very special mechanism and it can work wonders. I decided to look around the place and see how many people were laughing, since that seemed like a good way to avoid my thoughts. I counted seven, not including those with perpetual smiles on their faces. Right then, in this place, life seemed pretty good for everyone. Even the chef was smiling. It's easy to remain in your own little world, if you want to. I wasn't ready to leave.

“Another?” said the bartender.

“Yes,” I replied.

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