Getting misty for the cranky old barkeep

When last we spoke, I no doubt left you on the edge of your seat wondering whether or not I made it home in my unregistered car before the fuzz changed his mind and impounded it. Then there was the exciting subplot about whether or not I would make it to iPod night at the 21st Amendment. Well, I don't want to deflate your soufflé, but since then I have turned over a new leaf and am avoiding high drama at all costs. I woke up the next day, after being pulled over and warned not to drive my car until I registered it (or else face the loss of said vehicle), and I had a great idea. Like, what if I totally registered my vehicle? Like, what if I went to the DMV and actually took care of it? My heart began to race. Yes! I said to myself, that was the answer. It suddenly all seemed so clear to me.

So I did that. Then, after gingerly adhering my 2007 sticker to my rear license plate, content with the fact that I actually did something responsible, I proceeded to blow off the 21st Amendment until a later date. The fact is that I was jonesin' for something different. I just couldn't deal with people guest-DJing with their KFOG Live From the Archives mega-mixes. I am listening to my little inner voice now, you see, and that voice said I should go to the Aub Zam Zam in the upper Haight. (That's right people. Theme for this week? Takin' Care of Business!)

The premise of this bar is just amazing. First, there is the ambience, which is arabesque in interior with '30s jazz playing lightly in the background. The place is small and inviting, with a horseshoe bar taking up most of the room and very intimate booths toward the back. There is Persian gimcrack hither and tither, with arched doorways and a mural of some ancient Middle Eastern luvahs behind the bar. All in all it's sort of like being inside Jeanie's bottle once she outgrew the throw-pillow stage and found herself (“I've been to Baghdad on a carpet, Master, but I've never been to me!”).

Once you know yourself, which I believe that I do, you begin to listen to that inner voice I mentioned. This is why older people can be such bastards. They not only listen to their inner voice, but they have the chutzpah to share it with everyone else. Witness, if you will, the original owner of the Zam Zam, one Bruno Mooshei. This guy was such a curmudgeonly host that he made the dude at the Owl Tree look like Dolly Madison in comparison. Bruno was old-school San Francisco, when the men wore suits and the women walked behind them holding up an ashtray for their cigar butts. Bruno remembered a time when good manners were a birthright and not a conciliation prize. Bruno remembered when it was called Mount Tamalpais and not freakin' “Mount Tam.” But most of all, Bruno remembered the Haight before it was overrun with free-love, B.O.-befouled longhairs bent on subverting the natural order of a civilized society. In short, Bruno was the kind of guy who always got his car registered on time and didn't abide Nancyboys who chose to skate the law.

The slightest thing could get you thrown out of his establishment, but the usual reasons were ordering a martini with vodka instead of gin, laughing too loud at a joke, asking him if he recommended anything, or heading to the bathroom before you grabbed a stool and ordered. While the rest of us might have simply gotten annoyed at patrons, Bruno listened to his inner voice and acted on it. If he didn't like you, he either yelled at you to leave or completely ignored you until you dejectedly slinked off.

Bruno is dead now, and I wish I could say that his spirit lives on, but unfortunately the bartenders who work there now are not dicks. And the patrons have changed as well; the conversations around me would have sent Bruno's blood pressure through the roof and the people out on the street before they could say “Encore mojito, s'il vous plait!”

To the right of me two young women and a man discussed digital media. “Oh, Ireland is going to be the world's leading software giant,” said the guy, rapidly whapping the mint leaves at the bottom of his glass with his straw. “I mean like, Ireland and Singapore. Give it three years. I'm telling you.”

To my left there were two gents in expensive eyewear. “But what is imagination?” asked the guy in the knit cap. “If one thinks, say, of a unicorn, which we know does not really exist, then it can be said that we are using our imagination. However,” he continued, sitting up straighter, “we can only picture the unicorn by using our cognitive brain functions. So I ask you, is it imagination, or cognition?” His companion nodded in rapt cognitive appreciation.

As for me and my date, we were trying to read each other's minds. He had ordered a Seabreeze, which no doubt would have had him banned for life in the Bruno years. Then he realized it was really a Cape Cod he wanted. “Look, just make him whatever is gayer,” I quipped to the barkeep.

In keeping with my little voice, I was sitting there listening to myself when something strange had happened. My friend (Garrett Kamps) didn't want his name in print, so we decided to come up with a fake name. Immediately in my head I thought “Raoul.” Then he said, “How about Raoul?”

Whooooooaaaa dude. Like he read my mind! That was so miraculous that we decided to try it again. I thought of a word (apple) and concentrated really hard. “Bus station?” he said. No. “Exoskeleton?” No. OK, so that didn't work. I told him I was thinking of a woman's name. “Betty?” No. “Wanda?” No. “Suki?” No.

“Francesca!” I blurted out, exasperated. It seems I can listen to my inner voice, but Garrett, I mean Raoul, can only hear it when we aren't trying too hard.

We chatted a bit more and then something inside told us it was time to leave. Or maybe it was the douchbag philosophers to the left of me. Bruno would've conked their heads together a long time ago and sent them packing. “Bookstore's down the street, Eggbert,” he woulda said. “Goddamn communists.”

Bruno, RIP my friend.

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