Thursday, September 18, 2014

Picturing the perfect bar

I was thinking about Cafe Du Nord closing and reopening as another generic fancy cocktail bar and that made me think about how every bar that opens now is pretty much the same.  I don't even need to go through the elements; you know them by heart.  Cocktails with 5+ ingredients, most of which you've never heard of.  Reclaimed wood.  Probably Edison bulbs.  Bartenders who look like people in Old Tyme Tintypes with waxed mustaches.  It was probably Bourbon and Branch that started this whole thing, but now it seems like Trick Dog is the purest example of the form.


Photo via Eater.
Trick Dog is what it is.  If you want to go there and drink drinks with velvet falernum and Tempus Fugit creme de noyeaux and shortbread in them, go right ahead.  I don't know what any of those things are but I'm sure they're delicious.  Well, obviously I know what shortbread is, but I don't understand how it goes into a drink with gin and vermouth.  Maybe it perches on the side and just watches and hangs out.

The problem is not that Trick Dog and bars of that ilk exist - God bless 'em, they're popular, so there's obviously a reason they exist - but that now they're the ONLY kind of bars that open.  This is the only concept now.  Fancy cocktails and small inexplicable plates of food have crowded everything else out.

And then that made me think - well, what would you want in a bar?  What's the ideal bar?  OK, here you go.

There are about 18 excellent beers on tap.  No macros on tap.  There are Bud and Miller longnecks because this is America.  There is no Coors Light of any kind available.

There is no drinks menu.  The bartender knows how to make normal drinks.  There is a nice selection of bourbon, scotch, whiskey, tequila, and other spirits.  There is no muddling.  If you ask for a mojito, the bartender will smile gently and say, "I'm sorry, we don't make mojitos."  That's if you're a girl.  If you're a guy and you ask for a mojito, the bartender will not say anything but will gently shake his head "no."  No frozen blended drinks are offered.

There is one TV.  It is usually off, unless you ask to turn it on for a Giants or 49ers game.  Then it will be turned on with the sound off.

There is a regular, old-style jukebox, not an Internet jukebox.  The jukebox is stocked either by one of the staff or someone else with excellent taste in music.  You can find the Zombies, the Commodores, the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street," Tupac's "Me Against the World," the Strokes, Lefty Frizzell, and much more.

There are cups of dice behind the bar.  There is no neon inside the bar, anywhere.

There is still a working payphone in the alcove between the men's and ladies' rooms.

There are some regulars, but they are not the kind of regulars who get drunk and super loud and take over the bar and then the bartender spends the whole night hanging out at the end of the bar with them and ignoring the other customers.

The bartender makes the best old-fashioned you've ever had.  The bloody mary comes garnished with a fresh stick of celery and nothing else.  It is also delicious.

There is no food prepared onsite.  It's fine to bring in food occasionally, as long as it doesn't fill the bar with food smell and you don't make a habit of it.  This is a bar, not a restaurant or a picnic area.

Large groups of loud, drunk people may find that it takes increasingly long waits to get their drinks refreshed.

This is the perfect place to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sorry I've been away

Honestly, I've been sick as fuck.

This all started Thursday night after a seemingly pleasant dinner and then drinks with some friends at mini-Austin and then I went home and went to bed and WHAMMO woke up at 2:30 a.m. sweaty and nauseous and all kinds of other bad shit.

Same on Friday and Saturday and Sunday and pretty much Monday.  At first I thought it was food poisoning but now I think it was some kind of flu because of how long it lasted.  Anyway, struggled back in to work today so they remember who I am and what I do around here and so that's why I haven't posted anything in a while.

Lying there shivering pouring sweat out of every pore and praying for death I did get some good blog post ideas though so stay tuned.

Now all that's left is an INCREDIBLY painful totally clogged left ear which I've been trying to treat via various bullshit recommendations from the Internet.  I know, not exactly South Sudan, but it hurts.  I'm sure it'll get better.

So that's about it.  I rarely get sick like this so it's really upset the whole herd.  Gotta give mad props to The Wife for basically doing everything while I lay in bed moaning/reading Countdown City/napping/alternating between uncontrollable shivering and gushing sweat like a fat guy in a sauna/not sleeping at all at night.  She's an angel sent from heaven.

The baby, eh, she wasn't really any help at all.

We'll be back soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What would it actually take for Roger Goodell to get fired?

Everybody wants Roger Goodell fired!  Ann Killion at our beloved Chron says "Emperor Goodell's reign should be suspended indefinitely."  He's not a real emperor, I don't think.  Emperor of Fucking Up, maybe.  ZING.  Meanwhile, Grantland wants to know "What Does It Take to Get Roger Goodell Fired?" and even Vice has managed to look up from the cocaine table long enough to muse "Wait, why hasn't NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell been fired yet?"

So yeah, what would it take?  Let's look at some scenarios.


ACTION: Roger Goodell deletes NFL's Season Recording of "What Not to Wear."

EXPLANATION: "Come on, it's like the same thing every episode.  There is no way you were going to watch all those.  We were at 82%.  Come on."

RESULT: NFL glares at Goodell; Goodell not fired.

ACTION: Roger Goodell calls Cowboys fans "the most loathsome, repellent sacks of supposedly organic matter ever to leak excrement onto the Earth."

EXPLANATION: "Well, it's true."

RESULT: Nothing.  It is true.  Goodell not fired.

ACTION: Roger Goodell drafts Wes Welker in the first round of his fantasy draft.

EXPLANATION: "I like him. He plays with a lot of heart."

RESULT: Roger Goodell's fantasy team, "Great Players in the NFL," loses week 1 by 81 points to "Peyton's Manhole."  Roger Goodell not fired.

ACTION: Roger Goodell lists Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" as "My ATF Song" in a Tumblr questionnaire that's going around.

EXPLANATION: "Pink totally rules! This song is so badass."

RESULT: NFL stares at Roger Goodell for a long time and then walks away.  Roger Goodell not fired.

ACTION: Roger Goodell tries to claim 3 different pints of Ben & Jerry's are "one item" to get under 12-item threshhold.

EXPLANATION: "They're all the same thing. They're all ice cream.  You could put them all in one bowl together."

RESULT: NFL explains that the test is whether the scanner beeps more than once.  One scanner beep = one item.  3 pints = 3 items.  Goodell sent to regular line behind a woman with two overflowing carts and 5 children aged 3 to 9.  Goodell not fired.

ACTION: Roger Goodell is short 50 cents to purchse Funnyuns at Pak N Go in Arlington, Texas.  Takes 50 cents from Jerry Jones's change cup in car while Jerry Jones uses bathroom.

EXPLANATION: "It was only 50 cents."

RESULT: Roger Goodell is fired.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ghost horses of San Francisco

A couple of weeks ago the brilliant, totally entertaining podcast 99% Invisible did an episode about the concept of "Thomassons," which are objects (typically) found in cities that are completely useless but regularly maintained.

San Francisco being San Francisco, there's an entire blog devoted to Thomassons in SF (and some examples from elsewhere).  It's called Hyperart: Thomasson and it's fascinating.  Here's an example, found at the Lefty O'Doul Bridge on 3rd Street by AT&T Park:


This appears to be a remnant of the old gate that would come down and block traffic while the bridge was up.  Obviously the arms have been cut off and it doesn't do anything any more but it's apparently still painted and will have its arms raised into eternity as if to say "WOOO-HOOO!!!!  OBSOLESCENCE!!!"

Anyway, this got me thinking, as these things are wont to do, about other examples.  Then, as if by magic, this tweet by Devin McCutchen appeared:


That, my friends, is a Thomasson. This started us talking about other horse hitching posts around SF.  Burrito Justice knew about one:


Good find, Burrito Justice! But Sally Kuchar, editor of Curbed SF (and a totally cool chick) tipped us off that "there's a row of them on Pleasant Street in Nob Hill."

[BRIEF BUT ANNOYING DIGRESSION: This raises another issue that I've been thinking about for years.  When you're saying something is located in a neighborhood that ends in "Hill," do you say "in" or "on"?  Like, I say "You know, Thee Parkside, over on Potrero Hill," or "That is the douchiest place on Russian Hill, and that's saying something."  Sally obviously prefers the "in" usage, as in "My bro sold his startup to Google and bought a place in Rincon Hill."  Is either one right or are they both cool?  I don't know.  *shrugs*]

Indeed there are.  Pleasant Street appears to be accurately named!



Can't you just see a row of horses tied up there, waiting for their owners to return from whatever business they had in or on Nob Hill?  I guess they did perpendicular parking and not parallel parking with horses.

That's about all I've got.  Are there any other SF Thomassons I should know about?  Do let me know.  No one's reading this anyway because it doesn't have anything to do with iPhones and today's iPhone 6 Day or whatever.  My personal wish for the iPhone 6 is that it doesn't give a shit which direction you hold it when you shoot video and fixes it for you so it always looks right.  THAT would be something.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Did you watch the California gubernatorial debate last night? Of course not. I watched it for you.

You probably don't even know there's a gubernatorial election in November.  Look up from your bong every once in a while, hippie, there's a whole world out there.

Anyway, yes, there is, and something named Neel Kashkari is running against Jerry Brown, who has been governor, on and off, since Three's Company was on TV and puts the "elder" in "elder statesman."  Brown is a 2-touchdown favorite and basically will only lose if he dies or Neel Kashkari calls down his space alien overlords which is not out of the question.  The eyes.

Here's a synopsis of the whole thing:

Brown: When I got back on the scene California was a rotting, fetid corpse floating facedown in an irrigation ditch.  I dragged it out and gave it mouth-to-mouth.  Now it looks like Kate Upton.

Kash: Middle class.  I used to be a middle class.  Water.

There were some moments.  I've never noticed this before, but when a Jerry Brown is cornered or threatened, it turns BRIGHT RED as a warning to BACK OFF.  Like when someone asked him if cap and trade will raise gas prices and he said climate change was VERY BAD and someone said WHAT ABOUT GAS PRICES THOUGH and he puffed himself up to look bigger and flushed red and then tried to spit into the eyes of the questioner.

My fave though was when Telemundo host Dunia Elvir asked Kash if he still thinks we should send those poor immigrant kids home!  Kash stumbled around a bit and said hey I love kids but we can't keep them all.  Dunia shot him the best "bitch no way" face I've ever seen.


Most of it was pretty really boring.  Old Man Brown kept reminding everyone that Kash made a lot of money on Wall Street and Kash kept saying "water" and "middle class."  It's actually kinda hard to tell if Kash is a Republican or not, since he's for gay marriage and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and dogs in restaurants.  But he actually did pretty well, if you can get past the crazy eyes.  Close your eyes a little, Neel.

In a final desperate move, Kash said he would make sure that we could get the job we want.  Sweet!  I want to be in Guns N Roses, circa 1987.  Hook a brother up.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Grover Norquist went to Burning Man and doesn't understand how it works

Ugh, more Burning Man stuff.  Sorry.  Just ignore this if you want.  It's just been bothering me and this is where I let my grumpy-old-man-writing-letters-to-the-editor hang out.

Grover Norquist is a noted ultraconservative and anti-tax crusader who famously declared that "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."  Like a puppy you don't want!

Anyway, Grover decided he wanted to go to Burning Man because "There's no government that organizes this. That's what happens when nobody tells you what to do. You just figure it out. So Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature."

Right off the bat, Grover has a few misconceptions.  It's not like 60,000 people just materialize in the remote Nevada desert and organize themselves into a semicircle of camps.  While it's not controlled by a "state" per se, the Burning Man organizers most certainly do serve as a "government."  There are SHITLOADS of rules about what you can and can't do.  Here's a whole page of them. No tampons in the Porta Potties.  Never start a fire on the playa.  No audio systems stronger than 300 watts.  All cars must be licensed.  MAN I AM FEELING THE BOOT OF THE GOVERNMENT ON MY THROAT.  Grover's apparent idea that it's rule-free libertarian wonderland is a fantasy.

So he went and wrote about it for the Guardian.  His article has all the usual first-timer wide-eyed crap about naked people and drugs, but a few passages stood out to me.

A community that comes together with a minimum of “rules” demands self-reliance – that everyone clean up after themselves and help thy neighbor. Some day, I want to live 52 weeks a year in a state or city that acts like this. I want to attend a national political convention that advocates the wisdom of Burning Man.
If you want to live in Burning Man for a year, Grover, be my guest.  I have a few questions, though:  Who's going to bring in the food and water you'll need for a year?  After 3 or 4 months, the camp next door is going to get sick of you showing up every day with your plate out.  Who's going to pay for that food?  More importantly, who's going to maintain the roads that whatever vehicles that bring the food will travel on?  Will Burners leave and voluntarily go on road-paving details?  Because government bad.

What about if someone gets sick? If there's a doctor at Year-Long Burning Man, he's going to be working his fucking ass off providing gifted health care to everyone.  Is that fair?  Who's gonna pay for medical supplies?  What if the person who gets sick doesn't have any money or any shiny beads to trade?

What if Year Long Burning Man gets attacked by the Cliven Bundy Ranch Militia?  You can't bring guns to Burning Man, so who's going to defend you and your fellow Free Society lovers?  Certainly not that bad old government.

(Incidentally, I wonder if Grover, the author of "Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives" knows that he is NOT AT ALL FREE to bring guns to Burning Man.)

Also, the Burning Man political convention is too silly and juvenile an idea to discuss, but it would make for great TV.  I'd fucking love it if Mitt Romney gave a speech about how everyone in the audience had lizard heads with fountains of pure light streaming from them.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of what he says is pretty true, about how you need to be self-reliant at the event and everyone gives of themselves.  I think he's trying to make the point that this kind of attitude and behavior could be writ large in society and we'd all live in a government-free boho paradise, but this is the kind of thinking that most people leave behind when they start high school.  The fact is, Burning Man is a tightly controlled, self-selected community where everyone knows they have to provide for themselves.  When I went, I spent about $2000 to do that.  That money didn't come out of thin air.  In Grover's Burning Man fantasy, what about the people who don't have $2000?  What becomes of them?

Of course Grover Norquist is welcome to go to Burning Man.  Anyone is.  But trying to promote it as some kind of tax-free libertarian fantasyland is ridiculous.

OK, that's it for Burning Man for this year.  Hopefully all years.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Burning Man "Rapture": Is It Real?

No.

If you're late to this, here's the theory behind the so-called "Burning Man Rapture": every year, tens of thousands of San Franciscans decamp to the famous dust festival in the Nevada desert, transforming our Fair City from a Skinnerian warren of crowded streets and jam-packed restaurants into a leisurely, spacious redoubt by the sea, wherein one can simply stroll into otherwise inaccessible restaurants at prime dinner time, look around the empty rooms, and say "I'd like that table."  To hear adherents tell it, the city essentially empties out and you can go anywhere you want without waits or lines.

I've been a long-time Rapture Truther, and I'll tell you why: It's total bullshit.

Maybe, at one point in time, it might have been semi-true.  Maybe in the late 90's or early 00's, it might have actually seemed like there were fewer people in the Mission, although it's hard to know how much to attribute to Burning Man and how much to any of the other 10,000 places people could go on Labor Day.  (I say the Mission because that neighborhood has always been a hotspot of Burnerism, but maybe not so much anymore what with the $1.5 million condos and the $5000 one-bedrooms.)

Anyway, a simple bit of math should clarify.  There were about 70,000 people at Burning Man this year (the most ever - it used to be in the 20-30K range).  Even if HALF of them came from San Francisco (a highly doubtful proposition), that would represent 35,000 people out of a population of 800,000 - hardly enough to make a dent.

But don't take my work for it.  Here are some data points:




From an email I got from a trusted correspondent:
1. We went to new restaurant Plin at Valencia and 14th. Big room. Only available seating was at the bar. In other words, the restaurant was CROWDED.
2. We went to Dalva. It was fairly populated circa 10 p.m., but was NOT crowded.
3. Went to Elbo Room thereafter. CROWDED. Had to "elbo" our way through the crowd.
4. Sidewalks were navigable, but certainly not empty.

I think Fred Sharples probably nailed it.  Many Burning Man types, whatever that is, have probably been priced out of SF in the last 5 years.  Maybe there was some noticeable effect in some East Bay locations, but maybe not.  Anyway, our New City is not particularly conducive to renting warehouse space for your Fire-Breathing Dragon Car any more.

So there you go.  To the extent there ever was a Burning Man Rapture, those days are gone.  Stop resurrecting this nonsense every year.