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7:00 pm (& as sooner as possible, and as later as I can last!) Tuesday 3 July 2007

Prolouge: Being located as it is amidst sundry bail bonds businesses, and disturbingly close to the Hall of (In)Justice, this post for Catalyst Cocktails seems like a good place to tell you about a gem of pure genius I heard about on “The Colbert Report” (aka “The Best Show on Television” since Lame-ass Moonves at CBS cancelled “Jericho” – bastard! nice try, Les; don’t mess with “Jericho” fans!). Remember, Bars By The Book is firmly opposed to drunk driving. However, The Hostess is no big fan of parking tickets. And she especially dislikes forgetting where she parked her car … (which is not exactly as unlikely at one might think; after all, a classic film has even been made about this selfsame quandry). San Francisco needs this service! Gavin? You want my vote? Make this happen Gel-boy…

OK, so even those of us with real jobs don’t have to work on The 4th of July, so there is no excuse to miss out on this kickoff to the “It Sucks That The 4th of July Is On A Wednesday This Year” festivities. As an added incentive, if you come to Catalyst Cocktails during my Official Visit AND if you are wearing red, white, and blue (this means all three, and yes, underwear counts — but you will have to prove it), I will buy you a drink. Of course, this offer applies to Barflies only — so sign-up now if you aren’t listed over there on the left yet …

cocktails.jpg Afterword: How do you like this patriotic image? This is for all of y’all who keep asking me why there aren’t pictures on this ridiculous blog. OK, it’s not a photograph, but it is something to look at, and I happened to be typing this update on the 4th of July, so this particular graphic is/was especially a propos, and I am a huge a propos proponent (an “a propoponent”?), in case you didn’t know.

The image is also a bit ironical here given that the first thing I noticed on my way into Catalyst Cocktails was a sign on the door announcing that the Bar was closing at 10:30 that night. I was understandably a bit dismayed about this, as I was fully intending to stay at Catalyst Cocktails for a lot longer than the three-and-a-half hours it appeared that I had left. But Matt the owner (hi, Matt!) and Ray the cook (hi, Ray!) were there, so at least I had some friendly folks to chat with. Even though I hadn’t been to Catalyst Cocktails in forever, Matt remembered how to make a Smoky Mirror, and Ray remembered my name, which was nice.

{Backstory ensues…} You see, Catalyst Cocktails has been my de facto favorite bar since Soluna fell so far from grace (see: Breezy’s). I loved it from the first moment I walked in, sometime back in either the fall or winter of 2005. Just because I haven’t been there in forever does not mean that I stopped thinking about what a lovely spot to spend time Catalyst Cocktails is. Au contraire! But right around the same time that I discovered it, so did these nutjobs. Yes, precisely the same sort of folks who derailed Soluna, my old favorite bar, have been hanging out at my new favorite bar on a regular basis. The prospect of losing another favorite bar to these cult members has always worried me, so I suppose I have kept Catalyst Cocktails at arm’s length, so to speak. You know, just so I can pretend not to be devastated if history repeats itself, and all.

It gives me great pleasure to report that no one has ruined Catalyst Cocktails (at least not yet). It is still a charming and delightful Bar. It’s stylish (I say Art Deco, Paladin says 1950’s Modern — he is so contrary!) in a surprising way (given that it is located in an alley in the thick of bail bonds businesses) which somehow elevates the serious drinking that you can do there. Now, the drinks could be cheaper ($8.50 well and $10.00 otherwise is a bit on the steep side, especially if one has just bailed someone out of jail, but maybe Matt is trying to cater to overpaid cops and egregiously expensive lawyers), but they always have good music playing. There’s sometimes a dj, there’s a small dance floor in the back, there’s a couple of couches, there’s booths (there’s hooks!), and Ray makes The Best French Fries in San Francisco. Why-oh-why have I not been there in forever? More importantly, why weren’t you there?

The remnants of the sort of respectable people who gather for a (meaning one) drink after work before heading home to dinners containing all of the food groups and going to bed at a decent hour were just leaving as I arrived. So Matt and Ray and I had the place to ourselves long enough to get all caught up. Then two guys I took to be homeless (until one of them pulled out a cell phone much later on) came in. They seemed to be regulars, and are actually quite nice, homeless or not (I suppose they could be undercover cops, the sort of which are despatched in truly alarming numbers at various local street fairs lately). At least one of them is even a veteran, which was nicely in keeping with the patriotic tone I was trying to set with my red spaghetti-strap tee-sirt, white capri pants, and blue cardigan. (Hi, Jim and Brian!) But the cook, the owner, two old guys drinking PBR, and The Hostess is not exactly a party (although it might make for an interesting movie title), now is it? I realize that the 4th of July being on a Wednesday this year is sort of a drag, but that is precisely why I planned the Official Visit to the 18th Bar in The Book for the 4th of July Eve. I couldn’t understand why the place wasn’t packed. I mean, as Scotty had pointed out to me earlier in the day, we basically get two Fridays this week. Where was everyone? I was starting to get depressed. I was definitely disappointed. That’s when Ray, being the wise scholar that he is, suggested that I “summon” some company.

For the record, the first person I tried to summon was Chica Cherry. After all, what is an adopted sister for, if not to save you from drinking in a more or less empty bar (except perhaps for getting you tickets to see your new muse, Amy Winehouse, in September — I am sooo psyched — gracias, hermana!)? But Chica Cherry was not answering her phone — no doubt she was out doing something fabulous that she forgot to invite me to. Having tried to do the right and respectable thing (certain persons have been trying to tell me the 4th of July is a “family holiday” — I think just to upset me, but whatever), I realized that what I really could use after such a long, difficult week (yes, I realize it was only Tuesday, but trust me) was the affectionate attention of a charming southern gentleman, and it just so happens that I have one of them on speed dial…

I was actually surprised that Jonny-Georgia answered his phone, social butterfly that he has become. But he did, and I gave it to him straight: I was looking for someone to come into a basically deserted Bar, in pretty much the middle of nowhere, that was going to close at 10:00 (Matt and Ray had revised closing time in light of the largely absent crowd), just to keep me company. And the charming southern gentleman said he would “be right there”.

He got a little lost, but he didn’t give up, and Jonny-Georgia is nothing if not always worth the wait. We closed Catalyst Cocktails down and caught a cab (that was filling up at a gas station, which was novel) and headed for Ace’s, which I found out is just as much fun after dark as it is during the day, AND is the first Bar to be categorized as one of “The Bars Where One Can Hightail It Out the Back”. As an interesting (to me, at least) aside, I learned from Matt that an establishment with only one entrance/exit is only permitted to legally have 49 people in it a time as per the San Francisco fire code. This number is irrespective of the actual size of any particular place. One door means 49 persons, maximum, period. Of course, this is legally speaking, and there are a lot of “laws” that are really just reasons for the police to harass otherwise innocent citizens (just ask poor Paris Hilton), so make of this what you will.

Another thing I learned from Matt is that the key to a “real” Philly Cheesesteak is actually the bread, which can only be acquired in Philadelphia, and has something to do with the water there. There is, according to Matt, only one place in San Francisco that bothers to have bread flown in from Philadelphia (but even so, you apparently have to order “double meat” there for the authentic Philly Cheesesteak experience). Where is this place? I’m not going to tell you. This is the kind of illuminating information that one must be present at an Official Visit to glean. So, you missed out on this potentially useful (unless you are a vegetarian) tidbit. Plus, you missed enjoying The Best French Fries in San Francisco with me (unless your name is Jonny-Georgia), to say nothing of the fact that you missed out on me buying you a drink (if you were wearing red, white, and blue, that is). As for missing out on the charming company of Jonny-Georgia — and the spectacle he and I usually make of ourselves — in point of fact, I actually prefer to enjoy myself some Jonny-Georgia by myself thank you very much, and not at all shaken, but stirred — slowly, languidly even — if you know what I mean. As for Catalyst Cocktails — get thee there before it’s no longer an option! What do I mean by this cryptic comment? Let’s just say — again, for emphasis — you should have been there

Bathroom Biography:
One, but wierdly enough I have never seen a line. On this visit, I thought there could have been more toilet paper actually in the dispensers, and less on the floor, but I’ve seen worse. I told Matt to change the lightbulb in there to a pink one, so that should ameliorate things in there.