641 Bush ~ (415) 989-2524

6:00pm Friday 13 July 2007

Prologue: Not much in the way of Great Expectations for Chelsea Place. It’s apparently a dive Bar, so I probably won’t be wearing my tiara. But this seems like a good place to draw your attention to Bars By The Book first Official Footnote (look over on the left, below the calendar). The Footnotes section is for links I think are especially pertinent (the WordPress links are there by default, and I figured I might as well leave them there since they are hosting this ridiculous blog for free and all), and I am sure we can all agree that The Museum of the American Cocktail deserves some sort of honorable mention on Bars By The Book’s sidebar. Check it out! It’s a museum devoted to cocktails! What a fabulous institution — knowing that there is such a place makes me feel like there is hope for civilization after all. While the Gift Shoppe does not sell shot glasses, I’ll be keeping my eye on these fine folks. They are obviously on same page as I am, and now they’re on this page, too! Do come and join me at Chelsea Place — I’m hoping to have some good news about my morning at the DMV to celebrate (notwithstanding it being Friday the 13th and all).

Afterword: “A new low in Bars By The Book,” proclaimed Paladin (mind you, this was as he began his second scotch). I think he was being a little harsh. OK, so the place is basically a total dive, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.  And it’s got a contingent of regulars, so it’s obviously fine for some folks — menfolks only perhaps, judging from the demographics during The Official Visit, but if there can be “chick flicks” surely there can be “boy bars”.  Besides, it was a gloriously sunny afternoon and I had triumphed over the DMV (where there is some alarming Indian-outsourcing going on that certainly bears some serious scrutiny…). It was hard to be grumpy, even if I subsequently spent the rest of the day waiting for the trunk of my car to be fixed to the tune of just under $130.00, but I decided to consider that as a learning experience. I mean, did you know that a trunk even could break? I didn’t. Until today.  So now we all know: trunks of cars can in fact break (and if the car in question is a VW Jetta, apparently you can depend on this to occur).  Anyway, being out the trunk fixing funds and having used up a bunch of leave time from work, I was still not ready to condemn Chelsea Place as being appreciably worse than, say, The Annex.

Then again, the DMV success story and balmy weather might have been to blame for my uncharacteristic feeling of good will toward an overall admitedly pretty icky place. We probably wouldn’t have stuck around for a second round, but Chica Cherry was on her way, and getting another Bar credit for a Barfly seemed like a good enough reason to tough it out for a while longer. Even if the smokers in the door were causing the whole Bar to reek like cigarette smoke. To an unprecedented degree, even. Glancing at the door, it didn’t seem crowded enough with smokers to account for the amount of smokiness in the Bar. That’s when I realized an astonishing fact: people in the Bar were smoking. And not just one of them.  At least three, maybe more.  It was so smoky, it was hard to tell. And at least one very old person down at the end of the bar was smoking a cigar. I tell you, it was surreal

I had to know how this was possible (you know how I am). I was careful to just seem innocently curious (as opposed to shocked, shocked and judgemental), and it seems as though that’s just the way it is at Chelsea Place.  A regular (whose name I failed to write down and so I cannot recall for you here)  gave me the scoop.  He also enlightened me as to the existence of a vast network of Korean-owned bars — Chelsea Place being one of them — spread all over San Francisco where petite Korean women tend bar and pour drinks for men like him who prefer to frequent these certain bars.  This man and his friends call their bar crawls among these establishments “doing the Ho Chi Minh Trail (which is pretty tragic considering that the Ho Chi Minh Trail refers to a network of trails through eastern Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam and has nothing to do with Korea, but whatever).  I don’t know if smoking is somehow inexplicably permitted in those other Korean-owned bars, but I was beginning to get a sort of an unsettlingly racist, if not de facto lecherous, vibe from what’s-his-name, which was bumming me out because he seemed quite nice and friendly — if geographically challenged — otherwise.

I decided to get the bathroom inspection out of the way so we could beat it once Chica Cherry finally showed up and downed her qualifying drink. That’s when things got really interesting, and by interesting, I mean: disgusting. To begin with, in order to get to the restrooms, you have to wind your way down a precarious staircase straight out of the Winchester Mystery House.  Then, upon successfully negotiating the stairs, you find yourself confronted with the most desultory lavatories (I checked — the men’s is just as bad as the ladies’).  Cramped quarters, and the wierdly split toilet space from sink is bad enough.  But it’s the smell that is the real problem.  And I don’t mean the usual dive bar aroma of poorly maintained washrooms.  Chelsea Place’s bathrooms smell like the decaying remains of at least a hundred years of what is either rats — or cats that have eaten rats — that have died in the walls.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, but the going up the stairs isn’t any than the coming down them…

What a relief it was to see Chica Cherry when I emerged from the subterrainian unpleasantness.  And what an unexpected delight to see she had shanghaied Dug the Slug into joining us (hi, Dug!).  Paladin couldn’t take it anymore and went a few doors down to investigate if it was worth moving our collective selves to the Tunnel Top, and Dug and Chica signed my copy of the petition to get John Rinald’s name on the ballot for mayor of our fair city while finishing their qualifying round. Then Chica Cherry snapped a couple of Official Pictures of Dug and I and we headed down the street, where Paladin was valliantly attempting to order us drinks through a crowd that was four deep at the bar in the Tunnel Top — which is not a Bar, it’s a Cocktail Lounge.  It’s also infinitley nicer than Chelsea Place, so if you find yourself in a thirsty mood and on the 600-block of Bush Street, you should definitley opt for the top of the tunnel.  We had a rollicking good time there, and I got a bunch of signatures on my petition, which apparently I enjoyed more than Mr. Rinaldi, who had to resort to paying to get his name on the ballot, after whining about how “hard” signature collection is, and whose campagin has since devolved into I’m not quite sure what, so Bars By The Book has withdrawn our endorsement of Mr. Rinaldi.  The Hostess is now planning to write in the name Paul Addis as the mayor of her choice in November and urges you to do so, too, because yes, she would rather have an arsonist in that office than either someone who would sleep with his best friend’s wife or someone who is only trying to get matching funds for his next performance. Call me contrary. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Bathroom Biography:
See above.  Enough said.