6:00pm Thursday 6 December 2007
Oh goody: “the holidays” are here… (The Hostess sighed on December 5th)
An orphan’s least favorite time of the year got off to an even worse than usual start this year (and last year was tough to beat, which you can read about at the bottom of the Various Marginalia page). I had grandly planned to get this bar crawl jump-started with “Hanukkah Happy Hours”. Yep, 8 Bars in 8 nights. Granted, this was an ambitious undertaking after so long, but I geared up for it. I not only re-arranged my workout schedule, I modified my alcohol intake to lower my tolerance thusly likewise lowering my upcoming Bar tabs (note the brilliant behind-the-scenes logic at work here).
However, like so many of the best laid plans, “Hanukkah Happy Hours” was led agley. I blame the resignation of Bars By The Book’s Jewish consultant for the fact that I thought Hanukkah starting on Wednesday meant that December 5 was the first night. Which is the night the happy hours were scheduled to start. Spending Tuesday at jury duty prevented my recalibrating the time-line to start that night. And being the stickler for strict religious observance that I am, I could hardly have something called “Hanukkah Happy Hours” that missed the crucial first night of the celebration, now could I?
“The 12 Nights of Cocktails” was considered. Briefly. I had my doubts about 8 Bars in 8 nights, so I had to conclude that a dozen was really going to be a bit much, financially and hepatotoxically. So — in a stroke of genius — I decided to split the difference and plan a 4 evening event henceforth known as “The Hostess’ Third Annual Holiday Lark”. (Twelve minus eight equals four. Work with me, people…)
That’s right: the next 4 Bars in 4 successive nights. Completely achievable. Totally do-able. Fail-safe, foolproof, and unflappably festive. Or not. We’ll see. Here’s the schedule:
- 6:00pm Thursday 12/6: Club 93; 93 9th St. @ (Mission & Market, MAP) — We toast Hanukkah and wonder why there are so many different ways to spell it.
- 5:30pm Friday 12/7: Coco’s Bar; 4541 Mission @ (Santa Rosa & Harrington, MAP) — We toast Christmas and wonder whence the idea of the flying reindeer originated.
- 6:30pm Saturday 12/8: Costellos Four Deuces; 2319 Taraval @ (33rd Ave., MAP) — We toast Kwanza and wonder if this makes us Politically Correct.
- 4:30pm Sunday 12/9: Cresta’s Twenty Two Eleven Club; 2211 Polk @ (Vallejo, MAP) — We toast the perennial underdog “Other”, but especially the pagans who started this holiday madness in the first place while innocently trying to concoct rituals that would bring back the sun.
As Tiny Tim says, “…bless us, everyone!”
Prologue: They take credit cards, how bad can the place be? I am personally going to try and get there early, before their alleged happy hour ends at 6:00.
Afterword: The weather outside was frightful but inside Club 93 was so delightful…really, all initial impressions to the contrary — the first of many “holiday miracles”, to be sure:
I was supposed to meet a guy named Bob at Club 93 that dark and stormy night. But that Bob decided the combination of driving from the geographic unfortunateness that is San Mateo, plus the increasingly inclement weather, divided by the sketchy neighborhood where Club 93 is located wasn’t his kind of math. I’d cast aspersions on that Bob, but he’s not really worth the effort. Just imagine my surprise when the nice man I asked to take the Official Photo before it got too impossibly rainy turned out to be named…Bob! Henceforth known as Coincidence Bob, this Bob also happens to be the current President of the San Francisco Tavern Pool Association, which was having its board meeting at Club 93 that very evening. (Heads up, ladies! The Association needs females quite urgently. Teams regularly must forfeit matches on account of not having the requisite girl in attendance, which means the odds of drinking for free and having men try to get your phone number must be pretty damn good…) We chatted amicably for quite a while. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
“Who are you?” asked a woman who seemed to be loitering in the doorway to Club 93 as I tentatively attempted to enter the premises. Turns out she was trying to identify Pool Leaguers, rather than keep strangers out of the place, so I made it inside. Turns out she was also the bartender (hi, Coco!) for the first part of the evening, anyway. “Make Your Drunk Dials As Dirty As Your Martinis”, it said around the rim of my glass, which made me smile. That’s when I met Coincidence Bob and he agreed to take my picture.
“You aren’t from here, are you?” quipped an apparent regular Club 93 customer as we wrapped up the photo shoot.
“Actually, we both live here,” I retorted, feeling feisty at being presumed a tourist.
“Then you should know better than to use a camera like that on this street,” he said.
I think that chap was being overly harsh. Club 93 is on 9th St., which is three whole giant SOMA blocks away from the crack-head crevasse that is 6th St. And besides, the camera never has worked quite right since it fell off a fire escape in North Beach, and I could use an excuse to get a new one. Either way, I didn’t feel like I was taking any risks on that stretch of sidewalk at the time, and so you shouldn’t be especially paranoid, either (and really, who knows what that chap was on?).
After all, I’d already sized up the joint. There’s a somewhat dilapidated (but allegedly functional) piano just inside the door. There are ceiling fans (which The Hostess loves, but for some reason they are only hanging over where the bartenders work at Club 93). And there are 20 beers on tap — everything from PBR to Stella. Plus a pool table. And a jukebox (more about this later). To say nothing of the “secret room” downstairs, which Coincidence Bob showed me. You probably won’t get the Grand Tour, so you’ll have to settle for my minimalist revelation thereof: it contains a periwinkle blue pool table. (Admit it, don’t you occasionally wish you were me?!?)
Upon the conclusion of my Grand Tour, what to my wondering eyes should appear but none other than Ms Olive! “Men Are Like Martinis, the Stiffer the Better” it said around the rim of my next glass, and I must confess, we drank a toast to my days of being at the mercy of the availability of a certain little blue pill being over — good riddance (& Happy Hanukkah, of course, to that particular piece of work)!
It seemed like we were waiting for something, but the weather was getting worse and Ms Olive was being cagey. We passed some pleasant time learning about a drink called Chocolate Cake, which is consumed thusly: you dredge a lemon in sugar, bite the lemon, shoot a combination of Frangelica and vanilla vodka…and the whole thing allegedly tastes like a slice of chocolate cake in your mouth (unless you throw up, I guess). Club 93 lacking at least half of the necessary ingredients, we did not get to put this hypothesis to the test, but The Hostess remains firmly intrigued.
At long last, Ms Olive could finally stop anxiously checking her cell phone, because Chica Cherry showed up with my Hanukkah surprise present — Mama Pearl! — on her arm (not to mention, more chocolate coins than any of us would ever be able to eat). And I’ll be damned if “We Are Family” didn’t immediately start playing on the (obviously Jewish) jukebox at right then and there. We sang, we drank, we danced, we had a shift change (hi, Kobe!), and we drank some more. The Tavern Pool Associates finished their meeting and we mingled. I met a woman named Cassandra (according to my notes) with a great sense of style, when I complimented her on her snazzy threads and she complimented me on my new coat, which I really thought made me look sort of like a cow — its being black and white — but this notion was unanimously dispelled (got to love drunk people’s aesthetic!).
Alas, it came to be time for us to go. But we had started the dreaded holiday season off on the right foot, that much was certain. We had braved a skeezy street corner, met a slew of nice new folks, and inarguably experienced Club 93 to its fullest extent. Later on — as we were inexplicably getting kicked out of a cab while dropping Mama Pearl off (which is a whole other story, obviously) — I was positively seized by the holiday spirit and I had to remark, ‘ere the cab drove out of sight,
“Happy Hanukkah to all,
And to all, a good night!“
It was really a more magical beginning to the (at that time) half-hearted Holiday Lark than a Dickensian Orphan like The Hostess could even imagine. It was more of a miracle than that oil lasting eight nights back in ye Olde Testament tymes. In fact, the next morning, I was actually not despondent upon awakening, for a change. Could have been the vodka. Might have been the jukebox. But I think it was the stellar company aided and abetted by some Club 93 mojo. I wouldn’t necessarily plan another evening around it, but if I were in the neighborhood, I’d definitely drop by Club 93 for another round.
Ms Olive went first. Her review was not glowing. She proclaimed it a “den of dismay” (and while I duly noted this, I did have to ask her the following evening to help me translate my transcription). I didn’t think the facilities were that bad at all. I’ve seen much worse and so could you. If you’ve gotten past the ambiance of the neighborhood, the bathroom is not going to scare you.