493 Broadway ~ (415) 788-2706

Thursday 12 February 9:00pm

Prologue:  Yep, Fuse is in North Beach, so you know better than to try and park anywhere in the vicinity.  The Hostess will be arriving via the 9X, (her virgin voyage on this colorful line), a taxi (if the weather is inclement), or by Pumpkin/Coach (why rule anything out?).  Chica Cherry is coming (despite having her hopes of going to at least one Bar in every letter dashed by missing the epic “Spree Through the E’s”).  And someone else is going to be bringing me a present from Costa Rica (which is, for some reason, apparently not a shot glass).

The Hostess is aware that many of you have free drink coupons that are — as we say in Texas — fixin’ to expire.  Bring them.

If you are reading this, you should come.  Even if you think I don’t want to see you, you should still come.  I’m gong to be wearing a very sexy top that everyone — even you — should see me in.

Rain or Moonbeams, Barflies!

The Lord of My Locks has assured me that my tresses will be burnished to the most shining and golden hue (that money can buy) in plenty of time for The Hostess to arrive unfashionably early at Fuse. Therefore, I will have some time to scope the place out and duly note the particulars before Chica Cherry and the Mysterious World Traveler (et vous?) arrive.

This means I will have plenty of time for pictures. So if the weather co-operates, and doesn’t deter you from venturing out, come pretty*. This is, after all, the only “F” in The Book, so that’s at least a somewhat special occasion, worth looking fairly festive for in the Official Photos. (Besides, the first two of the three “G’s” look pretty grim, so this might be our last chance to bother indulging my our collective vanity for awhile…)

*Actually, come anyway. Scruffy, disheveled, or otherwise unkempt — Bars By The Book is unlikely to judge you. As improbable as that seems, allow me to tell you the tale of how I uncharacteristically attended to the battered and bleeding boy who bravely approached me in the driveway of the Mystery Mansion not long ago. It was at a most inappropriate hour of the morning that he began by beseeching me for beneficence, which was beyond buffoonish for a bedraggled person, such as he, to expect from The Hostess. And yet an actual anecdote ensued. It’s a fairly interesting incident (or so I’ve been told)…

Story-time commences at 10:30, sharp (to allow for a trapeze class, of all things). Group photo to follow. You know the drill, or you soon will.

Afterword: Walking up the street to Fuse, I was thinking how odd it was that I spent all that time drunkenly staggering around North Beach with the Viagra Viceroy and we never once ventured into this Bar. Go figure. Anyway, when I sashayed in the door at 8:45pm, and there were zero other customers, I was not phased in the least. The place seemed to have potential. The vibe is a mash-up of divesque (not actual dive) and night-ish club (not quite night clubby) — a little schizo, which The Hostess can appreciate. The ceiling is nice. The lighting is mostly good (lovely in the bar area, but it’s a little bright over the couch on the far side of the dance floor, which defeats the purpose of having a couch, if you ask The Hostess). There’s an ashtray outside, there are hooks, and the bartender was very friendly, so we were 3-for-3, so to speak, right off the bat.

{In the interest of full disclosure: I was freshly hair salonified — which is something to behold — and I made no bones about why I was there when I walked into the door and asked said bartender if he was aware that he worked at the 43rd Bar in The Book, so it is therefore possible that he may have been trying to impress me … but he struck me as probably actually being kind of a cool guy in real life, too (and he is definitely kind of cute).}

His name is Jamie. And if you go to Fuse and he is working, tell him hello for me. Also, be prepared to marvel at his mad bar-tending skills. Jamie is Officially Inducted into my Bartender Hall of Fame as a true credit to his profession. First of all, he gave me a “Special Grenadine Price” on the premium vodka & soda’s — easy on the ice — he was making me with a new(-ish?) vodka that is made by Patron (WTF?!?). (Well, $7.00 didn’t seem that special, but it was better than the usual 10 bucks, I had to admit.) He remembered exactly what I was drinking — including the “easy ice” bit — all evening. Jamie was also very nice to all the Barflies to whom I introduced him. Then there were the Tom-Cruisey-in-“Cocktail – style shenanigans…

Necessary? No. Gratuitous? Probably. Amusing, entertaining, and pretty damn impressive nevertheless? Definitely. (If you can’t enjoy a bartender basically juggling bottles and mixers and garnishes into glasses with flourish, then there is something fundamentally wrong with you. Skip Fuse and get a life.) Finally, Jamie did what all other credits to his profession do, which never fails to impress The Hostess: he kept the glasses of an entire bar full of people fairly full with minimal wait times … All. By. Himself. I actually watched him multi-task like a madman for a bit, and it was a sight to behold. Jamie seems to have a loyal following who just go to Fuse in order to avail themselves of his flawless service (well, and maybe to try and pick up tipsy chicks, too). If I lived in the neighborhood, I probably would join them (although I would also probably be one of the tipsy chicks — and would most likely have one, or more, other tipsy chicks with me — so I wouldn’t be looking to pick any up).

Except I would definitely only go to Fuse early. I forgot to ask if there is a happy hour when the drink prices are more acceptable. Either way, Fuse is better the less crowded it is, in The Hostess’ opinion. In my infinite wisdom, I scheduled the Official Vist on a Thursday. Something tells me that on Fridays and Saturdays, the clientele tends toward the dreaded bridge-&-tunnelers (a phrase which categorically does not apply to any of the intrepid Barflies who bravely make their ways across the Bay, by any means necessary, in order to keep The Hostess such fine company).

Anyway, if it were too crowed to dance at Fuse, that would be disappointing. And the dance floor is not exactly spacious. When all the Barflies present were dancing at once, we basically filled it up, which was fine by us (and by any sane person there at the time because we are all very good looking, and not bad dancers, either). The Hostess has finally concluded that dancing is a surefire way to have a good time. Even if the music is … well, let’s just say: not great.

Which it was not, at Fuse. In fairness, the music wasn’t exactly great at El Tin Tan either, which didn’t lessen our dancing pleasure there in the least. But the first problem with the music at Fuse is expressed nicely in this Zen koan I found scribbled in the Official Notebook the next day: “too loud for talking; not loud enough for dancing” (the latter bit we promptly ignored). Volume aside, Boom Lolo (currently & technically the newest Barfly) put it best when he described the dj-ing at Fuse that night as very “ipod on shuffle-seeming.” To that I would add: “ipod full of 80-s and 90’s music.” Now, maybe it was “80’s & 90’s Blast-From-the-Past” night at Fuse, which would explain everything. But the dj did not lay down any so-called “phat beats”, and there was no mixing — just “spinning”. However, she would play whatever you asked for if she had it, and she did have Guns-n-Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” — which was a good thing, indeed — so I will not excoriate her here. Dancing is fun, and you can dance at Fuse every night after 10pm, which is good information to have in case a Dance Emergency should befall you.

But before there was dancing, there was Joe and his friend, either Josh or Chris (who I could not manage to keep straight for some reason). They had dropped either Josh or Chris off in some strip club and kept me company at Fuse until Jessica Rabbit and Goomz (another new Barfly) arrived. Another good thing about Fuse is that the walls behind the bar are mirrored, so you can simultaneously check that your hair looks OK and keep an eye on who is coming in the door behind you. This came in handy when Mysterious World Traveler (M.W.T. — unless I hear otherwise) Re-fly walked in and almost failed to recognize me on account of the fanciness of my hairdo. He proceeded to present me with my present from Costa Rica, which I loved even if it wasn’t a shot glass. In fact, it was a good thing it wasn’t a shot glass, because Chica Cherry snuck up on me with an entire shoebox full of shot glasses — all individually wrapped in tissue paper! — and M.W.T. Re-fly pointed out how that would have made just one shot glass from Costa Rica seem rather paltry, in comparison.

As I headed to the restroom to complete my Official Inspection of the premises, I discovered another important fact about Fuse: there are some terrain changes — ramps and uneven thresholds and such — that it is probably a good idea of which to remain aware, especially those of you in high heels, or who may be somewhat intoxicated (or both). As I negotiated my way back from the restroom, I saw that, somewhat to my surprise, Sigerson — of all the Barflies in the ridiculous blog — had joined us. Although he did not have a present for me, he did recognize me (in fairly short order), and he also agreed not to dwell on his disappointment that he had already seen the somewhat-ballyhooed shirt I was sporting. Furthermore, he had bought me a drink, which — as everyone should know by now — always warms The Hostess’ heart. (Oh, and he assured me that he hadn’t spiked that drink, which was charming and chivalrous of him.)

Right about then — or shortly thereafter — M.W.T. Re-fly pointed out something else … namely: that the free drink coupons The Hostess has been handing out for practically an entire year have a typo on them!!! Rather than stating they are “not valid unless signed by The Hostess“, they apparently purport to be valid only if SINGED by me, which is altogether an entirely different matter. A measure of Hilaritas ensued. Since I am as much of a strict grammarian as M.W.T. Re-fly is an astute observer, I asked Jamie for a lighter with which to properly singe the coupon. He gave me some matches, which would never do, so I went outside to borrow a lighter from a smoker, whereupon a kind lass offered to singe the edge of the coupon with her lit cigarette — which, in retrospect, was certainly the safest thing to do. (In the future, I shall make a more scrupulous use of spell-check, but as a nod to this amusing anecdote, all outstanding coupons are hereby declared valid for one additional year and will be honored in full, whether signed, or singed.)

Heavens to Betsy if Salawesome and Hooker Bait didn’t suddenly appear next! It was really getting fun to keep introducing people to each other by their increasingly colorful Barfly names. Good thing I was implementing the Water Program (one fizzy water in between each Real Drink), or I might have had difficulty keeping everyone straight. I don’t know if Jamie ever met all the Barflies, but he was quick with the fizzy H2O refills which was way more important than him knowing anyone’s name (besides mine) …

Speaking of names, I kept remembering Joe’s, even if I could never get Josh and Chris sorted out — which is too bad because I took two very cute pictures with Joe and either Josh or Chris. Speaking of pictures, there’s a nice one of Chica Cherry — who seemed satisfied that I was in good company but therefore unfortunately left before the dancing commenced — and I under the blue Fuse sign. Speaking of leaving, the motorcycle gang left en masse — managing to escape being photographed, alas — but Mother Nature could hardly be expected to keep the forecasted rain at bay much longer, and not even The Hostess wants to ride on a motorcycle in the rain, so I didn’t hold it against them. Besides, it was a school night…

So since it was a school night, at around 11:30pm, the question of who the rest of us were going to get to take our group photo in front of the red Fuse sign over the door came up. Did I mention that Fuse is strategically located amid almost nothing but strip clubs? Well, it is, which meant that anyone tottering by was either drunk & disorderly or visibly vagrant, and I was not about to hand my camera over to either of the above. While I tried to figure out if the shot would even be possible from any angle (I am the daughter of a photographer, after all), some or all the remaining Barflies began making a ruckus about a fire hazard. I found this quite ironic, since at least half of them are smokers and, until they met me, at least some of that half of them were known to toss cigarette butts on the ground, which is not exactly considered to be a model of fire safety.

It turned out that they were agitated by the fact that there was a man sitting in the driver’s seat of some enormous black SUV that was parked, conspicuously, directly in front of a fire hydrant. Admittedly, a parking infraction was occurring. However, The Hostess wasted many an hour, back in the day, driving around in agonizing circles throughout North Beach, desperately seeking a parking space (a fact made only more ludicrous considering that I employed a chauffeur at the time).  So, let me state, for the record, as anyone else who has tried to park a car in that neck of the woods can tell you: there are way too many fire hydrants in North Beach. It would not surprise me if there are even more fire hydrants than bars in North Beach — the redundancy is that ridiculous. I’m sure that if I had bothered to check, I would have found that at least one of the other three corners at the intersection where Fuse is located has another fire hydrant on it. It is entirely possible that all four corners of that intersection have fire hydrants on them. In short, The Hostess could not possibly have cared less about the man — who seemed to be someone else’s chauffeur — blocking one damn fire hydrant amongst the positive plague of them in North Beach.

Truth be told, I’m glad that man was parked in front of that particular fire hydrant. He obviously wasn’t too drunk to be driving somebody somewhere shortly, and he definitely didn’t have anything else to do, since he couldn’t really stray too far from the illegally parked vehicle. So I decided to press him into service as our photographer. While reluctant at first — remember, a bevy of Barflies was boisterously bemoaning his parking strategy — I did politely persuade Kareem to take our picture. He was quite nice about it, and even took a couple of shots to be sure we got a good one, thereby demonstrating, I do hope, that not everyone who parks in front of a fire hydrant is necessarily some sort of degenerate.

The Barflies insisted on driving me to the garage where I had stashed the J-car. That was sweet of them, but if you have ever wondered what happens when five (or maybe somehow six?) fuddled folks with a sketchy-at-best understanding of the one-way street system between North Beach and Union Square try to get from Point A to Point B, the result is circuitous, to say the least. If you happen to find yourself in a similar predicament and then, for some reason, consider heading to the Embarcadero in an effort to get there — come hell or high water — maybe reconsider that plan if time is of the essence. And if Market St. gets involved, it is definitely time to inquire why the person with the frickin’ GPS on her phone has not fired that thing up yet. Then it’s time to giggle, because you can walk to Point B from anywhere by then, if necessary.

Just as I arrived safely at the Mystery Mansion, Mother Nature unleashed a torrential downpour that was so impressive, I paused on the porch to watch it.  As I did so, I pondered the following:

  • Wasn’t it cool when that guy playing the saxophone on Market St. switched, mid-song, into “Isn’t She Lovely” just as I walked by?
  • Wouldn’t MUNI be more fun to ride at night if the lighting were, say, pink?
  • As for presents: is it really the thought that counts?
  • Is it odd that Fuse has those weird videos of drunk people doing dumb things in bars playing on the big TV screen over the bar?
  • Wasn’t it sort of amazing how far back Sigerson dipped me on the dance floor without once dropping me on my head?
  • Would I go back to Fuse someday?
  • Shouldn’t I know exactly how to drive from North Beach to Union Square by now?
  • Wasn’t it great that it didn’t start raining until the exact moment I got home (and would it really be so terrible to ride a motorcycle in a downpour)?
  • Would the evening have been totally perfect if only the trapeze student had not flaked?
  • If I have as much fun as I do with old friends and new ones (and complete strangers), do I really, as I profess, not like people?

(The unequivocal answer to all of the above is, of course, is YES.  And if you are reading this, you are probably an exception to that me- not-liking-people-thing.)