8:00pm Friday 25 May 2007
Prologue: Their website is SUPER ANNOYING. Do not click on the link to it unless you want to be directed to a page that plays music which you cannot turn off and is not very informative, at that. (Oh, well, it’s a Bar in the Marina, so what else can you really expect besides a dose of obnoxiousness?) On the plus side of things, the Bus Stop is the first Bar That Is Also a Cocktail Lounge, which is certainly something worth noting. It is also the last Bar that starts with a “B”. So really, why would you not check it out with me…?
You might also consider reading Mark Morford’s reflection on excessive drinking beforehand. I can’t decide if he is pro or con (or has just given up on deciding) in his conclusion, but I do enjoy his prose. And it’s a nice reminder that maintaining the ability to remain upright is essential to say, any “artistic adventure considerably illuminated by champagne” (which is a phrase that appears on the first page of a book called “Babbitt” by Sinclair Lewis that is otherwise a terrible waste of time so don’t bother reading it because this phrase is the best part of the book, trust me).
Afterword: Let me begin this little synopsis by apologizing for taking so long to write it. I am well aware of the first rule of ridiculous blogging: “update, update, update” — but what can I say? I wanted to wait until I had time to write something worthy of my Bus Stop experience (and I have been nursing a broken toe — more or less — keep reading).
Paladin and I took the bus to the Bus Stop, because I am nothing if not a propos. I was excited as I always am on the threshold of “THE NEXT BAR!”, but I do have to admit that my initial impression was somewhat less-than-enthusiastic. This did not phase me in the least, of course, because I was expecting a pretty stereotypical Marina (and therefore largely unpleasant) hangout, so the fact that the Bus Stop seemed only about 50% stereotypical Marina clientele was actually a plus. You see, the Bus Stop is actually not a “Marina bar”. It’s really one of the oldest bars in San Francisco (est. 1900) and what it is is a neighborhood Bar that just happens to be in the neighborhood of the Marina (of course Paladin will debate semantics with you for hours between what is the Marina vs. what constitutes Cow Hollow, but come on, what is the difference, these days, hair-gel-wise?). What this means is that there are stereotypical Marina-types in there, but at least half the people there are from the neighborhood from well before the designation “Marina” took on its dot-bomb negative connotations, so once you settle in and realize this, you will calm down about the fact that people might be looking at you a little funny, because if you are not from the Marina (or Cow Hollow), they are just wondering what you are doing there, that’s all.
Which is to say that the Bus Stop did not immediately strike me as a destination spot. What the Bus Stop also happens to be is a sports bar — with 22 tv screens of various sizes all turned to sports and a back room full of pool tables. So if you want to see sports, I suppose you might head there from elsewhere on purpose, but that’s not why I go to Bars, is it? So I can’t assess the Bus Stop from the perspective of a sports bar afficinado.
But I can (oh, and I will!) assess the Bus Stop from a Barfly perspective and as it turns out, the main reason I didn’t like the Bus Stop more immediately is because I allowed myself to be seduced by their window seats, which are bright (being in the windows and all) and do have railings just wide enough to balance a drink on, and even have the same stools as the bar, but I had separation anxiety from the bartender as soon as I had turned my back on him to look out the window and let’s face it, the bar is always the best place to be.
So when the 25-somethings thronging the bar cleared out to go and peer at the rest of us from their peripheral tables, we moved to the middle of the bar and I instantly felt much more at home. It is possible this was occasioned, at least in part, to the arrival of the newest Barfly, Scotty, who had ventured blocks (blocks!) outside of his usual drinking zone and obviously needed The Hostess to create the illusion of the familiar if he was going to make it through the requisite Drink. But meeing Ron, the bartender, was also definitely a factor in the merriment which ensued. (And I don’t even think I ever got around to telling him the fascinating fact that the Bus Stop is the first Bar In The Book that is also a Cocktail Lounge!)
While Scotty was being miffed by the presense of the creepy guy at the end of the bar with the terrible pick-up lines (he actually asked me if I was his new belly dance instructor, if you can even believe it!) — who has already been 86-ed from where you can otherwise find Scotty enjoying a vodka concoction — and Paladin disappeared outside on the premise of taking a suspiciously long phone call (that could have easily been four cigarettes in a row), I remained calm by focusing on the example Ron set by his sublime equanimity when I explained Bars By The Book to him. He didn’t bat an eye. He didn’t seem to care. He served a bunch of other people their drinks and then, without seeming to have paid any mind whatsoever to what I had told him about the Bus Stop being the # 15 Bar in The Book, served me a complimentary (my favorite kind!) cocktail and started putting the venerable history of the Bus Stop into proper perspective for a new-comer like me.
Well, you know how I feel about charming gentlemen (love them!). Ron had that one-two punch of charming gentleman plus credit-to-his-profession-of-bar-tender thing going on and I was just smitten. I could have sat there for (even more) hours, listening to him tell me all about the long (and fajita-checkered) past of his place of employment for the last 20 (right Ron?) years … but there was an old-timey two-person table-top version of Ms Pacman I simply had to check out before I lost any semblance of reflexes, so Scotty and I went over to ask the motor cycle boys to move their helmets off the game (which they seemed happy to do, when asked politely) and I proceeded to kick some serious vintage video game ass (if I do say so myself).
It’s hard to say what happened next. Jason (we’re giving him 12-year status) started his shift behind the bar and Ron introduced us, and the only thing better than one great bartender is a pair of them, so that was like putting frosting on ice cream. Scotty seemed to have gotten over the fact that the Bus Stop martinis are Barbie-doll sized (although only $5.50 and made with Belevedere, to be fair), and then the Zombies showed up. It was frankly a lot to keep track of (and the 25-somethings in the corners seemed utterly unsure of what to make of the Zombies, which was priceless, thank you, Zombies!). And I wish I could explain the Zombies to you, but those darn Zombies don’t seem to have a permanent website I can link to, and they are beyond even my powers of description (which should tell you a lot, actually). Suffice to say that there were Zombies. (And really, need I say more?)
While I can’t explain the Zombies, I did get pictures with them. Which was when Ron offered to take some pictures of all the Barflies (yes, the Zombies were ‘flies), which was when I, said what I really wanted was to go Behind the Bar and have my picture taken with him and Jason (which I learned at The Black Horse London Pub, you are supposed to wait to be asked to go Behind the Bar, well … who knew?) My self-invitation was accepted (to my delight — it’s the best vantage point in a bar, you know…) and in the midst of a photo op. that resulted in two adorable photos, I have to admit that I did some damage to the middle toe on my right foot. (Attention! All my fault and damage not permanent, I promise!)
There is a reason that one shouldn’t venture Behind the Bar unless given permission. It can be a dangerous (or at least somewhat tricky) place and is really best left to professionals. In the case of the Bus Stop, there is an outcropping of something that is very hard and metallic and precisely the right location to injure any appendages — however small and dainty — that may be peeking out of an open-toed shoe. Thank Bacchus I had worn my oh-so-trendy-&-Marina-riffic wedge platform sandals that night or things could have been much worse. I seem to have escaped permanent disfigurement, and the jury (entirely fictional as I assure you it is) is still thinking I won’t even lose the toenail. Whew! The toe trauma did sort of bring the evening to an end sooner than it might have otherwise wound up, but that was probably not altogether a terrible thing because the drinks at the Bus Stop are apparently full-strength (despite the size of the glassware), and hey, a mangled toenail is an excuse to take a vicodin, after all (however I think Nora Charles, who arrived — albeit fashionably — late as usual was ticked off at the somewhat sudden-seeming and certianly a bit disorganized departure, and I did spend all weekend — in-between ice-pack applications — hoping I am not on her bad side because that would be a bleak place to be … Nora?).
Alas, in the process of trying very hard to ignore the fact that my toe was probably (and in fact) bleeding rather steadily, I did not make it to the bathroom of the Bus Stop, so I cannot comment on it. I can tell you that while I was wandering around the pool tables at the beginnng of the evening, admiring the walls of photographs of the Bar and its many years of dedicated patrons, a very nice woman named Rose thought perphaps I was lost and kindly showed me where the ladies room is (it is behind the Ms Pacman game, not in the pool table room where the gents’ lavatory is located). So, in lieu of a Bathroom Biography, I will tell you three other useful things to know about the Bus Stop: (1) they do take credit cards; (2) they have a sign that says they charge an automatic 15% gratuity on all open tabs; (3) you cannot actually see yourself in the mirrors that are behind all the bottles on the wall Behind the Bar, which is annoying, but the wall opposite the bar is a giant mirror you can see yourself in (if you don’t mind wandering into the midst of the table-hugging 25-somethings who may already be looking askance at you, especially if you are openly consorting with Zombies).
Oh, and lest you think this toe thing was trivial, it actually trumped the Offical Photo outside the Bar. This has led to a new Policy: the Official Photo will henceforth be taken at the beginning of the Offical Visit. Missing 2 shots out of 15 is enough already! This also pushes back our visit to the # 16 Bar, because I need to convalesce a bit until I am in shape to salsa with Jonny-Georgia. In the meantime, why don’t you go to the Bus Stop and tell me what their bathrooms are like…?