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7:30 PM (or as close thereto as the #22 Fillmore will get you thereabouts) Wednesday 13 June 2007

Prologue: It’s official: I am going on an upcoming Wednesday — Wednesday June 13th, to be precise — for the salsa lessons, of course. (Wanda gave me some impromtu salsa lessons, once upon a time, but I’m way beyond rusty in the the department of swivelling my hips and moving my feet in a co-ordinated fashion, sad to say.) They also have them on Mondays, but even in Spanish, that doesn’t sound likely to be as happening as a Miercoles noche might be. I love their dress code! (Fail to note it at your own risk.)  My plan is to beg Jonny-Georgia to come learn to salsa with me. And if he takes me up on this offer, this is a sight you won’t want to miss, trust me — ahem.  I’ve actually been to Cafe Cocomo Bar & Grill Night Club before, as part of the far-less-entertaining than-it-sounds Mexican Bus trip. But I’m sure I’ll have more fun this time (especially if Jonny-Georgia is there — ahem) and I’d love it if you could join me.  Come on, don’t make me dance with a stranger — you know how I feel about people!  Now, if you’re coming, bring your dancing shoes, because one should not bother going to the #3-rated Salsa Club in the country if one is not going to dance, as far as The (admitedly somewhat opinionated) Hostess is concerned.  Oh, and anyone who cuts in on me and Jonny-Georgia (if he makes my fondest wish come true and decides to drop in) does so at the risk of some potentially serious bodily harm.  I’m just saying … and really, I saw him first!

Afterword: Let me begin by warning you that Cafe Cocomo Bar Grill & Night Club’s website is not as accurate as the scrupulously researched and meticulously proof-read one you are currently enjoying.  On the evening of the Official Visit, the doors did not open at 7:30 (more like 7:50) and the cover was not $7.00 (it was $8.00),  as advertised on the website.  I would suggest that you call them up to confirm hours, cover charges, etc. before you head there yourself, but they do not seem to answer the phone at Cafe Cocomo Bar Grill & Night Club, so this will probably not be as helpful as one might wish.

The good news is that it’s a little tricky to actually get to Cafe Cocomo Bar Grill & Night Club, so you might be running late, and your late arrival might co-incide nicely with their late unlocking of the gates.  Never mind the confusing lack of any sense of order in the way those “state streets” are laid out (I was thinking perhaps reverse alphabetical order, but no, that’s not it either), the 600-block of Indiana Street is one of those M.C. Escher-esque types that you can see from other surrounding streets, but any way to reach it remains perplexing for a lap or two and a few re-crossings of the 280 overpass.  (Or at least it does if you are me, and only have two maps, and are enjoying a balmy fog-free evening which means that there is sun in your eyes.)

If you go on a Wednesday night, once you manage to get yourself onto the proper block, parking will be no problem, as there is nothing else around but non-descript looking buildings.  I do wonder who decided to put a night club there, but perhaps feeling as if you have travelled to an exotic and far-off locale is what they were going for. 

So Wanda and I loitered around until they finally unlocked the chain link gates and let us in with barely enough time to order — much less consume —  a margarita before the salsa lessons were to begin.  Fortunately for us, the bartender was all ready to mix us up a couple (from scratch — of course — none of that nasty pre-mixed madness, thank goodness!).  His name was Ken (hi, Ken!) and I resolved to spend more quality time with him when I was done looking silly on the dance floor, which was one of the many things I was there to do, after all.

And look silly I did — as will you, should you decide “to bravely go”, etc. — but everyone else looks silly, too, so it doesn’t matter.  Learning to salsa dance in a group is one of those things which you will either think is fun and perhaps a little goofy, or you will hate (in which case you will probably not be learning to salsa dance in a group — now will you? — so not to worry).  It’s even easy — at least at first.  The instructor has everybody stand up and he shows you the basic steps, and you practice the hip-swivelling in time with the feet-moving thing, and then they turn on music, too, and pick up the pace a little, and just when you think you might be getting it, the instructors re-arrange you into a circle around them and instruct you to get a partner and put into practice what you have just learned, by which they mean: Dance — and probably with a stranger (especially if the person you invited specifically to avoid dancing with a stranger hasn’t shown up)!

Actually, even if the dance partner of your dreams is there, the instructors make everyone switch partners so that everyone gets to dance with everybody else.  This is good, because you might otherwise get stuck dancing for longer than you might like with any particular stranger.  But it is also not so good, because one thing about paired couple dancing is that at least one of you needs to have some sort of clue what you are doing, and when you are talking about a group of people taking basic salsa lessons, this means that a fair number of the opposite sex is going to have no clue, and therefore not be much help to you.

Unless you are a fabulous dancer like Wanda is, and then you can be the one with the clue (and the moves!) and you can help your partner.  If, however, you are more like me, you might find yourself gazing wistfully over your shoulder at your margarita, wishing you could sit down and have a sip or two before all the ice melts.  If you are on my page at this point, and really feel like you have gotten your $8.00 worth with the footwork part of the lesson, then when the instructors add fancy spins into the mix, you will definitely become entrenched in the “clueless” camp (if only in your own mind).

This is when having extra people on hand who know how to salsa would come in handy.  Alas, that night there was a shortage of males, clueless or otherwise, but that meant I finally could make it back to my lonely margarita while I waited for it to be the next hapless chap’s turn to have me demonstrate my cluelessness in his arms (which did not seem to be as bad as it sounds, judging from the various reactions to having to dance with me).

The funny thing was, it was still pretty fun.  I never got very good at putting all the swivelling and stepping and spinning together, but I did learn that all a girl really needs to do is follow the boy’s lead, and there were a couple of them there with enough of a clue that I got some in some pretty good spins.  Especially when I danced with the instructor, who refused to let me keep protesting that I wasn’t any good at the spinning part.  He basically did away with any trace of the lessons he had just taught us and spun me around so much I started thinking maybe he had spun me back into the ’70’s and I was in “Saturday Night Fever“, thereby confirming my theory that it only takes one person who has a clue to make two people look pretty spiffy on the dance floor (see also: “Dirty Dancing“).

I learned later, while chatting with Ken, that, completely contrary to what I had imagined (what else is new?), Monday nights are actually busier than Wednesdays.  It’s still not packed on lunes like on the weekends, Ken says, but more people than were there on that particular miercoles should statistically mean more males, which could translate into the potential for more Fun (and/or cluelessness, but whatever).  The place is pretty vast, by San Francisco Bar (and bar) standards, and I would definitely recommend it for group outings of any sort (unless it is a group of people too uptight to have fun learning how to salsa dance with a stranger or two, but why would you want to hang out with a group of those kinds of people?).  In point of fact, that age-old cliche “the more, the merrier” is one of Bars By The Book’s guiding principles (as long as “the more” is not excessive, and does not throw cigarette butts on the ground), so a place such as Cafe Cocomo Bar Grill & Night Club is a good one to have up one’s sleeve.

Now, I am aware that what you really want to know is what happened after Jonny-Georgia got there (which you know he did because this post has been tagged with his name since the morning after on account of the fact I knew I had to give you something to satisfy at least a scrap of your curiosity until I had time to write up this re-cap properly).  What happened was … it had been so long since I had laid eyes on Jonny-Georgia that I barely recognized him when he strolled in.

But once I got within dazzling distance of those dimples of his, there was no mistaking him for anyone else.  Since he had (purposely — the rascal!) missed the lesson portion of the evening, when we finally did dance it bore no resemblance whatsoever to salsa-ing, but I didn’t care because I will dance anytime, anyplace, anywhich way with Jonny-Georgia (in case you couldn’t tell).  Being the fine and generous friend that I am, I even urged Wanda to dance with him — which she somewhat mistifyingly declined to do.  Come to think of it, she may have had my above-mentioned comment about “bodily harm” in mind…

In any event, I was so distracted after Jonny-Georgia finally showed up that I forgot to check for hooks while he was buying me a margarita (maybe Ken can help me out on this, Ken?).  I couldn’t even take my eyes off him long enough to look for smoking refuse receptacles outside (but surely somewhere, on such a lovely patio, festively lit with twinkly lights winding around and amidst palm trees and all, there must be some kind of ashtrays, right?).  It’s a good thing newly adopted Bars By The Book protocol mandates that I take the Official Picture before the merriment commences or I probably would have forgotten that (again) too!

Being as I am not the sort of girl to kiss and tell (so to speak), you will have to ask Wanda what happened after we decided to call it a night and offered to give Jonny-Georgia a lift to somewhere he would have a prayer of catching a cab.  I won’t even ask her to refrain from divluging the details (such as any there may or may not be).  However I will tell you this much (since I have the otherwise inexplicable unphotogenic photographic evidence to prove it): Jonny-Georgia and I are much better in person.  For that matter, so is this whole Bars By The Book lark.  Believe it or not, even my captivating and witty prose does not completely convey the true nature of the Official Visits.  By which I mean that you should really join me — either for the first time or more often.  While I can’t guarantee how much fun you’ll have, I can bet you a drink that being there is at least as entertaining as reading about it, and definitely easier than salsa lessons!

Bathroom Biography:
Perhaps the proprietors of Cafe Cocomo Bar Grill & Night Club have gotten a little carried away with their whole “let’s make them think they are south of a lot more than than the Mission” aesthetic when it comes to the restrooms.  This might explain the basically disastrous condition in which I found the ladies’ room.  Otherwise, the management needs to schedule much more thorough and frequent cleanings, to say nothing of doing something about the garrish lighting.  Bottom line: be brave and go for it.  It’s not like there’s anywhere else you can go anywhere in the vicinity, and there’s a good chance you will take a wrong turn (or six) on the way home, so you shouldn’t count on being able to wait.  Just consider it part of the “exotic” atmosphere, and maybe tuck a travel-sized bottle of that hand sanitizer stuff in your purse.  And perhaps take some small comfort in knowing that at least this bathroom is not as bad as the one at Harrington’s Bar & Grill was on a recent un-offical visit, by which I mean it could be (and might yet again be) worse.

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