Angel stands in a tangle of string lights with a Christmas star in his hands in the back patio of Nap’s. More than just the mustache, he’s got that Burt Reynolds je ne sais quoi.
Angel has been working the weekends at Nap’s for the last seven years. But tonight he’s tired.
“I’m an organ courier,” he explains, flashing a wall of teeth so thick and straight they must be veneers. “I pick up organs and deliver them.”
“Like, human organs?” I ask, swirling the ice in my Red Bull.
He zips down his off-white jacket to reveal a blue full-body jumpsuit with a white courier decal sewn over his heart.
The job requires a police escort, a surgeon, and a gun, he says. I picture him strutting down the highway to the scene of an accident, gun in holster, Coleman’s cooler in hand, heroic 70s theme playing. Starring Burt Reynolds.
“How much is a heart worth on the black market?” I ask.
“Enough that someone would kill me for it,” he slurs. Angel is about as easy to understand as the Godfather at a loud party, his voice a cottony shout, except the patio is quiet tonight. We’re the only ones out there.
“They’d probably take your heart, too,” I say.
He hoots. Killing someone for a carved out heart is some twisted logic, he agrees.
At 65, Angel is ready to stop working two jobs, he tells me. He served in Vietnam, too.
“Was that the first time you saw organs?” I ask, half joking.
He laughs. “No, that was Brooklyn.”
In Williamsburg, he says, where he grew up. His family, originally from Puerto Rico, moved to the Bay Area when things got too violent there.
Inside, the same fearless karaoke singer is at it again. She’s pretty, with long dark hair and bangs, her eyes closed in concentration.
“I’ll always love you. For the rest of your days,” she croons.
This is not a beginner’s karaoke song. Her voice is terrible, and the mic is about ten times louder than the track beneath it. I like her immediately.
Leaning against the bar’s padded red leather edge patched with duct tape, I order a bottle of Budweiser for three bucks. A plastic James Brown figure sits across from me like a decorated Buddha, layered with Mardi Gras beads, amid rows of dream catchers and tinsel.
On the wall is a handwritten sign: “If you allow customers to do drugs, you will be arrested.”
I want to ask the bartender about this, but he’s been so friendly all night it seems rude.
Instead I turn to the guy sitting alone on the barstool next to mine. His head is shaved to cover the balding, he’s wearing a red turtleneck, and he’s three-quarters of the way through a pitcher of watery looking beer. I should’ve known better.
“Do you come here often?” I ask, forgetting that the questions of a journalist can sound like terribly unimaginative pickup lines.
“Yeah,” he says, “My father knows Nap. They were both in Vietnam.”
Nap, short for Napoleon, is the owner of the bar—and the karaoke DJ. His booth, sectioned off by a stack of TVs and speakers, is decorated in Vietnam memorabilia: uniformed photos, an honorable discharge certificate. Seven-inch records hang overhead.
He’s singing karaoke now, his fist clenched in emotion. Crusted with sparkles, the stucco ceiling glitters down on him like a disco ball.
“Where did you come from?” my new bald friend keeps asking, forgetting I’ve already answered. I bristle slightly and he bumbles an apology. Nap sings a few more verses and he asks again. It’s time to leave, I think.
Angel is swilling a shot glass filled with whiskey at the other end of the bar.
I down the rest of my beer, and Nap winks as I walk out into the cool of Mission Street.