Cloonley’s was dead, so was the Velvet Cantina. It was cold. It was wet. So what do people do when the weather is against them, and all signs point to a night inside with their Netflix?
Walking briskly down Mission Street, the night — even with a lull in the rain — didn’t seem to be on my side. The streets were puddled, and cars made that swooshing sound of rain, tire and asphalt as they whizzed by.
Doc’s Clock was clammy, but crowded. Hopeful. Christmas decorations trimmed the bar, silver tinsel hung from the wall and a miniature tree sat out of arms reach.
A birthday girl stood in the front by the door, with a tall princess hat made of metallic fuchsia cardboard propped on her head. She’s tipsy. The female bartenders are in control of the crowd and taking no baloney.
To the right of me a couple sits close, deep in conversation about the lack of love his father gave. They look in love. Their well-behaved beagle begins to nod, as if he’s had too much to drink. The man wears a green novelty tee with Homer Simpson in a Santa suit on the front.
He’s paired it with suspenders, thick and black. Jen tells me he usually wears overalls. Tom is in for the weekend visiting his raven-hair beauty, whose hair is slicked back in a tiny bun. She teaches at an art college in the city. Tom lives in Mendocino. He’s a scientist and does topography.
“We met through my ex. But that was a bad relationship. I was on the rebound,” explains Jen. “We met and both of us thought we should be together.”
But was Ajax, the ex and his friend, mad?
“I dated him twice, ten years apart. Both times it was a bad idea. Both times he dumped me. I think he gave me this gift.” She’s referring to Tom, of course.
At the back of the bar, the shuffleboard table is the main attraction. A group of graduated frat boys anxiously wait their turn.
“Who’s playing next?” “Are you guys almost done?” “What’s the score?” “What are you playing to?” “Woo!”
John goes “Woo!” a lot. Especially when he drinks too much, his friend Adam tells me. They’re high school buddies from Redwood City, now living down the street in the Mission.
Doc’s Clock has quickly become a meat market, though no one’s buying yet. The boys remain on one side of the room, while girls huddle in the booths and around the Ms. Pac Man machine.
The girls are all done up with cheap polyester dresses from Forever 21. The boys are in Nikes, but they’re warm.
The boys have started to get aggressive. It’s time to leave.
It’s colder now that it’s stopped raining. Bruno’s seems loud and fun.
“I hate this place,” says a tall computer programmer dressed in an elf outfit, complete with the ears. “This place was cool like three of four years ago.”
Earlier in the day, he was at Santacon downtown.
“Are my ears crooked?” he asks. “This vest is mom’s, circa 1988. She sent it to me. It’s a petite-extra-small. I feel so small in it.”
The elf puts his drink down, heads to the dance floor and begins grinding on a girl. It’s his friends’ engagement party.
It was better when it was raining. At least it wasn’t this cold,” the bouncer tells the doorman as I exit the club.
Two blocks down Mission, Mission Burger is supposed to be making late night nosh. They’re not. Just a couple kids with fake IDs stand on the corner saying goodbye, as some head to BART and the others wait for the 14. “Woo!” sounds in the distance.
Traveling down Mission more toward food, an older gentleman with a shopping cart yells out, “Hey, Soul Sistah!”
“Hey,” I yell back.
It’s 12:30 a.m. and the streets are empty, except for the sporadic hipster couple ambling by with a cigarettes in one hand and fixed gears in the other.
Arinell’s is closed, but the brightly lit Thrill of The Grill is still bumping hip-hop. A group of guys sit with two girls. Federico fakes interest in what Barbara is saying. They met tonight through his cousin, who is sitting with the other friend. They went to Cha Cha Cha. He bought her drinks.
“Yeah. I drank a lot,” she says.
Score for Federico!
The music blares. It’s hard to hear what orders are being called out. The cute young guy behind the counter, in a hip-hop inspired hunters cap, mouths the one word chorus and thematically bobs his head. Everyone sways to beat.
For a fleeting moment, everyone is in symbiosis. Outside, it’s started to rain again.