“You and Dr. Strange would totally be best friends; you’d hit it off famously,” “Alice” said to me, sitting at one of Evil Eye’s outside tables.
We’d just seen the new Dr. Strange movie, which was fun but overstuffed and lacked the best part of the best Marvel movies: time when the characters are just hanging out, enjoying one another’s company. The best superhero movies are buddy pictures. The worst superhero movies throw you from plot point to plot point across hours of fight scenes that expect you to be impressed because, gosh, someone’s powerful.
“Okay,” I said. “Why is that?”
Alice had wanted to go to Evil Eye, on Mission Street between 25th and 26th streets, because it’s near her home and is the favorite hangout bar of two of her friends. So it’s comfortable and familiar and has good associations. I’d agreed to go because it has outside seating, which I insist on right now. I’d looked away from San Francisco’s covid rates for what seemed like just a moment, the time it took to look at my real life and nod, and then been shocked to realize that our rates have gotten stupidly high again. The chair of UCSF’s department of medicine has estimated on Twitter that one in 30 San Franciscans is infected. If that’s even close to true, it means pretty much any bar I go to is going to have someone spewing covid and not wearing a mask. Yeah, we’re all a lot less likely to die now but … well, I can’t not be conscious of this, even when I want to be. I can’t get it out of my head. So I’d need to have a bar with outside seating. Evil Eye fit.
Not long after this outing, I would need to get a covid test.
We’d expected for me to hold the table while Alice went into the bar to get our drinks, but a staff member came over as we were settling in and told us that it’s table service outside. Which makes Evil Eye more like a restaurant outside, and more like a bar inside. If it weren’t for covid, I’d have demanded we go inside. But today, this was exactly the quality I was looking for. Dammit. We scanned the QR code taped to the table and looked through the menu.
Alice ordered a Four Point Animal IPA ($8.50), which they have on tap, and I ordered a Devil’s In The Details (bourbon, ginger, coffee liquor, spiced passionfruit syrup, lemon, $13). Evil Eye is one of those bars where I always want to run the cocktail menu. Even if it’s disappointing, which the Devil’s In The Details was (all the ingredients sort of melded together without doing anything interesting), they’re trying in a way that makes me want to try, too.
“You and Dr. Strange would be besties,” she said, “because you both think about the universe deeply, and you think about the universe in the same way. Magic has history, and it has symbolism, and it invokes feelings and requires the right psychological states, and even in this world, you’re all about that. So you’d find everything he knows endlessly fascinating, and because you think about the universe the same way, and you’re you, you’re brilliant at this stuff, you’d actually be able to challenge him in ways he’d find valuable. So, there you go. Of all the Avengers, he’s the one you’d hang out with.”
I don’t believe in “what fictional character are you”-type personality tests at all, but Alice and I take these kinds of conversations very seriously. She’s probably the only person I take them seriously with. What these conversations really mean is, “I see you. Do you see how deeply I get you?” We like to say that TV is our love language.
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “That’s interesting. I can see that.”
“Tony Stark is brilliant, but you’d HATE each other. You’d just want to punch him. That wouldn’t work. You and Hawkeye would have nothing to talk about. You’d love Captain America, you’d revere him, but you’d run out of things to talk about with him, too. You just wouldn’t click. The other one you would get along with would be Natasha, the Black Widow.”
“You think? I don’t see … ”
“Oh yeah. You love women-of-mystery types and are really good at talking to them, and she’d be fascinated and compelled by what you can do, and eventually she’d be one of those women who get really close to you and come to you for psychomagical experiences, but don’t have anything to offer back like that, so the connection always feels kind of tentative.”
“Oh,” I said. I’d just been seen, uncomfortably well. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Love languages can say all kinds of things.
The waiter came back, and we ordered chicken liver mousse ($13) and braised pork tacos ($14), because why the hell not? Evil Eye brings that out in me. I find their bar snacks a little pricey, but I rarely regret it.
“You know who you’d be friends with?” I asked her. She looked at me intently. “Bruce Banner. You’d be able to calm him down like that.”
“Oh, yeah!” she said. “I would. I’d totally be able to do that. It’s one of the ways in which I absolutely embody the stereotypes of my gender, but I really do.”
“Well,” I said, “like the Black Widow, you’ve both been exquisitely trained.”
“Yeah,” she said, grimacing and laughing at once. “I was intensely trained, from a young age, to manage male anger. Like that was my only purpose in life.” She thought about it some more. “I could totally do that, plus Banner is a scientist, I’m a scientist … oh you’re right … we’d be friends.”
The food arrived and we dug in. We ordered another round; she had more of the same, and I had a Not Too Sweet Pea (shochu, snap pea, white rum, raspberry coriander, suze, verjus, soda, $14).
We started with the mousse, and had several pieces, but frowned.
“It’s not bad,” she said, “but … it tastes like they’re trying to do too much with it. I love spreadable meat, but that’s because it has its own distinct taste. This seems like they’re trying to make it taste like something else. And it’s okay, but I want to be passionate about it, and I’m not.”
“Agreed,” I said sadly. “Now, if you were able to get close enough to Hawkeye that he’d let you visit his farmhouse-at-an-undisclosed-location, you’d get along with him like crazy.”
“Oh yes!” she said. “I’d totally be a friend-of-the-family! I’d set right up as an auntie!”
“You would. You’d completely bond with the family, if you had a chance.”
“That’s so true!”
My new drink came, and it was delectable. Just right.
“Now, you and Spider-Man,” she said, “no. He’s a child, and you just don’t want children in your life.”
I nodded sadly.
The braised pork tacos were superb. Heavenly.
“Now here’s an interesting one for you,” she said. “Loki. If you met him early in his appearances, he’d kill you with a quickness. But if you met him later …”
“If I met him after “Ragnarok” …”
“Yes, after “Ragnarok,” or later, during his TV show, then you and he would be like brothers. Just constantly hanging out and trying magic and mischief.”
“I could get along with a Loki who is capable of emotional honesty,” I said. “But not with one who isn’t.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes. That’s it. A Loki who is capable of that kind of honesty is someone who can occupy the same social role as you. But one who isn’t would want you dead.”
She stopped for a moment, and thought. “You know, I think that’s why I got fired from my last job. My boss and I occupied the same social role, and I didn’t realize how much that drove her crazy, how much she couldn’t handle it.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
“I’m in a better job now, with less crazy people,” she said.
Her job now is like a hang-out movie. It doesn’t need drama, she just likes spending time with her colleagues.
TV is only an interesting love language if it takes you deep places like that. Otherwise, it’s just a TV show. Evil Eye is a good place for conversations like this, even if you have to have them outside, where you are expected not to order your drinks at the bar. It has the right spirit of experimentation. They’re trying to do something interesting, and inviting us to come along.
A few days later, my covid test came back positive. I can only hope my experimenting didn’t hurt anyone.