Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hills, Dive Bars, and Walking Around City Streets

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I've been in San Francisco since Monday. I won't gush too much about the change in my post-WSOP routine. In the past, I spent a week on the beach in Malibu decompressing with Nicky. This year, we opted for a few days in San Francisco. It was the wise choice.

Our friend Halli lives in Lower Pacific Heights and has the entire second story of one of those Victorians you see on TV and in the movies. We let her crash at our house in Vegas for a couple of days and she wanted to pay us back with an open invite to San Francisco. It was hard to pass up even though we had to head back on the road only three days after unpacking from Vegas. But hell, it was worth it.

I forgot how much I missed living in a real city. LA is a fake city and Vegas is hardly a city -- it's America's playground and a tourist destination, but it hardly constitutes my definition of real city. Think NYC, London, Tokyo. I've always said that I'd feel more comfortable living in Tokyo than having to live in a small town in Iowa. I'm a city guy. That's just how I am, which complicated my living situation in LA the last few years. Let's be honest -- I was only in LA because it's where my girlfriend lived and it was somewhat close to Vegas, which I had to be for work.

But San Francisco... is definitely more akin to my personality than the plasticity of Los Angeles. Best example is this -- inside of 2 days, I visited more bars in San Francisco than I did living in LA for four fucking years. Yeah, Nicky and I never went out to bars, and if we did it was to see a band at a club or other music venue. We're fans of Stout, but we're really there for the burgers and not the bar aspect of the joint. I think the last time we went out to a different bars was when Benjo was visiting two summers ago and last summer when a couple of colleagues (Remko the Dutchie and Alex the Aussie) stopped by to visit LA. Aside from that, the bars are simply too pretentious to visit. And don't get Nicky started on the annoyance of parking and drinking/driving.

Drinking in San Francisco is a different beast. You can hit up a few bars within a few block radius. Throw in a couple of cabs and some walking, and you can hit up ten different bars in an evening.

Nicky and I have been to San Francisco numerous times so we didn't give a shit about doing nay tourist stuff. We had a chance to stay with Halli and experience the city as a local. We basically asked Halli to do what she usually does and we'd just tag along. Monday night was a poker game with her brother and close friends. Tuesday night included bar hopping -- in the Haight, in Lower Haight, in Lower Pacific Heights, and the Marina. I made a joke that we think Halli's an alcoholic because in two days the only places she showed us were dive bars. In her defense, that's what I requested.

Bars in Vegas are either bars in casinos that hav video poker machines embedded into them, or it's a trendy, chic club with red ropes and long ass lines to get in. Neither are not my speed. I'm not a club guy and I'm not an alkie/degen slots player that I'd spend all my time at those types of casino bars. Alas, I'm not usually drinking unless it's at a Pai Gow table with friends.

In Denver, the Joker introduced us to a couple of cool spots where you could hang out and listen to kick ass music without dealing with the uber-Vegas party scene or stuck-up lounge LA scene. Nicky preferred those bars because she didn't get annoying glances from other chicks judging her on her selection of shoes and purse. Me? I liked Denver bars because you don't have to shout to be heard (no thumping terrible DJ) and you can toke a doobie in the back without being 86'd by a burly security guard.

San Francisco bars have the similar vibe to Denver. Sure, there's a few hipster-laden joints and clubs with ropes that I'd never be caught dead in, but the city has more than its share of places where I'd be comfortable to drink. Halli took us to a few of those places over the last two nights. I'm not much of a bar person, but I definitely enjoyed myself -- especially because I wasn't drinking that much and never felt pressured to keep on drinking. Laid back. That's what I like about going out to have fun. A laid back approach to socializing. Yep, I'm all about kicking back and enjoying life with a small group of people, enlightened and loosened-up by booze but involved in stimulating conversation. The alternative is going out to be seen or heading a specific club to increase your coolness factor, or have pics to brag to your fake Facebook friends.

Then again, I'm approaching 40. You don't go out to bars when you're 40+ unless you're in a mid-life crisis or trying to get laid or an alcoholic. At least, that's how I felt in Vegas and LA. Both cities were blunt about not catering to my needs as a social drinker. That's what I missed about New York City -- because within a ten block radius you could usually find a bar to cater to different groups of people and personalities. Same thing applies to San Francisco. Just a quick jaunt around the San Francisco with Halli and we were aware of so many more fun options.

Ah, enough about bars. How about those hills? Yeah, the hills are tough, especially someone like me with a bum back and sore hip. But luckily Halli lives near the bottom of Pacific Heights so we didn't have any of those monstrous hills to deal with. I definitely enjoyed the ability to walk around the city -- something I never do in Vegas (it's too hot and everything is spread out) and in LA (I'm like the only person walking around sometimes that isn't walking to their parked car). Yeah, whenever I went back to NYC, I also set aside a few hours to just walk around the city and let my mind wander. I always feel as though I write better after those meandering sessions, because it allows me to work out a few things. The alternative is to sit on your ass and nu,b yourself with bad TV shows and handcuff yourself to the machines/intertubes and get caught up in the static stream (Twitter) or wasting hours and hours on random stupid sites like Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Beiber.

Walking around. Hanging out in dive bars. Listening to people make fun of LA. Yeah, it's been a fun few days. I'm actually bummed out that I have to go back to LA, but at least I will return in a couple of weeks to see Phish play in Golden Gate Park. Now, if I can only figure out how to actually stay here longer and ditch the plastic hills of Hollyweird...


  1. Make the move, bro. This city is where it's at..."There's something happening here...what it is ain't exactly clear..." :-)

  2. "You don't go out to bars when you're 40+ unless you're in a mid-life crisis or trying to get laid or an alcoholic."

    I guess I hit the trifecta. It's like you know me.