Mind the Heart.

(Also, mind the longest post ever written).

I sat at the bar waiting for Toby, sipping a beer and reading my book. While I’m not usually drawn to the bar at a restaurant, I found myself sitting there. For me, a very intricate (sometimes unconscious) desired seating arrangement is put into place while out to eat. First, I like a good booth. There’s nothing more comforting than a dark wood-lined booth. I like the dynamics and that most of the structure is nailed down, a wobbly table leg or a shaky chair can ruin a meal. Next, comes a table against a window or a wall. I like to lean. If the table is placed in between two other tables and inside the restaurant that table quickly drops into last place. I’d rather wait for the booth.

Then, there’s the bar. Sitting atop a wobbly metal rod padded in pleather-covered foam has its benefits. I see three reasons for sitting at the bar: One, is the speedy download you get for receiving more booze. Another reason to sit at the bar is if the restaurant is full. And lastly, it’s also the place people sit in hopes of blending in while they’re alone. The bar is the New York City of restaurant seating; busy, but not necessarily social; opportunistic but not necessarily accommodating.

Between the turning of pages I took in a bit of my surroundings. The waitress was blond. She was friendly, on the short side and a little chubby. There was a plate of watermelon set out for us bar-dwellers to snack on. They were speared with toothpicks. There was a sign on the wall asking that we help the president by drinking more beer. There were two women to the right of me. They sat down right after I did. They were in their late 30s or early 40s. One was a redhead with a nose ring, the other a brunette. There were two TV sets relieving us from the burden in figuring out where to rest our eyes.

Toby showed up about 20 minutes later. We kissed and decided to stay at the bar considering the restaurant had no booths. I ordered a cheese pizza. Toby ordered a veggie burger and fries. On top of all that, we decided to split a side of onion rings.

We continued to talk for a bit, sharing our days and the hours that made them. And then the onion rings showed up. They were huge. There were so many of them, just piled on there like a huge mountain of fat. But they smelled perfect. And then the redhead next to me began to talk a bit louder. “Maybe we should get some onion rings too. They look good.” She looked from her friend, directly to the waitress, “Do you have a half portion of those?”

I interrupted, “We have a half portion right here!” I said grabbing the basket. “You can have some of these. You’ll be doing us a favor. Trust me. Please.”

The waitress laughed. I think she must have thought I was kidding. Truthfully, there was no way we could have eaten the amount of food we ordered. I asked her to bring them two plates.

The redhead began to playfully refuse, “NO! I couldn’t. Are you sure? That’s SO NICE. You two are so nice. My god! How can you just want to give us your onion rings! That’s so nice! We can’t. Are you sure!?” I handed her the basket.

“You’ll give us another 15 minutes of life by helping us eat these.” Toby said. And so she obliged.

“Where are you two from?” Asked the redhead.

“Well, we live here now. But we’re from back east.” I answered and backed up a bit to include Toby in on the conversation. “We just moved here from DC.”

“Oh! Wow! I was from back east—but a long time ago. We thought you were european. Didn’t we?” She looks to the brunette. “Didn’t we think they were European? They look European. You look European.” She popped half an onion ring into her mouth.

“No. DC. We’re from DC.” Toby confirmed.

“Well, let me warn you about this place…” She trailed off and looked back at the brunette who was drowning her already oil-saturated onion rings in ketchup. “NO! I won’t make this negative. I will start over.” As if thinking out loud while repeating the words learned at a self-help group or once said by her shrink, she nodded her head to no one in particular. The brunette nodded too as if programmed. The redhead started over.

“Are you two married?” She asked.

I handed her the basket of rings again. “Have some more. Yes, we’re married.”

“How long have you two been married?” She questioned.

“We were married in January.” Toby answered. “We eloped on the 3rd.”

“You’re newLEEweds!” She said, pulling at the ee’s as if she wanted more from them. “I see! Well, be very careful here. San Francisco is a wonderful place. It’s a lovely city. But BE VERY CAREFUL!” She looked back at the brunette who was nodding vigorously.

“Yes. Be careful. There’s an underground scene here that you’ve never seen before. A dark underground. An underground that can suck you in….” The brunette was interrupted by the redhead.

“Yes! Believe me, there’s a REESon they say ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ there’s a REEson for that saying. Just be careful. People move here, and their marriage falls apart. San Francisco is pretty. There’s a lot to do, but the underground here is the biggest, darkest and seediest of all.”

Suddenly, the baseball game on TV set seemed unbelievably appealing. And the table in the middle of the room, surrounded by loud people, became inviting and warm. We continued to eat while she talked about the dark side of San Francisco and her brunette friend nodded in agreement to everything she said.

Somewhere below San Francisco and its fog there is a dark side of life, an underground that apparently claims, chews up, and spits out married couples in from the east. Could they have been referring to drugs? Sex? Sex and drugs? Swing scenes? C.H.U.D.? Or worse, are there Republicans making up the underground voting for Kerry, marrying gay couples, and giving their money to the poor. Maybe the underground has no carbs. Is this underground a hell? Are there MOLE PEOPLE down there like we had back in New York? What IS this underground scene that they speak of that I haven’t ever imagined or seen before? Do they have any idea what this did to my obsessive compulsive imagination?

After several days of imaging this underground we were warned about by a 40 year old redheaded devil sitting atop a barstool, I have decided what it must be. Below the streets, someplace out of site from both Toby and me, there is a restaurant without walls or windows. In its center there is a massive bar surrounded by the lonliest of bar stools. Its floor is lined with wobbly tables and rickety chairs, kept steady by sugar packets and napkins. Here everyone is a party of one and there are no TV sets to ease the discomfort of strangers. And instead of onion rings and juicy fruits, they serve up the thousands upon thousands of hearts that this city has claimed over the years. One by one they’re speared with toothpicks and brought out on watermelon plates or in baskets for each of our single human consumption.

22 Comments

  1. I LOVE “the New York City of restaurant seating” – love it!!

    Reply

  2. it’s vampires. sexy sexy vampires. watch out.

    uh huh.

    you give her o-rings and you get a freaky tirade in return. What coulde be better? or worse?

    Reply

  3. It’s gotta be the fog….did you see how creepy it looked on the 4th??

    Reply

  4. Nico, I hear ya. Ungrateful bastards.

    Sell freaky, mid-life, he left me for a trannie someplace else.

    Reply

  5. all i know is it’s lunchtime & all i can think about is onion rings. mmmmmm… onion rings.

    Reply

  6. were they hitting on you? is this part of the suggestive waitress phenomenon??

    Reply

  7. Not on me, no. But maybe Toby. Maybe they’re “thing” is having sex with newly wedded east coast husbands. She just would not stop saying how this underground was like nothing we’d ever seen or imagined. When Toby said that we met in New York City and had “seen a few things” she dimissed this as well. Apparently the New York City underground, along with the amount of crackheads and weirdness in Atlanta doesn’t come close to whatever weirdness lies beneath these streets.

    hmmm…..

    Reply

  8. I think it’s prayer groups. Christianity is the new BDSM.

    Reply

  9. Well, someone else recently told me that we needed to stay here long enough to “get it”. That leaving after a year would strip us of the pleasure of the “getting of it”. Perhaps these two stories are related?

    Reply

  10. Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.
    seriously, did they actually explain what the hell they were referring to or was it just some blanket warning meant to scare you? Sounds like she had a center of attention, “i know better than you” thing going on. then again, any sort of shady underground with the soundtrack to Eyes Wide Shut would truly be hell. That crap truly ruined an ok softcore porn movie. shit.

    Reply

  11. grijn, I thought the same thing you just said. Instantly, my thoughts went to that mask scene from Eyes Wide Shut. It’s enough to make you suck your thumb and ask for mommy. And I think it was Toby who thought the same thing about her that you just mentioned.

    Reply

  12. As a relevant prelude, let me say that SF is chock full of the sort of self-centered west coast people you always hear about back on the superior coast (yes, it’s called “irony” – Socrates loved it, and so should you). Many people I encounter here are so very yuppie and snooty and painfully dissatisfied despite their posturing that is gives me a genuine feeling of sadness. It’s not like NYC, where everyone is dissatisfied and very open about it and filled with worry and panic. I miss that. I could practice my Lacanian analysis crap on the subway, thinking to myself that someone fit a certain case study, etc. Or I could just picture their arteries throbbing with high blood pressure and smell the venom on their breath over someone standing too close on the train.
    It’s not like DC, where everyone lives in a fantasy of being the one and only objective and absolute knower-of-things – where they argue about it in the liquor store and drink and smoke themselves to death because they’re too busy worrying about where to get their next grey suit or who the person in front of them voted for in 88, or what salary schedule they’re going to move to in their five-year-plan to acknowledge that uncertainty and looseness (and health, for christ’s sake) are the better parts of life.

    If NYC and DC are aggressive, SF is painfully passive-aggressive.

    On now, on to the Feature Presentation:
    Those two in the bar were definitely locals. They were bouncing their own conversation off our greasy onion-ring-salt-coated foreheads as if we were mannequins. Well, mannequins with enough of a story (“Oh, you’re married?”) to inspire them to relive their own misfortunes through the facade of Older, Wiser, Learned and make inside jokes to one another.

    I don’t care if her husband cheated on her. If it’s true, it has nothing to do with an underground. It probably has to do with her proclivity for Homer Simpson-esque beer belches (with the flapping lips and all) and her obvious sociopathic disorders—you know, the ones that inspire you to stop watching the Giants game and act as though you have some sort of authority or insight or right to give marriage advice.

    People don’t like death, so they invent heaven. People don’t like meanness, so they invent hell. People don’t like their husbands leaving their beer-farting faces and hooking up with a waitress, so they invent an underground.

    After all, if Eyes Wide Shut wasn’t a movie replete with classic Romantic fantasy parallels to mundane real-world events, I need to polish up my critical theory skills…

    Reply

  13. And that, my friends, is why I love him.

    Reply

  14. Mihow! that boy got his head on straight you make sure you stick with him and don’t let those creepy undergrounders get hold of him!By the way do you really need a dollar? Cause it sure don’t seem like you do, with all the eating out,manicures,alcohol,coffees,diets not to mention you live in one of the best places in the world! and to top it all off you have a smart loving ,caring,guy by you’re side! so why worry if you look like bugs! I will give you a dollar if you can prove that you’re life depends on getting a retainer! Other wise you have to good right now!you should be giving me a dollar cause my life is way more pathetic than yours! lol

    Reply

  15. Nah, no need for a dollar. But, to set the record straight, I DO NOT get manicures. That has never happened. And I don’t see it ever happening. I have no nails and it smells in there. :]

    Reply

  16. I am willing to donate $10 for youre frist experince getting a manicure!

    Reply

  17. You’ll need to buy my some Lee Press-on nails first.

    Reply

  18. Do you bite you nails?if you do maybe some witch hazell will do you wonders!

    Reply

  19. mihow- I’ll need your address to send you that buck.

    Reply

  20. From you it has to be hand delivered. :] Take that girl of yours on a west coast vacation. Yes.

    Reply

  21. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Redheaded woman and her brunette counterpart moved to SF from Salem where they got chased out for not “keeping it real” and scaring good folks with made up stuff. Or, maybe the dark side of SF DOES exist and it’s really the home pod of the aliens that built the Matrix that feeds off of us all and the aliens NEED the fog that rolls in to keep their wretched outer casing (ie skin) moist. Hmmm, the possibilities are endless. Remind me never to share my onion rings with two women at the bar.

    Reply

  22. I lived in SF almost a decade now and I’ve never seen the dark underground. Back in my single days I went looking for it and all I found was the same as any other town I’ve lived in or visited; a bunch of people wanting to believe they are where it’s at – people with little worth saying but wanting to give the illusion of being deep, in the know, kool cats – people who are quickly tiresome to be around. Toby is right about there being a disproportionate number of snooty yuppie types here but there are actually significantly less than there used to be – thank your lucky stars you weren’t around when everyone was either a MOP (millionaire on paper) or aspired to be one. There are actually a lot of good people here; the Bay Area is still one of the best places in the world to be a real geek – that is until all our work is sent off shore – until then I’m happy to call SF home.
    – Martin (just too un-hip to find the dark underground)

    Reply

Leave a Reply