Bouncer Steps into the Twilight Zone at the Saloon, SF's Oldest Bar

Categories: Bouncer

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From this week's Bouncer column:

I have a few personal earworms that periodically run through my head. Every time I turn on the furnace at home, for example, I sing Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On." When I go to the Pet Club to buy guinea pig kibble, I hum "In Da Club." I have invented my own song for Trader Joe's, a song to the tune of "It's So Easy" ("It's so easy to shop TJ's, it's so easy when you're shoppin' TJ's"). I admit that these things might contribute to my still being single. Bed Bath & Beyond also brings up a familiar refrain: It's not a song, but the word "Beyond" always echoes in my head, as if uttered by an disembodied deity. I think it would be rad to turn the corner from the mattress pads and see billowing clouds and a golden escalator going up, up, up into eternity. Then "One Step Beyond" by Madness kicks in.

There are bars that remind me of the great beyond because they are composed of two parts, a front and a back, and the back is generally shadowy and (often) uninviting. There is a Twilight Zone episode just waiting to happen in these places. This occurs mostly in "shotgun"-style bars, where the actual bar itself stops halfway down the room, and the rear is filled with chairs. The Attic is such a bar, although it does a great job making the back seem inviting and cozy. Others are less successful with the no-man's-land space. The Sea Star comes to mind, and the Saloon on Grant.

Don't get me wrong; the Saloon is one of my very favorite bars. It is also supposedly the oldest bar in S.F., so of course it's gonna be laid out like an 1880s whiskey trough. The bartender working the last time I visited looked like a gal out of The Far Side, and the patrons all seemed to have redwood walking sticks. Everyone was squished in the front, and the back was empty.

It reminded me of my grandma's house. We used to go everywhere in that place except the room my grandpa died in. Everything was kept as it was when he passed; you could enter if you wanted, but the heebie jeebies would always crawl out from under the bed and tickle the back of your neck. I used to do it for kicks. I liked to scare myself sometimes. I would also open the Time-Life book The Desert to the middle, where a gigantic close-up of a wolf spider stared at you with eight shiny black eyeballs from the centerfold. I think that children who do this stuff -- as well as those who like to spin around and around until they are dizzy -- grow up to be drinkers. Just a theory...

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.

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The Saloon

1232 Grant, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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