I’m meeting girlfriends for dinner in 20 minutes, but I’m sitting at the restaurant bar early, glass of white wine by my side and laptop open in front of me. Although I’m staring at the same computer screen I have all day, the change of scenery makes transitioning to writing for fun much more pleasant. I knew that if I remained at my desk to write, I’d be in the same frame of mind, which defeats the entire purpose of this exercise. I want to clean up the spaces in my brain, find space and freedom.
The Mission crowd hasn’t yet descended upon the trendy restaurant—it’s still light out, after all, too early to be seen. The two bartenders and bar-back are bored, knowing they won’t be for long, mindlessly adjusting the already perfect rows of glassware. The bartender who served me keeps turning circles at my end of the bar, he might want to chat to pass the time. He already gave me a taste of all the wines I asked about—wanting white, I asked about a blend but he said it was “like chardonnay” so I promptly vetoed that option. I instead settled on an Australian Gruner, something I had never even heard of but it’s now a favorite—crisp without sitting in my nose, fruity but dry, something that would be dangerous on a patio on a hot summer day. As it is, it’s a sunny but blustery San Francisco evening, and I’m the only occupant of the slate-colored bar, staring at a wall of bottles that haven’t yet been touched for the evening, arranged from light to dark and cheap to expensive. A few are slightly turned, and if I worked here, instead of adjusting the glassware, I’d be turning the labels to all match and would probably devise a catalogue system for what order the spirits should be in. It’s a surprisingly substantial bar for a Burmese restaurant, but that’s what you get in the Mission. There’s probably a hole-in-the-wall Burmese restaurant within walking distance without a beautiful bar, without the sound of cocktails being shaken, without ambient light techno Latin music, for half the price and all the flavor. I do love the dives. But here I am, with my bougie white wine and MacBook writing for fun.
The only other patrons I can see is a couple just enough diagonal from me that it’s awkward to look at them without being slightly obvious I’m observing them. So, I casually take a sip of my wine and look out the large windows onto the street, observing the rush of traffic and the battered yellow storefront across the road, as well as the couple’s comfortable conversation. It doesn’t seem romantic in nature but friendly or familial. They’re sharing a starter salad and talking fast because they’re excited and laughing because things are funny not because they’re nervous. He had been waiting for her and is already mostly done with a brown cocktail that looks too dark for straight bourbon so there must be some manner of syrup or some such stirred in. She is drinking straight water, legs crossed and back straight on her perch on the bench. She stopped eating, letting her companion finish, but then ordered dessert, so I both question her and love her at the same time.
The bartender now is “testing” the beer taps, which are unmarked and almost hidden among the bottles and glassware. Perhaps he is reminding himself which is which, something I would find impossible to do when it gets busy and hectic. Whatever he drew was foamy and piss-colored—a wheat beer perhaps, which might explain why I don’t like them. I’m getting dangerously close to the bottom of my glass, and I’d like to stall so that I don’t drink too much and have to drive home later. The bartender makes more frequent trips to this end of the bar, probably because I started out at a fast pace.
…Friends arrived…The end….