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[whitespace] Five Days, Seven Nights

A working stiff hits the town all week long

By Todd Dayton

Bobby, my stoolmate at a middle Market dive, confesses he's too bombed to make it up three flights of stairs to his apartment above the bar. He's too lit to say "three flights," but not quite enough to prevent him from ordering another bourbon at last call.

It's been a dull Thursday night--a dull week in fact. All I'd managed to do was catch a movie one night and tie one on before Friday morning. There were three shows I'd meant to see, but each night I'd blown them off. For what? With something amazing happening in the city practically every night, I'm copping out because I have to work.

Determined to combat the working stiff's plague, I decide to spend the next week going out. Every night. If I'm dogging the city's offerings just because of some idea that my work responsibilities are more important, then maybe my priorities are as twisted as Bobby's trip upstairs. So I may not be able to count on people to go along for the ride, but I'm going out every night for a week.

Sunday: The Dub Mission Chill-Out

I invite people to go out and they all blow me off with "school night" excuses. So I dig deeper and find a friend who quit his job last Friday. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of my week's plans from the work-weary, but at the very least, I've got an accomplice. After smoking a joint in front of the Mission police station, we hit Dub Mission at the Elbo Room. Maneesh the Twister and the Wastemaster are switching off at the decks, and before long I'm bobbing along to the deep grooves and sloshing drinks down like tomorrow's a fire that needs to be put out. By the time Maneesh skids into Toots' "Pressure Drop," I'm tranced for the long haul, hardly talking and content to soak in the rhythms until the night's reached its end.

Monday: Milking the Tourists at the O'Farrell Theater

Shiny-cheeked aging hippies and Berkeley types are gathered to hear Michael Brook and Djiran Gasparyan at the Great American. I don't know how the rest of San Francisco can miss its only opportunity to see the pre-eminent Armenian duduk musician in the world, but I've got Armenian kin to impress. It's a fantastic gig.

After the show ends, I head out onto the street. As I walk past the O'Farrell Theater, a gaggle of German tourists wanders out with wide grins, still bulging beneath their belts. We get to talking and they ask me if I know any girls. I consider the question, and decide that if the rest of San Francisco is screwing the tourists out of their money, I at least deserve sloppy seconds.

With the agreement that I'll find the women and they'll buy me drinks, I hail a cab for Density at the Justice League. J Boogie is spinning mad, and within moments I'm pointing out nubile nymphets on the dance floor for my adopted crew to freak. I finagle a handful of drinks before the boys realize I'm full of it and can't land them a lay any better than I can turn water to wine. Cut off by the tourists, I embark on a mission of my own, fighting off the impending hangover with a half-rack of Brother-in-Law's ribs.

Tuesday: Beauty Bar Crawl

At 6 o'clock, the company credit card is out and the office has been invited to swill with the überhip at Beauty Bar. It's just too perfect--if The Man's going to fund my boozing, He can't expect me to show up for work without a hangover. When the corporate plastic disappears, we make a burrito pit stop at Taqueria Cancucaracha, then pack into a convertible Cougar to cruise Mission Street. We end up only blocks away at the Lone Palm. Local torch madam Jill Tracy is slinging martinis behind the bar. It's packed inside and we hit the street after a drink or two. At El Valenciano, Latin waltzing is the order of the day. Only in San Francisco? Forget about punk rock drag shows and fetish parties--where the hell else are they waltzing?

Lower-key vibes invite us into the Attic, where the bartender indulges us in an amazing '70s-era film called "33 Yo-Yo Tricks." Despite the instructional slant, it's the best movie I've seen all summer. After that, it's on to Nickie's BBQ, where Africa/Asia/Arabia has absorbed a new continent in the absence of resident Cheb i Sabbah. The Latin grooves are luscious, and before long the three of us have melted into a corner beneath a haze of smoke. We close down the house, eyeing a saucy blond and the two guys who have been switch-hitting the body rock on her for the past hour. We make bets on who she'll go home with, but nobody wins when one of the guys says, "I'll fuck both of you, right now!" and the offer is accepted.

Wednesday: Impromptu Flagellation

Morning finds me queasy and sandwiched in the accordion section of the 38 Geary, swearing off alcohol for the rest of the week. But by lunch time I'm singing the hair-of-the-dog tune at Kate O'Brien's. I'm a ghost at work all day.

Fighting off my evening weariness, I head down to Slim's to catch the Boukman Experyans. It's a 10-piece band from Haiti and the music is fierce and tribal, launching into drumbeat dance freakouts and boisterous freedom anthems. The backup singers have moves that would send the club kids back to the crib crying. The dance floor is hardly as inspired. When the show closes down, I hit the sidewalk to see what else is going on.

A couple has wandered out of Bondage A Go-Go at the Cat Club. The woman's dolled up all dominatrix-like, and she's leading the guy down the street by a chain attached to his leather underwear. She's chewing him out about something he did inside the club. I tell her she ought to just flog him and she agrees. He submits reluctantly as passersby stop to watch. Some are invited to administer a flog or two, but by the time I get my chance, the impromptu street flagellation has ended. The two of them get into a '99 VW Bug and drive off.

Thursday: Sleepy-Eyed Hallucinations

As evening falls, the world begins to take a surreal turn. My brain wants to shut down and I dream with my eyes open. A man walks a dog wagging two tails down the street. It doesn't help that I'm going to see the Butoh Festival. It's all about the tortured artist, but way off the deep end. Local master Koiche Tamano struggles to free himself from a giant plastic bubble. At intermission the talk is equally impenetrable: "I'm not a dancer but I do butoh." I read the program so maybe I can understand what's next. Anzu Furukawa performs a piece about a crocodile that eats an alarm clock. I can't quite follow, but that's not exactly the point.

After the show we hit the Uptown to decipher what it is we've just seen. No explanation quite works and it's best to ward off the lingering imagery with alcohol. We drop in at the Rite Spot for another round before moving on. By the time we get to Stinky's Peep Show, all that's left are a couple of beautifully plump go-go girls and a handful of kissing first-daters. When the bar shuts down, we walk over to the EndUp, because at that hour what else is there? A half-hour hour later we're sidewalked for getting high. The irony isn't lost on us. Munchies having now blossomed to epic proportions, we drown the remainder of our night at Denny's.

Friday: Bare Breasts and Russian Hell

When I get up Friday morning, I'm high on lack of sleep. My body has lost its cravings. Eating is no longer necessary. I'm beyond all that. I'm all fired up, but the week has taken its toll in other ways. In my email inbox is a message from my boss, who has left town for the weekend: "You are on probation."

I don't let it bother me. After all, I'm going to see Ween. The geeky faux brothers deliver their madness, albeit slightly watered down with an overexcited smoke machine and less-than-goofy theatrics. The culmination is an encore of "Lick the Pussy," a jam that brings 25 or 30 dancing women from the audience onstage. Bare breasts are witnessed, maybe for the first time, by several hundred teenage boys.

After the show, we head through the Tenderloin, where there are options of another sort. After a few run-ins with hookers and pimps, we find ourselves in a Russian Hell bar. "Dancing Queen" packs the dance floor as the waitresses pull in all the glasses. We consider the choices: clubs packed with suburban dance talent, 12-pack at home. It's grim. We're wishing that, in San Francisco of all places, there were a few more options on a Friday night at 2am.

Saturday: Eyes Wide Open

By the seventh night of going out, I've had my share of overcrowded bars and venues. I'm yearning for something a little less anonymous. So we hit a masquerade party, where Greek goddesses cavort with Siberian prison guards and the vibe is perhaps as friendly as it's been all week. At 12:30, ecstasy is served in the kitchen, ensuring a long night for those who stay. We don't stick around to see if Eyes Wide Shut ensues.

We head up to the Top to catch the tail end of La Belle Époque. The bar is packed, and by the time we find a place to sit down, the bartenders are walking around with five-gallon buckets picking up empties and crushed cigarette boxes. A couple of friends wander in and invite us back to their apartment to drink. It's a late night, despite being the lowest-key of my week. I walk home at 7:30am.

Postscript: "On the Eighth Day, God Went Out"

It's been a tough week, and admittedly, I didn't manage seven nights and five days of productivity. But that's not exactly the point. I could have been home by 2 or earlier every night. This city shuts down early--often enough, people are forced to go home before they're quite ready, no doubt for the sake of their working lives.

As Sunday rolls around, I'm tired but restless. I don't know where, but I'm going out for one more night. After all, as they say in this makeshift Sunday school we call San Francisco, "And on the eighth day of creation, God went out."

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From the August 30, 1999, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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