About a week before we left San Francisco, Joe and I found ourselves at loose ends on a Friday night. Needing some exercise and an escape from the piles of boxes in our apartment, we decided to take a walk. This is a normal activity for us, but on this particular night we decided to do something out of the ordinary; we went looking for a place to have a drink. After a long week of packing, sorting, and running errands, we wanted to relax a little, and besides, in preparation for the move we had already disposed of (in one way or another) all the alcohol we had in the house.
Specifically, we both were in the mood for an ice-cold martini, not just for its calming properties, but also for nostalgia’s sake. The martini, much like Irish coffee, is a quintessential San Franciscan quaff that we had come to love while living in the city. We knew what we wanted, but as we walked around looking for a spot to consume such a beverage, we grew doubtful about whether or not we could find a suitable place.
The problem was that we are not “bar” people. I don’t mean that we have an objection to bars, just that we are usually so put off by the normal atmosphere of bars, we very rarely darken their thresholds. There are a few main sore spots for us, namely: noise, smoke (although it’s rarely an issue in California), crowds, and televised sporting events. We’re not big fans of any of the above. So as we passed potential places, we took note of whether or not there was a huge crowd spilling out into the street, and also whether the noise level was deafening or just slightly painful.
After we had checked out all the bars in our immediate area, none of which met our criteria, we were ready to give up when we came back across one we had dismissed earlier. As we looked at it more closely, we realized that all the noisy, boisterous people were actually sitting in an enclosed area adjacent to the bar; it also happened to be the smoking section. Encouraged, we stepped inside to see that it was much calmer in the main part of the bar, and there were even some cozy looking tables available near the front.
As we sipped our gin martinis (his with an especially fragrant twist, mine with olives), we felt ourselves grow more relaxed and happy by the minute. Apart from one or two loud people, the crowd was pretty mellow, which suited us just fine. We felt comfortable enough to order a second drink, this time an Irish coffee, and to settle in for a while. We were a little put off by the fact that our seats faced a television screen broadcasting that night’s Giants game, the dreaded televised sporting event, but surprisingly, we began to get into the spirit of the game, calling balls and strikes as we saw them. And as we watched Barry Bonds hit his 749th career home run, it didn’t feel annoying or uncomfortable, but just like another quintessential San Francisco experience to savor for nostalgia’s sake.
Later, as we walked home, Joe turned to me and said somewhat incredulously, “That was actually fun.” It made me happy to think that there may be other introvert-friendly night spots waiting to be discovered, and more chances to have a relaxing night out on the town. Of course, now we have an entirely new city to navigate and explore, with its own limitations (primarily the smokiness of most public places) and opportunities (absinthe is legal in France). But now we’ll be looking for the best place to have a pastis as we create new Parisian memories.