Golden Nugget(s)

6 09 2010

So we all know that there are about a million reasons to come to San Francisco, and it’s a scandal that it took me 37 years to get here myself for the first time. But for those of you who were lucky enough to have discovered this place long before I did, I’m wondering if you too know about a few of the treasures that my personal Swiss tour guide has on his list.

One particular jewel is a dingy little bar on Powell Street across from Union Square. Claiming to have been around since 1933, the Gold Dust Lounge was voted as the “Best Bar In Which To Nurse An Early-Morning Hangover” by “Best of  San Francisco” in 2005.

The Best.

Well as far as I’m concerned, it still is. Faux chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, decorated with painted murals of naked cherubs and frolicking nymphs. Its plush scarlet sofas and boudoir-atmosphere are the perfect place to unwind with an Irish coffee (voted as one of the city’s five best classic cocktails in 2010: “warm, fortifying, and downright hallucinogenic”). And if you ask nicely, the bartender can make you a pretty mean Singapore Sling, too.

An added bonus: this is a place that cards over-40-year-olds, as I had the honor to personally experience.

The three musicians, (“Johnny Z and the Camaros,” if the billboard outside is correct), whose combined age probaly equals the number of years since John Quincy Adams was President  (approx. 185), are really good. They take requests, crooning everything from Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel. Their binders full of dog-eared, handwritten cheat-sheets, stacked at least a foot high, reveal their wide repertoire across pretty much all musical genres of the past 50 years.

The night we were there, they did refuse one request, though, from an overly made-up and inebriated middle-aged woman who was trying to hit on them. She repeatedly approached the band and desperately wanted them to play “Memory”… “That’s not a really uplifting song,” the drummer (who, I assume was Johnny Z) told her, repeatedly. “And besides, we don’t know how to play it.” You have to draw the line somewhere, I guess.

For the most part it was your typical Friday evening crowd, relieved another workweek was over and looking forward to the long Labor Day weekend. We sat in silence and enjoyed the music, the people-watching and the booze. And in a place like the Gold Dust Lounge, you know that deep inspirational toilet graffiti is not far. The best of the ladies’ room, in blue ballpoint on the inside of the door: “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”

How true.



One response

7 09 2010
Ms. Shirtliffe

I think everyone should be shown a portion of “their” country by someone foreign to it who has chosen to love that place. If it helps you see cherubs in the rafters, it’ll be worth it! 39 years, and I still haven’t seen SF. Someday…

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