I BUILD UP THE NERVE to go to my first open-mic in the city at Spike’s, a hole in the Minna Street wall off 8th Street that tries to be a little bit of everything to everyone: breakfast recovery spot with complimentary underground comics, industrial caffeine refueling station, nightclub. It’s one of those rare magical joints standing squarely on the eco-tone of Soma and the ‘Loin.
In other words, I’m so not cool enough for this place. The truth is I’m so not cool enough for San Francisco. I’ve got no leather; I don’t wear makeup and don't have genital piercings. All I’ve got are sorry ass generic denim that I’m too uptight to mutilate, and wanna-be new-wave boy clothes that at ten years out of date, feel like twenty. The only way I’m getting through this exercise in humiliation is by getting completely smashed.
Another problem is that a mere six weeks in the city have turned me into a full-fledged beer snob. I couldn’t go back to Coors if you beat me with a pitchfork. Spike’s, being the kind of cutting edge place it is in 1993, has Budweiser, PBR and Olympia. They don’t have imported beer, either, but one very expensive domestic brew that goes by the handle of Red Hook. The bartender’s a petite little Goth girl named Stefanie, who informs me the “Hook” is actually pretty good. A bell starts to go off in my head and a deep, authoritative voice from my own inner ether rings low: I know this beer.
The name is dredged up from my first weekend in town when D got an invite for (according to her) the hippest party in all Potrero. The party was a kegger thrown by hipster college graduates who at the time were on the bleeding fucking edge of the commercial internet and who were about to get seriously stroked for their proximity to this scene (oh-yay.)
But the invitation came with a selling point…the keg was hyped as being Red Hook, which I had never heard of. I wound up going to this party and leaving really early for about a thousand good reasons (most relating to how many combinations of mutants Diana was planning to bring home after getting wired) but I had to admit Red Hook was one damned good beer. One of the computer hipsters explained to me that it was “all because of Nirvana, man.” Apparently due to the “Seattle Invasion,” the whole microbrew phenomenon was being driven by this strong concoction from the edges of the Olympic Rainforest. These people were well-rehearsed for their upcoming exercises in corporate propaganda.
One thing could not be denied however: these wonderful drinks didn't taste like what I had traditionally thought of as beer, which I now came to regard as tasteless, watered down swill that required excessive amounts to achieve a genuine buzz. These blessed, magical potions, which went by the names of Ale, Stout, Porter, Bock, and Extra Special Bitter, forged well-worn washes across my taste buds with exotic flavors and an extra kick of alcohol. I realized these concoctions were “true” beer; tastier and more decadent than Bud or Coors piss water, thus far cooler to be seen drinking, and a much healthier alternative to the pounding tequila hangover. I was unquestionably caught up in my own hype-scene, the micro-brew movement, about a year after it really happened, but even when you’re late getting to some parties, it doesn’t make them any less magical.
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