Out of focus

THE WEEKNIGHTER Diving down into cheap drink bliss at Mission Bar

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THE WEEKNIGHTER  Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Broke-Ass Stuart (www.brokeassstuart.com) will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

I was standing at the bar ordering a round of drinks for my friends when I noticed something slowly creeping in and out of my peripheral vision. It was just on the edge of my consciousness, like the very beginnings of a psychedelic trip, and for a split second I thought, "Jesus Christ! One of these strange bastards dosed my drink. This night is about to get really fucking weird."

And then I saw the movement again and I focused on it. Reflected in the mirror of the back bar was an animatronic rat sliding up and down the wall. It was around Halloween and Mission Bar (2695 Mission St, SF. 415-647-2300) was completely decked out like the Spirit Halloween store had sneezed all over the walls.

Needless to say, I was relieved that no one had slipped LSD into one of my vodka sodas. The last thing I wanted to deal with was 12 hours of getting confused by the way a Muni bus's hydraulics sound like Chewbacca. Plus the vibes over in that part of the Mission can be a bit sinister sometimes, and Mission Bar reflects this perfectly, which is exactly why I like it.

This may be too on the nose, but Mission Bar is the quintessential Mission dive bar. It's dark, there's a pool table, and dogs are always scurrying around. Plus the booze is exceptionally cheap; if I'm not mistaken, well drinks are $3.50, possibly $4. DO YOU HEAR ME EVERY NEW BAR IN SAN FRANCISCO?!?! I always forget how cheap it is until I go in and order a drink, then when I hear what the total is, I smile with all my teeth, tell the bartender how much I love him or her, and then wonder why I bother going to any other bars.

That night I collected the round of drinks and sloshed them over to the table where a bunch of my favorite people in the world were sitting. "Guess what guys," I said as I handed them their beverages, "nobody dosed my drink!" They all looked like I was nuts and like maybe someone had actually dosed me. They obviously had no idea what I was talking about. I decided to drop the subject.

I wish I could tell you exactly which of my favorite people in the world were having a mellow night of drinks with me at Mission Bar that night. But the truth is, many of the stories I write for The Weeknighter are amalgamations of multiple evenings spent in a single bar, spread out through my dozen or so years in San Francisco.

Was it the first night we drank at Mission Bar after Marina got back from the Peace Corps? Maybe. Was it one of the last nights before Jeremy and Erin started keeping grown-up hours because they had a baby on the way? That could be it too. Truthfully it doesn't matter; the great thing about spending a third of your life in a city is that the places you go become the stories themselves, and all the things that happen in them are just the decorations, kinda like the animatronic rat scooting along the wall.

These things creep into the peripheral of your memory and you need to focus on them to remember which parts were real. The unfortunate part about Mission Bar (read: fortunate part) is, considering how strong and cheap the drinks are, it's pretty hard to focus on anything once you've been there for an hour. So the stories blend together and you just leave happy that no one dosed your drink with LSD.

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