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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wellcome Bar and Restaurant – 2074 Mission Street

In the brightly lit bar music played in the background at a volume that was acceptable by bar standards but not so loud that you couldn't hold a conversation. A rattling thud punctuated the ambiance before I received a quick punch in the arm by Henry sitting next to me.

I had arrived in a rush an hour earlier, when my need for a restroom overtook me and I had to race three blocks from 19th to Wellcome Bar between 16th and 17th. Deciding whether or not Wellcome Bar (the double ll is not a typo) and restaurant qualified for Mission on Mission was easy. After navigating around the handful of questionable characters lingering outside - some tweaking out, others begging for money – with the exception of a family near the front of the bar having dinner I could see that the rest of tables were empty – a solid indication that the patrons didn’t come here for the food.

Crossing the threshold to the bar felt as if I was passing through a curtain of drugs and danger as the stragglers in the entry way gave me the once over. They had to wonder where this guy in a royal blue dress shirt and slacks came from and why he was walking into Wellcome.

Wellcome was manned by two employees -- a chef doing his thing underneath a ceiling partially covered by a blue tarp and a bartender/waiter/busboy/bathroom-bouncer who was serving drinks, taking money and even took the time to interrogate me to ensure I was a paying customer before handing me the bathroom key. Although there was a menu on the wall, I figured I better stick to a $3 Budweiser draft than to venture into the food arena – I placed $5 on the bar, and practically ran to the restroom.

I eventually made my way back to the bar to enjoy my Bud and as time passed I found myself watching the basketball game, and eavesdropping on a conversation between a group of drunk middle aged guys talking about music and growing up in the city. Every so often one of the guys would dance his way towards the door arms waving and hips swinging to take a peak at the action on the street or to grab a smoke.

I spent the rest of the time hanging out with my aggressive neighbor, Henry. A self proclaimed "penny pincher," Henry had wrapped his pennies in a napkin for safekeeping before he decided to educate me on one of the bar's games.

There is no hustling allowed at Wellcome Bar – which was proclaimed on a sign hanging below the TV. That said you are allowed to play dice against the house. This isn’t the first time that I have come across a house game on Mission on Mission but in this case Wellcome Bar’s “Horse” far out strategizes Chonchola’s duels of “Heads & Tails” for the basic fact that there are more than two variables. Horse is your basic poker game where each player chooses the best five dice hand after two rolls – best “hand” wins. For each game, the house bets three juke box songs to each $1 put up by a patron.

Henry and I played a few rolls after which he landed his fist in my arm. Unimpressed by my rattle-thud, he demonstrated his rattle-smack. According to Henry, the rattle-smack is critical to Horse— more for the fact that it asserts your dice rolling prowess than for anything to do with dice. Lucky for me, Henry was so disappointed by the lack of passion in my dice rolling that he was willing to teach me on how it should be done.

Assuming you win Horse, you face yet another challenge – picking songs on the jukebox. These gentlemen are music connoisseurs and they aren’t shy about heckling song choices that don’t meet their scrupulous taste. Playing heads or tails at Canchola's and horse at Wellcome, I'm learning some fun time killers on these Friday night Mission on Mission trips.
As a thank you for my dice tutorial, I gave Henry $1 to select some “adequate” beats to take him into the evening and send me on my way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Beauty Bar – 2299 Mission Street

As I reached for the paper towel to dry my hands I gazed at the many magazine pictures draped on the walls, mostly pictures of naked women ranging from the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. The images were a nice distraction and, for a quick moment, had a sobering effect on me. I emerged from the restroom and, after passing the photo booth DJ stand, settled, once again, onto the white leather salon chair at the bar ready to take a sip of my brightly pink "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

The drink was sugar sweet and went down with ease which should have been a warning sign to take it easy because it- in a martini glass with shot glass containing the extra pour- was heavy with Rum and Vodka. As the bartender put it, "when a girl comes in to get a pedicure and says she's out to party, I give her this because it's easy going down and gets them drunk really fast." Boy was he right; it worked like a charm even without the pedicure.

Of the many specialty drinks available – many named after beauty products and supplies – I chose Breakfast at Tiffany’s based on the above recommendation. After a few Stella head start this proved to be all I needed to get that solid buzzed feeling that puts you on cloud nine while washing your worries away.

The music was kept fresh as a rotation of folks would stand at the DJ stand and select music ranging from 90s rap to 70s funk and of course 80s dance. All in an effort to get the hips moving which was working like a charm.

As a few groups came rolling in I noticed the diversity in the people here. There were hipsters alongside tattooed punks with a few yuppies sprinkled in between. A few solo acts also came in, undoubtedly waiting for a friend but what struck me was their reluctance to talk to anyone rather choosing to kill time by texting on their phones. What better place to kill time than a bar full of people with a friendly bartender and a drink to loosen you up. I guess the phone is an easy crutch which is a shame really. What happened to making introductions, meeting new people and possibly making a new friend at your local watering hole?
A couple of other things I noticed before heading out in search of a tall glass of water in an effort to sober me up were mustaches and Southern Comfort. I've heard that the mustache has made a comeback but figured that since mainstream American was aware of it that the trend must be dying but that wasn't the case here. Looking around I figured I'd need a mustache and blazer if I hoped to fit in. Alas, my one day’s growth wasn't cutting it so I have some work to do in that department. I hadn’t seen so much SoCo ordered at a bar in quite some time and can’t remember the last time SoCo was my drink of choice or if it ever was. A continuous flow SoCo shots were ordered throughout the evening.
Beauty Bar was a great way to pick up some momentum after visiting a few bars that doubled as restaurants. This deceptively small and colorful bar offering manicures for $15 while listening to good music, drinking one of the many bar’s specialties (sitting in salon chairs with built in hair dryers making you feel like a kid at the adult table because they sit so low at the bar) and mingling with a friendly crowd make it a wonderful spot to spend your night. And if you’re in the mood to get drunk have the Breakfast at Tiffany's, it didn't take long to get me going!

I apologize...

I want to apologize to my readers for not posting the last month. It is inexcusable. I have continued the Mission on Mission journey making my regular Friday night stops at Specchio Ristorante Enoteca, Cha Cha Cha, Bissap Baobab and Beauty Bar and hope to have my thoughts and experiences up in the next few days.

Beauty Bar will be my first posting of 2009. Sorry again for the long wait.

Happy New Year.