February 5, 2003




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The heart is a lonely hunter
But not for long. A single's guide to Valentine's Day (and night).

By Camper English

SO IT'S V -Day, and you don't have a significant other. Boo hoo, no delivery of roses at work for you. No stupid card, no overpriced dinner, no it's-too-early-in-the-relationship-for-this-stuff-but-we-have-to-do-something, no I'm-still-mad-at-you-but-let's-pretend-I'm-not-for-a-day, no cheap-ass box of chocolates. Are you supposed to feel bad about that?

Hell no, people! That's what the government and Hallmark want you to think. Are you a brainless puppet or a swinging single? Let the fools have their romantic dinners – we shall have casual sex!

Which means it's time to put down the conversation hearts and take to the bars. You may have left your apartment alone this morning, but that doesn't mean you have to go home that way. What follows is an itinerary to maximize your chances of bagging a babe on Valentine's Day without running into too many couples toasting their sublime relationships with after-dinner drinks – meaning no hotel bars, no bars attached to restaurants, and nothing remotely romantic. Onward, sexual soldier! (Note: Between-bar time intervals have been scientifically determined. Stay on track.)

5 p.m.

C. Bobby's Owl Tree, 601 Post, S.F. Ha ha! You and your other single coworkers are so funny! The Owl Tree is wacky, with its singular theme (owls, many of them) and free unlimited Wet-Naps. No, this is not the venue in which to meet Mr. or Ms. Right for Tonight – it's a decoy. After two martinis, a bowl of Chex mix, and a dose of Bobby's attitude, your pals are going to start feeling sorry for themselves and want to go home. Now you're on your own.

Your line: "Nice hooters. I mean, over there, on the wall."

5:45 p.m.

Cellar, 685 Sutter, S.F. The Cellar will undoubtedly be jam-packed with post-work horned-up types just like you, all of them sucking back happy-hour specials and disco dancing like there's no tomorrow in this underground (only literally) spot. Sure, the crowd here is kind of ... normal, but sometimes those people are the freakiest in bed. When you get him home, you can rip off his Dockers and spank him with his own braided belt. Nice pants – now bark like a dog!

Your line: "Your name must be Mickey, because you are so fine."

6:30 p.m.

Dave's, 29 Third St., S.F. Though this venue, a plain-looking dive you've probably passed a hundred times and never noticed, is more of a rest stop between bars, you've a chance of macking on a drunk construction worker who's been here since leaving work at 3:30. Plus, the happy-hour snacks are free, and that's all the dinner you're getting tonight.

Your line: "You must be good with your hands."

6:50 p.m.

111 Minna, S.F. Feeling bad that you're on your fourth bar already? Don't – this is probably the best place to score you'll find all night. Those other bars were just warm-ups. Here you can work it out at the bar, on the dance floor, or while pretending to discuss the merits of the art on display. The whole bargain bin of people with jobs (or PWJs, in the lingo of those who don't have them) is represented. Pick out a Eurotrash man, a classy lady, a club hopper, a bad girl, a gay boy, or one of each. The most important thing to remember about this place is that the best-dressed people are the worst behaved. Stick to slumming or you'll end up bumming.

Your line: "Come on, they're playing our song."

8 p.m.

Fuse, 493 Broadway, S.F. Ah yes, all the good ones were already taken. Cling to that theory if you must as you take a cab over to North Beach. NoBe is a mash-up of frat boys, Marina chicks, book snobs, tourists, and cool people. The trick here – difficult but not impossible – is to avoid pre- and post-dinner couples. Fuse's all-blue decor and lighting will make any cheeseball in a red outfit look like a big brown poopy. Meanwhile, you'll be sitting at the bar feeling fresh, looking sleek, enjoying a custom cosmopolitan, and chatting up Dr. Armani or Helena St. Laurent. Fabulous!

Your line: "Are you from Europe?"

8:30 p.m.

Blind Tiger, 787 Broadway, S.F. It's a little bit early to be in the Blind Tiger, where DJs and drunks will mingle on the dance floor later, but with all the comfy couches and the loungey atmosphere, this is the perfect place to make out with strangers. Don't be too shy to ask.

Your line: "Wanna make out?"

9 p.m.

Bigfoot Lodge, 1750 Polk, S.F. Good-bye, North Beach. Hello, Mid-Polk (or whatever they're calling it these days). There are three bars to hit here with three different crowds – now you see how this tour was designed to maximize your chances. Stomp into the log cabin-style Bigfoot Lodge to find yourself a lumberjack. (You know what they say about guys with big feet.)

Your line: "I must be Paul Bunyan, 'cause you are one hell of a Babe."

9:30 p.m.

Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, S.F. It's true that the Hemlock is more of a social scene than a singles bar, but in the smoking room nobody has to know you didn't come with a posse. Make up names for bands that don't exist, and people will think you're cool. Or try a non-desperate-sounding pickup line like, "I used to hang out here when it was the Giraffe."

Your (next) line: "Got a light?"

10 p.m.

Lush Lounge, 1100 Polk, S.F. Serving up foo-foo drinks and live lounge acts in a space barely big enough to hold the piano, the Lush Lounge is a gay bar that has become a secret heterosexual hookup spot. And you don't even need to go inside to get lucky – the place is usually packed solid, and it's rude to talk over the singer, anyway. Instead, stand on the corner and hit on the smokers.

Your line: "It looks crowded in there. Want to go to my place?"

10:20 p.m.

Casanova Cocktail Lounge, 527 Valencia, S.F. Mission District – Woo-hoo! Party! On weekend nights the Casanova becomes a crazy pickup joint. The tables are full, the people playing pool are always in the way, and the crowd spills out onto Valencia Street: party central. Granted, the patrons aren't the most sophisticated of drinkers, but you've been to, like, nine bars already, so who are you to judge? The trick to tricking at the 'Nova is to squeeze up to the bar next to the hottie of your choice. You'll have about a 10-minute wait for your beverage, which is plenty of time to make your move.

Your line: "It's getting hot in here. Can I take off all your clothes?"

10:45 p.m.

Blondie's Bar and No Grill, 540 Valencia, S.F. The giant martinis served at Blondie's have the power to turn suited and cocktail-dressed, sophisticated-looking people into raging drunk lunatics. It's awesome. There's a back room, yet another intrusive pool table, and a couple of booths, but everyone is holding onto the walls for support by the end of the night. Most of the crowd here is rich, so if you do score, make him or her pay for your cab fare home in the morning.

Your line: "Can you help me find your car?"

11:15 p.m.

Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, S.F. People who think they're too cool to go to the Beauty Bar haven't been there recently. The music is great, and everyone in the place is so completely hot it's easy to forget which sexual orientation you came in with. It's crowded and small, but that means you're crotch to crotch with a higher percentage of people who'll want to get out of the bar and into your bed ASAP.

Your line: "Gee, your hair smells terrific!"

11:50 p.m.

Butter, 354 11th St., S.F. You're in SoMa now, and you've been drinking for almost six hours. It's time to get serious. Butter, the "white trash bistro," is really neither of those things. It's a place where deception rules – so use deception to bag yourself a buddy. Scope out the herd in this trailer-chic safari, and choose a pony to pick off from the pack. Then go in for the kill.

Your line: "Your beauty should be rewarded. Blue Ribbon?"

12:20 a.m.

Wish, 1539 Folsom, S.F. Wish, within stumbling distance of Butter, is a long, thin DJ bar where San Francisco favorites spin high-energy house music most nights. It's consistently crammed with black-clad, good-lookin' PWJs, most of them standing around with their friends. Perhaps it's not considered "classy" to hang out by the bathrooms hoping to score a date, but that's the best place to find singles separated from the herd.

Your line: "Are you in line, or are you just hanging out by the bathrooms?"

12:50 a.m.

Holy Cow, 1535 Folsom, S.F. This is no time for pride. You had a goal, you took the high road, and it just didn't work out. Now you're hanging out by the bathrooms and going to the Holy Cow. Hey – this is no longer about you. It's about showing up to work on Monday with a big fat hickey on your neck and rug burns on your knees. It's about bragging at the water cooler, telling everyone how much fun you had on Friday night while they were bored and in bed by 11 p.m. The Holy Cow serves a purpose. You will get hit on here. You can get some tonight. Your bed may smell like cheap perfume/cologne in the morning, but that's the price you have to pay. (And it will be your bed, unless you want to drive to the suburbs.)

Your line: "I'm soooooo drunk!"

1:30 p.m.

Polly Esther's Culture Club, 181 Eddy, S.F. How low can you go? You can go as low as "Bachelorette Party Headquarters" if you have to. This is the place to meet drunk single women and the men who prey on them. The club is open until four in the morning, but you don't want to wait that long. Sobriety brings reality, and the reality at this point isn't pretty. Give yourself a hickey on the arm and just make something up on Monday.

Your line: "Taxi!"

Camper English is a freelance writer and total stud. Check out the seminude pictures at www.cramper.com.