Happy Hour!

Oh happiest of Happy Fridays. Sure, I was on vacation Monday and Tuesday, but I’ve packed a week or more of work into the two days I’ve spent back in the office and more more lies ahead. Yeesh!

As I rolled into work on my morning commute, I thought “today’s a real good day for a Happy Hour” which got me to thinking about all the bars I’ve visited in my little life.

Which got me wondering about what are the best (and by best, I the biggest dive) bars I’ve been to.

Here’s my top five, in no particular order:

  1. The Grant & Green Saloon (pre-renovation, when it was still a blues club), located conveniently at the corner of Grant and Green streets in San Francisco.


    It was in this dank, cave-like (it was painted black), seedy SF joint that I first saw the irrepressible Johnny Nitro & The Doorslammers.

    I still can’t believe I used to go to this place *by myself* Ah the stupidity courage of youth.

    One main feature of this dive was the bathroom. The ladies was located at the end of a weird dark hall. The door had a questionable bolt latch. The toilet tank was held together with a metal strap. The broken toilet seat was patched with heavily road worn gray duct tape. When you sat, first the tape would stick to you, and then the seat would give way a bit.

    When your business was done, you’d stand, and the seat came with you. It stuck to your leg just long enough for the seat to shift back together and pinch a good amount of thigh skin between the broken pieces. It hurt like a sonovabitch and I’d come away with a welt and left over adhesive from the tape. Curse words were uttered.

    Also, the boys loo at the front of the hall would stop up with some regularity, so when it was busted, the drunk boys would lumber to the end of the hall and shake the door to the ladies room. Regulars knew if you shook the door hard enough and long enough, that weak bolt would give way and *surprise* you’d be caught in a squat facing some drunk lumbering boy.

    I learned to pee really, really fast. Also, I’ve never been one of those girls to go to the bathroom with friends, but I did at the G&G. It helped to post someone outside the door to keep watch. (the door was too far away from the toilet to be able to both hold the door and do business).

    Despite all of what’s gross about the G&G, I saw some of the most amazing live blues there. I was actually heartbroken when they fixed it up, painted it white and put in new plumbing. It’s never been the same since….


  2. The Saloon just down Grant street from the G&G, in San Francisco


    Oh the Saloon. It contains what can only be called a “funky smell”. Sunlight never hits the inside of this place, and that’s probably for the best.

    Established in 1861, it’s San Francisco’s oldest continually operating bar. The Saloon holds some history. Legend has it the local firefighters saved the building from the fires that raged after the 1906 earthquake due to the prosperous brothel that operated on the upper floors.

    There are plenty of stories about young men having their fill and stumbling out onto the foggy San Francisco night, then waking up on a boat out to sea. An unwilling member of the ship’s crew and unable to return to port for months or years at a time. The colloquial term for that is Shanghaiing.

    All of that history invades the place, and you feel it. There is still live blues seven days at week at The Saloon (and two bands a day on the weekends).

    It’s strange, smelly, filled with weirdos, and a tiny dance floor (but the bathroom isn’t so bad). I’ve had some of the greatest nights of my life inside that place. The timbers jump when the base player thumps that thing.

    It’s fantastically beautiful. And Fresno alley just outside the door is a place filled with all sorts of shenanigans (including photography, the light there is awesome).


  3. The Alive just over the border in Juarez


    I couldn’t find any links to information about this place, other than wistful memories from many a person who was there back in the day.

    The Alive was actually underground, you had to navigate this long, steep ramp to get into the place.

    Just an aside….does it seem like a good idea to YOU to be in an place when you are 18, in a foreign country, underground, drunk and there is only ONE entry/exit? Ah the stupidity courage of youth.

    This was a place for cheap Coronas, thumping dance music, and a bathroom that I can hardly even describe. There were no lights in there (probably for the best). With my walnut sized bladder, I did my best to hold it for as long as possible. Once, I went in there (couldn’t wait anymore) and I slipped into a stall. SOMETHING was moving on the surface of the water in the toilet. It was alive. I have zero idea what it was and it scares the sheeeit out of me to think about it now.

    I held the door handle for my life and leaned back, doing the best I could to be the farthest possible distance I could get from the seat and still hit the water. I prayed that door handle wouldn’t give way. I prayed whatever was in the water wasn’t bitey. I prayed I could just get this done and go home.

    I survived and emerged unscathed. It took three tequila poppers (some called them slammers) to get over the trauma.

    Then I danced and tried to forget.

    I used to have such fun in Juarez. The danger made it more interesting, I suppose. Of course, these days it’s ill advised to slip over into Juarez. Too much awful business going on there. I’m afraid The Alive is an experience that is long gone (and maybe that’s for the best).


  4. A bar attached to the Steven’s hotel in Carlsbad

    At least I think it was the Steven’s Hotel. This was a bar that was located on the backside of a hotel on Canal Street in Carlsbad (it’s been soooo many years since I lived there.)

    I don’t actually think this bar exists anymore. I can’t seem to find any record of it from a Google search.

    To get to the place, you had to ascend these steep metal stairs. Going up wasn’t so bad, coming out was a bit treacherous once you were a little wobbly in your shoes, and especially if it had rained a bit. People slipped and bobbled down those stairs in droves. A big pile of borrachos at the bottom of the stairs. I wish I was kidding.

    The bar hosted Pot Ash miners, local cowboys, and us college kids. This was something of a volatile combination. The plate glass windows were replaced by plastic after too many fights in the bar kept smashing the glass. You couldn’t get beer in a bottle or glass. Only cans and plastic cups held drinks.

    The mood was weird, and tense. But the beer was cheap and whatever half ass local band was playing would getcha dancing. And hell, it was somewhere to go and something to do in Carlsbad. So ok.

    I had some odd, yet fun times there. Strange spot and strange people.


  5. Cowboys bar in Las Cruces


    Who knows what this place is called these days. At NMSU in the 80’s and 90’s this was THE place to be.

    A band called Easy Money used to play there. The lead singer was named Toby Keith. They were a pretty good band. The lead singer was a complete arrogant ass. Nobody liked him, and now he actually is somebody. (I still think he’s an ass)

    At one point they introduced a special where on Fridays, if you bought a pitcher of beer, you could eat as much pizza as you wanted. Big mistake. Hungry and broke college kids can eat a LOT. And if we all put in a dollar, we could get one, maybe two pitchers of Coor’s Light. So there.

    That promotion didn’t last long.

    I danced until my feet hurt many a night at Cowboys. God I loved that place.

    All night drinking and dancing, then after the bar closed, a group trip to Village Inn for late night pancakes. Why do pancakes taste so damn good at 2 am?


Whooo doggies, that was quite a trip in the Wayback Machine. I think I need a smoke (and a vodka drink) after all of that. (no, no, just kidding, I don’t smoke….)

Sadly, I won’t be at ANY those places tonight. Instead I’ll be at the Red Couch Saloon where The Good Man tends bar.

He knows which wine goes best with Cheetos.

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your night.



Photo of the interior of the Saloon, Copyright Scott Palmer.



Quiet, Yet Loud

I love photography and learning about light. I dig finding ways to take something commonplace and make it look extraordinary.

Then sometimes, you just gotta let the subject do the talking.

This photo was posted on Facebook by the amazing San Francisco bluesman, Ron Hacker. He captioned the photo by saying, “This slide has been in my pocket since 1971.”

I know that slide. I’ve seen that slide a lot. This photo is like seeing an old friend, though I’m used to seeing it on Ron’s left hand while he makes some of the most stunning sounds come out of that beat up ol’ National steel guitar he plays.

The tone is gritty. The tone is warm. The tone surrounds your entire being and shakes you up and sets you back down and makes you wonder if any moment of your life prior to hearing Hacker play ever really mattered.

Then he sings in that rough voice and you die and come back to life and like a born again, you shout hallelujah while your body moves on its own and your soul is altered for the better. Life suddenly has meaning and no meaning at all.

That’s what that well worn, well used slide does to me.

Beautiful photo by my favorite blues musician.



Photo: Copyright 2011, Ron Hacker



If you love the blues and you need to get healed, visit Ron’s website and click play on that video.

Then you’ll know what it’s like inside The Saloon, San Francisco’s oldest bar and an astounding place for live blues. That video will help you discover just a taste of the power behind that shiny metal slide.





Tough Decision

So…I wondered to myself after a very long and dreary day on Monday…

As I was driving home, as low as I’ve been in a while (my favorite employee tendered her resignation) I knew I needed something comforting upon my arrival home. There are two ways this comfort could go, in my mind: sugar or alcohol.

Which made me then start to try to weigh pros and cons, and I arrived at the question:

Which is worse better more beneficial to my mental health and less detrimental to my physical health:

Two donuts or two beers?

There is an AMAZING donut shop on my way home from work. It’s a local place where they make fresh donuts on site every day. It’s a heavenly experience just walking in the door.

On the other hand…I had two pints of Murphy’s Stout cooling their heels to chilled perfection in my fridge. Oooh the creamy foam.

Now…the answer couldn’t be “have both!” because while I’m certainly self destructive, I am lately trying to at least attempt to be a bit more health conscious.

Two donuts and two beers seemed a bit over the top.

So one might say “how about one donut and one beer?” That’s a fair question. Logical, really. I’ll spare you the long psychological reasoning, but I’ll simply confess that I have this weird OCD about having “just one.”

Whatever I was going to have, it was going to be two.

And don’t even bother suggesting “have neither and go take a walk.” I was way past that point.

So let’s get to the basic facts:

Two old fashioned donuts comprise 560 calories, 22 grams fat, 82 carbs, and 6 grams protein.*

Two pints of Murphy’s stout come up to 400 calories, 0 grams fat, 46 carbs, and 4 grams protein.

Hookay. Well, the beer is a few less calories, carbs and fat, so from a nutrition standpoint, beer seems to be the winner.

How about the mental side? Well, alcohol is a bit of a depressant and it was likely that after two beers I’d be even more maudlin than I already was (a good Irish depression). The sugar and carbs in the donuts are a serotonin booster, so for mood enhancement, the donuts win.

How about the after effects? Well, after the upside of the two beers wore off, I’d feel a bit headachy, dehydrated, bloaty, possible gastric distress and a bit mind muddled. After the good part of two donuts wore off I’d feel guilty, bloaty (owing to gluten sensitivity), possible gastric distress and a bit mind muddled. We’ll call this one a draw.

So now I’m back to square one. Both have benefits. Both have drawbacks.

How to choose?

It’s a delicious problem to have.



Photo credit: Thomas James Spravka



In case the suspense is killing you…I chose two old fashioned donuts for drowning my sorrows and I don’t regret it.

Nutrition info from My-Calorie-Counter.com

Photo by Thomas James Spravka and found on Draft Magazine