"How can there not be a bar out here?" Leslie's heels clicked on the sidewalk as she pulled her blazer tighter around herself.
"I used to be able to smell them out, but I guess I've lost it." My hair turned to dreadlocks in the wind as I tried to twist my pencil skirt back into position.
None of the divey little joints near 22nd and Geary had bars. They were all over-lit and crowded Asian restaurants or weird diner/video store hybrids. We'd already valet parked at Aziza and were dressed up, taking each other on a Saturday night date because we wanted to have an "adventure."
"There has to be a bar here. The neighborhood drunks would demand it."
"I don't know, Beth." Leslie's head was down, her chin on her chest fighting the cold. "This is a fucking grim stretch."
Finally, we saw a neon shamrock up ahead. Familiar celtic font proclaimed, "The Blarney Stone" and Leslie and I struggled with the door. There was almost a little foyer with stacks of fliers and free weeklies, like we were walking into a Tower Records or similar, but once past the Push/Pull door and middle-aged band poster, we found a darkly lit, typical Irish bar with a few drunks hunkered down on barstools and a giggly group at a table in the middle.
Not ideal, The Blarney Stone was the best we were going to do. "Here's your adventure." Leslie whispered.
"I think we're over-dressed."
Leslie and I sat next to each other, as closely as possible. On my right was a 20-something man with a shaved head. He was very tall, potentially attractive and looked like he got in fights at British football games. Leslie announced he looked like the kind of guy that headbutts people in fights.
On Leslie's left was a massive, ancient drunk missing the majority of his teeth. His hair morphed somehow into a beard and he was wearing the "Blarney Stone St. Patrick's Day 2010" t-shirt displayed above the bar and available for $11. His flat hand slammed the bar in time with the metal ballads and he occasionally spoke to himself. Or us. We were too scared to even look in his direction.
Headbutter went to the men's room, emerging an eternity later.
"Drugs." Leslie said.
I nervously tugged at my statement earrings as Toothless lumbered up from his chair to stand in between us.
"I am the Mayor of the Blarney Stone!" He breathed in my face, only because I was the lone one guilted into politely looking at him. Leslie kept her eyes on her beer. "How you ladies doing tonight?"
"Er, uh, good thanks."
He was 55, maybe. But it has been a rough 55 years. I made the grave error of looking into his cavernous mouth to find a couple loose teeth, a chunk of last week's sandwich, etc. I wouldn't have been surprised if a centipede had crawled out. It was that disgusting.
"Do you smoke weed?" He was elbowing me, his huge body invading both of our spaces.
"Nope. No. No thank you."
"You don't smoke weed? I wanna know if you wanna smoke a joint with me."
His gnarled fist moved forward, right in between our two faces. Leslie continued to stare at her glass, I couldn't help but look.
"I grew this!" he said as he uncurled his fist to reveal a sweaty bud of marijuana.
The smell coming off the weed and off him was bracing. A mix of body odor, drugs, stereotypes and well shots, it was all I could do not to cough.
"No thank you. Really, I'm fine. but thank you."
Leslie's head stayed down, her balled fists in her lap. Breaking my eye-contact rule, I quickly looked up at him to offer a solid, "No thank you."
And toothless looked down at me, sitting with my windblown hair in my statement earrings and spat, "You are very beautiful."
"I'm an old man, though. So what do I know."
And with that, he stumbled back to his stool on the other side of Leslie. She finally looked up from her glass.
"I bet you feel really good about yourself right now..."