A year of the plague took out most
of the Tenderloin dives that had managed
to survive the San Francisco rents,
and it became so I didn’t know
where to drink anymore.
Yesterday I walked the neighborhood
and was surprised to find the doors
of The Outsider at the corner of Geary
and Larkin thrown open to the streets
after months of being shuttered.
I had figured the place was gone for good.
I went inside, a couple
of old men sat at the bar.
An elderly Chinese woman smiled
from the other side, her husband seated
next to her, apparently the new proprietors.
They were glad to have another patron
and gestured me towards a stool as if it
were the finest table at a five star restaurant.
The man was all grins and nods
and his wife jiggled a bit to the jukebox
as if to suggest the party was in full swing.
They asked what I was drinking
and I glanced about but didn’t see
anything on tap and the shelves
just held a few dusty bottles.
I said a beer and she told me
Budweiser or Heineken so I took
the lesser of the evils and she pulled one
from an icebox that sat upon the floor
then danced around some more to show
that things were really happening now,
the husband nodding and grinning.
I went out to the sidewalk
where a table propped open the door.
I sat and watched the junkies
and the crazies and the generally
go about their business
like ants without purpose
as they always have.
When I went back in to pee
even the old men had gone
and the couple asked if I
wanted another and I said no.
They told me to come back in an hour
because that’s when the girls would be there.
I came back in an hour and the girls
were not there, just different old men
and outside the door there was someone
with their pants around their ankles
screaming in dirty underwear
until they tripped over themselves
and fell into a puddle of something bad.
Somebody punched Hank Williams into the jukebox
and it was almost like old times.