Distillations Winging it at Teeth

first_img Email Address “Luke” was sitting on a bench on the third and highest level of Teeth’s bleacher-style back patio, drinking lager from a can. “Did I tell you I just got dumped by my girlfriend?” he asked me. “I hadn’t actually known you were seeing anybody,” I said. “This is all news to me.”He nodded. “She was exceptionally normal. Incredibly so. We were together six months, and it was a perfectly adequate relationship, and it was never going to be anything more than a perfectly adequate relationship. But it still sucks getting dumped.”“Yeah.” He tilted his head. “What do you mean?”Ah, right, he’s only been here five years. Somehow, at 12 years a San Franciscan, I’ve become a kind of elder statesman for the newest batch. “Elder statesman” status accrues quickly in a city of transients. “Bruce Brugmann was the founder and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which for decades railed against gentrification and corporate media ownership, and his paper acted as the low-budget Spanish Inquisition of progressivism, condemning everyone — including me — who didn’t live up to their standards. But then, when Brugmann wanted to retire, he sold the Bay Guardian to – guess what? — an out of-town-media conglomerate. And he sold the building, which he’d bought explicitly to give the Bay Guardian a home where it wouldn’t have to worry about the real estate market, to high-end developers. In one moment he did everything he and his paper had spent 40 years railing against other people for doing. And because he sold out, the Bay Guardian eventually got shuttered and San Francisco doesn’t have a progressive paper of record anymore, but it does have more offices and condos for the out-of-town techies Brugmann accused other people of welcoming. So. That’s a Bruce Brugmann moment.”Luke nodded. “So it’s like that?”I scowled. “It’s a little more complicated than that. The lines of betrayal aren’t so clear. And it depends on what he does next, too, I suppose. But yeah, I think in a lot of ways, he Brugmanned it.”Luke let out a breath and finished his drink. “You know, the way the world keeps going, the people who say we’re all living in some kind of simulation sound more convincing every day. It’s been that way since 2015, but really, all you have to do is check to see what Donald Trump or Elon Musk are tweeting about to think, ‘this can’t be real.’”I laughed, for the first time that night. “It does seem a lot like somebody keeps switching up the difficulty level, and creating really stupid challenges.”“What timeline IS THIS?” he asked.I laughed again, but didn’t have an answer. The patio lights were on. Night had come. “I’m a little surprised you’ve never written about this place before,” he said.The other people at the picnic table had left, and two new groups came down, bearing giant platters of wings. I chuckled. “It’s always too fucking crowded. Every time I walk in, see the crowd, say ‘nope,’ and go someplace else.” I love sports bars, but not on game day. Masses of people dilute a bar, make it less like itself and more like any other spot with masses of people. Just like an anti-gentrification crusader who sells his newspaper office to developers is, ultimately, more like every other guy who sells a building to developers. No matter what decorations it throws up, Teeth’s identity is “masses of people” — and it does it extremely well. “Yeah, I can see that,” Luke said. “I need to get back to the ocean soon, go surfing. That’s the only thing that reliably takes me out of my head.”Looking around, I thought that we might have been the only people there who were still in our heads. A few minutes later, we got up and walked back out into the world. Teeth is a weird combination of a sports bar and a fetish bar. I think it’s a bar that knows it’s exceptionally normal, especially for San Francisco, but that puts up a fight about it, lightly decorating with mannequins in leather that could be risqué if squinted at, in the dark, from Nebraska. I do appreciate the effort, but when you’ve got a massive back patio, TVs, cheap wings (especially on Wednesdays), and a drink menu that has craft cocktails but leans on pitchers and shot and beer combos … well … come on … nobody’s there for a vaguely dark and foreboding atmosphere. This is a sports bar for people who don’t want to admit that they want a sports bar. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good sports bar. A good sports bar is a fine thing. But the pretending? The pretending hurts.Luke is a hired gun in San Francisco’s blossoming “immersive theater” scene. He runs his own events, always simple, always free, but he’s better known within that community as a guy you want working on your shows. Helping develop concepts, figuring out logistics, producing live moments of other people’s lives from backstage. I have a moment like that, for a stranger, that needs producing. I asked for Luke’s help and he agreed. So we sat outside at a picnic table surrounded by the kind of diverse crowd that only 25-cent wings can bring, mapping the contours of a stranger’s life in a little notebook as servers walked around the patio carrying truly massive platters of wings, shouting numbers out in a desperate attempt to find the people who made the order. It was unusually crisp, darkness was starting to fall; it felt, surprisingly, like an autumn night in New England. We finished our work quickly. Luke closed his notebook, and gave me a curious look. Asked me if the rumors were true that a certain San Francisco showman I am close to had quietly shuttered his Mission venue and sold the building off to developers. Yeah, I told him. It’s true. “Well,” he sighed. “Another one bites the dust. How do you feel about that?”“I told him it’s his Bruce Brugmann moment.” Subscribe to Mission Local’s daily newsletterlast_img