Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boys' Night at Royal Oaks

I’m leaning against the bar at Royal Oaks, a cocktail lounge on Polk Street, scanning the palely lit room. I’m dog-tired. I look past the overweight, drunken girls in teeny dresses who dance provocatively with men whom are toothpicks next to them. My gaze lands on a fiery picture of a tiger that hangs on the wall above a florescent “restroom” sign. The animal wants to jump off the painting and pounce on me, his claws leading the way. His teeth are ferocious, angry, like he has just found the hunter who shot and killed his mother when he was a cub. I think it’s interesting, looking at this Tiger, because our conversation (once again) has turned into a debate about Tiger Woods’ affairs. The words float in the background. Abruptly I remember that tonight, Dateline is showing a “behind closed doors” something or other on the scandal. Part of me wishes I were at home, watching it with a bag of kettle corn on my lap.

I’m the fourth wheel at Boys’ Night. Darren and David are fired up about a Gordon-something finance model, and then about Bill Simmons’ account of last week’s football (or basketball?) game. I continue to stare at the tiger.

“I’ll bet you’ll never guess,” Darren leads off, his face a cartoon, “which player Nike pays most to endorse its stuff.”

Oh, jeesh.

I signal the bartender, raising my empty glass and jingling the ice. I ask for another Raspberry Stoli and soda, and the bartender’s smile is all pity. I don’t appreciate her sympathy, though, because I enjoy going out with Darren and his friends; it’s just different than what I’m used to. My entire life has revolved around girl talk, girl things: makeup, hair, romantic comedies, shoes, clothes, George Clooney, pedicures, Sex and the City, strawberry daiquiris. Until I met Darren, I didn’t know much about professional sports except that my dad watched them in the garage while my sisters, mom and I watched “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” or “Pretty Woman” in the warm living room when I was growing up.

The boy-talk scene that Darren and David are acting out is new to me. Listening to it is like swimming in the Pacific Ocean: when I first get in the water, all I can think about is how badly I want to jump out, but soon I am numb to it, and I don’t care. The tiger won't stop staring.

“Hmmm,” David mumbles, thinking about Darren’s Nike-endorsement question as he pets his non-existent beard and looks at the ceiling. After a minute: “What sport does he play?”

“Football.” Darren is giddy. I'll never understand why.

This goes on for awhile, and later we take our seats at a round table in the center of the lounge. Two men approach our group and sit down in the empty chairs. One of them asks where we’re from.

“We’re from North Carolina,” Drew says. “We just graduated from Duke.” This gets my attention; beer spews from my word hole as I giggle quietly, trying to be nonchalant.

“Nice,” the man says. “Why’d you come to San Francisco?”

“I graduated in engineering,” Drew answers. (He graduated with a degree in business, finance.) I’m chuckling again. He goes on: “I want to build bridges.”

How does he come up with this stuff? I wonder. He’s not even taking a moment to pause, to think. I decide it’s a real talent.

“Oh, awesome!” the man is interested, and his temperament shifts. “You should come down south, where I’m from. We have the biggest prisons there!”

Drew looks confused and happy at the same time. He humors the guy. “Really? Nice.”

“Yeah, actually, I just got out of prison.”

“Dude, I said I wanted to build bridges, not prisons.” Drew is shouting over the music. I’m laughing hysterically. The escaped jailbird is leaning over me, trying to hear Drew. He looks embarrassed.

Tiger and the tiger are forgotten. We're kicked out of the bar at 2 a.m., so Darren and I go to our favorite pizza place in the Tenderloin. Boys' Night turns out to be all right.

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  1. Hey Megan, Aubrey Kilcoin is my cousin and sent me your blog link a couple weeks ago. You're a really good writer! I live in the Cow Hollow area of SF, so The Oak Room is really close to me. Really funky place right? That area of Polk Street is my favorite, Buccaneer Pub is another good spot I go to a lot with my boyfriend so would love to get your take on that one sometime! Keep up the good posts :)

    Erin Fisher