What it Was Like The Night the Warriors Lost
Writer’s Note: This was written right after the NBA Finals after the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors. The setting was Local Edition on Market Street in San Francisco. No real names have been used, except for mine.
After the sun goes down in San Francisco, Karl the Fog is King. His billowing presence sets a mood in the City by the Bay, one that lurks over every person and every footstep that hits its streets.
Bars are havens from the fog and the dust, the unsettling limelight of the moon cutting through the air. A dimly lit place with $14 cocktails is the secret to absolute tranquility on a weeknight where there’s nothing to do except take BART on an unpleasant trip back to wherever you came from.
My laptop has ten percent battery, but that won’t stop me from capturing this particular night in San Francisco, where the diligently unenthused masses went out for a sympathy drink under cover of darkness after the Golden State Warriors dropped NBA Finals Game 6 to the Toronto Raptors, ending an era of domination and pride in the Bay Area.
Several bearded hipsters in Kevin Durant jerseys skulked down the stairs of Local Edition, a speakeasy-style cocktail spot with vintage typewriters featured as its main decor element.
After them, came five individuals dressed in North Face pullovers with lanyards from the nearby Opera Convention around their necks.
“Under 35 Mixer?” One said as I followed them all to the bar.
“No, but I am under 35, so can I come?” I responded.
The stylish woman with the North Face and the Lanyard didn’t respond, instead turned on her heels and walked back 10 steps to avoid continuing the conversation. I don’t blame her. My makeup is about 15 hours old, my eyes are drooping out from under my concealer and I don’t have two pennies to rub together. Why would she want to be my friend for 10 minutes?
At the bar, the tribe of Kevin Durants ordered 5 shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey. One murmered to another, “I knew those Poutine-eating Mother F****** would piss me off tonight.”
I laughed, ordering my favorite overpriced drink, “The Long Goodbye.”
“Something funny?” said another Durant.
“Nah man, but don’t mess with poutine. You know it’s good and it didn’t do anything to you,” I said.
Several Durants laughed. The guy who hates poutine didn’t.
I set up my miniature writing station in the corner of the room, where I could observe both the door and the set of tables. So many opportunities to catch tiny pieces of humanity escaping from drunken bodies.
“Wait, you don’t want to keep going out?” A muscle-bound man in his early 30s said to an equally fit Lulu Lemon-wearing twenty-something, her blonde hair tied back into a loose low ponytail.
She laughed almost uncontrollably as she spilled a little bit of her Gin and Grapefruit on the rustic wood floors. She walked away from him, smile on face and drink in hand. He followed.
I desperately wanted to rip one of the Royal typewriters from the mid-60s off the wall and use it instead of my Macbook. Those things make NOISE. And once you start typing it’s almost like a moonstruck robot controlling your fingers. An effortless glide across the keys and glide across the top of the machine to reset the page. You can see your progress in real time. It’s not abstract, it’s whole, a physical piece of paper with your words is the product.
You appreciate things like that in a place like California, where everything is digital and sometimes you can’t appreciate the passage of time because there aren’t really any seasons. There is no snow or falling leaves to keep your internal clock on time.
“Fuck POUTINE!” The Kevin Durants were getting in their groove as the Irish Whiskey slithered down their throats and the smoke from its barrel-aged beauty left their mouths.
Whiskey is a great conversation starter, but poutine is a conversation finisher for these Golden State Warriors fans, who right about now would say Niagara Falls is an ugly pond if asked.
By the time my drink was gone, I needed another. It was one of those nights that required multiple rounds of something strong, something flavorful, and something that could numb the incurable loneliness of being in a crowd of people you don’t know.
“He’s good!” A kind British gentleman in his early 60s said to me as he watched the bartender make my second round. To be fair, the bartender at Local Edition seemed like the closest thing you could get to Tom Cruise in “Cocktail.” Although, he looked like Dwane “The Rock” Johnson and Tom Cruise’s baby in the movie “Cocktail.” Take that as you will.
Shaking and stirring and mixing and shaving and sifting and splitting and pouring, he masterfully and rhythmically sifted the drinks into their respective glasses, taking my order, the British fellow’s, and a couple who couldn’t keep their hands off each other, in a single, stylish swoop.
Just as my laptop was prepared to die for the evening, two Raptors fans walked in in their Kawhi Leonard Jerseys and I knew a battle royale with the Durants was about to pop off. Maybe not a guns-blazing bar brawl, but a war of weak insults traded over increasingly irresponsible whiskey shots.
“POUTINES.” A Durant said, raising his shot glass.
“Check the scoreboard,” said one of the Leonards.
“Check the scoreboard. Check the scoreboard? What are you, 10. Are you on the four-square court at elementary school?” I thought, now chugging the Long Goodbye.
Come on now Durant Pack, don’t let me down. Think of something GOOOOOD. “Kawhi Leonard’s mom….uh, Toronto is cold and people are too nice. Who would want to live there? Uh…don’t you know there’s a huge drug trafficking issue in Toronto. Watch “Bad Blood” on Netflix! I blame Canada!”
Of course, they came up with something far worse than my horrible digs at Canada, which by all accounts is a super nice place with great people.
“Fuck Niagara Falls man,” the tallest Durant Pack member said, shooting back his whiskey.
“Yeah, ok,” said one of the Leonards.
What an anti-climactic interaction. What a disappointing comedy of errors. Ah, who cares even. All those ballplayers still got paid so what’s the big deal not taking home some trophy they have 4 of already? Those things are heavy anyway.
I grabbed my drink from the bar and returned to the sullen corner where I could think and sit among the old typewriters. I set up at a glass table with a sort-of picture box of old newspapers in it. Some, signed by the San Francisco journalists of old. Headlines about the San Francisco Earthquake, missing people among the rubble and water supplies being limited.
Ironic, that these epitaphs of catastrophe are sitting in a place that charges $14 for a cocktail.
To my left, a printing press with two Royal typewriters and an Underwood on top. To my right, a young couple making out egregiously as the girl tries to pull away. “I have to call my Uber.”
How can you rationalize these things existing in one place? How can you look at history right in its hostile little face, and then spill an artisanal cocktail on it? Such is the irony of living and the irony of progress.
Although there may seem like no story in this story, it is, very much so, a specific moment in time. A single night that can now last forever in these pages. Maybe the internet is our epitaph, and these dark places are our history.